I discovered my love for figs in Singapore. Fig is one of the few fruits mentioned in the Holy Quran (the religious Book for Muslims) and in Hadith (literature which documents what the Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) had said) that it was a fruit that had Medicinal properties.
Figs trace their history back to the earliest of times with mentions in the Torah, Bible and other ancient writings. They are thought to have been first cultivated in Egypt. They spread to ancient Crete and then subsequently, around the 9th century BC, to ancient Greece. Figs were held in such esteem by the Greeks that they created laws forbidding the export of the best quality figs. The Romans also revered figs as a sacred fruit.
To really appreciate the fruit please bite into one. Fresh figs are a rare find in Karachi but dried figs can be found the year round.
With a packet of dried figs staring at me every time I opened the fridge I had been wondering what to do with them. I got them for my mom but for some reason she wouldn’t eat them. It was never the right time of day for her to eat a fig. My mom is very set in her ways of eating (I know we complain about kids not eating but sometimes parents do the same).
She has breakfast followed by a cup of tea for lunch and then a frugal early dinner. As breakfast was the only meal of the day that she allowed herself to indulge in I needed something to put on her toast and that something had to taste amazing with tea. There I was looking for fig recipes on the internet.
Fig jam- the recipe that I share is absolutely delicious. It is made using dried figs, roasted walnuts, Sesame seeds and Mastic gum (a gum found in Mediterranean region).
Mastic gum is exuded by the bark of the mastic tree, Pistacia lentiscus, which grows primarily on the Greek island of Chios in the Aegean Sea. It is a resinous gum with astonishing medicinal properties. Mediterranean cultures use it in cooking for its numerous gastrointestinal benefits.
It has a refreshing, earthy flavour, some say it has slightly pine or cedar-like flavor. It tastes amazing in ice creams. My Friend described eating it “as like basking in the winter sunshine”. I totally agree with her.
Fig Jam with Walnuts, Sesame seeds and Mastic Gum
* 1 kg dried figs, stemmed and each cut into quarters
* 3 cups sugar (can go as low as 2 cups)
* 1/4 tsp salt
* 5 cups water
* 2-3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
* I cup walnuts, roughly chopped
* 1/2 cup white sesame seeds
* 3-4 anise seeds stars
* 3 pieces of mastic gum, crushed with a pinch of sugar
First sterile the jars. To do this hold the jar upside down over a pot of boiling water and let it air dry. You will need 3 medium size jars (400 ml capacity each)
To make jam:
1. In large pot pour the water, sugar, lemon juice and mastic gum. Place on high heat and bring to a boil. Stir the mixture with a wooden spoon.
2. Once boiling reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 8 minutes. This forms the basic sugar syrup.
3. Add the dried figs and the anise seeds in the sugar syrup and let it simmer (uncovered) for 30 minutes.
4. Meanwhile toast the sesame seeds: Place a dry (and free from any oil) pan over medium heat. Add the sesame seeds and stir regularly using a wooden spoon until the sesame seeds take on color, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool down completely.
5. To toast the walnuts: in the same pan add the chopped walnuts and cook stirring constantly about 2-3 minutes, toasting walnuts will bring out their earthy flavor. Set aside to cool down.
6. After 30 minutes for cooking figs in sugar syrup add the toasted sesame seeds and walnuts. Stir well to fully combine the ingredients. Simmer for 1 more minute and set aside to cool down.
7. Transfer to sterilized jars.
8. Let it cool down completely
9. Refrigerate. It is good for 4 weeks in the fridge.
Note: if mastic gum is not available you can skip it the jam will taste amazing nevertheless.