Comer Higos a la Francesa:, To Eat Figs in the French manner

Comer Higos a la Francesa:, To Eat Figs in the French manner

Rupert de Nola, Libre del Coch; Lady Brighid ni Chiarain, trans.

After a year and a half of stuff you probably don’t want to hear about, I am back. We are mostly unpacked, and have found a lot of the things needed for cooking.

My books are finding their ways back to the shelves, and I am making spice blends and big batches of stock and fat broth again.

We have fresh stores of almonds and cubebs, the garden is alive with dill, rue, and lovage.  The apple trees were taken in the storm, the pear will be harvested one last time before that tree too must make way. It has not been stable without the apples to support it.

Last November, I was honored to prepare the food for a performance of The Lay of El Cid hosted by Barony Bhakail. It was a delightful day, with songs and laughter, heartfelt performances, and the most marvelous kitchen staff. It was a magical day. If you were there, thank you.

We served a variety of dishes, from a relatively broad selection of books. The event setting was intended as being the Court of Alphonse X, which gave me quite a bit of excitement in selecting a balanced menu. I used a number of influences, and had a tremendous amount of help in the year leading up to it.

These recipes have been printed in a small booklet which was present at the event. I do not anticipate editing them further, nor adding photographs until I cook them as part of our regular menu.

If you have used the booklet, I welcome your comments as each respective recipe is posted, unless you prefer to email me.

This dish, a fig compote, is a pleasant condiment for a pork or ham dish, an accompaniment to cheese, a salad adornment, even a dip for apples. It is easily made from dried figs, and can be pressure canned for picnics. I love the stability and versatility of this dish. It can be prepared, put into a feast basket to supplement a meal, and be forgotten until needed, or wrapped prettily as a guest gift.

The Recipe

 Take dried figs, the sweetest that you can get, black and white, and remove the

stems and wash them with good white wine which is sweet; and when they are

very well-cleaned, take an earthenware casserole which is big enough, which

has a flat bottom, and cast them inside, stirring them a little; and then put this

casserole upon the coals, and well-covered in a manner that it is stewed there.

And when they are stewed, and they will have absorbed all of the moisture of

the wine, stir them a little, and cast fine spice on top of them; and turn them,

stirring in a manner that incorporates that spice in them; and then eat this

food; and it is an elegant thing; and it should be eaten at the beginning of the


My adaptation

8 oz dried figs

8 oz water or dessert wine (sauternes)

4 oz ordinary white sugar

1/4 tsp canela cinnamon ( or simmer with a cinnamon stick )

1 pinch of salt

Soak figs in water for one day

Reserve water.

Place figs in the pot on stove in the same water, boil.

Add sugar, simmer until dissolved and figs are fork-tender.

Add a little more water if not covered.

Taste, refrigerate overnight.

Remove stems from figs,

Place figs in processor, beat up well.

Add a bit more of the cooking water if too stiff.

Add cinnamon if you opted not to simmer with a stick.

Place in jars, refrigerate.

Makes a pint.

Note: Lemon peel, nutmeg, or black pepper would be pleasant in this dish.



Gear: Measuring spoons



food processor (really vital, it would be a bear without the help of good staff)

pint canning jar and sealing lid



Libro de Guisados. Carroll-Mann, Robin. N.p.. Web. 14 Oct 2013.



7 Replies to “Comer Higos a la Francesa:, To Eat Figs in the French manner”

  1. Interesting. I’ll presume from your emphasis on a food processor that your preference is for a uniform consistency, rather than the textured bits-and-chunks-suspended-in-goo that I envisioned from the “stir them a little”?

    1. I believe for the event I made 6 lbs of the dish. Figs are slippery, cooked figs are hot and slippery.
      If you prefer quartered or eighted figs in syrup, that would be a nice presentation, but my purpose for this specific event was a condiment rather than a dessert type of plating.
      Another awareness is the quality of figs available. The ones I had access to are dry like leather, and simple chopping would have left them somewhat unpalatable.

      1. Hmmmm. I wonder whether slowcooking instead of cold soaking followed by boiling might tenderize them better, and thus allow them to break up just with stirring?

  2. Hi, Asa!

    That’s an interesting interpretation.. sounds like it went over well. I like the idea of whirling them in a food processor for a relish– that would be great when we make this at home, or for a dayboard.

    This is one of my favorite go-to recipes and I hope you don’t mind if I offer my alternative interpretation…

    When I’ve made figs in the french manner, I generally take the dried figs and just dump them in the sweet wine (so nice to be in Jersey where we can get actual muscat wine, but any sweet wine seems to work) and cook them, as I told Christopher, until you get bored. (those tiny little crock pots for sauce work well for this at home). Then when they are nice and plump, I put spice powder on it. There are a lot of great spice powders in the de Nola manuscript… when I cook this for an event I want to use the Fine Spice but at home I’m lazy and use Beau Monde seasoning, which has most of the same ingredients. (Beau Monde has become my lazy-woman’s generic seasoning for period dishes in a hurry…) Then I serve it hot. Of course people eat it after it’s cold, too…

    Since I like to keep dried figs in the house, sometimes they get old and crystalized, so when I can scavenge some sweet wine– especially muscato– or even the remains of a sweet kosher wine from a gathering, I make Figs in the French manner with it and serve it– unperiodly– with goat cheese or brie.

    What I found frustrating about this recipe is the author’s idea that it should be in the first service, which I think humorally isn’t the place to put cheese, so what do you serve it with.

    Have you tried making the limonada from that manuscript?

    1. I have not tried the limonada, thank you for pointing it out to me.

      I do agree on the humoural misplacement, though we both tend to prefer the dish as a condiment to poached and roasted meats. Wystan prefers my iteration of Markham’s prune dish with his goat cheese.

      Thank you for your recipe notes, it’s always good to have variations to work with and other perspectives.

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