We Won't Go Until We Get Some
Though it refers to a demand for figgy pudding, the line from the traditional British carol seems an appropriate title for this month's blog about Pan de Higo (Spanish Fig Bread). I've become rather obsessed with it for several reasons.
Firstly, Dorset-based baking diva Lizzie Crow, aka The Baking Bird, thought I might like to try her recipe. Secondly, I have been unable to bake since early December, thanks to oven-maker Smeg's glacial delivery time for replacement glass for my shattered oven door. But I digress.
Fortunately, Pan de Higo needs no cooking. It's a mixture of dried figs, nuts and various spices whizzed to a paste in the food processor. As I just happened to have a stash of dried figs nearing their use-by date, plus some crunchy hazelnuts and Marcona almonds, this seemed the ideal opportunity for using them up.
Given the amount of unwelcome bugs around, I was also encouraged that Hippocrates recommended figs for fevers, and Roman naturalist Pliny wrote that "Figs are restorative, and the best food that can be taken by those who are brought low by long sickness". Even more reason to give Pan de Higo a try.
Figs rightly mean a lot to the Spanish. There is even a saying, de higos a brevas, alluding to something that happens very infrequently. This probably reflects the fact that the eagerly awaited fresh fig season is brief and unpredictable. Fortunately, Spain has a long tradition of producing excellent dried figs that can be enjoyed year-round. These have been an integral part of Spanish cuisine for centuries and show up in a wide variety of breads, desserts and sweets.
Pan de Higo is a typical festive bread. There are countless recipes that vary from region to region, from village to village, and even from family to family. Though thought of as a dessert or sweetmeat, is actually more savoury than sweet. Serve it thinly sliced with olives or gherkins, a dribble of honey perhaps, and Manchego or a hard sheep cheese such as Ford Farm Crofter.
Lizzie's recipe is simply divine, really easy and makes a very acceptable Christmas gift, so do give it a try. You'll find it on my recipe page.