My fig tree is a maverick. No straight and narrow for her. No conforming to the usual fig-tree stereotypes. No, not for her the trappings of traditional fig-tree identity built and reinforced through generations of oppression. She absolutely categorically refuses to produce a single sodding fig.

I’ve no idea why. But there it is. So I am left with only leaves.

Still, fig leaves are not a harvest to be ignored because when used to infuse a liquid they impart the richest, sweetest, most figgy of fig flavours you can imagine. It’s such a heady, fragrant smell and it makes desserts that are both delicious and a little bit eccentric – right up my street.

I saw Jacob Kenedy, of Boca Di Lupo, make this panna cotta with blackcurrant leaves (which is also scrumptious) at Ballymaloe in Ireland once and he mentioned fig leaves as an alternative flavouring. I was intrigued and I like to image that over the water in the Cotswolds, my fig tree caught wind of my plans and quivered in her pot, knowing she wouldn’t escape harvesting this time.

(Incidentally, this is the final dish in my summer feast menu. If you missed the other dishes in previous blogs, this dessert is a perfect follow up to my summer sharing platter starter and herby chicken meatballs main course.)

Fig Leaf Panna Cotta

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Serves 8

Fig Leaf Panna Cotta

A simple but unusual dessert made by infusing fragrant fig leaves in sweetened cream.

  • 800ml milk
  • 9 fig leaves
  • 200g golden caster sugar (it gives a better colour and more toffee flavour than regular caster sugar, but regular will work fine)
  • 300ml double cream
  • 9 Costa gelatine sheets (brands sometimes use different sizes so if you can’t get Costa you’re looking for around 15g in total)
  • 8-10 crunchy amaretti biscuits
  1. Bring the milk briefly to the boil in a large pan then take it off the heat and allow it to cool to around 70C. Add the fig leaves. Try to sit the leaf in the milk but keep the end of the stem out because the sap can sometimes curdle the milk. Pop the milk back on a low heat so it stays around the 70C mark and leave to infuse for around 1 hour. Check the flavour and leave it for longer if you think it could be stronger.
  2. Meanwhile, put the gelatine sheets in a bowl of cold water for a few minutes until they go soft.
  3. Once the milk is infused, remove the fig leaves, sieve the milk, and return it to the pan on a low heat. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Squeeze the water from the gelatine and stir that in to the mixture too. Set aside to cool.
  4. When the mixture cools to room temperature, stir in the cream and divide the mix between 8 moulds. Pop them in the fridge to set for at least 4-6 hours, or ideally overnight.
  5. To serve, turn the moulds out onto plates (a quick dunk of the mould’s edges in hot water helps dislodge things) and top with crushed amaretti biscuits.
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