Argyroula makes all the jams and teaspoon sweets at Odyssey, with a lot of patience and passion. She always comes up with new ideas. On Katerina’s Kouzina I have published a few other teaspoon sweet recipes in the past, which is a traditional dessert we serve to our guests. I know that they take a lot of time and preparation, but I could not resist the temptation to write about the recipe that Argyroula once gave me: Fig Teaspoon Sweet.
Argyroula is born on Poros in the same neighbourhood as me. We are about the same age although she looks a bit younger. I remember her from our childhood and I liked her very much. Not only was she a very nice girl but she has a very unusual name; it means silver. We do not use that name a lot in Greece, but our Argyroula is sure about what her name actually means: “Precious as silver”.
She is valuable to all that know her, but most certainly to Odyssey and more so to me. Argyroula is straightforward and honest and you cannot get a better partner. When she came to Odyssey for the first time we all liked her very much and we are very happy to have her with us.
Photo: Toni Brown
For me you can find all the wisdom of the Mediterranean cooking in the recipe of the Fig Teaspoon Sweet. You see, the figs you need to make it with are not the normal ones that we all know and love; those that ripen in August. Let me explain: Fig trees are male or female. The female trees are those that produce the figs we eat straight from the tree in the summer. They are a sweet, aromatic present from God.
The male trees produce their figs from the end of March to the beginning of May. You can’t eat them, but the female trees need to be fertilized by an insect that lives only in those male uneatable figs. For those among you that are interested in the wildlife: the insect goes by the impressive name of “Blastophaga grossorum”. In other words, the male figs are used for pollination and bonding of the edible figs. So how did somebody think about using these inedible figs for a recipe, the ones that never ripen and always stay rather bitter? Because in that person’s mind it felt like a “waste” letting them hang on the tree!!
If you in Spring find those male fig trees that have those nice green figs hanging from their branches, don’t try to eat them but collect them instead. Beware to pick them with gloves, because the fig milk is going to make your hands become very itchy!
Making Fig Teaspoon Sweet
I am going to show you how you can make Fig Teaspoon Sweet just like Argyroula. This recipe takes 2 days to make, so be patient! We start by gathering 25 figs and rinse them thoroughly!
Cooking the figs
Put the figs in a big pan with a lot of water and boil them for about 10 minutes. Strain them and rinse them with cold water. Put the figs back into the pan and boil them again for another 10 minutes. Strain them and put them in the same pan with cold water and leave them over night.
The next day, change the water and boil the figs again. They should be soft and tender in 10 minutes. Strain them and place them on a towel and let them stand for 24 hours so that they will not have any more water inside them. Then you insert an almond and a clove in each fig.
Put the 3 cups of water in a clean pan and stir in the sugar to dissolve. Bring the syrup to the boil for 10 minutes. Skim the foam if necessary. Add the figs and continue boiling for another 10 minutes. Add the lemon juice (and if you want, the lemon geranium). Let them stand until the next day.
The next day start the boiling again until you have a set, thick and sweet syrup. Your Fig Teaspoon Sweet is ready! I advise you to use sterilized jars to store it, so you can save this sweet for 3 to 4 years!
Thank you Argyroula for this wonderful recipe!
Photography: Annette Spaan