Demeter – The Greek Goddess of agriculture, aka our grain mother and all-round superwoman of the harvest – taught mankind how to cultivate figs and even used the fig as her symbol. Great marketing or what, #sexsells! Then we switch it up to the Romans, who believed the fig was a gift from Bacchus, the god of wine and all things super-sensual. In Egypt the fig has connections and history right back to Isis, Hathor and Nut, and these ladies were the OG, especially when we talk about primordial Earth mothers. And in India, Hindus still meditate under a fig tree. So when they are in abundance, embrace them – make yourself a Shirley’s fig smash and always remember that sexy is a state of mind, but don’t overdo it!

  1. Shirley’s fig smash You will adore this lipsmack: mix 35ml Cointreau, 45ml fresh lime juice and 20ml simple syrup, add 1 smashed fig and top up with soda water. Rub your lime around the top of the glass and use a fig leaf as a funky little coaster.
  2. I adore a good chermola-marinated piece of fish on the barbecue, but what I find is that it overcooks soooo fast. So what I do is blanch fig leaves in hot water, cool in a cold water bath and wrap them around the fish to protect it from the heat. The smokey coconut flavour it gives off is amazing. Also do this with with feta or haloumi – it’s divine.
  3. In our bakery we do an amazing fig focaccia. Mix 700g strong flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon yeast, 600ml water and 50ml olive oil and let this base ferment overnight in the fridge. Bring back up to its fluffy self the next day, making sure it has little air bubbles, and add lashings of torn figs, smoked scamorza, leftover cooked spuds and roasted red onions. Bake at 200°C for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 180°C for 25-30 minutes.
  4. I also love making thick little buckwheat ricotta hotcakes served with hokey pokey whipped cinnamon butter and freshly torn figs. This is a take on a big, beautiful Bill Granger classic (detailed in his top-class book Australian Food), so sprinkle them with wet walnuts and think of our Australian brunch king.

See also Jess’ recipe for Khachapuri.

Wairoa-born Jess Murphy is chef-owner of Michelin-awarded restaurant Kai in Galway, Ireland. She was named Global Ambassador for 2024 at the recent Women in Food & Drink Aotearoa New Zealand awards. See article for more.