It was one of those lightbulb moments – I was scrolling mindlessly through my twitterfeed until I saw someone had posted about a fig leaf dessert. I cannot even remember what the dessert was or who posted about it, but my mind started racing with potential recipe ideas. Long before eating my first ripe fig fresh off a tree, I had become so mesmerised by the milky smell of fig trees that I knew exactly where the various fig trees were on my running route in London (the same is true here in Rome – I invariably brace myself to take in a long deep breath as soon as I pass the tree so I get to enjoy the smell for as long as possible). Fig trees are clouded in a sweet and milky smell, similar to coconut yet softer, subtler. And the leaves? They taste of all of that but also have the fruitiness of ripe figs. In one word, unique and delicious.
Alessandro and I are hoping to host a few dinner parties at ours now that everyone is back from holidays and it can’t hurt to have a few interesting dessert ideas up my sleeve. More so than a simple dessert of mousse au chocolat or a slice of cake, plated desserts require careful balancing not just of flavours but also of textures as well as amounts of the different components, something I had not fully appreciated before reading J. Migoya’s Elements of Dessert. And I hope this dessert manages to do just that – the star is the fig leaf mousse, light and fresh thanks to using yoghurt, the fig leaf oil adds some richness and underlines the fruity taste of the mousse, and the buckwheat, crunchy, sweet, salty and a bit bitter at the same time, is the perfect counter-balance to that fruitiness and lightness.
Fig Leaf Mousse with Fig Leaf Oil and Caramelised Buckwheat
Yoghurt mousse recipe adapted from Rene Redzepi
Note: if you are lucky you might find fig leaves at the market right now that figs are in season, if not pick a few healthy looking ones off your nearest fig tree (that is what I did, ignoring the strange looks I got from both tourists and some old ladies chatting in the street). Ideally pick a tree that is nowhere near any major roads and give the leaves a good rinse before hanging them off to dry. Also note that the fig leaf stems bleed the same sticky white liquid that figs bleed when picked off the tree so be careful when you carry the leaves home. Once rinsed, just put them somewhere to dry for a couple of days before using. The fig leaf oil makes significantly more than you will need for this recipe – you can drizzle it on salads or use it to dip some fresh bread in and you can store any leftovers in a small bottle or jam jar away from direct sunlight where it should keep for ca. 6 weeks.
Fig Leaf Mousse
3 fig leaves, dried and shredded into small pieces
220g whipping cream
2 tbsp sugar
60g egg whites or flax seed goo (see this post on how to make the flax seed goo)
220g plain yoghurt
4g leaf gelatine
1 tbsp buckwheat groats
4 tbsp sugar
1 pinch of salt
Fig Leaf Oil
100ml neutral-tasting oil (e.g. sunflower oil)
2 dried fig leaves
1. For the fig leaf mousse, heat the cream together with the sugar. Turn off the heat once the sugar is dissolved, add the fig leaves and leave to infuse for 30 minutes. Strain and discard the shredded fig leaves. Place in fridge to cool.
2. Soak the gelatine in cold water.
3. Whip the egg whites (or flax seed goo if using) until they form stiff peaks. Set aside.
4. Whip the fig-leaf infused cream until firm.
5. Squeeze excess water from the gelatine and dissolve in a small pot on a medium flame.
6. Stir the melted gelatine into the yoghurt before carefully folding in the cream and egg whites. Pour mousse into a container with a lid and place in the fridge to set for at least a couple of hours.
7. While the fig leaf mousse is setting in the fridge, prepare the caramelised buckwheat groats. Add the buckwheat, the sugar and the salt to a saucepan and place it on medium heat stirring constantly to ensure the sugar caramelises evenly and the buckwheat groats don’t burn. Once the sugar is melted and the buckwheat groats are starting to clump together, spread the buckwheat groats on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
8. For the fig leaf oil, mix the fig leaves with the oil in a food processor until the oil is bright green and the fig leaves have been shredded very finely. Pass oil through a cheesecloth-lined strainer before using.
9. To serve, place a large dollop of fig leaf mousse on each plate, drizzle a few drops of fig leaf oil all around the mousse and scatter with some caramelised buckwheat groats.