Fresh Fig with toasted St Tola and Aronia coulis

St Tola goat’s cheese with fresh ripe fig and aronia coulis.

Not a lot of people know this, but I grew up in a school until I was ten years old. My Mother was a teacher and we had moved a fair bit by the time I reached the age of five. Questembert first, after I was born in the Sacred Heart Clinic in Vannes, just off Roosevelt avenue, then Belz, not too far from Auray where a Guineafowl kept on chasing and terrorising me, where my child minder used to call me “Figure de poire”, “Pear Face”, a nice lady though… Then finally Vannes. By the time I was five, I had lived in three schools. In France at the time, a teacher didn’t earn a lot of money, but one of the perks of the job came with a descent amount of holidays, and a “logement de fonction” ( work accommodation) for the whole family, until you were senior enough and with a reasonably comfortable income to get your own…

Choice 1
The old public laundry in Vannes
The Ramparts of Vannes

So somewhere in 1977, we moved to 9 Bécel Avenue, named after Jean-Marie Bécel, Bishop of Vannes in the 19th century, upstairs a school named after Dr Albert Calmette, a renowned French physician who contributed to a vaccine against tuberculosis, an epidemiologist if you will. When all the kids were gone home, or at the weekend, the school yard was for me and my sister only, my playground… No Dennis the bullly – who we finally ganged up upon and punched his face- no Gwendal who was an ass at five and a bigger one at twenty, rolling in the tarmacadam yard when there was only a couple of winter flakes, screaming “it’s snowing, it’s snowing”… No teachers mocking me because I had a little accident in the urine soaked communal toilet, I mean c’mon, I was only five, it takes a while to handle a pee in peace and with class… No, the school yard was just for me and my little sister, for us to play, be kind to each other ( or at least try), make little shows for our parents. In that sense, I feel I’ve had a simple but privileged childhood…

In the school yard with lil’sister…

But in the school yard, there was something really cool to me; little Franckie, little “Hungry” to be, a giant fig tree now long gone, probably for health and safety reasons, shading dozens of ripe fruits for the pleasure of the flies, wasps and bees, gorging on the sweet treasures the Ficus gave so generously… With my neighbour friend Armelle, the daughter of the teachers next door, we used to sit in the middle of the big branches, a skinny and quite dead one stood in the middle like the pitch lever, the joy stick of a helicopter… The fig tree was my aircraft and I brought Armelle to lands and countries I had imagined, from the top of my fig tree, with my freckled friend and her lovely plaits dancing on the back of her shoulders. The innocence and happiness was then on top of a fig tree… I feel happy that I can remember this.

Ripe fig

Last week, my buddy Daphne Shackleton came to my work place, with a handful of figs from their organic gardens up the road. It was very touching. She just said to me ” I’m sure you’ll be able to do something with them!” those memories came back to me, overwhelming, while I tried to keep a straight face. ” Thank you Daphne, thank you very much!”. They were just perfectly ripe today, so I went in the field at the back of the garden to collect some Aronia berries, also called Chokeberries ( they are quite tangy), native of North America, great for the auld system. Cooked them with a bit of natural sugar, they taste like a slightly more tart blackberry… That would make a great coulis to go with my recipe I thought…

Aronia/ Chokeberries
Aronia/ Chokeberries

I cooked the berries, a generous handful, with a bit of organic sugar. You need to tame them girls a little. After 20 minutes, sieve them in another pan and keep the berries for your breakfast’s porridge or yogurt! For the cheese, I used St Tola, from County Clare in Ireland. Get a slice of a good, tasty but not strong goat’s cheese and toast it under the grill…

Melted St Tola

Sieve the Aronia/ chokeberry juice, pour it on the plate and cut the fig in a criss-cross manner but not all the way through. Squeeze the bottom of the fig which I cut to sit pretty, serve with mixed nuts and slide the cheese in the middle… Et voilá! Enjoy!

Fig, St Tola goat’s cheese and Aronia coulis
St Tola goat’s cheese with fresh ripe fig and aronia coulis.

Keep Well and Eat Happy

Slán Tamall





4 thoughts on “Fresh Fig with toasted St Tola and Aronia coulis

  1. So I need to look out for these Choke Berries … I’m a foraging cyclone here and not willing to let any bounty pass me by! Figs, though will have to remain in my dreams. And dreamI will – they are my Favourite of all my Favourite fruits but I’ve seen none at all here. Drat it. Never mind … if I find those berries I can cook up some sort a storm with one of the local goats and it has to be said that the peaches growing freely on the vines down the road are pretty damned delectable so I’ll satisfy my yearnings for this plateful with a little artistic licence and hey, presto bongo – I’ll be quite for a little while!

  2. Franck, you do such a great job of deepening our friendship from afar. Firstly, the tales of France, a country that beguiles me. Secondly, the delightful dish and thirdly, the recounting of easy generosity amongst friends. I have started a project with a company in Dunboyne and that means I have less excuse to avoid you and this shop. Hope to call in soon.

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