When I was young, pretty much the most exciting thing that could happen at the weekend was for my parents to host a supper party. It would start at 7pm with drinks in the fancy sitting room and my brother and I would self-importantly hand round bowls of olives and plates of smoked salmon. As the sitting room was on the first floor, it would also be our job to race down the stairs whenever the doorbell went, welcome our guests and escort them upstairs. The guests were almost always long-standing family friends, the brevet aunts and uncles who had known us since we were born.
After a while, the grown ups would retire to the dining room and my brother and I would ensconce ourselves in the family room, just off the kitchen, with a pile of videos. Often, my mother would allow us a treat which normally took the form of a fizzy drink (a lemonade for me, a coca cola for my brother) and a gloriously disgusting chocolate dessert.
In between course, my parents would check on us and we were normally to be found with the lights off, under a duvet, watching Airplane or Blazing Saddles for the twentieth time. We considered it a badge of honour to stay awake until the last guest had stumbled home sometime in the early hours. We pretended that we did this so that we could help my parents clear up but really, we just wanted to feel like we were grown up.
My mum was, and is, an excellent cook and, more than that, has mastered the art of planning of supper party menu that enables you to spend the maximum amount of time with your guest and the minimum amount of time in the kitchen. Dessert usually involved some kind of fruit either baked or poached - easy to prepare in advance and then just pop in the oven when needed. Figs are a natural candidate for baking, especially at this time of year. A little bit of spice from the ginger, a touch of vanilla and a drizzle of honey are all you really need to create something magical. Topped with a spoonful of crème fraiche and a handful of toasted flaked almonds, you have a dessert that would have happily graced my parents' dining table.
Baked figs with honey, ginger and vanilla (serves 4)
4 fresh figs
2 tbsps honey
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp vanilla extract
Toasted flaked almonds
1. Preheat the oven to 170C/325F.
2. To prepare the figs, place them on their bottoms and slice into quarters without letting your knife cut through them completely. Gently pull apart the quarters making sure that the base is still intact.
3. In a small bowl, mix the honey, ginger and vanilla and drizzle over the figs.
4. Bake for 25-30 minutes until soft.
5. Serve warm (not hot) or at room temperature. Place a fig on a plate and spoon some of the syrup over it. Top with the crème fraiche and a scatter of flaked almonds.