Port-glazed figs with zabaglione was one of the first desserts we put on the menu at The Connaught when I started there as head chef almost 20 years ago. It’s something I often return to at this time of year, and the zabaglione always reminds me of my grandmother, who was from Bardi, near Bologna.
It’s a creamy Italian pudding made with egg yolk, sugar, and marsala wine, which she’d always serve in crystal glasses. She kept her bottles of booze tucked away in a cupboard and would usually add a slosh of anything half-empty – brandy, rum or whisky, as well as the usual dessert wine.
You can make the zabaglione hot and tuck into it straight away, or serve cold the next day, so it’s a great trick to have in your back pocket for a dinner party.
Cook it gently in a bain-marie (basically a hot water bath, in a bowl over a pan of boiling water), and when you see the edges start to harden slightly, it will puff up with an aerated “pouff”, and sink a little.
That’s when you know it’s done, and you do need to be able to judge that to avoid ending up with scrambled egg! It’s actually delicious just as it is, as are the glazed figs, which are just as much a treat on their own.
There’s something special about putting a warm pie in the middle of the table in winter, and so I’m sharing my apple and blackberry version this week, along with two other favourite fruity puddings.
As they always say, cold hands make great pastry – so be quick when you make your dough, and make sure your water is ice-cold. Not everyone likes to use lard, but if you do, it really adds a lovely flakiness to the pastry.