IT'S FIG season again and grower John Picone assures me it's been a bumper year for the superb soft fruit.
John, whose orchard is in Tyagarah, says the dry weather recently has produced optimum growing conditions for the many varieties of figs he grows under netting.
The fruit, picked at optimum maturity the day before it's sold, is fully protected from bats, birds and insects and therefore no chemicals are used to control pests.
You won't find fresher unless you are lucky enough to have a fig tree in the back yard.
Nnow is the best time to buy figs; skin colours range from blue and yellow through to pink and pure black and just about every colour in between.
Figs are delicious eaten fresh but can also be used fresh or cooked in many recipes ranging from breakfast delights through to mains and desserts.
Try stuffing them with a soft blue-vein cheese or pureeing the fruit with a splash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar to make a fig coulis which is a superb accompaniment to pork or duck.
Today's recipe, margarita chicken with fresh figs, is prepared in a piquant marinade containing tequila but the alcohol cooks off in the baking process.
The soft, luscious flesh of the figs contrasts superbly with the tangy chicken.
Margarita chicken with fresh figs
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup tequila
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 tspn raw sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 tspn dried chilli flakes OR 1 minced Birdseye chilli, seeds and membrane removed and discarded
4 free-range skinless chicken breast fillets
1/2 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade (see note below)
salt and pepper, to taste (see note below)
150g salad greens
fresh herbs, to garnish
4 fresh figs, quartered
1/2 bunch fresh coriander leaves
fresh lime wedges, to serve
Combine lime juice, tequila, garlic, sugar, olive oil and chilli in a glass or ceramic bowl.
Add chicken breasts, turn to coat.
Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour; chicken can be left overnight if preferred.
Preheat oven to 200°C.
Remove chicken from marinade; measure off half a cup of marinade and add to a baking dish along with the chicken stock.
Add chicken breasts to pan and bake, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes or until cooked through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Note: If you use boxed stock, omit any further salt.
Place washed and dried salad greens on four plates and decorate with fresh herbs.
Top each salad with a sliced chicken breast.
Garnish with coriander leaves and fresh figs. Serve with fresh lime wedges.