Christmas: Roasted Figs & Cardamom

Before I leave for the holidays, I would like to post something about Christmas. This is my last post for the year. Wishing Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to you and yours. See you in 2010.

Just nearing the end of term during my uni days in the UK, my friends and I would mount our bikes, cycle down to the local Café Rouge for what we thought at the time to be a posh evening out celebrating Christmas, to sip mulled wine served alongside mince pies. The one-pop-and-they’re-gone-pies with a little star cut out of the short-crust pastry, cushioned by the mincemeat of apples, currants, almonds, orange peel, cinnamon and other dark, intense whole spices. My favourite scent being that of ginger. The mincemeat, thick, spicy-fragrant and jammy.

mince pie

We drank the warm, inky wine contently, even if Café Rouge’s brand was lacking in that perfect balance between sweet and tart and showed no evidence of the addition of whole spices.

This time, no cold milk with our mince pie. We were grown-ups now.

Fingers greasy from the mince pies, lips and teeth stained a dark plum from the mulled wine, we stayed at Café Rouge till they shut down. Mounting our bikes again, happy and a bit dizzy, we knew we would be saying good-bye tomorrow, getting on the train to leave for London, and onwards to our respective homes. Athens, Nicosia, Beirut, Karachi and Dhaka. The sight of any Café Rouge to this day makes me weep.

Just a little. And I’m not ashamed to admit it.

Upon reaching London, my Aunt would drive me around the West End, to get a glimpse of the lights, especially the ones draped over Regent Street.

Liberty would be all lit up in bright hues. A stunning window display with the latest heels or frock in fashion for that perfect Christmas gift for your lover. On the way back home, I would get some take-away. My Aunt would park outside Maroush, my favourite place in London for a shish taouk pita sandwich, a few blocks away from home in Sussex Gardens. The man behind the bar would slip in a maamoul for me, a date-filled biscuit from the Levant. She would sip her port when we would get home, while I would have my shish taouk sandwich with an Apple Tango.

The next morning at the WHSmith at Heathrow, I would fill my carry-on with Smarties tubes for my two younger sisters, Polo mints for Baba, and Dairy Milk Whole Nut for Ami. As the plane would take off for Dhaka, Bangladesh, where my father was posted, I realised gleefully that I would be seeing my family very soon. Despite being a Muslim, I was a part of Christmas, somehow. London does that to you…

I prepared this recipe bearing Christmas in mind; all those spices I was introduced to in mulled wine and mince pies inspired me to create a cardamom spiced wine-reduction which is drizzled atop roasted figs. In my humble opinion, figs should be prepared in a manner which doesn’t mask their shape and fresh tenderness. I adore the fleshy sweetness of the figs swimming in a pool of milky, creamy whiteness, lacquered with the cardamom-spiced red wine reduction.

I also like to have them solely in their opaque burgundy-tinted juice, sprinkled with neon-green pistachios for textural contrast.

I would skip the main course; go straight for dessert.

For this recipe I used a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riparosso Illimuninati 2007.

For the recipe for mince pie, please do visit Ginger Gourmand’s beautiful blog.

Photo credit mince pies: Channel 4 site
Photo credit mulled wine: Big Bouquet
Photo credit Regent Street: Wikipedia

Serves 4

* 16 figs
* 2 cups dry red wine
* 4 + 8 cardamom pods
* 1/4 cup sugar
* vanilla ice cream
* handful of slivered pistachios (unsalted)


Roasted Figs:
*Pre-heat oven to 425 F.
*Make a 1/2 inch cross at the tip of each fig, place in the oven on a baking tray. Bake for 20 minutes. By the time they are ready, you will see some juices bubbling at the base of the figs.

Cardamom Red-Wine Reduction:
*Remove the seeds from 4 cardamom pods and with a mortar and pestle, crush to a powder. Set aside.
*Prepare the red wine reduction. In a small saucepan, add the wine, 8 pods of cardamom (make sure the tips of the pods are slightly open) and sugar. Set on medium heat and reduce (approximately 10 minutes) till thick and syrupy.
*Remove the cardamom pods. If the escaped seeds bother you, you could sieve the reduction. I just left them in.

*Place 1 scoop of vanilla ice cream in a bowl, arrange 4 figs atop the ice cream, drizzle with the red-wine reduction and sprinkle with slivered pistachios and cardamom powder.



  1. Love poached…love cardamom….love, love, love. Can you believe I’ve never cooked with figs….Love the ‘net’ of lights. Have a blessed and great Christmas

  2. Happy Holidays Shayms! Thanks for leaving this lush recipe as a sweet memory for all of us as we bid farewell to 2009.. hoping 2010 brings joy and blessings to all!

    Have a great time and as always reading your recipes leave me ‘warm and fuzzy’! 😉

  3. Delightful! Marry me! 😉 Mwah. Happy Holidays darling.

  4. Mmm I definately making that, I love figs. You pic of london made me very homesick. Happy holidays

  5. Dear Shayma, love, love the recipe, looks absolutely mouthwatering! Have a wonderful vacation and best wishes for the coming New Year. Happy Holidays!xo

  6. This sounds yummy – I shall definitely try it, perhaps for New Year’s Eve! xx

  7. Reading your post is a Christmas present in itself. Beautiful and evocative as always. Have a wonderful Christmas, darling girl.

  8. I really enjoyed your post.
    And you know what, I would LOVE TO experience one of the Muslim or Hindu holidays!

  9. Beautiful – words, pictures.. everything gorgeous.

  10. Lovely memories and lovely figs too…it doesnt matter what each of us celebrates does it? ‘Tis the joy of the season that makes everything ‘warm and fuzzy’ that touches everyone around. Happy new year and have a good holiday Shayma. :))

  11. I love figs, and I love cardamom, therefore I love this recipe! 🙂
    By the way, happy holidays dear Shayma, have a merry Christmas and a wonderful new year.
    Take care!

  12. Lovely colours/ photographs…it works visually as well as tasting great I’m sure..

  13. I love figs and I love the idea of using them as a dessert (I have mainly eaten them in savoury dishes previously to add a touch of sweetness). Beautiful pics as well.

  14. Dear Shayma,
    Your last post for the year was a delight to read and a Christmas present in itself; loved reading about your memories in England and especially loved to find out that your food memories in the heart of London was a shish taouk from Marroush, no less! I have the original Marroush here in Beirut, I need to go there to remind myself of these outings when we were teenagers too!
    Your choice of dessert was excellent; I could not agree more with you on the figs and loved the way you designed your plate.
    Have a wonderful holiday!

  15. Merry Christmas, Shayma – hope you have a lovely holiday. The recipe looks really delicious.

  16. Wishing all of you a lovely winter holiday as I board the plane. Buon Natale e Buon Anno. Thank you, as always for your kind words. Here’s to a wonderful 2010!

  17. oh wow! beautiful and festive! a few years ago we did pears in red wine a few years ago but i think i like this bette.r


  18. Shayma,
    Where are you off to??
    Such a beautiful post and those figs look divine…
    Have a great trip and I look forward to us sharing more recipes in 2010.

  19. Happy holidays and a wonderful 2010, Shayma!

    Marion x – (in the country of gingerbread and stollen for the holidays)

  20. All good things for you dear Shayma in this special dates: new colors, beautiful landscapes, the laughter of children, the warmth of your family and friends and all the merry Christmas of all those who appreciate and enjoy your sweetness and beautiful soul…

    Big hugs,
    Evangelina Prieto

    (sorry my English)

  21. What a wonderful post. Your writing is so fluid–are you sure you’re an economist!?

    Much love to you and yours this holiday season,

  22. Happy holidays Shayma! I just lived this, this past week 🙂 We went to Ciao Bella for university Christmas lunch, then the next day I went to Ranoush on High Street Ken, then home, picking up fruit pastels from the airport for my mum, Cadbury’s hazelnut chocolate for dad, and assorted sweets for my little sister. And now I’m home, and probably tomorrow night going to have chicken, daal and rice for Christmas lunch.

  23. Wow; this looks amazing…thank you for sharing this beautiful post and Happy Holidays!

  24. Lovely post! Beautiful figs 🙂

  25. I really must try preparing figs this way.

    Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for a very Happy New Year!

  26. Beautiful memory and gorgeous dessert. Just beautiful! A happy holiday season to you and yours!

  27. wishing you n urs a happy new year Shayma.I m glad I found you and your blog this year!


  28. Merry Christmas and now Happy New Year my dearest Shayma
    When you are back, I have tagged you for a highlights of 09 meme (feel free to ignore if you wish)

  29. I’m late to the Christmas party here – these look absolutely divine, and reading your post was a joy. Have a brilliant 2010.

  30. I need to make this for my mother! LLGxx

  31. Did you see that LLG has nominated you as one of her blogs of 2010. And I have tagged you in a meme – it’s quite a simple one: you offer ten things about yourself and then tag seven blogs yourself.
    so good to see you.

  32. It looks really delicious!
    happy new year Shayma!

  33. Happy New Year, Shayma. Love the Christmas memories. Figs have to be one of my favorite fruits on the planet. Cardamom is one of my favorite spices. Combining the 2 = Heaven!

  34. Happy New Year!

    Love your fig. It looks delicious.

  35. Happy , Healthy and Peaceful New Year to you and your loved ones…
    I love this posting, and the figs dessert.
    Love your photos and the beautiful memories, thanks so much for sharing…
    this is my first visit to your blog, which I found through Joumana and I guess it wil not be the last…
    take care

  36. Coucou! I am letting you know I have got some goodies (free) on my blog if interested!

  37. Oh Shayma what a lovely blog you have! And the first recipe I see here uses my favourite figs. I have to give it a try. I wish you all the best in 2010!

  38. Late in my wishes, but they are still sincere. All the best for this new year. And goodness, roasted figs and cardamom sounds a great start. They’re gorgeous.

  39. What a wonderful blog Shayma, I don’t know why I didn’t know about it until now!

    Those figs look fantastic, like you I have a penchant for cardamom 🙂

    Look forward to reading your blog posts throughout 2010, happy new year x

  40. What a gorgeous photo, I can’t wait until figs are in season again here in N.Y. And I love the pairing of vanilla and pistachios with this.

  41. Dear Shayma
    Will you marry me?
    (I should, in name of openess, confess that I’m married and also straight).
    Failing marriage, please will you adopt me in a feeding me kind of way?
    Signing off before I salivate over my keyboard,

  42. Gorgeous blog, thank you so much for visiting me. xx

  43. Shayma… I would head straight for dessert too, but knowing your culinary skills, if you do choose to invite me for dinner, I promise to do supreme justice to the rest too!
    This is GORGEOUS!!
    Have a GREAT 2010!!
    ♥ Deeba

  44. Hi dear Shayma,where are you ?! 😉
    Hope you have a brilliant time
    Lots of love

  45. Have a great 2010 Shayma! 🙂

    I adore cardamom and this fig recipe looks perfect.

  46. Shayma, what a delightful blog! I loved your personal account of Christmas, and your dessert recipe – I adore figs and your recipe and photography are very elegant. I found your blog via another favourite blog of mine, Syrian Foodie in London, I LOVE Levantine cuisine, Pakistani and Indian. I will make sure to be returning for more.

    Luiz @ The London Foodie

  47. hope you had a beautiful holiday shayma! wishing you a beautiful and bountiful new year!

  48. Great post, love the design of the site too.

  49. These are so beautiful! Figs are my absolute favorite. This has given me new ideas on how to use them. Now if only I could find some fresh ones at this time of year…!

  50. so glad that i found your lovely site. this looks like an absolutely delicious dish, i am such a fan of cardamom and figs, and but of course, red wine 🙂

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