Fig and Caramelised Onion Flatbreads

And at last, figs are here. The bounty of the season! Let’s frolic under heaving fig trees or shove armfuls of them into our bags-for-life at the market. Make snow angles in the teetering piles of them building up all around us. Or not. You may be thinking that a fig and caramelised onion flatbread is all well and good, but it’ll work only if we have access to said fresh figs. Figs, well they are tricky little blighters aren’t they.

Every season, there is a fruit that has ghosting down to an art. Remember these names – blood oranges, elderflower, damsons, and figs – and blacklist them. I like to think I’ve learnt my lesson by now as every season they send me all these signals you know, then when I want to go further, maybe eat them, they’ve vanished. Market sellers grow vague about when they’ll next appear. Don’t make excuses for them, I know where I stand.

Except.

Ugh, I can’t even follow my own advice, I always go crawling back. Fruit messes with your heart, guys. When you want to make fig jam or some fig leaf ice cream, or maybe a fig and caramelised onion flatbread you will let them get away with all the heartbreak they throw at you.

Even here in Toulouse, figs are noncommittal. I was hoping, nay expecting, to see market stalls heaving with them, rather like the bushel of cherries back in late spring. Bah, no! (that was very French of me, I apologise).

Instead, a handful of market sellers stocked a tray or two of sadly squashed fresh figs. I chose the couple with the intact skins and prayed to the god of figs they would survive until I got home. I can never find a middle ground with figs – either the few available are inedible, such as at the supermarket in the UK where the figs are lovely green chunks of rock, or there’s the other end of the spectrum where I feel like Tantalus stuck under the boughs of a groaning fruit tree which drift out of reach every time I make a grab.

Down my road, along my usual route to the metro stop, there is a gnarled fig tree in someone’s garden. It’s bent double over the hedge, almost completely obscuring the post box below, its limbs twisted in protest. One day last year, I walked past to find the ground absolutely covered in figs. There were piles of them scattered all over the pavement, great bulbous spheres, some starting to brown and darken, others already squidgy soft and trampled to mush by some utterly crazy people who don’t care about the figs.

I filmed the scene and posted it on Instagram along with the genuine question about whether these figs were still the property of the neighbours and if it would be acceptable for me to dash home for a bigger bag. I received mixed responses, but one lady said that unfortunately yes, they still belonged to the neighbours. Now, I don’t know the ins and outs of property law, but I have since googled it and it turns out, once a fruit has dropped, it still belongs to the owner of the tree, so I’m glad I didn’t help myself. Risk-taking is not one of my middle names.

There are no figs on the tree this year. Sneaking over there under the cover of darkness, and Gaylord has told me many times he’s a ninja (although apparently it’s a secret) meaning he could prove to be useful, would now be fairly pointless. I fell in line and figs have evaded me again.

So, if you can’t get your hands on fresh figs this summer, believe me, I know the feeling. But, if you can… do you want to make a fig and caramelised onion flatbread?

fig and caramelised flatbread

How to make a fig and caramelised onion flatbread

I feel like flatbreads are cool right now, what do you think? Rav Gill, who wrote The Pastry Chef’s Guide and followed it with world domination, made some goat’s cheese and grape flatbreads at some of her many pop ups back in the day and I swear I see them everywhere as a result. You can’t conquer the world without controlling people’s cravings.

Rav’s flatbreads look so perfect – springy crisp edges, all caramelised from the oven, the centre just laden with cheese, thyme and grapes and sticky runnels of honey. I could taste the photograph. It’s not often I want to eat my computer screen, so I took that as my cue. One round of fig and caramelised onion flatbreads coming up.

To business: what are fig and caramelised onion flatbreads all about? Well, they’re a bit like pizzas, springier though, with more chew and body. Pizza can be thin and crunchy, whereas with flatbreads, your teeth tear and rip. They end up being consumed in a rather frenzied manner, I’ll admit. Not only that, but also unlike pizzas, these flatbreads are cooked before the toppings go on.

fig and caramelised onion flatbread

First, the flatbread

Rav’s flatbread recipe is little time-consuming as there is a poolish involved, so you can’t expect to be eating flatbreads for dinner. As I had about an hour to an hour and a half until dinner time, I needed the last-minute option, so I turned to Jamie Oliver, the king of quick cooking. While his 15 Minute Meals are just a cheeky marketing ploy, he does make an extremely easy flatbread.

Start off with his bread dough – a simple mixture of strong bread flour, dried yeast, sugar, salt and lukewarm water. Knead until silky smooth then leave it to rise until doubled in size, and in the summer, that can take less than half an hour.

I divided the risen dough into quarters, shaped wonky circles out of them, then lightly greased a heavy-duty frying pan with olive oil and preheated the grill. Once hot, I threw in a flatbread frisbee although it needed readjusting to make sure it cooked evenly. Then, when the edges looked dry, the pan and flatbread went under the grill to cook the surface. In less than 5 minutes, the base of the fig and caramelised onion flatbread was ready for the toppings.

Then, the toppings

All and sundry can be added as toppings. In this case, I chose a nice squished scoop of onions I’d just caramelised, creamy slices of brie, then sliced figs, the ones I’d bought at the market that had just managed to survive the journey. Then, after a quick blast under the grill to melt the cheese, these fig and caramelised onion flatbreads were drizzled in balsamic reduction.

I promise you’re not in a time vortex. Yes, I did just say balsamic reduction and it’s not the early 2000s. I even made it myself so Gaylord, innocently walking into the kitchen, was blasted in the face with the fug of balsamic vinegar and had to leave due to choking and running eyes. So I warn you that the process can be potent. But so worth it as I feel like these photos are giving off an early millennium vibe.

fig and caramelised onion flatbread

Personalise your own fig and caramelised onion flatbreads as you wish. If brie isn’t for you, try goat’s cheese or blue cheese, or go in opposing directions with prosciutto or some sun-dried tomatoes and capers for the much-needed umami.

I love how the flatbread is greasy with olive oil (so it’s good grease, not like KFC-grease) and so chewy, whereas the figs and caramelised onions are tenderly soft and sweet, simply needing to be gulped down. Lunch today will probably be fig and caramelised onion flatbreads again – that is, if I can get my hands on some figs.

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Fig and Caramelised Onion Flatbreads

If I'd known flatbreads were so easy, they would have become a weekly dinner a long time ago!
In an ideal world, it would be best to use two skillets or frying pans at a time, so you can fry and grill flatbreads simultaneously. If you have two, then great, go for it! For those of us who don't, luckily it doesn't take too long to cook so the first person served will just have to be patient.
Course: Appetizer, Dinner, Lunch, Main Course, Side Dish, Starter
Cuisine: Vegan, Vegetarian
Keyword: balsamic, figs, flour, onions
Servings: 4
Author: Adapted from Jamie Oliver’s recipe

Ingredients

For the flatbreads

  • 500 g strong bread flour
  • 7g sachets of dried quick action yeast
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 310 ml lukewarm water It shouldn't feel warm or cold when you stick your finger in it

For the caramelised onions

  • 2 onions
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp grated garlic
  • Salt to taste

Toppings ideas

  • 2-3 figs kinda non-negotiable here
  • 3 or 4 slices of brie per flatbread
  • Other ideas include: sun-dried tomatoes, capers, goat's cheese, blue cheese, any cheese, prosciutto or any other kind of ham
  • Balsamic reduction either from a bottle or homemade – combine 100ml balsamic with 1 tbsp sugar in a saucepan, bring to the boil and leave to reduce for 4-5 minutes. It will thicken quickly so don't leave it unattended! Pour into a jar or plastic tub to cool and store.

Instructions

For the flatbreads

  • Pour the flour into a large mixing bowl, make a well in the centre, and add the yeast, sugar and salt, and half of the water. Using your (clean) fingers, start drawing flour into the mixture. Once all the water has been absorbed and it's looking a bit crumbly, add the rest of the water.
  • Gather in all the flour to form a shaggy dough. Knead it all into a ball and tip it onto the work surface, and sprinkle a little flour down so it doesn't stick.
  • Now it's time to knead. Pummel at the dough with the heel of your hand, stretching and pushing it. After 5 minutes, it should be smooth and stretchy. Roll it into a ball, place it in a lightly-oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel. Place it in a warm spot to rise until doubled in size. Depending on the warmth, this can take 30 minutes to over an hour.

For the caramelised onions

  • While you're waiting for the flatbread dough to rise, make the caramelised onions. Peel and chop the onions into thin slices.
  • Melt the butter in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Once it's melted and sizzling slightly, add all the onions. Toss them around so they are all evenly coated, sprinkle with a little salt then let cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to low and leave to cook for 10 minutes, stirring every now and then to ensure they don't burn.
  • After 10 minutes, add the brown sugar and stir to combine with the onions. Cook for another 5 minutes to make sure they are all sticky and caramelised then remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the grated garlic then leave to cool.

Flatbreads

  • Once the flatbread dough has risen, it is ready. Tip it onto the work surface and knead it around a bit to knock out all the air. Cut it into quarters – each should be roughly 160g.
  • Set a 20cm/8in skillet or heavy-duty frying pan (that can go under the grill) over medium-high heat and lightly grease it with some olive oil. Shape one of the flatbread quarters into a rough circle, a bit thicker around the edges. You don't want the centre to be too thin otherwise they will become crisp breads.
  • Carefully place the dough circle in the hot frying pan. It should sizzle on impact. Preheat the grill to 220°C/200°C fan/430°F and place a shelf in the top section of the oven. Leave the flatbread to cook as you shape the other balls of dough. After 3-5 mins, check the bottom of the flatbread by lifting it with a spatula – if it's mottled with brown patches it's ready.
  • Transfer the pan to the grill and cook for another 3-5 mins until the top of the flatbread is firm and lightly golden. The flatbreads are now ready for the toppings!

Toppings

  • Slice the figs and brie (if using). Spread a couple of tablespoons of caramelised onions on top of the flatbread, place the brie and fig slices on top and return the flatbread to the grill to melt the cheese – should take 3 minutes or so.
  • Plate the flatbread and drizzle with balsamic reduction. Devour.

7 responses to “Fig and Caramelised Onion Flatbreads”

  1. BERNADETTE Avatar

    I would have no trouble devouring this flatbread.

    1. Nigella Eats Everything Avatar

      Hahaha I know how you feel, I certainly didn’t either!

  2. Awakening Wonders Avatar

    I am so in with you – “Let’s frolic under heaving fig trees or shove armfuls of them into our bags-for-life at the market. Make snow angles in the teetering piles of them building up all around us.”!!!! I am a huge fan of figs served in any manner and this recipe looks amazing!!!

    1. Nigella Eats Everything Avatar

      Hahaha let’s go and frolic together! Do you have many figs arriving at this time of year? Apparently we have some growing along the canal, I need to go on a hunt and see them in the wild!

      1. Awakening Wonders Avatar

        Here in Texas the crop ripens in late June!

  3. Sara Flower Kjeldsen Avatar

    My goodness this looks amazing! 😛

    1. Nigella Eats Everything Avatar

      Oh thank you so much!!

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