Like apricots, fresh figs, ideally, need to be eaten picked from the tree, warm from the Mediterranean sunshine, fully ripened and bursting with soft, luscious flesh.
If their sweetness is then combined with some thinly sliced Parma or Serrano ham, you would have a feast indeed. Although they are imported throughout most of the year, the best of the European crop (from Turkey and Greece) are at their most luscious in autumn. They should be dark purple, feel soft to the touch when you buy them, and their skins should have a soft bloom, which needs to be wiped off with damp kitchen paper.
Eat them just as they are, or arranged in overlapping slices, brushed with honey and baked for 10-12 minutes at gas mark 7, 425°F (220°C). Another very unusual way to serve them is as a starter, such as Roasted Figs with Gorgonzola and Honey-Vinegar Sauce.
Figs lend themselves particularly well to iced desserts - as Delia discovered on a visit to France.
Dessert figs that have become too dry to eat as they are can be excellent made into a compote. This is superb served with ice cream, but failing that, try it with some Greek yoghurt.
Fruit, cheese and the sweet-sour dressing of honey and vinegar makes this an absolutely unbeatable first course that couldn't be easier to put together.
Elegant and autumnal, this dessert would go down well at the end of a special meal and is simplicity itself to make. Of course, you can use the mascarpone mousse in other recipes too - a great addition to your repertoire!
Those who aren't too keen on a traditional rich, dark Christmas pud may find this lighter, spicier version more to their liking.