A Compote of Figs in Marsala Wine with Mascarpone Mousse
Figs are at their best in autumn and, even if they're not squidgy enough to eat straight, they still respond beautifully to light poaching. In this recipe they impart their flavour to mingle with a sweet Marsala wine. Serve them with the lightest mascarpone mousse and it's heaven on earth!
Make the mousse first: begin by whisking the mascarpone, fromage frais, milk, sugar and vanilla together in a roomy bowl. Then place 1 tablespoon of cold water in a cup and sprinkle the gelatine over. Put a small saucepan with about 1 inch (2.5 cm) of hot water in it over a gentle heat. When the gelatine has soaked into the water, sit the cup in the saucepan and leave it until the gelatine has turned completely clear and liquid.
Next, in another roomy bowl, whisk the egg whites to the soft peak stage. Now rinse the ramekins in cold water, leave them to drain, but don't dry them as this will make it easier to turn the mousses out. Now, using the same whisk, with the beaters running slowly, pour the liquid gelatine into the mascarpone mixture, whisking all the time so that the gelatine does not set. When it's all in, use a metal tablespoon to fold a spoonful of the egg white into the mixture to loosen it, followed quickly by the remaining egg white. Fold thoroughly, but gently, to mix evenly together.
Now pour or spoon the mousse into the ramekins, smooth the tops, and cover with clingfilm. Chill for at least 6 hours before serving, but preferably overnight. To make the compote, pour the wine into the pan, add the vanilla pod and the sugar, stir over a gentle heat until the sugar has dissolved, then bring to simmering point. Stab each fig two or three times with a skewer then, using a long-handled spoon, lower them gently into the simmering liquid (stalk side up).
Cover and cook very gently for 20 minutes or until they are absolutely tender. Use a draining spoon to remove them from the liquid to a shallow serving dish where again they can sit in a single layer. Remove the vanilla pod and boil the liquid to reduce it slightly. Then mix the arrowroot in a cup with a tablespoon of cold water, pour this into the hot liquid and bring it back to simmering point, whisking all the time. Pour the slightly thickened liqueur over the figs, leave to cool and chill till needed.
To turn out the mousses, run a knife carefully round the edge of the dish and invert each one on to a plate. The mousse is meant to be very light and fluffy and not at all jelly-like. Give each person three figs and spoon some of the juice around.
Note: this recipe contains raw eggs.