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Largely thanks to generous friends and colleagues with fruit trees, I make a lot of jam! Generally I stick to the classic English varieties – lots of marmalade, lots of plum jam, lots of chutneys – though occasionally I make something a bit more unusual, and I also make a few Indian pickles. I know many fabulous preserves are made in the Middle East for example, but I’ve never tried making any, even though I love using ingredients such as pomegranate molasses and rosewater.

A number of years ago I remember the wonderful Celia mentioning what was described as a fig marmalade, imported from Lebanon, and containing sesame and anise seeds. While looking for some different ideas to use this year’s glut of figs I came across a recipe for fig and sesame jam which sounded similar, and a bit of additional searching found that Lebanese fig jam is a classic and very popular preserve, but unfortunately it seems to be traditionally made with dried figs (great to know for year round cooking, but not much use when you have a glut of fresh!).

So I decided to be adventurous, and have a go at a recipe with fresh figs, and I’m pleased to say the result is fabulous! Adding the toasted nuts and seeds gives a texture and flavour quite unlike normal jam, and the aniseed flavour goes beautifully with figs. Traditionally this is eaten either on it’s own as a sweet treat in the afternoon or evening, or with flat bread or simple biscuits, but can also be eaten with cheese or (I like) Greek yoghurt. The M’rabbah al teen is pictured above with a range of other delights made with the seasonal fig glut (fig bars (still working out the recipe), balsamic pickled figs, and fig and pomegranate jam).

M’rabbah al teen (Lebanese fig jam)

Inspired by a couple of recipes using the traditional dried figs

  • 1 kg fresh figs, stemmed and cut into quarters, or sixths if large
  • 500g sugar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon citric acid
  • 100g walnuts, roughly chopped (depending how chunky you want it)
  • 70g white sesame seeds
  • 1 Tbs aniseed (anise)
  • about 10g mastic (optional), ground to powder

Sterilise 4 8oz jars (I always do a couple extra) and put a saucer and teaspoon in the freezer to test the set.  The method I use to sterilise is here.

Put sliced figs in a large saucepan with a splash of water in the bottom so they don’t stick. Cook over low heat until the figs start producing liquid, then increase heat to medium and simmer, stirring regularly, until figs are tender – about 15 minutes.

While figs are cooking, toast walnuts and sesame seeds separately, either in a frying pan over low heat for about five minutes, or in an oven at 150C for about 10.

Add the lemon juice, citric acid, sugar, and aniseed to the figs. Continue cooking until thick, about another 15-20 minutes. As the water evaporates and the sugar concentration increases it may start to spit as it thickens, so don’t walk away, and be prepared to turn the heat down. Stir regularly with a wooden spoon or silicon spatula to ensure the bottom isn’t sticking. Towards the end you might want to wear an oven mitt so you don’t get splashes on your hand.

After 15 min, or when it’s thickened, pour a small amount in the chilled spoon and put back in the freezer on the saucer for a couple of min to test the set.  You may need to test a few times.  When the cooled liquid turns is thick and drops slowly from the spoon (ie like jam), it’s done.  

Stir in walnuts and sesame seeds, and remove from heat. Ladle the jam into the sterilised jars, tighten the lids and cool.  I love the popping sound of the lids as they seal!

Makes about 4 jars depending on size