Orange and Cardamom Fig Rolls








In all the excitement of the article about me in The Telegraph, I completely forgot to post last weekend’s Mint recipe. I’ll confess my head was temporarily turned.

A huge thank you, though, to Telegraph food writer Xanthe Clay  who, along with photographer Heathcliff O’Malley came out from London a few weeks ago to attend one of our Upar Wali Chai tea parties.  They also ventured into Old Delhi to sample some of my favourite street food. Xanthe’s feature is lovely and Heathcliff’s pictures gorgeous – including a sweet one of the whole family – Spike the dog and all.

Anyway, back down to earth.  The fig rolls I wrote about in Mint last week are one of the best things I’ve made recently.  If, like me, you ate the packaged variety as a kid, you’ll wonder why you never tried making this far superior home made version.  The orange and cardamom are perfect partners for the soft sweet figginess.

A lot of what I do in the kitchen is rooted in nostalgia, often an attempt to recreate the food of my childhood. Although I fear my pastry will never be as light as my mother’s, my cakes never so moist, I want my kids to know the simple pleasure of home-baked Victoria sponge, ginger biscuits and the anticipation that builds as a perfect apple pie browns in the oven.

There were a few treats in our childhood, though, that weren’t baked by our mother. One of those was fig rolls, which often appeared in our lunch boxes. As our mother generally considered anything “shop bought” to be inferior to home-made (a trait I fear I have inherited), I had always assumed fig rolls were either too tricky or too exotic to make at home.

There is, after all, something Garden of Eden about figs—the fruit was one of the foods of the promised land, the leaves used by Adam and Eve to cover their nakedness. Fresh figs (they’re in season in Indian markets right now) are soft, decadent, forbidden. Dried, they conjure up bacchanalian excess—the sweet stickiness of the flesh flecked with the slight crunch of the seeds.

Seeing the beautiful garlands of dried figs in my local market recently, I had a fig roll yearning and as I hadn’t seen them in the shops here, decided to have a bash at home. A fig roll is a cross between a cake and a biscuit—the filling has to be soft and sweet yet citrusy, the pastry crumbly and buttery. I cooked the figs in orange juice and lemon zest and gave them a shot of cardamom; the pastry was softened with icing sugar and egg. They were much, much better than the fig rolls of my childhood: the figgy filling sweet but tangy, with the mysterious seeded crunch and the pastry melt-in-the-mouth buttery. They’re perfect with a steaming cup of chai and if you can stop at one, these biscuits are also wonderfully low in sugar as most of the sweetness comes from the figs. But I realize that’s a very big “if”.

Orange and Cardamom Fig Rolls

Makes about 18 rolls


250g dried figs

300ml orange juice

Zest of 1 lemon

3 cardamom pods, slightly crushed

125g butter

75g icing sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

200g plain flour


Place figs, orange juice, lemon zest and cardamom pods in a pan, bring to a boil, then simmer until figs are plumped up and soft. Boil off most of the orange juice, then leave the figs to cool completely.

For the pastry, put the butter, icing sugar and vanilla in a bowl and beat (either by hand or with an electric whisk) until light and creamy. Beat in the egg, then the flour. Work the pastry into a ball with your hands then wrap in clingfilm and leave in the fridge to cool slightly.

When you’re ready to assemble the fig rolls, preheat the oven to 150 degrees Celsius.

Remove the cardamom pods from the cooled figs, then tip them into a food processor and blitz until they turn into a smooth paste. On a lightly floured work surface, divide the chilled pastry into three pieces.

Take one piece and shape into a rough square. The pastry will be very soft and crumbly so keep your rolling pin and work surface well floured so it doesn’t stick. Roll the square of pastry as thinly as possible until approximately 36x12cm. Take a third of the figgy paste and spoon it along the centre of the pastry. Bring one side of the pastry up over the fig mixture, then bring the other side up over that. Press gently to seal, then turn the whole sausage over so the sealed side is on the bottom. Trim the ends, then cut the roll into six even pieces. Press gently to flatten slightly, then with the back of a fork, mark each fig roll and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the rolls are cooked but still pale golden. Cool the fig rolls on a rack, then dust with icing sugar.


24 thoughts on “Orange and Cardamom Fig Rolls

  1. It was a fantastic article Pamela and very well deserved. I have almost admired and felt like it was written by a local who wrote things as she saw them. Of an India which lies somewhere between Karan Johar’s super rich world and Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire.

    I sense the same love and warmth for India in your blog as I do for Anthony Bourdain and Vietnam when I read him.

    And Bourdain is my pole star

  2. I have never even thought about making these ones though simply love the supermarket bought ones. They are so addictive though….I am going to have a go at making this. Can the 125gm butter be reduced to half and buttermilk used for the rest?

  3. Read the article in Telegraph …you really look gorgeous pamella!!!
    A very nice family portrait indeed.
    And the chandni chawk jalebi wala follows you on twitter 🙂
    … that is great .

  4. I adored fig rolls as a child and these sound absolutely amazing. Looking forward to Monday when I can buy some dried figs! Luckily I still have some good cardamon from my October trip to Munnar.

  5. HI Pamela, Was dying to read Telegraph article but when I clicked on the link it said URL not found. Give me a date / title and I will check if from the newspaper online, or is the telegraph one by subscription only ?
    x M

  6. Hi Shilpa – by all means have a go with the buttermilk although I personally wouldn’t – I’m a bit of an all-butter girl generally!

  7. Earlybird – do have a go – they taste even better than they look – and let me know how you get on.

  8. Ah Pamela, your blog will keep me going until I can get back to Delhi, I feel! The sights and smells and tastes come through so vividly.

    I’m going to get my mum in the kitchen to make this rolls with me on the weekend – thank you!

  9. Hi Tennille – so sorry we never got to do the Old Delhi adventure but it’ll be something to look forward to when you get back. Have a great time back home and see you soon. All the best

  10. I have just made them and they are absolutely SENSATIONAL! (although I only used 2/3 of the pastry and made 14) – Mine must have been fatter with thinner pastry, I guess. Anyway, thank you for these – mmmmmm

    HIGHLY recommended for all fig fans.

  11. Pingback: Orange and Cardamom Fig Rolls | mangetout and other stories

  12. Pam- congrats on the article.
    i am sure your pastry *is* as good as your mummy’s- we love the food that our mum makes so much that we cant imagine replicating it. when my sister couldnt identify whether i made the chicken saalan that night or my mum- well, i knew i could rest assured that i had learnt all the impt things well from my mummy.
    i love this recipe- oranges, figs, ah, they remind me of my years in Rome. x shayma

  13. Dear Pamela-
    I’m a regular reader of your columns and enjoy your twist on
    traditional English recipes for Indian kitchens.

    I just wanted to write in and tell you that I tried out the recipe for
    fig rolls that you wrote about in your
    column a couple of Saturdays ago. The figgy mixture turned out to be
    delicious, but I had a little bit of
    a problem getting the right texture of the pastry and rolling it flat.
    Could you talk about getting the right texture for sheet pastries in
    one of your articles? I used to live in
    France and always managed to find sheet pastry in the stores for
    quiches and tarts, but back home in
    Mumbai, making it from scratch is quiet a task!
    Would you have any experiences/ tips to share about making sheet pastry?


  14. Hi Sneha -The pastry for the fig rolls is very soft, which is why it’s so good to eat! but makes it a bit difficult to handle. It won’t roll out as obediently as shortcrust but it won’t matter if you patch it up a bit with your fingers. Remember to keep your work surface well floured and don’t roll it too thin. It can also be a bit tricky in a hot Indian kitchen – the trick is to use cold butter and move quickly!

  15. Congratulations on the piece. Cheers to the Delia of old delhi. Hoping I can sample you little foodie treats sometime soon. Love this recipe Pamela! Orange & cardamom always a winner.

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