This fresh autumn fruit adds something special to both sweet and savoury dishes.

This is the ideal time to be enjoying beautifully plump ripe figs.

Figs are such an ancient and unique fruit and one that can be thoroughly enjoyed straight from the tree or baked with honey, roasted, or sliced into a salad and paired with blue cheese, feta or a gorgeous aged gouda.

The flavours of grilled chicken, lamb, orange and ham suit the flavour of a fig - a multi-talented fruit that works fabulously with both sweet and savoury flavours.

The season doesn't last for long and if you are fortunate enough to have a tree, the wee gems are still quite hard to pick, especially when there are so many eager birds about to fight you for them.

Today's three recipes use figs in different ways. Firstly, a fresh fig salad paired with cured ham. I used a ham from Farro Fresh, which has been cured with coriander and juniper, though any good quality ham would do. Walnuts add a nice texture while blue cheese and bitter radicchio work to create a flavour balance with the figs and a slightly sweet red wine vinaigrette.

Rolling figs in caster sugar before baking produces a sticky and rich dessert, which is served with orange syrup and dollops of cream.

The third recipe is all about showing off their beauty. I have made cupcakes with lemon and ground almonds to keep them moist, then have iced and topped them with a perfectly ripe fig, sliced to reveal the cherry-red flesh.

Figs are becoming more readily available and while they can seem expensive they are truly seasonal and well worth the effort to hunt out and enjoy their delicate flavour.

Chef's tip

Figs don't store well so eat them as soon as possible. The same day as bought is ideal but, if you need to, keep for a maximum of two days in the fridge. Some recipes call for figs to be peeled but this is not necessary. Be sure to cut off the stems though, as they often release a white sap, which can be a skin irritant.