Poached figs can be eaten alone or as a simple and light dessert with a scoop of ice cream and biscotti. Serve them with a wedge of Stilton to add a savory note to the end of your meal. Do not overcook the figs. You don't want them so soft that they burst open when you touch them. Black mission figs work best for this recipe, as they tend to be firmer in texture. Other varieties may be substituted but the cooking time should be reduced to five minutes if they are very soft and ripe.
Combine the port sugar, vanilla pods and seeds, cinnamon, orange peel and peppercorns in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat. Simmer until the liquid has the consistency of a light syrup, about 20 minutes. You will have about 1 1/2 cups of syrup. Add the figs and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and cool the figs in the syrup. Serve the figs in a bowl with their juices spooned over.