Pod the beans and put them in a deep pot, then pour in enough cold water to cover them by 6 cm. Bring to the boil and skim off any scum that rises, then add the herbs, onion halves, chilli and garlic, and turn down to a simmer, skimming as necessary. Cook at a rapid simmer for 30–45 minutes until the beans are barely cooked, with a wee bit of bite but not too much. If the cooking liquid falls below the level of the beans, just top up with boiling water from the kettle. Turn the heat off and stir in 1½ scant teaspoons of salt, then leave to cool completely. The beans can be kept in the fridge like this for up to 4 days, so long as they’re covered with the cooking liquor.
Drain the beans from the broth and discard all but 2 tablespoons of it, which you can pour back on to the beans. Remove the herbs, scraping the thyme leaves off the stem back into the beans, and squeeze the pulp from the garlic back on to the beans. Cut the tomatoes into a smallish dice and add half to the beans along with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and some freshly ground black pepper. Mix and put to one side.
Brush a tablespoon of the remaining oil over the cut side of the figs, season with a little salt and pepper, and cook on either a barbecue or a griddle pan, or place under a hot grill, until they caramelize (it is the fructose sugar in them that caramelizes). Take from the heat and put on a warm plate. Grill the bacon until crisp and sit it with the figs.