Sunday 19 August 2012

Battle of the figs

Bresaola, pecorino, walnut, fig and herb salad

September is the optimum time for fresh figs; coming as they do at this time of year from the Mediterranean. We can grow them very effectively here in our gardens as well. I have a tree that was only planted ten years ago and it always delivers a tidy crop. These never get as far as the kitchen but are picked and eaten then and me and me alone. But then to tell the truth I can eat figs morning noon and night. I just love them.

Many fig trees suffered badly during the severe winter a year or so back but I am delighted to say my tree has now completely grown again from the root and is back on track to deliver the goods any minute now.

Fig trees crop heavily in southern climes even on open ground, to the extent that one of the traditions of late summer in Italy is the battle of the figs. This is when very enthusiastic Italians go into the county side and literally throw figs at one another.

This simple and delicious salad recipe can be served on its own with extra shavings of pecorino cheese or with paper thin slices of bresaola, Italian cured beef or prosciutto. It combines the freshness and crispness of herbs and salad leaves with the rich autumnal tastes and textures of walnuts and figs and the richness of cheese. This recipe takes only a few minutes to put together, makes a great light lunch with good bread or a simple and effective starter for a supper party.

Serves 4


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon cider or wine vinegar

1 teaspoon honey

1 teaspoon whole grain mustard

salt and freshly ground black pepper


handful roughly chopped walnuts

6 figs each cut into six wedges

100g watercress and sweet salad leaves

50g pecorino cheese shavings

1 handful of 3 of the following fresh herbs: basil, borage, parsley, thyme, mint and marjoram finely chopped

70-100g bresaola or prosciutto, optional

to serve

50g pecorino shavings

tablespoon of walnut pieces

Put the dressing ingredients in a screw top jar, seal and shake well.

When ready to serve, arrange the bresaola or prosciutto on medium sized plates.

Put the walnuts, sliced figs, salad leaves, cheese and herbs in a salad bowl, add the dressing and toss well. Don’t worry if the cheese shavings break up. Put a handful of the dressed salad in the middle of each serving of cured meat.

Top with a few extra shavings of cheese and chopped walnuts. Serve at once.