The trend to eat local and seasonal produce is so popular in the UK nowadays that it’s almost at risk of tiring the ethical consumer and becoming a bit like one of those fad diets. However, it is useful to go back to basics and remember why it makes so much sense to incorporate it in your daily shopping plans and choices.
Seasonal food is sold at the time of year when its at its natural optimum condition for harvest and so it tends to be fresher and often cheaper because of its abundance. It’s usually also more delicious and nutritious – especially if it has been grown near you – since it will have suffered less form the damaging effects of storage and transportation.
So, it’s a no-brainer, right? but that’s not all. Opting for local and seasonal producers also takes us out of our comfort zone and forces us to choose ingredients that perhaps we don’t know much about or cook with often, and so it can be a really fun and adventurous way of planning your meals. A fantastic tool to help in this effort is this Seasonality Table on the BBC Good food guide which will tell you what is coming to season near you (this one is UK specific, but I’m sure there must be many other similar resources available online).
As you can tell from the guide, figs are really coming into their peak at the moment, and we LOVE a good fig, with its amazing deep purple exterior and surprisingly vibrant red and yellow interior, and its velvety yet crunchy texture which works so well with either sweet or savoury ingredients.
Figs are said to be one of the first cultivated produces referenced even in the bible. They were considered a sacred fruit and valued so much that the Greeks even prohibited their export as they wanted to keep the best ones all for themselves…. Who can blame them? Oh, and from a healthy perspective they are a great source of fibre and potassium.
Our love affair with this fruit started one lunch time when we stopped by a little Italian cafe and on the specials board was a very simple dish of oven baked figs wrapped in Parma ham and topped with cheese. They blew our minds – it was one of those perfect marriages of flavours and textures made in gastronomic heaven. We quickly played around with the concept and now this simple recipe is a regular at our table when figs are in season.
The recipe works best with Black Forest Ham because of its smoky flavour (a good Parma or Serrano Ham also work well) and any creamy blue cheese or Gorgonzola to melt in the middle will work wonders when combined with the sweet centre of the fig.
After baking them we finish them by simply popping them on a small bed of rocket leaves and dressing them with a splash of balsamic dressing and accompanying them with a big pile of these lovely Mediterranean Olive and Garlic Flat breads that we’ve just learned how to make from Grandma Pete!
- 4 figs
- 8 slices of Black Forest ham
- 80g of Gorgonzola (about a heaped teaspoon per fig)
- A couple of handfuls of rocket leaves
- A drizzle of balsamic vinegar
- A drizzle of olive oil
- Turn the oven on to 190
- Wash the figs and dry them well
- Cut a cross into the top of the fig and using your index finger and thumb from both hands squash the middle of the fig so the top opens out like a flower
- Wrap two slices of ham around each fig. Try to cover the bottom of the fig. It doesn’t need to be too neat!
- Cut the cheese and push it gently into the opening of the fig
- Pop them in the oven for 10 minutes
- Remove and place on a bed of rocket that is dressed with the balsamic vinegar and olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups of plain flour
- 10 black olives
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 tbls olive oil
- 1 pinch of paprika
- 1 tsp of dried herbs
- A splash of water (as need to make a dough)
- Heat your oven to 200 C
- Chop your olives and garlic very finely
- Mix all the dry ingredients
- Add the olive oil
- Little by little add some water until you have a dough. It should be quite a dry dough.
- Add the olives and garlic and leave to rest for an hour
- Using a rolling pin and lots of flour, roll out the breads and thinly as you can
- Place on baking sheet lined tins and place in the over for 6-7 minutes or until just golden on the edges
- Leave to cool in a wire wrack and enjoy!