This is a salad for all those who can’t say goodbye to summer just yet! Figs seem all of a sudden plentiful in the UK. I’m seeing them in most shops I go to. I love cooking figs, so sweet and fragrant, and I can think of a few nice things to do with them, but charring them slightly and serving them with a crispy and lively salad is one of my favourites.
This is an original recipe from Peace & Parsnips, I rarely cook recipes from the past, I’m too busy creating new ones normally, but this is a winner and I really like the tofu feta and flavour combos. I normally make tofu feta by simply crushing the drained firm tofu with herbs and other flavourings, but cooking it briefly in a pan here intensifies the flavours even more.
I’m very happy when eating figs, but must admit, most of the year only eat them dried. I love the way they can be incorporated into traditionally savoury dishes like salads and they are perfect when mixed with a little spice and wholegrains.
I remember in Morocco living off figs for a few days in the mountains (which was not a great idea, they are full of oxalates), as a veggie back then, there was not a great deal to eat and I was really rural, up in the Atlas mountains hiking with some Berber musicians. I bought figs on long ropes, big fig snakes, that I kept hanging from my backpack. Whenever I needed a nibble, I just plucked one off the rope. It was a great snack.
Experiences like that make me a little sentimental about some foods and figs do bring back loads of good memories. Still, this is quite a long way from this dish which was influenced by my times picking grapes and travelling through France. One of the stand out dishes of that time was a meal prepared in the Loire region, a salad with charred figs that I’ll always remember. I felt so grateful that the chef prepared a special dish just for me.
Most of you know that Jane and I can normally be found tucked away somewhere in Snowdonia, or travelling the less beaten path somewhere in the world, but this recipe found its way over to the food section of the Washington Post! It’s incredible to see the food that we are passionate about in the Beach House in newspapers and blogs around the world.
So this is a very healthy twist on a traditional feta salad that can be bulked out by adding more toasted nuts (cobnuts would be perfect!) and maybe some white beans would be nice, even mix in something like orzo or oven baked polenta…..ok, I’m getting carried away now! It’s ideal for an autumn lunch, as we’re just hanging onto the sunshine and warmth in the UK and getting ready for the big, sustaining stews and soups of winter. I say, get in the fresh figs while you can!
As we all know, figs are precious! They are delicate and should always be handled and stored with care. Give them a gentle squeeze when you buy them to check that they’re not too soft.
Figs are best washed just before you use them, because they can be so delicate, it’s best to cut them with a sharp knife. Eat them within a few days of purchasing.
If you don’t have a griddle pan for the figs, a nice frying pan will do the trick.
Charred Fig & Rocket Salad with Lemon Tofu Feta
The Bits – Serves 4
3 handfuls of rocket leaves
handful of fresh basil leaves
6 ripe figs, quartered
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
Lemon tofu feta
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes
juice of ½ a lemon
½ teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon olive oil
400g firm tofu, well drained, crumbled
1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
large pinch of sea salt
pinch of cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon brown rice syrup
½ tablespoon balsamic vinegar
pinch of sea salt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
To make the tofu feta, put the nutritional yeast flakes into a bowl with the lemon juice and zest and leave to dissolve.
Heat the oil in a small frying pan on a medium heat and add the tofu and garlic. Pan-fry until slightly golden, then add the lemon mix, salt and pepper, bring to the boil and cook until the lemon juice has evaporated. Spoon into a bowl and allow to cool. Check that it’s just a little too salty, like feta.
To make the dressing, whisk together the lemon juice, syrup, vinegar, salt and extra virgin olive oil in a small bowl.
Mix the rocket and basil leaves together in a bowl. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the dressing over the leaves and toss together. Keep the rest of the dressing for further dipping and drizzling.
Warm a griddle pan on a high heat and brush with a little oil. Just as the oil begins to smoke, place your figs widthways in the pan. Allow to cook for 2 minutes, basting them with balsamic vinegar as you go.Turn them when well caramelized, then remove the now sticky figs from the heat.
Scatter the leaves beautifully on plates, and top with the warm figs, a couple of spoons of the tofu feta and a sprinkling of toasted pine nuts.
Apparently figs are one of the worlds oldest trees. They are high in minerals like calcium, magnesium and iron and are a great source of anti-oxidants like vitamin A, E and K. They also have a lot of fibre.