I was a member of Slow Food UK some years back. I didn’t attend many events but there was one in particular that caught my eye on Edible Flowers. The lunch was being hosted at Petersham Nurseries, this was way before Australian chef Skye Gyngell rocketed to fame and penned three books (A Year in My Kitchen, My Favourite Ingredients and How I Cook). I remember being enchanted by the collection of odd and mismatched pastel coloured patio furniture. The glass house in which our lunch was served was like a small vase supporting a large bunch of flowers.
Because Petersham Nurseries was still relatively unknown, I had no expectations for the lunch. It turned out the food was striking in its vibrant colours and bold in its simplicity. One dish I remember was of a couple of figs, a dollop of ricotta and a slice of Parma ham languishing over the two. There were probably some Nasturtium blossoms to make it relevant to our discussion that day but they were a unecessary embellishment.
I haven’t thought about that combination in years. When my mother bought home a punnet of purple skinned figs so ripe they were beginning to crack in places, I instantly thought of that dish.
It’s coming to the back-end of fig season here in Athens but the figs are still sweet and yielding, almost like jam in a fat purple purse. Even the £1.00 specimens I used to buy at Borough Market pale in comparison (although La Formagerie in Marylebone often had some descent contenders).
I chose to use Anthotyro which is a Greek whey cheese very similar to Ricotta but local. My prefered brand is an organic one from Kourellas (www.kourellas.gr). Instead of Parma ham, which can be rather dear in Athens, I used Serrano which is similar. Because this is Athens, pomegranates are heavy on their branches in our neighborhood so a scattering of pretty jewel like seeds seemed well suited for visual enhancement. A drizzle of Greek honey is all that is needed for dressing.
Ingredients (to serve 2)
4 ripe figs, peeled
4 slices of Serrano ham
4 tablespoons of Anthotyro or Ricotta cheese
Greek honey (to taste)
1. Peel the figs and cut a cross in the top, getting close to the stem but not cutting through it. Push the sides open with your thumbs, making some room for the cheese.
2. Wrap each fig in one slice of ham.
3. Spoon in 1 tablespoon of cheese (the stuffed figs can be kept in the fridge like this for a couple of hours, when ready to serve allow to come to room temperature for about half an hour)
4. Scatter on some pomegranate seeds, drizzle on the honey and serve with a green salad and some crusty bread as a starter.