Summer time means sweet juicy fruit. And fruit isn´t just for jams or desserts you know. Oh no, mixed with peppery salad leaves and a citrusy sweet dressing it´s a perfect summer starter.
We have two seasons of figs here in Andalucía, early summer Brevas (usually the dark, black-skinned figs) and late summer Higos (the green variety). How lucky are we?!
Big Man came home yesterday with four juicy figs that had somehow fallen into his pocket off someone´s tree. At least, that´s what he told me and who am I not to believe him?!
Not enough for dessert, but just enough for a little salad.
Not so much a recipe as an inspiration to make a version yourself. I mixed some chopped lettuce with basil and rocket then over the top I put the four stolen precious figs, one peeled chopped peach and about 2 tablespoons of chopped semi cured goat´s cheese.
To make the dressing I mixed 1 tablespoon of honey with 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, 3 tablespoons of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice. Salt and pepper were added then it was all shaken up then poured over.
Ah, “stolen” fruit always seems to taste that much sweeter!
When I was a child, summer holidays were extra special. We joined the great exodus of Italians “going home” for August. My father, like many Italians, started his working life in London as a waiter. Sometimes the restaurant he worked in, usually Italian, shut for the month to allow staff to be with their families. Other times, it didn´t, which often meant a return from holiday at the start of September with no job for my father. I´ve only recently thought about this and how difficult and precarious things must have been for the family financially at times and the sacrifices they made for us children.
My family, however, thought it was important for my brother and I to be in Italy with our many cousins and aunties and uncles, spending time being free on the beach, eating meals late at night, talking Italian and sharing that special love that comes from a huge extended family. I thank them for it, I´m sure much of what I experienced in those summer holidays helped make me the person I am today.
We often drove to Italy as putting the car on the overnight train from Calais to Milan was expensive. Then we faced a further day or two of journey to the very south, the “toe of the boot”, to Calabria. It was an epic journey, but it was made fun with plenty of food, books to read, songs to sing in the car (no DVDs or Playstations then!) and stops along the way to visit more family and friends.
We always stopped in Roma, where my father had spent a portion of his youth and visited Zia Sara and Zio Angelo. Roma has some wonderful food markets and I have strong memories of someone going out in the morning to buy focaccia for breakfast – that typical flat white bread drizzled with olive oil, coarse salt and sometimes rosemary. I don´t know if it was a Roman thing, or a family thing, but if we were lucky we also got a bag of juicy figs to go with it. An extra sprinkle of salt, a little drizzle of olive oil and it was heaven on a piece of bread. Sweet, salty and peppery all at the same time.
Now I try to recreate it with griddled bread, a sprinkle of coarse sea salt and a drizzle of our very own olive oil. It´s not quite the same, but the memories make it all the sweeter.
So in 2016 I turned 50. I was in Italy for my 21st, 30th and 40th. To keep this birthday tradition going I always knew I'd be in Italy for my 50! This blog starts with my 5 week adventure in Puglia but my love affair with Italy continues.....