Figs have two seasons, a brief fling in summer, and then a more substantial, but still seemingly fleeting, crop in late summer and autumn. Needless to say I love them. They are so distinctively flavoured that they don’t require much adornment, and happily transition from savoury to sweet without effort.
Preheat the oven to 200°C. Toss the wedges of beetroot in oil and season with salt and pepper. Lay in a baking dish and roast for 30 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from the tray and allow to cool.
Pick the mint leaves and tear if the leaves are large, otherwise leave whole. Pick the woody stems from the watercress, but leave the finer stems intact. Slice the figs into fat slices.
Combine the sherry vinegar and the oil with a little salt and pepper and mix together to emulsify.
On a large platter, arrange half of the jamon and scatter over some of the watercress and mint. Arrange the remaining jamon on top, along with the figs and beetroot wedges. Dollop the curd on at random, season with salt and pepper and finish with the remaining mint and watercress. Pour over the dressing and serve with some grilled bread drizzled with oil.
If you’ve got a crowd coming, the recipe can be doubled.
In a heavy oven-proof pot with a lid, heat the oil and brown the lamb shanks, turning them so you brown them all over. Season well with black pepper and salt. Remove shanks from the pot and set aside.
Over a medium heat, add the whole shallots, garlic, oregano, cumin, cinnamon and chilliies. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring often.
Return the shanks to the pot, with the vinegar, tomato paste and honey. Stir, then add chicken stock and figs. Bring to a simmer for 10 minutes.
Preheat oven to 170°C.
Place the lid on the pot and place in the oven for 2 hours, or until the meat is just starting to collapse from the bone.
Take the pot from the oven and remove the shanks, allowing the liquid to drain a little. Carefully wrap each shank in a vine leaf and place in a baking dish with a little space between each. Reduce the sauce remaining in the pot by one third. Pour the sauce into the baking dish with the lamb, ensuring that the shanks are not submerged. Make sure the figs have been transferred to the baking dish.
Turn the oven up to 180°C and place the baking dish in the oven for 10 minutes to crisp up the vine leaves. Serve with rice.
The figs are layered with soft, creamy Dolce Latte gorgonzola and brik pastry, which is used in Middle Eastern and north African dishes. It’s very thin and, once cooked, it’s brittle and light as a feather. Look for it in specialty food shops and delis.
Preheat oven to 180°C.
Using a mortar and pestle, grind the fennel seeds and salt to create a fennel salt. Set aside.
Lay the brik on a tray, lightly oil it, and sprinkle it with some of the fennel salt. Bake for 3 minutes till light golden, then break each round into 6 pieces.
Slice the figs in rounds, season with fennel salt and drizzle with a little honey.
On 4 serving plates, dollop a little gorgonzola to secure a piece of brik and lay brik gently over. Top with 2 slices of fig, a little more cheese, a scattering of mustard cress, a little dressing, then top with another brik piece. Repeat the fig, cheese, dressing and cress layers, and finish with another piece of pastry. Scatter with walnuts, dress with dressing, fennel salt and pepper, and serve.