A sweet ripe fig warmed by the sun is one of summer’s great pleasures. I have such memories from holidays in Turkey, Spain and France – as well as Melbourne’s very hot summers. A firm crumbly cheese is a perfect match for a fig – Lancashire is one such cheese, but you could also try a young Pecorino or Cheddar (though please don’t make this with pre-sliced Cheddar of dubious origins as there is no textural benefit to the salad).
Mâche, also called lamb’s lettuce, looks great in a salad and has a subtle sweet flavour; if you can’t find any, then try baby spinach, purslane or baby oak leaf.
Lay the figs in a shallow plate, snip off the hard ends of the stems and cut crosses into their tops going halfway down their depth. Gently pull the four corners out to open them up. Stir the honey in the lemon juice to dissolve it and season with a little salt and pepper. Drizzle this over the figs and leave to macerate for 20 minutes.
Scatter the mâche on 4 plates and lay the beans and tomato slices on top, then sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Sit a fig (or 2 small figs) on each plate. Scatter with the almonds and flake the cheese over. If the cheese is firm, use a potato peeler to shave off slices; if it’s crumbly, then just slice pieces off with a sharp knife or crumble it over the salad. Drizzle the lemon-honey mixture left in the plate after macerating over the salad and then pour over the olive oil.
© 2005 Peter Gordon. All rights reserved.