Fried fig & blue cheese salad

I like how figs sit so comfortably in savoury dishes.

Whilst one might look at a fig and think ‘pudding’, they’re often used to great effect much earlier in a meal: think of how well fresh figs pair with terrines, patés, fois gras; cooked figs alongside venison, duck and feathered game; and both cooked and fresh figs next to cheese.

This assemblage sits the fig firmly in savoury mode, though I suppose it’s only really the use of fennel, radicchio and a little blue cheese that stops it from being a dessert. Figs, orange segments, runny honey, a dollop of yoghurt, some toasted hazelnuts – that’d work. I digress.

Here, the fig itself is fried, with the face of a cut fruit in direct contact with high heat. The aim is to get a little charring and some caramelisation, without cooking the rest of the fruit completely through. Such warming brings out loads of jammy flavours, and makes the fig both the star and the unifying part of a jumble of ingredients.

This recipe was originally written for Borough Market. More here.

fig and blue cheese salad

Fried fig and blue cheese salad

For four

  • Three medium oranges
  • 1 head radicchio
  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 120g blue cheese – Stilton, Stichelton, Blue d’Auvergne
  • 4 figs
  • 2 tablespoons runny honey
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Using a sharp knife, cut the top and bottom off the oranges so they stand flat, then cut the peel off, working from top to bottom following the curve of the fruit. Discard the peel. Slice each orange in half, half again, remove the centre core/pith, and finally cut the quarters in half one more time. Put the segments in a large salad bowl, and scrape the juice into another.

Cut the radicchio into quarters and separate the leaves. Roughly chop the largest leaves in half again. Add to the oranges. Slice the fennel in half from top to bottom. Remove the stalk and discard. Slice very thinly, ideally using a mandolin. Add to the radicchio and orange.

Make the dressing by adding the honey, oil and a pinch of salt and pepper to the orange juice. Whisk or stir well with a fork so that the juice, honey and oil combine.

Slice the blue cheese into thin shards. Finally, when you’re ready to eat, dress the salad and put onto four plates. Sprinkle with cheese.

Then cut each fig in half from top to bottom. Put a little oil in a non-stick, heavy bottomed frying pan and heat on the highest flame for a minute or two until extremely hot. Add the figs, cut side face down, and cook for sixty to ninety seconds – until the face is blackened, but stopping short of cooking the fig all the way through. Carefully remove from the pan, cut each half in half – exposing the uncooked flesh, and put four quarters on top of each salad. Lovely job.