My mum is currently on holiday, which means that I’ve been left to fend for myself for two weeks. I managed to fend for myself, feed myself, and generally survive during my four years of university, so this isn’t exactly a challenge. Far from it, in fact. Since I don’t have any essays or deadlines to worry about, I can play around with food-related ideas without having to feel guilty because I should actually be reading papers or
pulling my hair out analysing data. Not that that ever really stopped me anyway… In theory, I could try out recipes and churn out a batch of cupcakes or macarons or cookies every day. There’s just one teeny tiny little problem… I have nobody to share all these theoretical baked goods with, and there’s no way I could eat an entire batch every single day without making myself feel sick (plus, I already don’t go to the gym nearly as often as I’d like, so eating a batch of baked goods every day probably wouldn’t help matters. And I’d also like to avoid diabetes for a little longer, thanks).
In St Andrews, it was easy to find eager recipients for baked goods – I suspect that a large proportion of my friends were only friends with me because they wanted cake. In Edinburgh, I have a grand total of one friend (actually that’s a lie, I managed to bump the total up to two yesterday. Oh the achievement. Actually, it’s not even much of an achievement – I already knew them, I just didn’t know they were currently studying in Edinburgh). So I can’t really try a new muffin/cookie/macaron flavour every day and share the results. But I still want to try out new recipes, particularly since I currently have the time. The obvious solution is to experiment with savoury recipes, because even if I don’t want to eat a batch of cupcakes every day, I’ll definitely be eating lunch and dinner, thanks very much. And breakfast, too, obviously, though I’m usually not too keen on having to put a significant amount of effort into breakfast before I can sit down and actually eat it (muffins baked the night before though, no problem). I’ve cooked quite a few delicious dinners or lunches that I would have liked to share, but haven’t been happy with the photos. I find it quite difficult to make savoury foods look really appetising in photos and I would also quite like to eat my dinner warm. I think I just need more practice in styling food brilliantly and quickly. A lot of practice. Ideally, I’d also like a proper camera, but my little five-year old point-and-shoot camera usually manages alright with cupcakes and macarons, so I don’t think my camera is really the problem… (Any tips on photographing savoury food appetisingly are definitely welcome!)
Anyway, you well wonder where all this rambling is going (I may or may not be wondering the same thing). My original point was that I’m currently on my own, which means that if a particular food experiment
fails miserably doesn’t quite work, having toast and pâté for dinner is a totally acceptable back-up plan. I’m not sure that my mum would agree, so I’ve been trying a few ideas out. Ideas of the I’ve-no-idea-what-I’m-doing-so-I’ll-just-make-this-up-as-I-go-along-but-I’m-sure-it’ll-be-fine variety. When I was in Waitrose a few days ago, I saw they were selling fresh figs at half price, and since it’s getting to the end of fig season, and they were in really good condition and just looked so tempting, I bought a packet (I’m like a retailer’s dream customer sometimes – ooo it looks pretty, ooo it’s half price, yes please!). When I got home, I remembered that I don’t really like fresh figs. I know, I know. But they looked so beautiful… Anyway, I decided that roasting them with honey would probably make them a delicious dessert, because honey makes everything better. Then I had a moment of inspiration yesterday, and I decided to make them savoury by adding walnuts, goat’s cheese and rosemary and have them for dinner. My theory was that the goat’s cheese and rosemary would make it savoury enough to work as a dinner, even with the honey (back-up plan: toast). And you know what? It totally worked! The dish turned out to be ridiculously easy to throw together (except that I couldn’t find our stash of rosemary, so I had to use thyme instead), and it turns out that I love roasted figs. Now, excuse me whilst I go see if Waitrose have any beautiful half-price fresh figs left…
Roast figs with honey & goat’s cheese
Serves 2 as a starter, 1 as a light meal
From my imagination
I’d originally planned to use rosemary, but our supply appears to have run away, so I used thyme instead – both work really well, so just use whichever you prefer or have available. This recipe is super easy and quick to throw together, so it would make a delicious but easy starter or quick lunch. The ingredient quantities are more guidelines than anything else.
Handful of walnut halves
4 fresh figs
4 tbsp of runny honey
Several sprigs thyme or rosemary (or about 1 tbsp if using dried herbs)
70g crumbly goat’s cheese
1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C.
2. In a small frying pan, lightly toast the walnut halves for a few minutes, until they start to release their smell (make sure not to let them burn). Remove from the heat, allow to cool a little and roughly chop (depending on how large you want the pieces to be).
3. Cut a cross in the top of the figs to about half way down the fig so that they open up a bit if gently squeezed at the bottom (I cut a little too close to the bottom on mine so they opened right up when roasted) and place in a small roasting tin. Sprinkle the chopped toasted walnuts into the opened figs, dividing evenly between the four. Drizzle about 1 tbsp per fig of honey over the walnuts (don’t worry if some of the honey spills out of the figs). Finely chop the thyme or rosemary and sprinkle over the honey (or add a large pinch of dried herbs to each fig), followed by the crumbled goat’s cheese (don’t worry if some falls out of the fig), finished off with some roughly ground or cracked black pepper.
4. Roast in the oven for 10-12 mins, until the goat’s cheese begins to melt and just turn golden. Serve immediately on a bed of salad (peppery rocket works really well) with the juices from the roasting tin drizzled over the top.