The Italians and Spaniards are fond of serving sweet and softly salty ham with fruit. And for that, we can thank them, for this combination can instantly transport you to the shores of the Mediterranean where life is slow and the light is golden.
This recipe is one of the first I ever memorised, and is the one that springs to mind when I see a box of ripe figs at the market. I discovered it while living above a pub in London. I was learning to cook under the tutelage of English TV chefs, helped along by my close proximity to the Borough Market. It was a period of trying new things (as your early 20s should be). I was taking advantage of cheap flights to Europe, exploring new cultures and returning to London with a more adventurous palette each time. This recipe was the perfect combination of easy and different to anything I’d ever eaten growing up. It was a new type of fast food and after a trip to the southern coast of France, I was keen for anything that tasted like a warm, lazy afternoon in the sun.
Soft, deeply-coloured figs are best for this recipe (sadly, mine were only passable). You want them oozing a little, bringing their full sweetness to the saltiness of the prosciutto. The silky creaminess of the mozzarella brings the two together and smooths out the tender crunch of the fig seeds as you take a mouthful. The dressing is the same as I use on my Peach and Hazelnut and Feta Salad, the honey and lemon adding a sweet vibrancy to the fruit plus ham combo.
As is the case with all simple meals, the quality of the ingredients will define the success of this salad, so buy the best you can afford.
Fig and Prosciutto Salad
Serves 4, takes 15 minutes max
- 4 figs
- 4 slices prosciutto
- 1 ball of buffalo mozzarella
- A big sprig of basil
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon good honey
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Mix all dressing ingredients in a small jar and shake to combine.
With a sharp knife, criss-cross the figs from the top down, but not all the way to the bottom. Pinch the base of the figs to expose the inside and place them on a platter. Drape the prosciutto slices in and around the figs and tear pieces of mozzarella to dot evenly around the salad. Scatter torn basil leaves over the top of the salad and drizzle everything with the dressing.
Serve with crusty bread to mop up the leftover juices.
This is an old Jamie Oliver recipe (Happy Days with the Naked Chef) from the era in which I lived in London.