12 weeks ago my previous existence was thrown up into the air with the birth of baby Nell, and it’s now slowly resettling in a different configuration. My hair (and the rest of me, to be honest) doesn’t get washed as often, I now go down the baby aisle of the supermarket and my approach to cooking has simplified even further.
When time and available hands are restricted, good quality ingredients and big flavours come to the fore. I find myself buying interesting or strong flavoured ingredients to base a meal around, using pantry staples, frozen homemade stock and home-grown tomatoes, lettuce and herbs to fill it out. Halloumi and feta make simple salads more flavoursome, and having a bowl of cooked grains like quinoa, cous cous or freekeh in the fridge means the start of a meal is already done.
Using the produce of the season will help a simple meal pack a flavour punch. Fig trees are currently heavy with fruit, and I’m not one to miss an opportunity to relish the soft, deep purple and crimson sweetness on offer.
It’s the time of year when Summer is hiccuping out the door as Autumn stumbles in. Both seasons exist at once, with chilly mornings developing into glorious sunshine and days flip flop between warming soup or cooling salad weather. What better way to bridge the seasons than a salad full of earthy flavours and autumnal delights.
This middle eastern inspired salad requires no cooking, and barely any assembly. It combines the sweetness and texture of figs with a creamy smear of labneh, the woody crunch of walnuts and the zesty appeal of lemony sumac.
It would make a lovely starter, or a light lunch, especially if you added a bit of prosciutto. I use labneh as the base, as I’m a fan (see how to make it here, and turn it into a healthy dessert here), but you could use greek yoghurt or goats curd just as well. If you can’t find sumac in the herbs and spices section of your local store, then lemon zest and salt can be substituted in. And while we’re at it, pistachios could replace walnuts if you didn’t have any on hand.
Thank you to the wonderful guest bloggers, Saskia, Jonny and Ali, Sam, Louisa and Zoe, who provided gorgeous recipes, words and photos to keep things ticking along while I was getting to grips with motherhood. I am very grateful! Also thank you for all the well wishes on the birth of Nell. She’s turned life on its head in the most wonderful way. It’s good to be back!
Smashed Figs with Labneh, Walnuts and Sumac
Ingredients (per person):
- 1 ½ – 2 figs
- 1 generous tablespoon labneh (or greek yoghurt or goat curd)
- Half a handful of toasted walnuts (or pistachios)
- A big pinch of sumac (or lemon zest and salt)
- A good glug of quality olive oil
Smear the labneh on a plate in a nice circle. Cut figs in half and pinch the skin-side to push forward the gorgeous inner fruit. Smash some halves to form the base and lay the prettier looking halves on top. Sprinkle the toasted walnuts over the plate, followed by the sumac and then drizzle the lot with olive oil.
Serve as a starter, or add some prosciutto to make it stretch to a light lunch.