Plenty more, 340pp.
by Yotam Ottolenghi
Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, 2014
Cooking on page 32
Everyone raves about Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbooks. This is the first of his recipes that I’ve ever made. As an aside, I don’t own any of his books yet because so many of my friends do, and I can borrow them.
I waited almost six months to make this—because I wanted to use fruit from my own tree and beat the price of figs at the market, which can run as much as $25 a kilo.
So let’s check out how good Ottolenghi’s recipes really are.
Caramelized fig, orange and feta salad
½ cup/100 g superfine sugar
16 ripe figs, cut in half lengthwise
4 medium oranges, topped and tailed, peeled and sliced into rounds, 3/8-inch/1-cm thick (about 4 ½ cups/750 g)
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 ½ tbsp raki, Pernod or another aniseed-flavored liqueur
1 tsp aniseeds or fennel seeds, lightly toasted
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/3 cup/80 ml olive oil
7 oz/200 g feta, broken into 3/8-inch/1-cm chunks
1 tbsp oregano leaves, small leaves whole and larger ones chopped
3 cups/60 g arugula (rocket)
coarse sea salt and black pepper
Place a large sauté pan over medium heat and add half the sugar. Leave for 2 to 3 minutes, or until it turns a golden caramel color, don’t stir the sugar at this stage. Once nice and golden, add half the figs, cut side down. Cook for 2 minutes, until starting to soften, before turning to cook for a minute more. Remove from the pan and add the second batch of figs and repeat the cooking process. You might need to add a tablespoon or two of water to the pan if the figs aren’t very juicy.
Add the remaining sugar to the pan, return to the heat, and let the sugar start to caramelize before adding the oranges and leaving for 1 minute on each side. They should take on a rich caramel color. Remove and add to the plate of figs.
Take the caramel off the heat and whisk in the lemon juice, liqueur, aniseeds, garlic, ¾-teaspoon coarse sea salt, and a generous grind of black pepper. Once combined, whisk in the olive oil and set aside.
Arrange the oranges and figs on a large platter and dot with the feta. Drizzle any juices left on the fruit plate over the top, followed by the dressing. Sprinkle with the oregano and arugula and serve.
How it played out
This year, my figs ripened throughout December (remember I’m in Australia) and I was finally able to pick 10 in January. That meant I could make half a batch of this.
I made it as written, using pastis (an anise-flavoured liqueur from France), fennel seeds, and oregano, arugula (rocket) and a meyer lemon, all harvested from our garden.
Managed to burn my thumb as I lowered the first of the fig halves into the caramelised sugar—wow that stuff gets hot! So it dawned on me to use tongs for the rest of the job.
Once the salad was done, I shared half with neighbours, Barb and Richard. Earlier this year, Barb gave me a big plant of rocket (arugula) so I could get it going in my garden.
When I first read through this recipe, I thought ‘fiddly and time-consuming’. But when I went to make it, I realised the process was straightforward and, other than burning my thumb, really easy. Oh, peeling oranges isn’t fun, but it only took a few minutes.
So what about taste? Frankly, this salad is sensational. Barb sent a thank-you text saying it had transformed dinner and was ‘totally a winner’. We have to agree. It looks stylish and colourful, and has complex and delicious flavours. Just the right thing to serve for a party or with New Year’s Day dinner, which is what I did.
So all the hype is right! Ottolenghi knows his stuff.
Note: There are two editions of Plenty More, each with a different cover. I borrowed this one from my friend, Lyn. Barb owns the other one and I’ll cook from it soon.
If you’re wondering why I made this in January and didn’t get it posted until now, Poor John and I have been travelling, and I forgot to type up this recipe before we set out. Our most recent travels included Alaska and Cuba. So if you have a moment, there’s ‘plenty more’ to check out my travel blog.