Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Baked Figs and Ricotta for Brunch

Figs are in season at the moment, and since the season seems to last for exactly ten minutes, you need to be quick to take advantage of it. I promise, I'll understand if you need to run to the shops now, just don't miss out. Last week, a couple of girlfriends were coming over for brunch, and I knew that I wanted to do something with figs. In the back of my mind, I remembered reading somewhere about a baked ricotta and fig dish. Google to the rescue, and I found this spectacularly easy recipe on the Guardian website from Yotam Ottolenghi.
While the name is not very familiar in Australia, Ottolenghi has been building a devoted following in the UK for several years. He has several food shops in London, and now a cookbook available in Australia. A friend who lived in London sent me the menu and some pictures from Ottolenghi a couple of years ago. Unlike many food stores, the shop is as beautiful as a painting, with riots of colour and texture coming from the abundant food. I think that is one of the most important things to have in a food shop - or for cooking generally - a sense of generosity and abundance. (A deli I know recently went out of business, which was not surprising given their counter displayed little more than a few slices of ham and a few slices of salmon on saucers under plastic. Incredibly depressing.) Even better when the generosity and abundance is matched with creativity and innovation. Now if only I had a ticket to London....
This dish was incredibly easy to make, and made for a really delicious and stress-free brunch. I served it with some toasted Turkish bread. The saltiness of the cheese plays off the musky fruit - I think figs and cheese belong together - with the olive oil and honey ratcheting it up even further. Incidentally, I skipped the lavender honey and used plain honey as I did not think the lavender flavour would sit well with the salmon that I was also serving.
Baked ricotta with figs and lavender honey
adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi on

500g good quality ricotta
½ tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp chopped rosemary, plus extra sprigs for garnish
4 fresh figs, cut into quarters or six
3 tbsp lavender honey, or less if figs are very sweet (I used plain honey)
Preheat the oven to 180C. Put the ricotta in the centre of a clean tea towel, squeeze to get rid of some of the liquid, then transfer the cheese to a bowl, season and mix well. Lightly oil four individual ramekins or one round ovenproof dish about 15cm in diameter. Spread the ricotta inside and level with a palette knife or a spoon - the cheese should come about 2.5cm up the sides.

Drizzle half the olive oil over the cheese, sprinkle with chopped rosemary and lay a small rosemary sprig on top. Bake for about 20 minutes for individual ramekins, 28 minutes for a large dish, then remove from the oven, top with the figs, drizzle over half the honey and bake again for eight minutes longer. At this point the figs should be semi-cooked but retain their shape.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool down slightly. You can serve the cheese slightly warm or at room temperature. Drizzle with remaining honey and oil.


Anonymous said...

Nice, but wanted to say: lavender and salmon are a great combo; no need to avoid.

Suzie said...

Thanks for the tip - I'll have to try salmon with lavender soon.