fresh figs

Figs are in season in North London, or at least in the Turkish grocery just down from the Happening Bagel Bakery. I took my time choosing these, making sure I had the very best little buds of purple velvet, so ripe they could have blown in that moment from a tree in the Med. 

You can eat them just as they come. Or pan-fry them with a little butter and honey. Or roast them, as I did, with cheese.

Roasted figs with Blue Cheese, Honey and Almonds
for 2
4 ripe figs
50g Danish Blue cheese (ok, use ricotta if the idea of blue cheese alarms you)
15g flaked almonds
Greek yoghurt

Set the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7.

Spread a square of tin foil onto a baking sheet. Remove the stalks from the figs, cut a deep cross down from the stalk end into each one, and place them on the tin foil.

Press crumbled cheese into the crosses, top this with a large pinch of flaked almonds, and then end up with a drizzle of honey (about a teaspoonful for each fig). 

Bake the figs for about 5 minutes, until the almonds are golden brown and the cheese is oozing out. Serve with Greek yoghurt, spooning over any escaped honey/juices from the foil.  


fast healthy lunch

Asparagus is still in the shops and though I couldn’t call this an Indian summer, it hasn’t rained today, not yet at least.

So I rustled this up for an al fresco lunch and sat out there in my thickest sweater, pretending it wasn’t 70-odd shopping days to Christmas.

Asparagus Spears with Halloumi and Caramelised Walnuts (for 2 with bread)
50g walnut halves
25g butter
1 dsp honey
100g broccoli florets
about 10 asparagus spears
200g halloumi

Saute the walnuts in the butter for just a couple of minutes, then drizzle in the honey and give them another minute or so – any more and they will begin to burn. Extract the walnuts from the pan and leave them to cool. 

On a hot griddle sear the halloumi for a few minutes on each side. I like my halloumi virtually charcoaled on the outside and succulent within, so I don’t grease the griddle, though you can for a more golden effect. 

Steam the broccoli and asparagus for about 5 minutes, no more. Leave to cool. 
I dressed all the ingredients with 3 parts olive oil to 1 of balsamic vinegar, plus a quarter of a teaspoon grainy mustard and the same of honey. 


Tarte au Citron Meringuee

October 2, 2008

After I finished all my chores – bank, newsagents, semi-skimmed milk, that kind of thing – I wandered around Muswell Hill. Being posh-ish Norf London it’s one delicatessen after another, windows full of olive bread, sundried tomato and feta tartlets and so on. Today I also noticed a lot of doughnuts (by which I mean my doughnut antennae were out, not that there was some sort of special doughnut celebration, delightful as that might be). All shapes and sizes of them, but I resisted their pull.

( I love doughnuts. Who doesn’t? But why are so many soggy or bland or floury? I only bother now when you can see them being cooked then and there for you, and they’re handed over in a little paper bag, hot and crisp and rolled in sugar. Which reminds me; there is a doughnut stall in Camden market, near the main entrance, which does them just like this. Well worth a visit.)

The French have a verb for wandering about like this; it’s flaner. I think it’s the kind of thing a poet does in France, and it’s how I felt, what with the sun out and the food to look at and all. But then I got to the Maison Blanc and the poeticalness just vanished into total absorption.

I first encountered Maison Blanc many years ago when I lived in Oxford and I was given a Maison Blanc 21st birthday cake. It wasn’t so much a cake as a cotton-wool fantasy, a cloud, with meringue and strawberries and billows of cream. Which produced the most amazing sugar rush, later accentuated by champagne, which kept us up there, flying, for hours, right up to the time when we moved on to vodka – with lime, with orange, with more vodka.

The Maison Blanc on Muswell Hill Broadway looks out over all of London, right over to the City, with the Gherkin quite visible (as it is from everywhere) and Canary Wharf and green hills off in the distance, which must be Surrey. 

And today I didn’t notice the view at all, but pressed my nose against the glass at Maison Blanc (not really) and saw and had to have

1. These multi-coloured and flavoured mini-macarons, green for pistachio, pink for strawberry, yellow for lemon and brown for chocolate.  



2. A tarte au citron thingy – that’s lemon meringue pie in French, don’t ya know. And yet of course it isn’t, or not as we know it here in the UK. This was a jewel really, small as my palm, the crust light and flaky and the meringue so rich and sweet that on its own it would be so very wrong, but here – genius! – it’s married to the lemon and you get a symphony. Hurrah!


But not enough of it.