Recipe for fig and blue cheese flat breads, and chicken with corn salad

PUBLISHED: 09:47 21 August 2020 | UPDATED: 09:47 21 August 2020

Aubergines and Fig and Blue Cheese Flatbread

Aubergines and Fig and Blue Cheese Flatbread

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This bank holiday weekend Frances is cooking flatbreads, aubergine and tomatoes on discs of fried bread and chicken wrapped in pancetta with a bean and corn salad

Black figsBlack figs

If you had told me five months ago that over August Bank Holiday weekend I would be doing exactly what I have been doing for the last twenty weekends, I would not have believed you.

Like hamsters on a wheel, we go for a walk, I shop, we read, we listen to ‘our’ sound of lockdown – a neighbour who skips outside his front door, the gently rhythmic slap-slap of the rope as it touches the ground is hypnotic - I do my mise-en-place, Tom chooses a wine, to chill or chambrer (usually, even with the reds, it’s been the latter since about April – who wants to drink soupy red wine?) I cook, Tom opens the wine, we eat, we talk, we sit outside watching the Dog Star to the south east, we plan what we are going to do the next day – which usually means deciding what I am going to cook and what he is going to open.

Such sloth! No, I haven’t started writing that novel, but I have read shelves full.

I haven’t sewn new sets of curtains: I’ve barely sewn a handful of face coverings. I was going to go the full Marie Kondo and finally sort out three decades of accumulated ‘stuff’; instead, a few bits and pieces go in the bins and bags on Thursday.

Bin day is fascinating; on my morning walk I am nosily enthralled to see what people have been eating and drinking; tons of pizzas, huge delivery boxes of posh food, ecologically sound containers from organic suppliers, interesting wine bottles, enough lager cans to recycle and build a small battleship – and, of course, the inevitable foxes breakfast where food waste has been put in orange bags (the horror!), left outside overnight for the bold prowlers.

It would be nice to invite friends in for the dinner I have planned for this weekend, but not us, not yet. But perhaps you can, so I have scaled up the recipes accordingly. Fresh figs, sweet corn and good tomatoes are the inspiration for this week’s dishes; I love English sweetcorn, and it has become, like asparagus, a thing to enjoy in its short season.

My main course uses pork tenderloin or chicken, but it occurs to me that thick pieces of salmon would be very good cooked this way. The flat bread is perfect to serve with an aperitif – try a chilled white port – and is a pizza in all but name. For dessert I would buy extra figs and serve them with burrata, some crushed walnuts and honey.

Fig and blue cheese flat bread

(Serves 4 to 6)

Ingredients: 400g bread dough

1 large mild onion

Extra virgin olive oil

8 large ripe figs

200g blue cheese – Gorgonzola dolce or picante

Method:

Turn onto the dough a floured surface, and knead for five to ten minutes. Shape it into a ball, and put it into a lightly greased bowl. Cover loosely with lightly oiled cling-film, and let it rise in a moderately warm place for about an hour until doubled in size. Turn out onto a floured work top and punch out the air. Knead lightly again until smooth, then roll out and stretch the dough and place on a baking sheet.

While the dough is proving, make the topping. Peel and thinly slice the onion and gently fry in olive oil until soft and golden. Remove the stalk from the figs and cut into quarters or smaller wedges. Crumble the blue cheese. Brush the dough with extra virgin olive oil and arrange the cooked onion, the raw figs and finally the blue cheese on top of the dough.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200° C/400°F/gas mark 6 for about 25 minutes or until the dough is crisp and baked through. Serve very hot.

Tomato and aubergine

(Serves 6)

2 or 3 aubergines

6 large ripe tomatoes

12 slices bread

Extra virgin olive oil

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3 tablespoons tapénade

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 garlic clove - grated

6 sprigs of rosemary, about 7.5 cm long

Choose aubergines and tomatoes of roughly the same diameter, about 7.5 cm. Slice the aubergines across the width, and cut 2 or 3 slices from each tomato, keeping the end pieces and letting the seeds and liquid drip through a sieve into a bowl.

Grill, roast or fry the aubergines, and then the tomatoes. With a pastry cutter, cut 12 circles from the bread, and fry them in olive oil. Spread with the tapenade. Between two circles of fried bread, layer the cooked tomato and aubergine, and secure the stack with a sprig of rosemary.

Rub the tomato residue through a sieve, and add olive oil, the garlic and seasoning for a dressing to serve alongside.

Chicken breast or pork tenderloin in pancetta with black bean, corn and tomato salad

(Serves 6)

Ingredients:

1/2 teaspoon each freshly ground black pepper, coriander and cumin

12 slices pancetta

6 small chicken breasts or 3 pork tenderloins

300g cooked or canned black beans

3 sweetcorn cobs, boiled for 2 minutes

4 ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped

4 spring onions, trimmed and chopped, or use a mild red onion

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Extra virgin olive oil

Sherry vinegar or balsamic vinegar

Method:

Leave the chicken breasts whole and cut each tenderloin in half, lightly dust with the spices, and wrap in the pancetta.

Before you cook the meat, prepare the salad by simply mixing the rest of the ingredients and adding seasoning, oil and vinegar to taste.

Fry the parcels on both sides, on low heat first, and then hot, for about 12 to 15 minutes in all, sufficient to cook the meat thoroughly; check it with a skewer inserted in the middle.

Heap the salad on individual plates, and place the meat on top. Some salad leaves or raw baby spinach also make a good addition.

©Frances Bissell 2020. All rights reserved


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