FOCACCIA WITH GOAT’S CHEESE AND FIGS

A sandwich of goat’s cheese and figs is a thoroughly good thing, but you will take it to an altogether different level if you toast it. The honey – scented with thyme and spiked with grain mustard – soaks through the hot, crisp toast. The cheese melts over the ripe figs and the whole thing becomes a gorgeous mixture of textures, sweet and savoury. Enough for 2

First, heat an overhead (oven) grill. Then remove the rosemary needles from their stems – you need 2 tsp of them. Chop them very finely. Put the rosemary in a small saucepan with the honey and grain mustard and place over a moderate heat, warming the honey gently, until it is liquid, then set aside.

Slice the focaccia in half horizontally to give 2 flat pieces, then place them on a grill pan or baking sheet, cut side up. Toast under the hot grill until lightly coloured and just starting to turn gold.

Brush the toasted side of the focaccia with two-thirds of the honey and mustard dressing. Slice each fig into 4 from stem to base then lay them on top of the focaccia. Thickly slice the goat’s cheese – you need about 3 slices per toast – then lay the slices on top of the figs.

Trickle the reserved honey and mustard dressing over the cheese, add a few spare thyme sprigs if you wish, and return to the grill until the cheese starts to bubble. Eat immediately.

Black-eyed bean and herb burgers
There is a somewhat worthy undertone to the word “beanburger”. To extinguish this, I find myself seasoning my little bean cakes with extreme generosity. Those I made this week were flecked with fresh herbs – basil and chives – and with the lingering heat from a spoonful of sriracha. Crisp outside and soft within, they work in a soft bun or a wrap, but also as a stand-alone dish, with a tomato salad.

Serves 3 (makes 6)

black-eyed beans 1 x 400g can
butter beans 1 x 400g can
chives 12
parsley 15g (weight with stalks)
basil leaves 25g
garlic 2 cloves
sriracha 1 tbsp
olive oil 2 tbsp, plus a little extra
cherry or other small tomatoes 8

Tip the beans into a colander or sieve and rinse them under running water. Shake the beans dry then tip them into a mixing bowl.

Finely chop the chives. Remove the parsley leaves from the stalks and finely chop them, then finely shred the basil leaves. (I find the easiest way to do this is to place the leaves on top of one another, roll them tightly then shred them finely with a knife.) Add the herbs to the beans.

Peel and finely crush the garlic cloves to a paste. (I like to use a pestle with a pinch of salt.) Scrape into the beans, then season the mixture with salt and black pepper. Reserve a quarter of the mixture in a small bowl, then mash the rest with a potato masher or briefly in a food processor. Take care not to overmix. Stir in the sriracha.

Shape the mixture into 6 small patties, about 8cm in diameter, then set them on a tray in the fridge to rest for half an hour.

Thickly slice the tomatoes, toss with a little olive oil and black pepper and set aside.

Warm 3 tbsp of olive oil in a shallow pan over a moderate heat, place the patties (or as many as will fit into your pan) in the hot oil and cook for 5 or 6 minutes until golden underneath. Turn the patties over carefully with a palette knife, then cook the other side for a further 3 or 4 minutes.

Divide the tomatoes between 4 plates, then scatter the reserved beans over them and divide the cakes among them.

Riding a delicious line between garlic lover and pimple-popper extraction videos, 60-clove recipes may be popular, but they can become a social issue

There was a time when garlic made people nervous.

I remember serving a couple in my restaurant, back in the before times, who insisted they could not eat anything from the allium family, “especially garlic” as it was “too heating”.

I’d just approached them huddled over their first course: palms down, thumbs together, like you would over a camp stove on Everest, “extracting negative energy” from what, I assured them, was a free-range egg.

Prawn, tomato, nectarine and hazelnut salad.
Neil Perry’s golden rules of salad: ‘With so few ingredients, there’s nowhere to hide’
Read more
The gentleman in the pair seized the moment to explain, with a zealot grin and great detail, the healing powers of reiki. They were “channelling” the energy of the cosmos through his upper chakra and transforming it into “useful forms”.

This seemed contradictory at the time. If they could Iron Man the power of the cosmos through their X-ray hands; surely they could corral the Yang of a clove of garlic?

Lately, the internet has had no such qualms. The opposite, actually: “Too much garlic is barely enough.”

TikTok loves it, with 40-clove garlic breads and 60-clove soup pitched at the niche audience that rides that delicious line between garlic lover and pimple-popper extraction porn. As cookbook author and influencer Jake Cohen puts it: “Squeezing roasted garlic is my kink.” “It’ll never be enough,” another video declares, using enough finely chopped garlic to power a Bezos-rocket shaped baguette well beyond the Kármán line.

There are people snacking on whole cloves with sriracha, or preserved in honey, all with millions of views. Some have even taken to sticking garlic up their noses against all reasonable medical advice.

But as any boomer will tell you, monster garlic recipes aren’t new. Doyennes of the kitchen that need no surname have been upping the ante on this forever – like allium superpowers pushing us ever closer to the midnight snack Doomsday Clock.

Nigella’s 40-clove chook has them “encased in their skins, growing sweet and caramelly as they cook like savoury bonbons in their sticky wrappers”; not to be outdone, Martha’s has 60 cloves.

Personally I love the garlic garnished with chicken recipes, but it can become a social issue if your fondness for fragrant allium outdoes your posse’s olfactory limits.

But in the spirit of mutual disarmament, I offer my version of ajo blanco as an alternative. Sometimes called “white gazpacho”, it is traditionally made with garlic (just two cloves), bread, almonds, olive oil and a splash of sherry vinegar.

Using new season’s Australian garlic, you will find it subtly perfumed, slightly acid, slightly moreish and very soothing. Commonly garnished with green grapes – skin on if you’re an animal – I suggest small chunks of golden kiwi are superior.

Serves 6

200g sourdough bread, crusts removed and cubed
2 cloves garlic, peeled
750ml almond milk, barista’s choice
100ml dry vermouth
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp flaked sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground white pepper

For this recipe I use my Thermomix. I’m not sponsored and never joined the cult. Once you have disposed all of the clutter you will find a very superior blender.

Of course any blender or kitchen processor will do, but an upright, bar blender style works best for liquids. If you want to grind out those lockdown kilos or just to get the your fitness tracker off your case then by all means use a mortar and pestle.

To start I soak the bread in half the almond milk. This will take about five minutes which gives ample time to test the vermouth (over ice with a sliver of lemon peel) and crush the garlic with a small press or mortar and pestle.

Add the garlic to the soaking bread and blend to a fine, silky paste. Add the remainder of the ingredients and again, blend well.

At this stage you can ride with the unicorns by passing it through a very fine sieve or just refrigerate until required. If you require further agency, adjust the salt. Serve to your guests as a statement of intent.

Leave a Reply