fig & goat’s cheese salad

Fig & Goat's Cheese Salad | The Secret Life of Bee

One of my favourite chefs on earth is Yotam Ottolenghi and the man can write a seriously good cookbook or ten. Plenty is a vegetarian filled masterpiece with an entire chapter dedicated to ‘The Mighty Aubergine.” It is jam packed with inspirational ideas of ways to cook and serve veggies you would never have dreamed of. This fig and goat’s cheese salad hails from this recipe book and is one of the most beautifully simple but flavourful salads.

Fig & Goat's Cheese Salad | The Secret Life of Bee

I’ve put my own spin on this classic combination and it’s a winner. I also added some apple cider vinegar to his dressing as the acidity is perfectly balanced by the sweet figs and cuts through the richness of the goat’s cheese. This aint no ordinary goat’s cheese either. This is the good stuff. Super creamy and luxurious, Chavroux is my favourite brand of goat’s cheese. Treat yourself to the Aston Martin of goat’s cheeses! I’m a wee bit obsessed. Can you tell?

Fig & Goat's Cheese Salad | The Secret Life of Bee

Fig & Goat’s Cheese Salad

serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 80g mixed baby leaves
  • 10 ripe figs
  • 150g creamy goat’s cheese
  • 20g mixed purple and green basil
  • mixed sprouts
  • edible flowers

For the dressing:

  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp pomegranate molasses
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Method:

Combine all dressing ingredients except for the olive oil.

Slowly pour in the olive oil and whisk until the dressing comes together homogeneously.

Mix the baby leaves and basil together in a large serving dish. Cut the figs into quarters and arrange over the leaves. Scatter dollops of goat’s cheese around the figs as well as the mixed sprouts and edible flowers.

Drizzle the salad with the dressing and some fresh olive oil. Season well with salt and pepper.

Fig & Goat's Cheese Salad | The Secret Life of Bee

Fig & Goat's Cheese Salad | The Secret Life of Bee

Fig & Goat's Cheese Salad | The Secret Life of Bee

*Disclaimer: Sexy salad bowl courtesy of Sugar and Vice

cocktail ideas – because it’s always 5 o’clock somewhere

moscow mule cocktail | The Secret Life of Bee

I recently did some work for the awesome folks at Fitch & Leedes and wanted to share some of the delicious cocktail recipes and pics here! Their bespoke mixers are destined to become delicious cocktails and I was only too happy to oblige. I loved that sipping on a G&T at 10am was WORK! I did lots of ‘working ‘ during this shoot. I obviously had to make sure they all tasted good. And some had to be tasted several times just to be positive!

The cocktails are simple, yum and fun and I highly doubt I need to convince anyone that making them is a damn fine idea. So cheers!

watermelon & bitter lemon cocktail | The Secret Life of Bee

watermelon & ginger

  • 250ml blended watermelon
  • 60ml white rum
  • 1/2 tsp ginger juice
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • top with bitter lemon

pomegranate & vodka cocktail | The Secret Life of Bee

pomegranate & vodka

  • 60ml pomegranate juice
  • 60ml vodka
  • 1 tsp icing sugar
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • fresh pomegranate rubies
  • soda water

whiskey & lemonade cocktail | The Secret Life of Bee

whiskey lemonade

  • 30ml whiskey
  • 15ml Grand Marnier
  • lemon wedge, cut into chunks
  • drizzle of honey
  • thyme ice cubes
  • lemonade

moscow mule | The Secret Life of Bee

moscow mule

  • 60ml vodka
  • 1/2 lime, cut into wedges and squeezed
  • fresh mint
  • ginger ale

fig & vodka cocktail | The Secret Life of Bee

fig & vodka fizz

  • 60ml vodka
  • 60ml fig puree
  • 1/2 fig, thinly sliced
  • ginger ale

To make the fig puree simply blend 3-4 fresh figs with 1 tsp honey

raspberry & cachaça cocktail | The Secret Life of Bee

not quite a caipirinha 

  • 30ml cachaça
  • 1/2 lime, cut into quarters & squeezed
  • handful frozen raspberries
  • lemonade

strawberry, mint & pepper G&T cocktail | The Secret Life of Bee

strawb & mint G&T

  • 60ml gin
  • sliced strawberries
  • fresh mint
  • black peppercorns
  • tonic water

tequila & grapefruit cocktail | The Secret Life of Bee

tequila & grapefruit

  • 30ml tequila
  • 125ml grapefruit juice
  • 1/2 tsp ginger juice
  • juice of 1/2 a lime
  • bitter lemon

 

fig jam with honey & vanilla

fig jam with honey & vanilla | The Secret Life of Bee

This fig jam is the most scrumptious jam I have ever made. The intense fig flavour is enhanced by subtle hints of honey and vanilla. It is a stunning jam destined for a beautiful piece of buttered toast. I also adore the texture of fig jam. I love the little seeds that gently pop in your mouth and the smooth and chunky aspect of the bits and bobs of fig. I cut the figs into quarters for this jam so I still end up with some big squishy pieces of fig at the end.

fig jam with honey & vanilla | The Secret Life of Bee

This jam is also a winner to cook other things with. Beautiful jammy tartlets, a filling for homemade crepes, a topping on a cheesecake or to stuff French toast with! As you have probably gathered figs are one of my favourite foodie indulgences. And when they’re in season and don’t break the bank I tend to go a bit wild. So I might have enough fig jam to feed a small army in my fridge. (That small army tends to be made up of soldiers that live in my husbands belly and march into the kitchen around midnight.)

fig jam with honey & vanilla | The Secret Life of Bee

Fig jam with vanilla & honey

Ingredients:

  • 1kg figs
  • 300g sugar
  • 100g unprocessed honey
  • 1 lemon, zested & juiced
  • 1 vanilla pod, scraped or 1 tsp ground vanilla powder

Method:

Wash the figs and trim their tops off. Cut into quarters and place in a large bowl.

Add the sugar, honey, lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla to the bowl. If using a vanilla pod add the scraped seeds as well as the pod to the bowl. Stir everything well and leave to sit for one hour.

Scrape the ingredients into a pot and bring everything to the boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for 45 minutes.

Pour jam into jars and pop in the fridge. The jam will keep for a few weeks if not canned properly. If you’d like to preserve the jam properly follow these easy steps.

fig jam with honey & vanilla | The Secret Life of Bee

fig jam with honey & vanilla | The Secret Life of Bee

fig and frangipane tart

fig and frangipane tart | The Secret Life of Bee

Homemade frangipane is one of the most delicious and versatile fillings you will ever make. Butter, eggs, sugar, ground almonds and a sprinkle of flour. That’s it. This simple creamy almond filling marries incredibly well with fruit and you can use it in tarts, galettes, stuff pastries with it and so much more! You can also spice it up with some rum or Calvados and add extracts like vanilla and orange blossom.

fig and frangipane tart | The Secret Life of Bee

I adore figs. I do not adore how much they cost most of the time. Luckily it’s season and I bought a kilogram of figs from a local grocery store for R39! That’s insanely cheap. So we have had a lot of fig filled salads, desserts and even cocktails in our house the past week. I do really love the way figs cook. Their skin allows them to hold their shape but they get oozy and juicy and create little pockets of tender goodness. Get a forkful of that with some crisp pastry crust and frangipane and you’re in heaven.

fig and frangipane tart | The Secret Life of Bee

Fig and frangipane tart

serves 8

Ingredients:

Sweet shortcrust pastry:

  • 75g icing sugar
  • 30g ground almonds
  • 150g plain flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 75g butter, cold
  • 30g free-range egg, beaten (about 1/2 a large egg)
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste

Frangipane:

  • 100g butter, softened
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 25g self raising flour
  • 100g ground almonds
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • figs
  • flaked almonds
  • jam of choice

Method:

Begin with the pastry dough. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Cut the butter into little cubes and then ‘rub’ into the dry ingredients using your fingers. Once you have a wet sand like texture add the beaten egg and vanilla in the centre. Mix until the dough barely comes together. Turn out onto a clean work surface and bring it together into a ball. You do not want to over work this dough. Flatten slightly and wrap well with cling film. Leave to rest in the fridge.

To make the frangipane- Whisk the butter and sugar together until light and creamy. Add the egg and whisk. Finally add the flour, ground almonds and lemon zest. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 180˚C.

Roll out your pastry dough and press into a greased tart pan. Blind bake the tart shell for 10-15 minutes until golden. Let the tart shell cool.

Spread some jam of your choice (apricot and raspberry work beautifully with the figs) onto the base of the tart shell. Spoon over the frangipane, spread and flatten it neatly with the back of a spoon. Cut the figs in half and press them into the frangipane. Sprinkle with flaked almonds and bake for 30-40 minutes until the frangipane is golden and set. Allow to cool before slicing.

fig and frangipane tart | The Secret Life of Bee

fig and frangipane tart | The Secret Life of Bee

fig and frangipane tart | The Secret Life of Bee

 

baked cheesecake

Baked Cheesecake | The Secret Life of Bee

Cheesecake and I go way back. My mum and gran made cheesecake often when I was little. They let me get involved all the time and I was an expert biscuit crusher. I was first taught the fridge version and made my way up to baked when I was old enough not to burn myself or the house down. I love both types. But there is something incredibly luxurious about the texture of a baked cheesecake. Like silky velvet on your fork with a buttery biscuit crunch.

Baked Cheesecake | The Secret Life of Bee

It’s rich and devilishly moreish. It’s also a super easy dinner party dessert as you have to make it the day before freeing you up to focus more on your other courses or on wine drinking. It’s important to let it set in the fridge overnight as that’s what gives it the velvety texture. You can serve your cheesecake with all kinds of sauces, crunchy toppings or fruit. It lends itself to so many flavour combinations. It also keeps well in the fridge covered up for a few days. Cheesecake for breakfast is the way forward. Figs are in season and one of my favourite fruit and pair so well with the salted caramel. Be sure to use sea salt flakes for those surprise little pops of flavour.

AV6A4447-2

Baked Cheesecake

Ingredients:

Crust:

  • 1 packet (200g) ginger nuts
  • 80g butter, melted

Filling:

  • 1kg best quality cream cheese
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 250ml cream
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp Maïzena
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice and the zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp vanilla bean paste

Salted caramel:

  • 60ml water
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 28g butter
  • 125ml cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1 tsp sea salt flakes

serve with seasonal fruit

Method:

Prepare a 23cm springform pan by greasing it with butter and then lining the outside with two layers of heavy duty foil.

For the salted caramel- Bring the sugar and water to a boil and watch closely until it turns a rich caramel colour. Do not stir it up until this point, just swish the pan around if necessary. Add the butter off the heat and whisk. Be careful- it will bubble up. Finally whisk in the cream and vanilla and sprinkle in sea salt flakes. Set aside to cool in a heatproof dish.

For the base- crush the biscuits and pour in melted butter. Press into the base of a greased 23cm springform cake tin. Place in the fridge.

Preheat oven to 165˚C.

For the filling- in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the sugar and then cream. Add one egg at a time and beat in thoroughly. Finally add the Maïzena, lemon juice, lemon zest and the vanilla. Mix thoroughly.

Place the springform tin into a large, deep, oven dish. Pour mixture on top of the base, fill the tray half way up with water and bake the cheesecake in the bain marie for 1 hour and 15-30 min depending on your oven. The centre should still have a slight wobble.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the bain marie. (This helps prevents cracking by cooling it slowly) Once the water is cold remove the cheesecake and the layers of foil and let it set in the fridge overnight.

Bring the cheesecake up to room temperature before serving. Slice using  a sharp knife dipped in boiling water. Drizzle with salted caramel and serve with fresh figs or berries.

Baked Cheesecake | The Secret Life of Bee

Baked Cheesecake | The Secret Life of Bee