There’s a stillness and quite in the hills above Osunti….it feels like a familiar blanket draped around tired shoulders.
The earth is dark, red and volcanic, its unkempt and rugged. There’s a distinct lack of any ‘rank and file’ which is other-worldly and welcome…. … during the occasional day-dream you forget that this is part of Italy….. one of the most vibrant and important culinary Countries in the world.
My Sister’s home is nestled on a hill-side that commands epic views of a deep forested valley which opens out onto an enormous plain stretching some 10 miles to the East and the mighty Adriatic across which lies Montenegro and Albania……….on days when the breeze comes up from the sea it brings with it the salt that seasons the land.
It’s early, 5.00am…the rest of the house continues to sleep off the feast from last night…..except the pup….he woke with me and now ambles clumsily along happy to have the company and happy to explore parts hitherto off-limits to him due to his size, stature and tenure in the family. He struggles with even high tufts of dried Pugliese grass and he appreciates the occasional lift over small broken stone walls. But, he’s soon eager to get back his own footing and continue learning what his nose is for. He’s cute, fat and fearless.
The fields around are order-lessly dotted with pear and fig trees, old, gnarly and full, they’ve been here for generations and have provided Trulli dwellers with a constant and ready supply of incredible fruit nourished and nurtured by the volcanic minerals buried in the earth far beneath them….the pup lifts a leg and shows his own appreciation for theses ancient trees…..happy that his course back to the house is now plotted should I meet some strange demise….
“You’re a tramp”
I hunker down to his level, he sits akwardly and cocks an infantile head causing one ear to flop then looks at me dumbly
“That tree was here long before you or even your great, great, great, great, great-grandfather, boyo and you go take a whizz on it”
Nothing…he can hear the noise coming from my face but continues to look at me blankly. He cocks his head to the opposite side causing the other ear to flop double.
“Nothing to say Whizzer MaGee..”??
Now he reacts, he gives up trying to understand my words and instead playfully rams his head into my groin as I’m hunkered ..he’s too slight to cause sustained damage but big enough for me to know! I lift him under an arm and continue to wander (albeit gingerly) around the fig trees shopping for a pre-breakfast treat.
The figs are fat and heavy…a lot of them are scattered around the ground beneath the trees…these are neglected and untended….to me this is nuts, I’m a kid in a sweet shop here but to my Italian family this is nothing…this is normal, this is natural a Pugliese fruit basket that just keeps giving. I wonder how many could I smuggle home on the plane…whats the Ryanair allowance for Figs? But I can’t take them with me, this is a one time deal…enjoy them here and now.
I pluck three figs and flomp down with the pup who is now chewing his own tail and thinking deeply about quantum physics…..possibly. There’s a weight to a fig that informs its ripeness and there’s also a texture to its skin that allows you to know if its ready, past ready or perfect. Without a knife I resort to pulling the fruit apart…it looks alien and beautiful…I can feel the pup’s eyes on me…. then the lap of a long tongue……. right up my forearm, over my knuckles and then the fruit is gone…just the trace of dog drool along my arm remains.
“You’re a monster………………….”
He ignores my slight and smacks his lips.
I store 6 figs aside for what will be lunch later, I’ve never mixed fruit into a salad (tomatoes not withstanding) but I’ve seen this done already on various Spanish and Italian jaunts. I break open another and feed the 8 inch tall beast beside me…hes a sugar fiend and messily destroys the sweet fruit…
My figs are destined for much greater things…………
RECIPE FOR FIG SALAD
♠ Figs and what to do with them♣
Prep time: 15 mins ♦ Cook Time: n/a ♦ Total time 15ish mins ♦ Serves 2
♣WHAT YOU NEED♥
- 2 ripe figs – split (see pic)
- 1 medium red onion – thinly sliced
- 2 large ripe tomatoes – cut into chunks
- 1/4 of a large cucumber – cut into chunks
- 1 ripe avocado – peeled, stoned and cut into chunks
- 1 tbs capers – roughly chopped or just crushed a little
- Flatleaf parsley – roughly chopped
- Wild Rocket – roughly chopped
- 1/2 juice of 1 lemon
- High end olive oil – a few generous lugs
- Salt flakes and cracked black pepper – to season
♣HOW YOU DO IT♥
So there’s no getting away from this – its just an assembly job – so either use the image above as your guide/inspiration etc or just go at it. What I did was just start with the blank white plate and as I chopped or sliced I just dropped things onto the plate and finished with teh lemon juice, oil and seasoning.
Bottom line – there is now right or wrong answer here – just let your heart guide you….it’ll be gone in about 3-4 minutes after it hits the plate anyway!
Fancy a beer? Try this: