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Fig and sweet pepper salad with mint and crème fraîche

Crème fraîche is from the milk-producing regions of France and was created by leaving fresh milk outside overnight for the cream could rise to the top. The naturally occurring lactose-fermenting bacteria acidified the milk giving it a light tartness to it. Crème fraîche can be purchased in India at some of the higher-end stores but you can also make it at home by mixing light cream with yoghurt or buttermilk. You can make a consistency of your choice, thick or runny depending on the ratios you use.

I love fresh figs, sweet, and pulpy and the small seeds add a lovely texture. During this season I always pick up a box or two to eat and make everything from salads to chutneys to ice cream. Here is a lovely salad that is visually pleasing, unique and delicious.

The soft sweet figs contrast well with the crunchy sweet peppers and the salad is brought together with the creamy crème fraîche. The light mint dressing adds all the subtle flavours that you need for this sophisticated salad. It is a light salad that has lovely flavours.

This book tends to hide in my collection and whenever I see it I tend to find a wonderful recipe in it. Most recipes are simple to make but the dishes are spectacular. Cal set up his career at Chez Panisse in Berkley, and his cuisine reflects the clean, light farm-to-table cooking of the restaurant. Cal is an expert in designing fabulous dishes, and like this soup, unique. I love the way he combines flavours, textures and colours for a dish that stuns. I should be cooking from here and his other cookbooks more often.

For more recipes from this cookbook click here.


6-10 mint leaves

1 teaspoon lemon or lime juice

1 teaspoon white wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon white pepper

Salt, to taste

1 red or orange bell pepper, deseeded and sliced into rings

6-8 ripe figs, quartered or cut into circles

1/2 cup crème fraîche

A glug of extra-virgin olive oil

Lightly crush 2-3 of the mint leaves between your fingers and add to the lemon juice, vinegar, pepper and salt. Mix well and allow the mint to infuse the mix for 20 minutes. Remove the solids through a strainer, pressing down on them to extract as much of the liquids as possible. Remove 1 teaspoon of the lemon-vinegar dressing and set aside. Mix the rest in with the crème fraîche.

Dress the pepper rounds with the lemon-vinegar dressing, salt, and olive oil. Set aside.

Add the crème fraîche in swirls to the bottom of a platter or a shallow bowl. Arrange the red pepper rings on the platter on top of the crème fraîche. Top with the cut figs and the mint leaves. Add a quick grind of pepper to the salad.

Serve immediately.

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