The quality of the ingredients is paramount here: the figs need to perfectly ripe, sweet and heavy, the honey needs to be best-quality and the cheese needs to be as fresh and young as possible.
‘Pecora’ means ‘sheep’ in Italian. Loosely applied, ‘pecorino’ cheese refers to any cheese made from sheep’s milk. Within this term, of course, there’s a huge range in texture and flavour: it can be young or aged, salty or sweet, intense or mild, firm or soft. The more the cheeses age, the drier, denser, firmer and more intense they’ll be. Young, fresh pecorinos, on the other hand – the type we want here – have a softer texture, with a mild and milky flavour. It’s still got that unmistakably ‘sheepy’ tang but is almost sweet. If you can get to a cheese shop and they have a range, look out for a Pecorino Caciotta Etrusca Fresca, which we like to use.
Some chunks of salty well-cured ham also work very well against the sweet figs. For those not inclined to choosing between one thing and another, the combination of figs, cheese and ham is also rather good!
4 as a starter
2 tbsp good-quality honey
3 tbsp olive oil
600g ripe green or black figs
300g young pecorino or a similar cheese
80g rocket, preferably wild
10g basil leaves
coarse sea salt and black pepper
- Whisk together the honey and olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cut the figs into quarters. Use your hands to tear the cheese into large chunks.
- Arrange the rocket, basil, figs and pecorino in layers on individual serving plates or a large platter. Drizzle over the honey dressing as you go along, and finish with some freshly ground black pepper.