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July 2018 / Food & Drink / by Liz Skone James

How to Make the Best Starter in the World

Honey & Co.’s Goat’s Cheese Baked in Walnut Crust.

In search of the perfect summer crowd-pleaser? We think you’ll find it in Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich’s beautiful new book, At Home: Middle Eastern Recipes from our Kitchen, published this month (£26; pavilionbooks.com).

It’s the third book from the pair, who are behind diner Honey & Co., deli Honey & Spice and grill house Honey & Smoke, all in Fitzrovia. The mouth-watering recipes are quick and simple to make, using wholesome, fresh and seasonal ingredients.

Here’s one of our favourites. Sarit and Itamar say: “The nutty, crumbly pastry and the oozy, melting cheese inside make for a timeless combo. You can make the relish here, it’s easy enough, or use any fruity chutney you like. Change the fruit with the seasons – grapes work well, as do poached pears or quince, but figs, of course, are always the best.”

Ingredients:

 

Serves: 6–8 as a starter or cheese course

  • 2 small goat’s cheese rounds (about 100g each)

For the pastry casing

  • 70g walnuts
  • 70g butter
  • 1 tbsp light
  • brown sugar
  • 1⁄2 tsp sea salt
  • 140g spelt flour
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 egg yolk, for egg-washing

For the fig relish

  • 50ml water
  • 6–8 ripe figs, diced (about 400g)
  • 80g light brown sugar or golden caster sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • a pinch of chilli flakes
  • 1 star anise
  • 4 tbsp red wine vinegar

To serve (optional)

  • 1 bag rocket, washed in iced water
  • 6–8 fresh figs, quartered
  • 60g roasted walnut halves
  • a drizzle of olive oil
  • a sprinkling of sea salt
  1. To make the pastry, place the walnuts in a small food processor and blitz to a rough crumb consistency. Add the butter, sugar, salt and flour and blitz until the mixture starts resembling bread crumbs again, then add the egg white and blitz once more until you have a ball of pastry.
  2. Remove from the food processor and divide into two balls. Flatten them onto the work surface with the palm of your hand to create two rounds, each about 10cm in diameter, more or less. Place one goat’s cheese in the centre of each round and, using your hands, lift the pastry up the sides to wrap it. Don’t worry if the pastry cracks a little; it is very pliable and you can patch as needed.
  3. Lift each one up, and press and smooth the pastry around the cheese to create a solid casing. Pinch off any excess pastry and use the trimmings to create a pattern for the top, if you like (you can create a little leaf by hand or cut out a specific shape). Pat the pastry down all around so you have a clean, sealed finish.
  4. Top each parcel with the decoration made from the trimmings and a walnut half (if you wish), then place on a small tray, lined with baking paper, in the fridge to rest for at least 30 minutes before baking. You can leave these in the fridge for a couple of days to bake fresh when your guests arrive.
  5. To make the relish, place all the ingredients in a small saucepan with 50ml of water and set on a high heat. Bring to the boil and stir well. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, then reduce the heat to low and cook for a further 8–10 minutes until thick. Remove from the heat.
  6. When you are ready to bake, heat your oven to 200°C/180°C fan/ 400°F/gas mark 6. Add a splash of water and a pinch of salt to the egg yolk you set aside earlier, and mix well to create a thin glaze. Carefully brush this all over the cold pastry (apart from the base), which will give the end result a nice shine. Place in the centre of the oven for about 15–17 minutes to bake to a lovely, light golden colour.
  7. Remove the pastry parcels from the oven and place on a serving platter. Add the fresh rocket, cut figs and roasted walnut halves to your platter
    and drizzle with olive oil and salt. Serve with the relish on the side. This is best eaten while the cheese is still hot and oozy, but we have been known to eat a cold half at midnight, and it still tastes delicious.