Bright Fig and Beetroot Salad

This summer season has been long in Cape Town and abundance of figs has just been too amazing to pass up. Their beautiful deep purple skin draws us in with the promise of delicious sweetness. They’re the perfect summer fruit and are the epitome of any fruit salad during those warm summer months. Figs are easy to pick, peel and are best eaten fresh and with no additions. They’re perfect as is!

To be frank, I’d only had my first fig in the last year, and for the life of me couldn’t understand why. The texture might have played a really large part in this, I tend to stay away from fruits that look fluffy or have too many pip-looking things (passion fruitI’mm looking at you) so it’s not totally surprising.

What many might not know if that figs are not fruits but actually inverted flowers. The pollen for the flower actually lies on the inside of the fig and in order for the fruit to pollinate, the pollen needs to be carried out of the fig and planted into another. If you’d like to know more, you should definitely research. Figs are incredibly fascinating and aside from little unknown facts about them, they carry incredible health benefits.

Figs have a high fibre content, and while some might perceive that as a bad thing, fibre is actually essential to one’s diet and is even more important for those of us with IBS. A high concentration of fibre, such as that found in figs, promotes a healthy digestion and keeps it working efficiently. One of the interesting nutritional facts I’ve found in figs is its beneficial copper. Copper activates enzymes that keep your connective tissues strong, support healthy brain cell communication, aid in energy production as well as in the absorption of iron which makes it the perfect “fruit” for treating and preventing iron deficiencies.

For this salad, figs naturally became the hero of all the ingredients, and it didn’t take that much to make them shine. We played off the sweetness of figs by adding a tart and sour ingredients such as pickled onions and sorrel. Because sorrel is so tart we added a little extra sweetness to the figs by caramelising them with organic brown sugar in the oven. This allows the natural sugars of the “fruit” to caramelise and enhances the overall depth of flavour. We also added an ancient grain; pearl barley. For vegetarians and vegans, barley is quite an important grain, mostly because it forms a complete protein due to it containing all eight essential amino acids.

We also include sorrel in our ingredients, stumbling on this ingredient as we were shopping for the rest. If like us you’re more likely to choose ingredients based on their visual appeal, you’re definitely going to gravitate towards sorrel. It’s a perennial herb that’s been cultivated around the world for centuries, has a tangy flavour and kind of tastes like those yellow flowers you used to chew on as a kid; pretending you’re a goat grazing in your own backyard. Like many of our ingredients on our blog sorrel aids in digestion, and like figs, as a high fibre content allowing it to improve your digestion thus your overall health. Because sorrel and figs have so many nutritional commonalities, it felt natural to combine the two in one show-stopper of a dish.

Regardless of how you choose to enjoy your figs, fresh, caramelised or infused with rum, figs are an ingredient you can’t help but incorporate into all your recipes while they’re in season. This salad allows the figs to shine through without any compromise, and will definitely become a centrepiece dish at your next dinner party. who could resist something so sweet and fascinating as a fig.

Recipe

Serves 6 as a side

Ingredients
  • 140g Figs, sliced
  • 1/4 cup Pickled Red Onions
  • 1/2 cup Pearl Barley
  • 2 Medium Carrots, ribboned
  • 2 Small Beetroots, peeled and quartered
  • 1/4 cup Walnuts
  • 1/4 cup Micro Leafs
  • 1/4 cup Sorrel Micro Leafs
  • 3 cups Water
  • 2tbsp Organic Brown Sugar
Instructions
  1. Add your pearl barley, quartered beetroot and inter to a small saucepan, adding a pinch of salt. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, and stir to combine. Once the water has reached a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 25min, stirring occasionally to release the colour of the beetroot. Once your water is absorbed and cooked away your barley should be done. If not, add some more water and cook until the barley is soft, yet chewy.
  2. Discard the beetroot, or chop the beetroot into smaller, bite-sized pieces. We chose to discard, as most the nutrients are in the juice anyway.
  3. While your pearl barley is cooking, preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celcius and line a baking sheet with baking paper.
  4. Place your sliced figs on your prepared baking sheet and drizzle with brown sugar. Bake for 15min, checking on them continuously to ensure they don’t burn.
  5. Once your barley and figs are done cooking, you’re ready to plate.
  6. Add your base of barley, followed by your ribboned carrots, caramelised figs and pickled red onions; alternating between the two. top with you different types of micro leaves and chopped walnuts. Be mindful of the sorrel as the flavour is quite tart.
  7. Enjoy!