One of the loveliest things about cooking from a kitchen garden, is the community that springs up around your little patch of earth. Kitchen gardeners have a way of finding one another, sharing produce, gardening tips, recipes and stories. There’s a naturally fluid cycle of giving and receiving that builds relationships and enhances connections, over something as beautifully simple as food.
But you needn’t be a dedicated kitchen gardener to become a part of your own kitchen garden community. It can all start with that lemon tree in the back yard, whose branches groan with the weight of fruit each winter, or the old quince tree that blossoms so beautifully then fills itself with more quinces than any one family could eat. Or even just a lovely friend with a garden. And it doesn’t matter how much or how little you have to give, it’s the spirit of generosity and the love of fresh, real food that brings people together.
The luscious Black Genoa figs that I’ve used in this recipe came from the garden one of the generous souls in my own little kitchen garden world. Some of them we savoured fresh, some I candied, and the rest found their way into this loaf.
Don’t be put off by the final product if you think it looks a bit tricky…it really is simple to make, and so delicious. Serve with a soft blue cheese for a heavenly food indulgence, or with organic butter and honey for a sweeter treat.
Fig & Walnut Pull-apart Loaf
1 1/4 tsp dried yeast
1 tbsp honey
1 cup full cream milk, heated to lukewarm
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing
375g baker’s flour, plus extra for dusting
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
4 figs, sliced into 5mm rounds
75 g walnuts, roughly chopped
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line a 20 cm round baking tin with baking paper.
In a small bowl combine the milk, honey and yeast, and whisk together until the yeast has dissolved. Set aside until the yeast starts to activate. You can tell this is happening when bubbles begin to appear in the mixture.
In another bowl, place the flour, sea salt, olive oil and cinnamon and mix to combine. Make a well in the centre, and add the milk mixture.
Using your hands or an electric mixer with a dough hook, work the flour into the liquid until it starts to come together. When you have a rough ball shape emerging, tip it out onto the bench and knead until smooth.
Flour your bench, then roll the dough out into one long rectangle. It should be at least 20 cm wide. Layer the fig slices over the dough, leaving about a centimetre at each of the long edges free. Scatter the walnuts over the figs.
Carefully lift one of the long edges and roll lengthways until you have a long pinwheel. Cut the dough into six even pieces, and arrange them, cut side up, in the tin, with one in the centre, and the other five surrounding it.
Move to a warm, draft-free place to rise. Every now and then, brush the loaf with water to prevent the surface drying out.
When it has roughly doubled in size, pop it into the oven for about 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, tip out of the tin, and return to the oven on a baking dish for another 5 minutes. It should make a hollow sound when tapped.
Cool on a wire rack before serving.