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Fromage blanc with fresh figs, cashews & coconut

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I’m honest when I say I’m not the best breakfast person. Normally a shot of espresso, fruit, green veg juice and a glass of water gets me going full steam. I read when I was really young that the first thing we should drink when we get up in the morning is a glass of water, and I have followed that rule religiously ever since. That is, until I pass that bloody boulangerie on my way to the restaurant. I always feel like it takes every last grain of willpower to keep my eyes focused forward and to imagine I’m late for a meeting. But on mornings when I’ve got one of those hunger pangs that can’t be ignored, slap pap is of course my treat of choice.

When I arrived in Paris 9 years ago, the first thing I fell in love with was the yoghurt aisle at the supermarche. Yoghurt is so much more than an ingredient in France; it’s a national pastime and a topic of conversation to rival the baguette. When it comes to yoghurt, the options are almost endless, but after all this time, my favourite amongst the countless options has to be Fromage Blanc. 

Fromage Blanc is also known as maquee in France, and is something you’re almost always likely to find in my fridge. And my go-to garnish? Jam in a bowl sprinkled with something crunchy like sunflower seeds or nuts. It’s like having dessert any time of day. When things get really serious, I smear a scoop of this fresh, creamy soft cheese on a croissant with strawberry jam, the sheer rapture of which always makes me want to pass out with a line of cream cheese dripping from my face!

With summer comes fig season in South Africa, and I usually can’t wait to indulge in this gorgeous fruit on my next trip home. This particular recipe, which is my weekend treat, is packed with a refreshing, summery punch, light enough to hit the beach afterwards yet satisfying enough to keep you going ‘til lunchtime. For those who don’t have access to Fromage Blanc, Greek yoghurt is a more-than-acceptable stand-in, but only a few times. After that you HAVE to revert back to the real deal.

INGREDIENTS

125 ml Fromage blanc or Greek Yoghurt

3 fresh figs, halved

45 ml coconut shavings

10 cashew nuts

organic honey to taste

half a lime (optional)

METHOD

Spoon the Fromage blanc into a serving bowl. Arrange the figs on top and sprinkle with coconut.

Add the cashew nuts and drizzle with honey. For an extra tangy taste, add a squeeze of lime.

MAKE YOUR OWN YOGHURT

Try everything once, I always say. As a chef, I find it so important to understand the ingredients I work with, so I found the process of making my own yoghurt really fascinating. If you’ve never made your own yoghurt, you have to try it. It’s an immensely satisfying experience.

INGREDIENTS

2 litres full cream milk

125 ml shop-bought yogurt (Greek style or Bulgarian yoghurt)

JAN | Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen | Fromage blanc with fresh figs, cashews & coconut
METHOD

Pour the milk into a large saucepan. Warm the milk to right below boiling point at about 90°C.

Stir the milk as it heats up, ensuring it doesn’t scorch along the bottom of the saucepan. Also, don’t let the milk boil over.

Let the milk cool until it is just warm to the touch, about 40°C. Stir occasionally to prevent a skin from forming.

Scoop 250 ml of the warm milk into a bowl. Add the shop-bought yogurt and whisk until the mixture is smooth.

While whisking, pour this mixture into the warm milk. Switch the oven on, setting the dial to 50°C.

Cover the saucepan and place it in the oven.

Let it set for at least 4 hours or as long as overnight. Do not stir.

The longer the yoghurt simmers at 50°C (never boiling), the thicker and tarter it becomes.

Once the yogurt has set to your liking, remove it from the oven.

If there is any watery whey on the surface of the yoghurt, you can either drain it or whisk it back into the yoghurt.

The yoghurt will last for about 2 weeks in the fridge.

For your next batch you can use 125 ml of your own yoghurt to culture the next batch.

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