Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Foodie friends come bearing fresh almonds and figs

Don't you love having friends who are foodie? Friends who know how much you you enjoy food and who sometimes surprise you with delicious treats.
Some of those very friends recently called by bearing fresh figs and almonds. 'Yum' was my first thought followed immediately by: 'now what can I do with them?'

I flicked through some cookery books and found the perfect recipe in Jamie's Italy: a sweetly aromatic fig and almond tart.

Don't be put off by the amount of ingredients in this tart or the amount of time it takes to make. It's not actually that complicated. It's just that it some stages take time. The pastry needs to spend time in both the fridge and the freezer. The pie needs at least half an hour in the oven. But it's not as though you'll be slaving away all that time. Nope. If you're anything like me, you'll be reading the paper, reading a book or catching up with 'Come Dine with Me' on the TV.

15 whole figs, washed
30g caster sugar
2 tbsp water
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
zest of one orange

For the shortcrust pastry:
125g butter
100g icing sugar
a small pinch of salt
255g plain flour
Zest of half a lemon
2 larg egg yolks
2 tbsp cold milk or water

For the frangipane: 285g blanched whole almonds
55g plain flour
255g unsalted butter
255g caster sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 vanilla pod
1 tbsp grappa

(I didn't have any grappa so I left it out)

1. Grease a 28cm tart tin with a little of the butter.

2. Make the pastry by creaming together the butter, icing sugar and salt. Then rub in the flour, lemon zest and egg yolks. You can do this by hand or in a food processor.

3. When the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs, add the cold milk or water. Pat and gently work the mixture together until you have a ball of dough and then flour it lightly. Don't work it too much or it will lose its lovely flakiness. Wrap it in clingfilm and place it in the fridge for at least an hour.

4. To make the frangipane, blitz 255g of the whole almonds in a food processor until you have a fine powder and transfer to a bowl along with the flour. Next, blitz the butter and sugar until it is light and creamy. Add to the almonds along with the lightly beaten eggs, the seeds from the vanilla pod and the grappa (if using). Fold this mixture until it is completely mixed and smooth. Place in the fridge for at least a half hour to firm up.

5. Remove the pastry from the fridge. Roll it out and line your tart tin. Place in the freezer for another hour.

6. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and bake the pastry case for 12 mins or until it is lightly golden. Remove from the oven and turn the heat down to 170 degrees.

7. Remove the stems from the figs and cut them in half.

8. Spoon the chilled frangipane mixture into the pastry case, then lightly push the figs into the frangipane.

9. Heat the sugar with the water and drizzle the syrup over the figs.

10. Roughly chop the remaining almonds and sprinkle over the top along with the leaves from the thyme sprigs and the orange zest.

11. Bake in the oven for about 40 mins or until the mixture has become firm and golden on the outside but is still soft in the middle.

12. Allow to cool for about 30 mins.

If you can bear to wait, this tart is actually much better the following day but if you can't resist, it's delicious with some mascarpone cheese and a dusting of cinnamon. It really brings out the flavour.

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