Simply delicious food. That's all.
Is fig, like tomato, only for grown ups?
Children – outside the Mediterranean at least – regard it with suspicion, and adults with indifference (or embarrassment as they struggle with the etiquette for eating it). Yet even then, once conquered, the fig usually renders only a shrug, palms up, “I don’t understand what the fuss is all about“.
That is, until you have your first REAL fig and then, thrillingly – like stepping into a secret garden – it all becomes gloriously, juicily, fruit pastilley clear and you become a card-carrying fig evangelist. A grown up.
And so, for only a very few weeks in the UK, we gorge ourselves on their baby cheek-soft purple gorgeousness, real juice dripping down our chins without apology. And then they’re gone again. Sadly, I feel certain those figs proudly grown on sunny British terraces will never be exacting competition for the burlesque velvety black sirens, their blouses bursting open to reveal plump, strawberry seed cleavage, that are falling from trees all over Mediterranean Europe and the Middle East.
It is not exactly that type that I have carried home from the farm shop – mine embarrassingly well-travelled from Turkey – but they are good enough, abundantly heavy and so ripe that a fig tart is not just a good idea, it’s mandatory.
Preheat oven to 180 degrees
For the pastry –
Half fat to flour – mine to line a 22cm pie tin, so:
150gsm plain flour
75 – 80gsm unsalted butter
Iced cold water
For the filling –
400gsm figs, or as many as you like, roughly cut into quarters/sixths
280 ml double cream
Large splosh of sweet wine – I used Antinori’s divine Santa Cristina Donata, not because I’m showing off but because it came in a gift hamper
2 tablespoons caster sugar
Make the pastry by blitzing cold butter and flour in a processor to sand or fine breadcrumb consistency then add an egg, beaten with a little water, added cautiously until the pastry just comes together.
Roll out, as carefully as you like; I’m not a light touch with pastry but I have finally learned that respect, cold, rest and minimal light handling all work well. Line your pie tin, prick the bottom of the pastry all over, then leave to rest until cold-ish. Maybe 25 mins in the fridge.
Bake blind (have you got some of those darling baking beans? Rice is fine) for only 15 mins. It should be golden.
Allow it to cool before adding the filling.
When the pastry is cool, tumble in your figs.
Mix together the eggs, cream, sugar and sweet wine and pour carefully over the top, then return to the oven and bake for 15 mins – or less. The custard should be slightly, but not resolvedly, set.
This is lovely served warm, but also a showy-off delight cold if one of your mates pops in the following day…