A creamy lemon and almond filling with a slight tang highlights the fruit's subtle flavour
This week's column is the result of an impulse buy.
While browsing the fruit and vegetable market, I spotted a display of fresh figs. They looked so plump and delicious and, despite being a bit expensive, were hard to resist.
My parents once had a large fig tree in their garden and I have memories of climbing up the branches to eat fresh figs after school - as well as enjoying the tarts, desserts and jams my mother made with the fruit.
When ripe, they are so delicate that my first problem was getting them home with the rest of the shopping without bruising or squashing them.
But the result was worth the care and cost.
Fig trees have a long history and live for many years, growing into very large trees. Their fruit, which is available most of the year, sustains many species of birds and fruit bats.
As well as being sweet and tasty, they are also a good source of vitamins and minerals.
They have also accumulated a long list of claims regarding their health-giving or curative properties. But for me, they are just a lovely fruit for eating raw or cooking.
Each fig is an enclosed flower head containing many tiny flowers and seeds. Soft and sweet, they are great in salads, desserts or simply eaten fresh on their own. Some people like them with cheese or dribbled with honey.
The entire fig is edible, from the thin skin to the red or purplish flesh and including the many tiny seeds inside. But they can be peeled if you prefer.
Because the figs I bought were so soft and fragile, I decided to make fig tarts that same afternoon, with the fruit sliced and baked in a creamy lemon and almond filling.
In fact, I made two versions. One was a large tart with raspberries and flaked almonds added to the tart before baking. The other was six individual tartlets to be served with raspberries on the side.
I used mascarpone as the base for the tart filling in the recipe, but creme fraiche or thickened cream are good alternatives.
The pastry could just as easily be flaky instead of shortcrust, depending on your preference.
The result is a rich dessert in which the slight tang of the lemon in the base brings out the best of the figs' subtle flavour. It can be served with berries on the side and cream or ice cream.
FIG TART & TARTLETS
- 2 to 3 sheets store-bought shortcrust pastry
- Butter for greasing flan tins
- 4 fresh figs (above) for a large tart, or 3 to make 6 small tartlets (below)
- 200g mascarpone
- 2 Tbs sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 Tbs plain flour
- 1/2 tsp almond essence
- Juice of 1/2 lemon or 1 lime
- Fresh raspberries (optional)
- 3 Tbs flaked almonds (optional)
- Cream or ice cream (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 170 deg C.
- Grease a 20cm flan dish or six small tartlet tins with butter.
- Line the bottom and sides of the flan tins with the pastry.
- Cut the figs in half if making tartlets or slice in rounds if making one large tart.
- Place the mascarpone, 1 Tbssugar, eggs, flour, almond essence and lemon or lime juice into a bowl and gently whisk together until smooth and creamy.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared flan tins. Place the figs cut-side up on top and gently push them down a little into the filling. Do the same with the raspberries and flaked almonds, if using.
- Finally, sprinkle the remaining 1 Tbssugar over the top.
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tarts are set and starting to brown. Serve with fresh raspberries and a dollop of cream or ice cream, if using.
Serves six to eight
Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.