Tag Archives: first course

Fig Walnut Tart

24 Aug

This tart was something I dreamed up in my imagination, and it turned out better than I could ever have imagined! I made it for my sister’s birthday feast, but it would be phenomenal as a meal on its own – perhaps with a simple side salad of arugula + tomato. It would also be a stunning first course – served either in slices or in little individual tartlets – you could use muffin pans. Its savoury and sweet, incredibly rich, and yet surprisingly light. If you like figs, this is nirvana.

My sister’s husband, BSA, and I were chatting about how I would incorporate all the fresh purple figs that are growing on their tree into my sister’s feast. They are beautiful, and really needed to be used up … I also found some pretty green Calamyrna figs at Whole foods, and I added those too! BSA suggested walnuts – I have to admit I am not a huge fan of the nut in and of itself. I find it bitter and powdery in a funny way. But incorporated into a crust, now thats a different story!

And the figs had to sit in something. I first thought of smearing the base of the tart with blue cheese, but the blue goat’s cheese I found wasnt really blue, and didnt meet my fancy. So instead, I mixed together fresh mascarpone, ricotta and a touch of creme fraiche, with a few eggs. The eggs and ricotta lightened the base – it became almost fluffy, and yet retained a beautiful clean sweetness. Bland, but a perfect counterfoil for the rich luscious figs. I think I was inspired by the wonderful open faced ricotta and fig sandwich I had at Le Pain Quotidien!

I poached the figs in a bit of sweet dessert wine and then reduced the poaching liquid to a thick syrup. I sliced the figs in half, and stuffed each of them with strong soft goat’s cheese and literally tucked them into the pillowy bed of ricotta and mascarpone. They sunk in a little, and I baked the whole thing until the filling was puffed, and the centre didnt jiggle any more. About ten minutes before I thought it would be done, I poured over the poaching syrup and let it bake in.

This was wonderful at room temperature, and really superb the next day, cold. This tart will keep, and the figs are transformed by their bedmates. This is a sensualist’s meal – textural, full of tastes, layers of flavour, and silky smooth. Serve it to those you love. They will be wowed.

I baked the tart in a 9 3/4 inch springform cake pan, and just released the edges when serving. It made for a rustic beautiful tart, but use whatever you have!

Serves 8 – 12 people

For the walnut crust

  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (for extra nuttiness, but if you only have regular flour – use that!)
  • 1/2 – 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 stick (4 tbsp) butter
  • 1 egg

In a food processor (or, as I did, in the wonderful attachment mini processor that came with my sister’s new immersion blender!) pulverise the walnuts until they are a fine coarse meal. In a small bowl, mix together the walnut meal and the flour, and add salt and pepper. Use your judgement when it comes to the salt – I eventually added about 3/4 of a teaspoon, but I was using unsalted butter… you might find you need less if you are using salted.

Grate the butter into the flour mixture, and using your fingers, mix until you have sandy pebbles.

Crack an egg into the bowl, and using your fingers, combine the egg into the flour-butter mixture. You will get a slightly sticky dough. Knead this a couple times in the bowl, and then refrigerate to allow all to come together for about 10 minutes or so.

Preheat the oven to 190 C.

Take the dough out of the fridge, and on a floured surface, roll out. You might find this is difficult, but do your best. The dough will be crumbly. Transfer to a tart pan, or a 9 – 10 inch springform cake pan. Use your fingers to spread out the dough across the bottom of the pan, and up the sides. Its okay if the dough tears, just use slightly wet fingers to patch it up again.

Put the pan in the fridge for 5 minutes to let the dough set, and then prick the dough all over with the tines of a fork.

Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until the pastry is lightly browned. The butter will have foamed up on the surface of the pastry – this is okay, it will incorporate back in once you take the pastry out of the oven. Cool for at least 20 minutes before assembling.

For the filling + assembly

  • 1/2 cup sweet dessert wine (or port wine, or red wine, or white wine, or if youre not into wine, grape or apple juice!)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 10 – 12 ripe fresh figs, whole
  • 1 cup mascarpone
  • 1 cup fresh ricotta
  • 2 heaping tbsp creme fraiche or sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup or so soft goat’s cheese (or blue cheese if you would rather – Cashel Blue might be wonderful here!)

Place wine, water, honey and figs in a medium saucepan that will fit all the figs snugly. Over medium heat, bring the wine to a boil, and then turn heat down, and simmer for about ten minutes. Remove the figs from the wine and allow them to cool separately.

Bring the wine mixture to the boil, and boil steadily until reduced to a very thick syrup. Set aside.

Beat the mascarpone, ricotta, and creme fraiche together until just combined. Beat the eggs into the mixture, and taste. You might want to add a little salt and pepper, but I didnt think it needed it.

Preheat the oven to 190 C

Pour the mascarpone mixture into the cooled walnut tart shell.

Chop the goat’s cheese into bite sized chunks, slice each fig in half from stem to bottom, and stuff the centres with a piece of goat’s cheese. Lay the figs into the mascarpone mixture gently, cut face side up.

Bake the tart for about 30 – 45 minutes, or until the centre does not wobble any more. About ten minutes before it is done (when you see a bare wobble), pour the reserved wine syrup over.

I really liked this cooled to room temperature before serving, particularly in the hot summer night, but if you want to serve it warm or hot, please let it sit for at least 10 – 15 minutes before slicing and devouring!

Enjoy!!!

Hummus and Pita Chips

22 Jun

So easy to make, its sinful. And an incredible edible shot of protein for any meal. Best be careful though, people cannot stop eating this. You will be asked to make it again and again.

Hummus

  • 4 cups chickpeas (3 x 400 g cans or you can use fresh if you really want to – I do not see any appreciable difference between canned and fresh for this menu)
  • ½ cup – 1 cup water (use the water the chickpeas came in)
  • ½ cup tahini (sesame) paste
  • ¼ – ½ cup fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ – ½ cup (or more) extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 5 – 7 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • Fresh parsley (optional)
This is so bloody easy its difficult to call it a recipe. Its important though that you try and use best quality ingredients – if canned, make sure the chickpeas are organic. If youre using fresh, stick the chickpeas in a pot of water overnight, and they will soften sufficiently so that when you boil them, it will be quick and easy.
Once all your ingredients are assembled, toss everything into the food processor. If you dont have one (and really, you should, to make this and wonderful things like pesto), you could use a handheld masher. I usually use the lower amount of everything, and then adjust accordingly.
Pulse (or mash). Taste. Adjust. Repeat as needed.
I like my hummus slightly rough – I love the texture of chunks of chickpea in this silken paste – but feel free to process until completely smooth. Its totally up to your sense of taste and pleasure.
Store in the fridge, in covered containers, with a thin film of olive oil on top. Please make this at least 1 day ahead (and up to 3) to enable all the amazing flavours to meld and ripen.
Bring to room temperature before you serve. Taste again and adjust lemon, salt and olive oil.
Serve sprinkled with some bright green parsley if you have some.

Pita Chips

Really simple to make, and so so so more-ish. One of my favourite things to make – and much better for you than any store bought chip because there are no additives of stabilizers or any of that crap.

  • 10 pita pockets (try and find local baked ones)
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Bowl + brush
  • Scissors

Preheat oven to about 180 C

Using your scissors, cut the pita into eigths – big triangles – though if you prefer a modern art version, by all means cut them up randomly! If the pita bread is a pocket bread, you will need to split it as you cut it.

Pread into one layer over a baking pan. You will have to do this in batches so you might want to use 2 pans to allow one to go into the oven as the other gets prepped.

In a bowl, mix together extra virgin olive oil and sea salt, mixing well with your brush. The sea salt wont get completely absorbed by the oil, but you want it mixed well. (Note: you could add garlic, or parmesan if you want to get fancy, but honestly, I love the pure simple taste of olive oil and sea salt and pita).

Brush oil mixture over the chips gently.

Bake in the oven for a max of ten minutes. Keep watch as they burn quickly. They will be golden, crisp and delicious.

These keep for up to a week in an airtight container, but I have never gotten that far – they just get eaten!

All photos copyright U-en Ng