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Fig, Thyme, Honey and Almond Tart

The Romans were very keen on figs, the legend being that Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were born under a fig tree. They grew more than 20 varieties, regarding it as the queen of fruits; the finest, most succulent ones went to the emperors, while the poorer quality ones went to the slaves.
Dried figs have long been used as a sweetener in the absence of sugar, but this particular tart is best made with fresh figs, which are now much more widely available, though seldom cheap. Fresh thyme is also used, as it had strong associations with the Romans who used to take baths of water and thyme to give them courage before entering battle. This tart has an almond 'frangipane' base to give body and offer a rich, contrasting flavour to that of the spiced figs.

ingredients

serves 6 - 8
225 g (8 oz) rich sweet shortcrust pastry
85 g (3 oz) caster sugar
55 g (2 oz) plain flour
140 g (5 oz) ground almonds
2 eggs
1 teaspoon orange-flower water
1/2 teaspoon almond essence
110 g (4 oz) unsalted butter
8 - 10 firm fresh figs
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme
55 g (2 oz) demerara sugar
25 g (1 oz) unsalted butter, cut into very small pieces
2 tablespoons good runny honey
juice of 1/2 lemon

method

1. Line a deep 23cm (9 in) tart tin with the pastry and pre-bake or bake blind.

2. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C (400°F) Gas 6.

3. Put the caster sugar, plain flour, ground almonds, eggs, orange-flower water, almond essence and 85 g (3 oz) of the butter in a food processor and whizz until smooth and well mixed. The mixture should be quite thick. Spread the mixture in the pre-baked pastry case. Set aside.

4. Cut the figs into quarters and arrange them cut-sides upwards on top of the 'almond frangipane' base. Sprinkle with thyme and demerara sugar and dot with butter. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, then put a piece of foil over the tart. Reduce the oven temperature to 180°C (350°F) Gas 4 and bake for a further 30 minutes or until golden brown.

5. Meanwhile, heat the honey and lemon juice together in a pan until blended. Pour into a sauce jug to serve.

6. Serve warm or at room temperature with thick Greek yoghurt and the honey and lemon sauce.

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