When I decided to make the Boeuf en Daube Provençal over the weekend, I thought it would be nice to also make a fig and almond tart for dessert, similar to the one I had in restaurant Lou Pistou in Nice after my daube main course. I remembered it had an almondy, almost cake-like filling in a pastry shell with the figs on top. That in turn reminded me of a recipe I have for Tarte du Roussillon that is handwritten in a notebook from at least 20 years ago when I was visiting a friend living in France. I used to make it a lot, but as happens, it lost favour for a while in my repertoire of desserts and was forgotten. Until I thought of the fig tart I wanted to make. Using the old recipe – and figs instead of the more common apricots for this traditional French recipe – I judged I could get something similar to my Nice experience.
It’s very easy to make. First make some pastry for the base of the tart. I put all the ingredients in a food processor and then mixed until a ball of dough formed. Ingredients are: 300g plain flour, 200g butter, 1 soup spoon (10g) caster sugar, pinch salt, coffee spoon (about 5g) baking powder, 2 tablespoons water. I’ve listed the ingredients just I have them in my notebook so forgive the ‘soup spoon’ and ‘coffee spoon’. I do actually have both kinds but have given alternative measurements.
Butter a 26cm flan tin. Then sprinkle over a little plain flour and shake the tin so all the base and sides are covered and this will make removing the finished tart easier. Of course you could use a tin with a removable base but although I found the right size tin in my cupboard the base was missing! Now roll out the pastry and line the prepared tin (I had quite a bit over, but you could make some little tarts or freeze the remaining pastry; half quantity wouldn’t have been enough). Let some of the pastry hang over the side and you can trim it after the first cooking. Scrunch up some greaseproof paper and lay across the pastry and fill with baking beans. Put into a preheated oven (Gas 4/180C/Fan 160) for 10 minutes. Take out of the oven and tip out the beans and remove the greaseproof paper. Trim the edges of the pastry base.
Now make the filling. Put all the ingredients into a bowl: 2 eggs, 100g caster sugar, 100g butter, 100g ground almonds, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Using a hand whisk, beat until you have a smooth, fluffy mixture.
Spread the mixture across the bottom of the pastry base. Then carefully lay slices of fresh ripe figs on top (I used 4 figs) and sprinkle some almond flakes over the top.
Return tin to oven and cook for another 50 minutes or until top is light golden brown and firm to touch. I cooled in the tin and then melted a little jam (I used raspberry) in a saucepan, sieved to get rid of bits, and the brushed a glaze over the top of my tart.
I have to say that about halfway through making this I was reminded of the Great British Bake Off TV series and the technical challenge given to the bakers each week. They are given one of Paul Hollywood or Mary Berry’s recipes with ingredients and hardly any method instructions. My bake was like that! I only had a list of ingredients. I did think after I’d thrown the filling ingredients together in one go that maybe I should have prepared this in a more traditional way: beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy; add the eggs and vanilla extract; then fold in the ground almonds. My tart turned out fine but maybe next time I’ll take a little more care with how I prepare it and see if it’s even better.
It was delicious and I served it with some plain yogurt (because that’s what was in my fridge, but crème fraîche or cream would be nice too) and a sliced fig. I love figs and this is a great way to enjoy them in a dessert. I also liked the soft almondy sponge within the pastry base. Figs and almonds go together so well – but you could also try the traditional Roussillon apricot version sometime too. The family loved it and it would make a great dessert for entertaining too.