Autumn - season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. It heralds a colourful change in the weather and a perhaps a less colourful change in food. Supper club host James explains why he loves September and shares a recipe which makes the most of a delicious fruit at its best this month.
September. Depending, perhaps, on your relationship with school, teachers, sport, defoliation, and the etymological discrepancy of the ‘seventh’ month actually being the ninth, September is either a time of promise or a promise of misery.
As a committed and enthusiastic eater, it is nothing short of bliss. I could list, Rain Man-like, the abundance of wonderful ingredients emerging from the earth at this time of year – the partridge and the venison, cobnuts and damsons, apples and pears, but then I’d be here all day and you’d have clicked on long ago.
Figs are irresistible, and one of the finest things our continental neighbours send our way (UK climate is, alas, not consistent enough to produce figs on a commercial scale). The marvel that is Andreas brought me some of the most pert, most juicy, most tactile specimens I’ve ever seen. Though straight off the boat from Turkey, they were so immaculate that they might as well have been grown in Hera’s navel.
As with any good ingredient, figs are incredibly versatile, but a tart always seems like a good place to start. A simple, slightly sweetened shortcrust, a basic frangipane, a handful of figs, a scoop of brown sugar. And finished with crème fraiche. A lovely pudding to make on a quiet afternoon.
100g unsalted butter, cubed and cold
200g plain flour
50g icing sugar
2 eggs and 1 egg yolk
100g softened butter
100g caster sugar
2 medium eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g ground almonds
Pinch of sea salt
300g figs, quartered
A handful brown sugar
Using your fingers or a blender, rub the butter into the flour until it resembles bread crumbs. Mix in the icing sugar, and then one of the eggs and the egg yolk, until it comes together. Add a little water if necessary. Roll in clingfilm into a sausage shape and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Roll out the pastry dough on a lightly floured surface and line a tart tin. Back into the fridge for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 170C.
Line the pastry case with a sheet of baking parchment and fill with dried chickpeas or similar. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove the parchment and chickpeas and brush with the remaining egg. Back in the oven for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile beat the softened butter and sugar until light and pale, then beat in the eggs, a little at a time. Add the vanilla extract and fold through the ground almonds and sea salt. Fold until all combined, then spoon into the tart shell.
Top with quartered figs and sprinkle with brown sugar, then bake for 35-40 minutes until set. Leave to cool, then serve either warm or cold with crème fraiche.
For more delicious fig recipes visit Great British Chefs collection.