This is the main course I would like to be served at the Christmas table if I were a vegetarian. No dry nut roasts or unimaginative salads, please, and definitely not some kind of eerie meat substitute pretending to be a burger or a sausage. Instead, this tart is bursting with delicious vegetarian flavours: sweet, creamy pumpkin, tangy goat’s cheese and luscious ripe figs. It’s a nod to that American Thanksgiving staple, the pumpkin pie, and has all the silky sweetness of that concoction, but in savoury form. You can buy pumpkin purée easily in cans from a supermarket, but if you want to make your own simply roast wedges of pumpkin or squash on an oiled baking sheet until completely soft, then scrape out the flesh (discard the skin), blitz in a blender and place in a sieve lined with muslin to drain excess water overnight. Voilà – pumpkin purée!
The filling is lightly set and gorgeously smooth, enhanced by warming nutmeg, smoky paprika and the zesty fragrance of lemon thyme, and encased in a light, crunchy pastry given extra texture with coarse polenta. The goat’s cheese offsets the sweetness of the pumpkin, and the figs lend a welcome burst of juicy luxury to the dish. They’re still in season at this time of year, and this is the perfect recipe to make the most of them before they disappear until next autumn.
Figs always look impressive crowning a dish, and this tart is no exception. It’s a beautiful, showstopping main course and will work perfectly with all the traditional Christmas side dishes – but I like to serve it with a fresh salad of green beans, pomegranate seeds (another Christmas staple) and watercress, tossed with a lemon and Dijon mustard dressing. Of course, there’s no need to save this for Christmas only – it would be delicious at any time of year!