Pumpkin, goat’s cheese and fig tart with lemon thyme

  • Main
  • medium
  • 5
  • 1 hour 50 minutes


First published in 2015
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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!




Pastry case

  • 135g of spelt flour, or plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 40g of polenta, (not instant or quick-cook)
  • 100g of butter, very cold, cubed
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 tbsp of water, cold

Pumpkin filling

First, make the pastry. Put the flour, polenta, butter and salt in a food processor and blitz briefly to fine crumbs (or rub the butter into the other ingredients with your fingers)
Add the water gradually, pulsing the food processor (if using) as you go, until the mixture just starts to come together when pressed between your fingers. Shape into a flat disc, wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for 1 hour
Preheat the oven to 190°C/gas mark 5
After it has chilled, roll the pastry out on a floured work surface to around 5mm thick, then use to line a 9cm loose-bottomed tart tin, pressing it into the edges of the tin with a smaller ball of pastry. Trim any overhanging pastry
Line the pastry case with baking parchment and baking beans. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes, then remove the baking beans and parchment and bake for another 5 minutes, until the case is light golden and firm
Meanwhile, make the filling. Whisk the eggs and goat’s cheese in a large bowl or jug until completely smooth. Whisk in all the remaining ingredients, except for the figs
When the tart case has baked, leave to cool for 5 minutes then carefully pour the filling mixture into the case
Arrange the figs over the top of the filling and sprinkle with a little more lemon thyme and another grating of nutmeg
Bake for 30–35 minutes, or until the filling has only a very slight wobble when you move the tart tin, and has puffed up and turned light golden around the edges
Leave to cool for 10 minutes before serving warm, or set aside and serve at room temperature
First published in 2015
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