This is another autumn pastry experiment that turned out to be a lovely lunchtime treat. The walnuts in this recipe are in the pastry. This gives a lovely nutty flavour, with a crunchy flakiness to the base. The figs are nestled into a savoury mix of eggs, cream, blue cheese, shallots and thyme. Warm from the oven this tasted great; sweet figs offset by the tangy notes of the blue cheese. It kept well and still tasted good the next day.
The only thing that I thought was a little disappointing was the pastry - texturally it was really nice, and while it was noticeably more flavoursome than pastry using all plain white flour, there was not much walnut taste. Plus, the nuts made it a little harder to work with than normal shortcrust. It cracked a bit when I was lining the tin, but it was actually pretty easy to patch it with a little ball of additional dough. I found the base recipe on the BBC Good Food website, and it's available on line here.
Walnut, Fig and Blue Cheese Tart
For the walnut pastry
200g plain flour
100g plain wholemeal flour
150g butter, diced and chilled completely
100g walnuts, blitzed finely in a food processor
2 medium egg yolks
3 tbspns ice cold water
For the filling
150g shallots, finely diced
1 tbspn fresh thyme leaves, chopped
200ml creme fraiche
200ml double cream
140g blue cheese
3 - 4 figs, cut in half and brushed with a little honey
Preheat the oven to 180 Fan / 200 Conventional / Gas 6. Grease your tart tin. I used a 36cm x 12cm (14 inch x 5 inch) rectangular tin rather than the 20 - 23cm round tin in the original recipe.
To make the pastry, blitz the walnuts in a food processor until you have a fairly fine grind. You do need to be careful not to overdo it though, or the nuts will become too oily. Set aside in a bowl.
On this occasion I followed the recipe and used my food processor to make the pastry. You could do this by hand though. You whizz the flour and chilled butter briefly, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the walnuts and whizz very briefly to mix. In a jug, lightly beat the egg yolks with the water. With the motor of the processor running, slowly add the egg and water mix to the pastry, stopping when the dough just starts to come together. See picture above.
Turn the dough out onto the work surface and gently bring together into a lump. I tried to form mine into a rectangle (instead of a ball), so it would approximate the finished shape I wanted once rolled out. Wrap in cling film and chill for at least 30 minutes.
When ready, roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface and line your tart tin. Gently prick the base with the tines of a fork, then line with baking paper and baking beans. Bake blind in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove the paper and beans and then bake for a further 10 - 15 minutes. When cooked, remove form the oven and turn the oven down to 160 Fan / 180 conventional / Gas 4.
While the pastry is baking, make the filling. Saute the shallots in a little oil until soft and golden. Add about half of the thyme and stir gently. Add some salt and pepper. If you have it to hand, you could also add just a little (say 2 tbspns) of white wine, cooking until reduced.
Spread this mix over the cooked pastry base.
Place the eggs in a jug and beat lightly. Add the creme fraiche and cream and mix well. Add a little salt and pepper to season. Crumble the blue cheese, and sprinkle over the shallot mixture.
Cut the figs in half and brush the cut sides with a little honey. The original recipe said to use cooking oil, but I didn't want to do that and thought that, instead, honey would enhance the sweet flavour of the figs. I didn't use much though, as I didn't want it to burn. Just the merest whisper smoothed over figs.
Carefully pour the cream mix into the pastry case, but don't fill it to the top. Arrange the figs in the mixture. Now you can top it up if you need to with a little more cream.
At this point, I was worried about the cream mix dripping form the tin, so I placed the tart tin on a baking tray. However, I carefully rested it slightly diagonally on the edges, so that while the tray would catch most of the drippings (if there were any) as there was a gap between the tart tin and the baking tray, the hot air from the oven would still get to the base of the pastry to cook it.
Anyway, bake in the oven. If you're using a round tin, this could take 60 - 75 minutes. As I was using a long, narrow rectangular tin, mine took about 45 minutes. Essentially, you're looking for it the filling to be golden, but still a little wobbly in the middle - as it will firm up on cooling.
Cool for 15 - 20 minutes then remove from the tin.
Best eaten with a little bit of everything - fig, pastry and filling - in every bite!