Sometimes, a recipe says to me, ‘Make me, now, don’t wait.’
And I don’t wait. (Really, who would dare say no to a talking recipe?)
I had one of those moments when I saw a goats cheese, walnut, dried figs single crust pie on Johnny’s blog, Feed the Piglet. I recently discovered his blog, and it had me at hello. Those recipes for home made stock, beautifully laid tables complete with tall-stemmed glassware. As someone who often grabs a hasty lunch in the CBD, those tall-stemmed glassware, architectural potato stacks and parsley soup speak of holidays, weekends and fabulous feasts.
When I saw the recipe, I sat there looking at the computer screen for a good few minutes, trying to imagine the mingling of sweet and savoury, soft and crumbly. There was a roux made with home made stock, goats cheese, walnuts, dried figs and plumped-up prunes, all in a made-from-scratch shortcrust pastry case. It was intrigue at first sight.
So I went ahead and made the pie, or a lazy person’s version of. There was goats curd instead of goats cheese, no roux (the stock had run away with the risotto earlier in the week), and puff pastry instead of home made shortcrust. Then, the finished product looked more like frivolous tarts than sturdy serious pies, probably because I made them in mini pie dishes, and the puff pastry was a bit frou frou.
Nonetheless, the finished tarts were things of beauty, despite my shortcuts and the
slapdash rustic presentation (it was the best kind of Sydney winter’s morning, with such an achingly blue, cloudless sky, I couldn’t stay indoors for too long). The sweet, soft figs were set off by the tangy goats curd and the savoury walnuts. I added some roasted apples to the filling mix, and they provided a softer, tart-sweetness that melted into the goats curd filling.
The word that came to mind was sophisticated. There was nothing superficial about the flavours, they pulled you in and demanded that you think about and savour every bite.
And if my slapdash version was good, just think what Johnny’s original would be like.
Recipe notes: I had bought a small tub of goat curd a few days ago (because everyone needs goat curd in their fridge, just in case), and this, mixed with fridge-cold egg whites, seemed to take longer to set in the oven. We had sweet, soft dried figs, which could be baked on top of the filling and retain moisture. Avoid those dried figs that are tough as leather and look like they can survive the zombie apocalypse, or soak them in warm water for 20 minutes before baking (pat dry with paper towels after soaking).
I used shop-bought puff pastry, made with real butter, to save time (and then nearly burnt the edges of the puff pastry pieces. Oops). One day, I will make my own puff pastry. Just not on a day with an achingly blue sky.
Oh, and I sprinkled some lemon thyme onto the tart just after they came out of the oven. I like their fragrance, and they seemed to like mingling with the goats curd.
Lazy goats curd, figs and walnut tarts
(editorialised from Feed the Piglet)
Serves 4 as a light lunch
Measurements are approximate.
One sheet puff pastry, cut into four squares
Eggwhites from 2 small-medium eggs
100g goats curd
A small handful of walnuts (I used 3-4 pieces of walnuts per tart)
8 dried figs, stem end removed, sliced in half horizontally (so you get flat discs with the seeds showing)
Optional: roasted apples, or prunes, diced coarsely
Optional: two sprigs of lemon thyme
1. Pre-heat the oven to 175C / 350F.
2. Oil four mini pie tins. When puff pastry is defrosted sufficiently so the pieces can be bent, place one piece of puff pastry into each pie tin. Line the puff pastry with foil, fill with pie weights, and bake in the oven until the puff pastry is partially cooked but the tips and edges remain a very light brown. This took me about 7 minutes, but please keep watching your oven until it is done. Turn the oven down to about 160C / 320F.
3. Whisk egg white and goats curd together until they are combined with no streaks remaining.
4. Remove the foil and pie weights from the tart case. Break up 2 pieces of walnut and place into a tart case. Add some diced apples or prunes if you like. Top each tart with four discs of sliced dried figs (so two figs per tart). Repeat with the other three tart cases.
5. Spoon the goats curd mixture over the walnuts and apples. Fill each tart case until the goats curd mixture just reaches the fig slices (and not much more than 3/4 full, as the filling puffed up a bit during baking).
6. Place tart tins onto a heavy baking tray and into the oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the filling is set (this may take longer if the egg whites were not at room temperature). I added another few pieces of walnuts to the tart for the last two minutes of baking so the walnuts were slightly toasted. Scatter with lemon thyme leaves when the tarts come out of the oven.
Serve warm, with a piquant green salad.