Each year it’s difficult to let the summer go but with the autumn bringing me such tempting delights as apples, grapes & figs, I can almost forgive it for abandoning me (almost). Each gorgeous fruit has it’s own appeal but none quite compare to the dusky-skinned, luscious fig.
Thought to be one of the oldest cultivated fruits, figs are prized for their honeyed flavour, velvety skin & sensuous, coloured, jammy flesh. With a relatively short season, I guess you really can’t have too much of a good thing. They’ve been tempting us since the beginning of time, or at least supposedly. Did you know that Michelangelo painted a fig tree in the middle of the Garden of Eden in his Sistine Chapel fresco, suggesting that it was in fact a fig, not an apple, that tempted Adam & Eve to give up on paradise (to be fair, I’d always choose food too).
Technically, figs have can produce two harvests a year, more so in ghe warmer climates of the Mediterranean. The first is smaller in early summer & the second in late summer to early autumn, this second harvest have thicker skins & a more concentrated sweetness (these are the more commercially available ones).
Whilst I do have a fig tree growing proudly within my greenhouse it is many years away from actually producing any fruit, instead I try to buy the best quality I can find at this time of year. Most figs will travel far to arrive on our shores, so be careful to avoid underripe ones. Avoid taut, shiny skins & firm flesh, instead look for dull, worn, even slightly wrinkled skins, these are the best ones, plucked at the right level of ripeness (once picked, figs stop ripening any further).
Figs have a texture & taste that makes them perfect for both sweet & savoury pairings, they’re as great with meats & cheeses as they are in or on top of a cake. Here I’ve gone somewhere in the middle of each, taking some figs, cheese & nuts, sweetening them all up with a little honey & calling it a dessert. Even better is that it’s a no-bake, mix it all together & pop it in a tart case type of dessert, so requires very little effort to make & (if I do say so myself), looks rather more impressive for it. These are just sweet enough to count as a dessert & despite their size, they’re quite light too.
NO BAKE FIG, HONEY & WALNUT TARTS
(makes four 12cm tarts)
For the base:
- 210g digestive biscuits
- 200g walnuts
- 85g butter, melted
For the filling:
- 800g mascarpone cheese
- 100g honey
- 4 fresh figs
- Small handful of walnuts
- 4 tsp honey
- Grease & line the base of four loose-bottomed 12cm tart tins
- Using a food processor, pulse together the biscuits & walnuts until they resemble breadcrumbs
- Gently melt the butter over a low a heat in small saucepan or in the microwave
- In a large bowl add the biscuit crumbs & pour over the melted butter, mix together ensuring that all of the biscuit mixture has been coated & dampened by the butter
- Divide the biscuit mixture between the prepared tins & use the back of a spoon to press the mixture down into the bottom & up the sides of the tin (it can be a bit fiddly, it’s a little easier to use your fingers for the edges)
- To make the filling, add the cream cheese & honey to large bowl mix together until the honey is well incorporated (add a little more if you prefer things a bit sweeter)
- Taking a few spoonfuls of the cheese mixture at a time, carefully divide between the tarts & use a small spatula or the back of a spoon to spread smooth the surface
- Slice the figs into quarters or smaller slices & place on top of the tarts, along with a few whole & crushed walnuts to decorate
- Place them into the fridge to chills for at least 30 minutes to firm up a little
- Remove from their tins & finish with a drizzle of honey before serving