My favorite colours (British spelling!) have always been rich hues of violet, so I am spellbound by the way the fruit stains these sweet little winter treats. They remind me of something that would be served at the traditional French Goûter (a snack and tea-time around four o’clock). As in, I wish I was in France at four o’clock and someone would offer me a Blackberry, Blueberry, and Fig Tartlet. -Amy
It’s easy to be disappointed with figs. Bought from stores, they are often hard, green, and chalky in taste. There is little point to a fig in this state. Figs require patience; they refuse to be rushed as they ripen at their own pace. An unripe fig can be nursed to tenderness by leaving on a windowsill, providing the winter sun still has some warmth left in it.
But for all the time I’ve wasted staring at unripe figs, I still think of them fondly. At their best, figs rival all other fruit for elegance and seduction. They are encased by a soft dusty skin the colour of twilight, but hidden beneath is a tender red flesh, speckled with gold beads that burst in the mouth like popping candy. The taste is subtle; not cloyingly sweet, but with a rich hint of berry compote that is almost dominated by the floral perfume. After all, the fig is not actually a fruit. It is flower and seed combined.
Combined and set to bake in the oven, the blackberries, figs and blueberries turn into a sticky, chunky jam that seeps into the pastry of the tart, colouring it a rippled purple and white. Take a break from those outdoor chores, and try these little pick-me-ups. They are the perfect antidote to December’s chilly bite.
Blackberry, Blueberry & Fig Tartlets
For the shortcrust pastry:
- 8oz plain flour
- 5oz butter – cubed and at room temperature
- 1.5oz icing sugar
- large egg yolk
For the filling:
- 9oz blackberries
- 4-6 figs
- 1oz blueberries
- 4 tbsp. blueberry jam
- Juice of half a lemon
- 2oz of roughly chopped nuts – hazels work best
Equipment: 4-6 deep tartlet tins, ideally with removable bottoms. About 9cm diameter.
- Make the pastry by adding the flour to a mixing bowl along with the butter. Rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips until it looks like breadcrumbs. Then add the icing sugar and egg yolk. Mix until the dough binds together. Add a teaspoon of water if dough is too dry. Then roll the mixture into a round and wrap in cling-film and place in the refrigerator for half an hour to chill.
- Preheat the oven to 390°F. Then add the blueberries and blackberries to a small saucepan along with the jam and lemon juice. Add half the nuts too and heat the pan until the jam has melted. Meanwhile, cut the figs into slices, with the skin on. Remove the pan from the heat after 2 minutes.
- Remove the pastry from the refrigerator. Cut the pastry into four or six, depending on how big your tartlet tins are. Then roll each piece out on a floured board. Line each tartlet tin with the pastry, pressing down into the edges. You want enough pastry in each tin to hang over the top edges.
- Add the sliced figs to the filling in the pan and gently mix. Then spoon the filling into the cases, up to the top of the tartlet case, but not higher. Then fold in the overhanging pastry, but not so much that it covers the fruit entirely. We want to see the fruit filling. Sprinkle on the rest of the nuts.
- Place the tarts onto a baking tray and bake for half an hour or so, until the fruit filling is bubbling and the pastry is a golden sandy colour.
- Remove from the oven and dust with a snow sprinkling of icing sugar. A touch of cream, either whipped or pouring, would work wonders alongside these beautiful warm treats.
Photos taken and styled by Sean St. John.
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