Nothing beats friends. Especially friends who have friends who have a fig tree.
I spent my Tuesday noon travelling to a part of Jacksonville that I hadn't been to before. My mission was to to go and pick fresh figs. I am a sucker for foraging for pickable produce and when I heard that a new friend of mine had a friend who had a bearing tree, it wasn't long before I landed myself in a strangers yard to pick the remainder of her lovely, ripe fruit. I arrived feeling awkward - I hate asking for favours, especially from strangers - but before long I had a basket filled with newly picked fruit, an entire other bag full of previously picked fruit (it was a generous year for the fig tree) and most importantly, this stranger was no longer that, I had made a new fig friend.
The previous weekend, my friends and I had put together a Middle Eastern feast at my house. I had been dreaming of dishes from the pages of Jerusalem (it's no secret that I am a colossal Ottolenghi fan). I had tabouleh, felafel, pomegranate and rice pudding on the brain. And figs. All I wanted were fresh figs. The season is so short you see, and who knows when they will pop up in the supermarket and how fresh they will be. We got by with a punnet of black mission figs and delicious as they were, the fresh figs that were to follow very quickly took the cake. Or Crostata as it turned out. Although much smaller in size - often a natural home grown back yard reality - they were still delicious and even more so, knowing that they had come from a happy, autonomous place. So with Middle Eastern flavours still flowing through my mind, I decided to pair them with one of my favourites - orange blossom water.
While trying to decide on the recipe for this post, I was chatting to one of my best friends from back home. I had been missing her dearly and at the time of our chat, she was one day overdue to have her second baby. We were throwing up ideas for the figs. Jam became a favourite, but eventually after a quick lesson on free form tarts, the idea of a crostata came about. A tart so easy to manipulate with seasonal fresh fruit without compromising the fruits shape and flavour. It took me a day to get my hands dirty in the kitchen, and as it turns out, as I was knee deep in making the whole wheat flour and olive oil crust, my dear friend was knee deep in, well, labour. So - as tribute to new fig friends, old best friends, and brand new babies, this crostata and those freshly picked figs have become the ultimate analogy for my current feelings towards both little baby Thomas and in general, good friends - fresh, generous, full of goodness and deliciously good for your heart. Oh dear. I've gone all mushy. But that's what best friends who have brand new babies will momentarily do to you.
Fresh Fig and Orange Blossom Crostata
For the Crust
prep time: 25 minutes
cook time: 35 minutes
total time: 1 hour
yields: 6 servings
250 grams / 2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 tbs brown sugar
1 free range egg
60ml / 1/4 cup olive oil
60ml / 1/4 cup) cold water
For the Filling
500g fresh figs
125g 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1tsp orange blossom water
Preheat the oven to 200° (400°F)
Begin by making the crust. Combine the flour, salt and sugar in a medium bowl. Lightly whisk the egg and add it, the oil and the water to to dry ingredients. Mix (I use my hands, but a spoon could work too) until all of the ingredients come together. Feel free to add more flour or water if needed. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and lightly need to ensure the mixture is combined. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a rough circle approximatley 40cm/60inch in diameter and 3/4cm thick. Transfer the dough to a baking tray lined with grease-proof/parchment paper.
Chop the fresh figs into small pieces – for larger figs, quarter, for smaller figs, halve.Place the sugar and water into a medium saucepan on medium high heat until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture has turned to a nice caramel colour. Add the butter and turn the heat down to a simmer. Allow the caramel too cook for around 5 minutes. Add the figs and toss gently to coat in the caramel. Cook for a further 5 minutes or until the caramel begins to thicken.
Spoon the figs into the center of the dough. Keep the majority of the caramel in the pan – you will want to trickle this over once you have folded the dough over the fruit. Roughly trim the edges of the dough to form an circle with a gap of around 8-10cm (3-4 inches) between the fruit and the edge of the dough. Fold the dough over by creasing/pleating to form a rim. Pour over the remainder caramel (keep it inside the rim) and sprinkle the dough with some extra sugar. Bake the crostata in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Serve warm with fresh cream or ice cream. Yum.