The flavours of this tart combine elements that are very Eastern Mediterranean but which are treated here as a French dessert would be. Frangipane is the pretty French word for almond paste familiar to generations here in Bakewell tart. The precise number of figs you need will depend on their size. They should be ripe but still firm. Tinned figs also taste good cooked this way, but remember to drain them carefully before halving and pushing into the frangipane. The lengthy blind-baking is needed if the pastry is to be a deep nut-brown when the tart finally emerges from the oven. At the risk of offending Mr Kipling, an anaemic appearance is to be avoided at all costs.
For the lemon and almond pastry shell: dice the butter in small cubes and grate the zest from the lemon. Put the sugar, almonds and flour into a food processor and turn it on at full speed for a few seconds. Add the diced butter and work again until just blended in. The mixture will resemble fine breadcrumbs.
Add the egg and the extra yolk, 2 teaspoons of the lemon zest, the anise and a tiny pinch of salt and work again until the pastry balls.
Scrape this out on a sheet of cling film and form into a cylinder with a diameter of about 5 cm/2 in. Chill for at least 2 hours.
Because of the high butter content this pastry can be kept in the fridge for a week and freezes well. It is very rich and you will need to flour the surface heavily to prevent it sticking; it is not easy to roll. If it defeats you, cut thin discs off the end of the cylinder and press these into the bottom and sides of a 24 cm/9½ in loose-bottomed metal tart tin to make as even a pastry shell as possible. Give a double thickness round the edges and push it right up to the top, as it will shrink as it bakes. Be careful to press into the bottom edges to eliminate air between the tin and the pastry. Freeze until needed.
For the frangipane: put the butter, sugar, almonds and breadcrumbs in a food processor and work briefly to mix. On full speed, add the egg and almond essence until combined to a smooth paste.
Take the pastry shell from the freezer and put it on a baking tray. Prick the base all over with a fork and line the shell with foil. Fill with beans and
Remove the cooked shell from the oven and leave to cool slightly before filling with the almond paste. Scrape the surface smooth and level.
Cut the figs in half, make shallow slashes into the skins with a razor blade (if using tinned figs, do not slash) and press into the paste, cut side up, in concentric circles slightly overlapping.
Put the honey into a pan and heat gently to liquefy. Brush the top of the figs with it.
Serve the tart warm, with spoonfuls of Greek yogurt, whipped cream or crème fraîche.
© 1995 Alastair Little. All rights reserved.