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Passport & Plate - Farmhouse Fig & Chèvre Tart + Blackberry Balsamic

France | Sunday, March 2, 2014 | 5 photos

For the Farmhouse Tart
300 g soft goat’s cheese (we source ours from Lorgues Market in the Haut-Var region, but a high quality variety from the supermarket is fine too)
4 tbsp heavy cream
3 sprigs rosemary
zest of 1 lemon
flour for dusting
salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup fig jam*
1 sheet homemade puff pastry *
blackberry balsamic*

*Directions below. You can use store-bought fig jam, frozen puff pastry and skip the balsamic, but it doesn’t come with the same boasting rights or satisfaction.

For the Homemade Puff Pastry
250 g plain flour
250 g unsalted butter
100 ml iced water
1 tsp fine salt

For the Wild Fig Jam
1 kg figs
1 kg sugar

For the Blackberry Balsamic
1 punnet blackberries
½ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup honey
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp mustard seeds
½ chilli, seeds removed
1 clove crushed garlic


How to prepare this recipe
Farmhouse Tart
1. Preheat oven to 220°C.
2. Mix goat’s cheese & cream in small bowl.
3. Flour bench & roll pastry into elongated rectangle, 30cm by 40cm.
4. Cut in half to form two rectangles.
5. Cut a rectangle 3cm from edge of each base (will look like it's framed).
6. Moisten cut line with water. Fold & pinch to create raised edge.
7. Blind bake for 10 mins with baking beads.
8. Remove from oven. Spread jam & goat's cheese over base.
10. Scatter 1/2 lemon zest, pepper & rosemary on top.
11. Bake for 10-15 mins until pastry is golden.
12. Layer sliced fresh figs over tart. Finish with remaining zest, rosemary & drizzle with blackberry balsamic.
Steph’s serving suggestion: “eat outside with people you love”.

Homemade Puff Pastry
1. Sift flour & salt in bowl. Add butter in chunks, gently mixing with hands until crumbs form.
2. Make a well in centre & add iced water.
3. Mix with hands until sticky dough ball forms.
4. Cling wrap & refrigerate for 30 mins.
5. Flour workspace & knead dough in one direction a few times.
6. Using a rolling pin (or wine bottle for authenticity), roll until 20cm by 50cm, keeping edges straight.
7. Fold dough like a letter in an envelope: top third to center & bottom third up over it. Turn dough a quarter from 12 O’clock to 3 O’clock & roll to triple the length. Fold using letter method again.
8. Cling wrap & chill for 30 mins.

Wild Fig Jam
1. Wash jars with hot water & warm in oven.
2. Chop figs, removing stalks.
3. Simmer in large pot until mushy & tender. Stir in sugar.
4. After 45 mins to 1 hour, test jam by placing a blob on a cold saucer in fridge. If it wrinkles when you prod it, it’s ready.
5. Decant into jars, cover quickly with cling wrap.
6. Once cool, put on lids.
7. Flip coin to decide who licks wooden spoon.

Blackberry Balsamic
1. Place 1/4 blackberries aside, then combine all ingredients in pot.
2. Simmer until it thickens, around 15 mins, stirring gently.
3. Strain & add remaining berries, ensuring they keep their shape.


The story behind this recipe
The Little Provençal Kitchen

“Fetch the fig jam from the attic, dear?” asks my grandma at the farmhouse, a Napoleonic mas in Salernes, Provence, that’s been in the family since Mum was 12. Steph – who is far too eclectic to be labeled ‘Grandma’ – has made the same tart every summer since 1974, her English enthusiasm palatable in every bite. With the Indian Ocean and 17 000 kilometers usually separating us, we don’t treasure the tart for its freshly-picked produce, but for the rare chance it affords three generations to cook together.

The kitchen dates from the late 1700s: an irritably shallow terrazzo sink, a fractured fireplace strung with bundles of dried herbs and a clunky cast iron stove kept alight during winter. Wild fig trees grow beside the house nurtured by a gurgling stream, their ripe odour permeating the rooms in the dry heat. During the occupation the Resistance hid in the maquis at the bottom of the farm, foraging for figs and blackberries.

“The jam?” Steph repeats. The attic hasn’t been opened since she stored September’s batch. I warily climb the wooden ladder keeping an eye out for field mice while Mum plucks rosemary from the stone wall at the property’s edge. Steph kneads the pastry, the wooden table wobbling on cracked carrelage tiles.
As we cook in chaotic harmony, memories flow like the nearby stream: the time Mum chased her teasing uncle around the bassin with a kitchen knife; the wild boars that sent us sprinting into the house; the gypsy neighbour who joined us for aperitifs, pet monkey perched on his shoulder.

The tales continue at the table outside, competing against a cacophony of invisible crickets. We polish off the crumbs with our fingers and Steph leans back in her chair, repeating a phrase that follows every farmhouse feast: “I feel like crying because it’s over.” With only a few days left before our flight back to Melbourne, her familiar words are particularly poignant.

About Me

World Nomads Anthropologist [noun]: an individual specialising in the study of humankind, in particular the ways in which food connects people to country, culture and each other. How do you convince a panel of judges that you and Passport & Plate are deve succedere? Start by pointing out you were a Travel Writing Scholarship finalist three years running. Being a freelance writer for The Age’s Epicure and Good Food Guide means you’re used to deadlines, while your work as a copywriter gives you an eye for detail. Mention you studied journalism and psychology at Monash University as a Dean’s Scholar; a formidable combination to both write about and understand a culture. You’re also one of Melbourne’s most established food bloggers with a loyal social media following – spreading the word about Passport & Plate is a given. That’s what food is all about to you, anyway – bringing people together. It’s why you’re so suited to being The Anthropologist. In multicultural Melbourne you can snack on sashimi sliced to translucency; mop up lentil curry with sour injera bread; or head to the pub for a parma. But your country’s epicurean history is patchy and juvenile compared to Italy’s. Finish by describing yourself in one word: insatiable. It’s this hunger that feeds your appetite to learn, travel and write. Passport & Plate is an irreplicable opportunity to gain access to real people and culinary customs, but most importantly to share these experiences with an established audience.