This date and almond tart is inspired by one I ate in one of my favourite restaurants, Michelin-starred Pea Porridge here in Suffolk. I enjoyed it so much I’ve had a crack at my own version and by happy chance I’d just bought some fresh dates from a lovely fruit and veg stall in Norwich’s central market.
This isn’t Pea Porridge’s recipe – you’ll have to go to the restaurant for that and I promise you won’t regret it – but I think it’s pretty good by home cooking standards.
You don’t need to use fresh dates for this, dried will do nicely, but I’d probably avoid any you have looking sad and dessicated in a box left over from Christmas. Since I first wrote this Pea Porridge chef/patron Justin Sharp has been in touch to suggest using the best medjool dates you can lay hands on.
This date and almond tart recipe is loosely based on my Tarta de Santiago, but with a plain shortcrust rather than a pâte sucrée, as I think the filling is sweet enough. I’ve saved time by using self-raising flour, which avoids the necessity to blind bake, a tip from the estimable Katie Stewart. She used it for quiches but it works here too. The raising agents in the flour make the pastry light and crisp – just remember to cook the tart on a heated baking sheet.
You’ll need a 22/23cm loose-bottom tart tin.
Date and Almond Tart
Ingredients for the pastry:
225 self-raising flour
3 tbsp milk
For the frangipane:
125g caster sugar
125g softened butter
125g ground almonds
Zest of half an orange
1/2 tsp almond extract
Approx 200g halved and pitted dates (weight after pitting)
2 or 3 tbsp flaked almonds
Make the pastry – either rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips or whizz in a food processor until the mix looks like fine breadcrumbs. Add the milk and mix in until the pastry is soft and pliable without being too sticky. Wrap and refrigerate for about half an hour.
Make the frangipane – with an electric beater, whisk the butter and sugar together until pale, soft and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating each time until fully incorporated. Add the ground almonds, almond extract and orange zest and beat briefly until evenly mixed.
Butter your tart tin, roll out the pastry and line the tin, pressing it gently into the pleated edges. Leave a couple of centimetres standing proud of the top of the tin to allow for shrinkage, prick the base with a fork, and refrigerate again for at least half an hour.
Turn the oven to 195C/175fan/380F/Gas Mark 5. Put in a baking tray to heat up.
Trim the pastry edges level with the tin, scatter the halved dates evenly over the base, and top with dollops of frangipane. Smooth it out as evenly as you can and level the top. Don’t worry if there are a few gaps, the frangipane will spread to fill them.
Scatter with the flaked almonds and bake for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to 180C/160 fan/360F/Gas Mark 45 and bake for another 20-25 minutes until the frangipane is risen and browned and the pastry crisp. If the top is colouring too fast, cover it loosely with foil.
Remove from the oven, cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Try serving it with creme fraiche or marscapone and a few orange segments. Blood oranges, when they’re in season, would be good.