lifestyle

Nigel Slater's figs with pistachio biscuits


Baked or poached fruits cry out for a crisp accompaniment – a ginger snap, perhaps, or a triangle of sugar-dusted shortbread. A box of Belgian wafer biscuits will do for the time-pushed.

Nuts add crispness and you can have fun marrying flavours. Walnut biscuits with poached pears, for instance, or almond cookies for a bowl of baked greengages. Figs bake lusciously when surrounded by a glistening pool of marsala and fruit jelly. I think of them as a perfect partner for pistachios and the deep wine red of the figs alongside the pale green of the nuts is charming.

Enough figs for 4; makes 30 biscuits
figs 8
redcurrant jelly 4 heaped tbsp
red wine or marsala 250ml
orange 1

For the biscuits
butter 250g
soft brown sugar 50g
skinned almonds 65g
pistachios 115g (shelled weight)
maple syrup 50ml
plain flour 250g

First make the biscuits. Set the oven at 140C fan/gas mark 3. Cut the butter into small pieces and place in the bowl of a food mixer fitted with a flat beater. Add the soft brown sugar and beat until soft. While the butter and sugar cream, lightly toast the skinned almonds in the oven on a baking sheet then, when they are golden, remove from the oven.

Reduce the toasted almonds and 65g pistachios to fine crumbs in a food processor. When the butter and sugar are soft, beat in the maple syrup, alternating with some of the flour and the ground nuts. Transfer the dough to a board, roll into a fat cylinder and wrap in greaseproof paper or clingfilm then refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Cut the dough in half, then, on a floured board, roll out one half to a rectangle about 5mm thick. Use a biscuit cutter to make roughly 15 biscuits. Place them, with a little room to spread, on parchment-lined baking trays. Now repeat with the second half of the dough.

Roughly chop the remaining 50g pistachios and scatter them over the biscuits, then bake in batches for 12-15 minutes. They should be a pale golden-brown and a little soft. Remove from the oven, let them settle on their tray for 10 minutes then lift carefully with a palette knife on to a cooling rack.

Set the oven at 180C fan/gas mark 6. Cut the figs in half lengthways then place, cut side up, in a baking dish. Melt the jelly with the red wine in a pan. Add the grated orange zest, pour over the figs and bake for about 30 minutes until tender. Serve with the pistachio biscuits.

Nigel Slater is the Observer’s cookery writer



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