Lunch with Lou is never just lunch. It’s like following a boulevard of tastes that always starts with Champagne, and meanders its way across the south of France, through Burgundy and the Tuscan hills, and often ends in a cafe in Rome. The path is always as liquid as it is solid, and I always reserve new and exciting bottles to take over there, but if it’s not from Mediterranean Europe, I often find it just never gets drunk.
We met Lou in France, our family and hers thrust together by mutual friends for a Luberon fortnight in the summer of 2008. We stayed in the village of Grillon, a hamlet sandwiched between Avignon and Orange, and seemingly just a half hour drive in any direction to some of the best markets of France. We bonded over breakfast radishes, summer berries and black figs, market paella and potatoes cooked in rotisserie drippings, marinated olives and saussicon samples. We’d assess our market loot over lunch, compare pale salmon Provence rose with ruby coloured Tavels, drink Pastis when the bottle was done and inform our husbands they were driving.
I don’t know think it’s intentional, but when we get together our minds seem to lead our tastes back to this, and the many other holidays we’ve shared, most of which have occured within the western Mediterranean summer. When I promised to bring dessert for lunch, and was overwhelmed with a fig harvest from my garden, it could only have been frangipane.
This is my go-to summer pie. This recipe, or the many forms of it, have come into being in a holiday rental kitchen, so I don’t measure, I don’t time, I whip it by machine or hand, I make it crustless and gluten free, with puff pastry or shortcrust. I fill it with strawberries, blueberries, figs or peaches. I serve it with cream, custard, honey dripping off the comb, or smother it in Sauternes. It’s such a fabulous, fail-safe and yet spectacular dessert, everyone should know how to make one. (For the purpose of this post, I’ve included measurements and times, but it’s a very forgiving pie – you can do almost anything wrong and it will still work out)
Fig frangipane pie
- 6 figs, quartered (peeled if necessary)
- 1 inch knob of ginger, diced finely
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp and 1/3 cup caster sugar
- 110g almond meal (approx 1 cup or a small packet)
- 5 tbsp butter, softened
- 2 eggs
- 3 tbsp self raising flour
- Pinch of salt
- 1 large sheet of puff pastry
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 tbsp flaked almonds
Preheat oven to 180°C. On the stovetop, caramelize ginger with 1 tbsp butter, 1 tbsp sugar and honey. Set aside.
Whip remaining butter and sugar then add almond meal and beat until well combined. Add eggs and beat until smooth, then add ginger honey mix and stir through.
Line a pie tin with puff pastry (or, as I have had to today, a makeshift aluminium barbecue tray), and pour in about 3/4 of the frangipane mix, leaving a little height in the pie to be topped up later. Bake for 25 minutes.
Layer the rest of the frangipane mix on the top, then arrange figs on top, pressing lightly into the mix. Bake for a further 10 minutes, or until frangipane is just firm.
Sprinkle with brown sugar and almonds, and place under the grill just long enough for these to toast up a little.
Serve with mascarpone or a glass of Rutherglen Muscat