Strawberry and fig pastries – to welcome the new year

We spend January 1st walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives…not looking for flaws, but for potential.

Ellen Goodman

As usual we spent our New Year’s break at our friend’s vineyard and winery, where there was much laughter, exquisite wines, and beautiful food. It was unusually warm and we spent much time on the front verandah with our glasses in hand, and jazz playing on their vintage record player. I contracted a summer head cold, which is the worst of all colds in my opinion, but this did not stop me from celebrating, nor from delighting in the best of summer produce. The New Year will be full of challenges and opportunities in equal measure for our family, including a trip to France in April for my daughter and I, the end of five long years of medical school for my husband, and the start of his new career as a doctor. I want to hold on to the joys of long summer days and relaxation with friends and family as long as possible, and so am cooking and creating dishes designed to foster wonderful informality and shared enjoyment of time spent together.

strawberry-and-fig-stack2-resizedLuscious figs and sweet strawberries are paired in this dessert, with thin, crisp pastry, crunchy nuts and vanilla laced cream setting them off to perfection. This dish would make a wonderful end to a casual summer meal as everything can be easily prepared ahead of time and then assembled at the last moment.

Serves 4

2 sheets ready rolled frozen puff pastry
1 punnet strawberries
4 fresh figs, each sliced into 6 wedges
2 tablespoons hulled pistachio nuts
1/4 cup icing sugar, plus 2 teaspoons, extra
juice of 1/2 lime
200 ml cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 190C. Defrost the pastry and when softened cut out 4 rounds from each sheet using a 10 cm fluted circular cutter. If you do’t have a suitable cutter, use a saucer or othe small plate and use a sharp knife to cut out the pastry rounds. Place on a baking sheet lined with silicon paper and then top with another sheet of silicon paper and another baking tray so that the pastry is squished between them, and won’t puff up during baking. Cook in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until pastry is a light golden colour. Set on a rack to cool. Meanwhile, evenly and thinly slice the strawberries and sprinkle over the 1/4 cup of icing sugar and the lime juice. carefully stir and set aside for about 20 minutes. A ruby red liquid will form and the strawberries will have a beautifully intense flavour. Gently whip the cream with the vanilla and remaining icing sugar. Roughly chop the pistachio nuts into small pieces. When the pastry is cool and you are ready to serve, place a pastry round on each of 4 dessert plates. Place strawberries over the pastry in an even layer and then top with a spoonful of cream, spreading it out over the strawberries. Reserve the liquid and place in a small jug. Place another pastry round on top of the cream and gently press down. Spread out spoonfuls of the remaining cream onto the top layer and then top with the figs. Sprinkle over the nuts and serve immediately, with the sauce from the strawberries passed separately.