This is what I would like to be served at the Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner table if I were a vegetarian. It is a hymn to the flavors of autumn, with a luscious, silky pumpkin custard offset by the grassy tang of goat’s cheese and the sumptuous syrupiness of fresh figs. Best of all, you can make the pastry case, pumpkin purée, and candied seeds in advance, leaving you with a simple assemble-and-bake job on the day. If you’re using a different type of pumpkin (not a Crown Prince), you may want to put the purée in a sieve lined with muslin for a couple of hours to drain, as other types can be watery – and no one wants their tart to have a soggy bottom.
For the filling
600g Crown Prince pumpkin wedges (deseeded but skin on) or 300g pumpkin purée from a can
100g soft goat’s cheese
100ml whole milk
1 teaspoon thyme or lemon thyme leaves
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the pastry
140g spelled flour
40g fine polenta
100g cold butter, cubed
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon rosemary needles
2–3 tablespoons ice-cold water
For the candied pumpkin seeds
4 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
a generous pinch of salt
1 tablespoon maple syrup
Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas mark 6.
If you’re using fresh pumpkin, place the wedges on a baking tray. Roast them for 30–60 minutes, until completely tender to the point of a knife (the exact time will depend upon your pumpkin). Remove the pumpkin from the oven, turn the oven off and leave the pumpkin to cool. Once the pumpkin is cool, remove the skin and discard it. Blitz the flesh to a rough purée in a food processor and transfer it to a large bowl. (If you’re using canned pumpkin, empty the purée into a large bowl.)
While the pumpkin is roasting, make the pastry. Put the flour, polenta, butter, salt, and rosemary in a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs and the rosemary is roughly chopped. Add the iced water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse gently until the mixture just comes together – don’t over-mix. Tip out the pastry onto a floured work surface and bring it together into a ball with your hands. Flatten it into a disc and chill it in the fridge for 1 hour. (You can do this in advance if you like.)
When you’re ready to cook the tart, pre-heat the oven to 210°C/190°C/gas mark 6–7.
Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to a circle roughly 5mm thick. Tear off a little bit of the pastry to make a small ball. Use the pastry circle to line a 23cm tart tin, using the small ball of pastry to press it into all the edges. Run a rolling pin over the top of the tin to trim the pastry case, then lightly prick the bottom with a fork.
Line the pastry case with a disc of baking parchment (make sure it’s large enough to come up the sides as well as cover the base) and fill with baking beans. Blind bake for 20 minutes, then remove the paper and baking beans and bake for a further 8–10 minutes, until golden.
Meanwhile, make the candied pumpkin seeds. Mix the seeds, salt, and maple syrup in a small bowl, then tip the mixture into a small baking dish. Bake for 15 minutes in the oven while the pastry cooks, stirring halfway through the cooking time, then remove the seeds from the oven and tip onto some baking parchment to cool. Once cool, roughly chop.
Add the remaining filling ingredients, except the figs, to the pumpkin purée in the bowl, and whisk well to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary.
When the pastry case is ready, pour the pumpkin filling into it. Halve the figs and arrange the halves over the top of the tart, cut side up.
Bake the tart for 30–35 minutes, or until the tart is set with just a very slight wobble. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving warm or at room temperature, scattered with the candied pumpkin seeds.