Date and almond tart
With more than 600 varieties, the date palm is probably the oldest tree cultivated by man, growing along the Nile as early as 5000BC. Date palms take up to six years to bear fruit, and mature palms produce 80-120kg of dates during the harvest season. The dates take about 200 days to ripen and must have a moisture content of 20-24 per cent before further processing or packaging. Although the medjool date is the most common variety, the mozafati from Iran is a rising star - thanks to its plump and succulent shape. With 30,000 tons exported, this medium-sized date is dark, soft and sweet and is exceptionally suited to fresh consumption as it can be stored for up to two years at -5C.
- Pre-heat oven to 150C.
- In a saucepan, bring the cream and vanilla bean to the boil then remove from the heat.
- In a mixing bowl, whisk egg yolks and sugar together until pale and thick.
- Remove the vanilla bean from the cream, stir cream mixture into the egg base.
- Scatter the almonds over the bottom of the tart shell and place the dates in a symmetrical pattern.
- Pour the cream mixture over the top and bake for 30 minutes or until just cooked in the centre.
- Dust with icing sugar and caramelise with a blow torch.