This delicious recipe is adapted from one given in A Proper Newe Booke of Cookery, dating from 1545.
100 g/2/3 cup shelled dried broad/fava beans
3 eggs, separated
250 g/8 oz. cottage or soft curd cheese
125 g/2⁄3 cup caster/granulated sugar
60 g/4 tablespoons butter, softened
30 g/1⁄4 cup self-raising/rising flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons orange flower water
4 apricots, cut into quarters (optional)
Icing/confectioners’ sugar, for sprinkling
For the saffron pastry:
A good pinch of saffron strands
125 g/1 cup plain/all-purpose flour
75 g/5 tablespoons butter, chilled and diced
75 g/2 1/2 tablespoons caster/granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
Rinse the beans and boil for 10 minutes in a saucepan, then drain and put them back in the pan. Add 200 ml/a generous 3⁄4 cup of fresh water and bring back to the boil, then simmer for another 30–40 minutes, until the beans have broken down almost into a purée. Leave to cool in the pan – as it cools, the purée will solidify.
To make the saffron pastry, first soak the saffron in 1 tablespoon of hot water and leave to cool. Put the flour and butter in a food processor and pulse briefly, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and egg yolk, together with the saffron and its water, and blend until the mixture forms a ball. Wrap the pastry in clingfilm/plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour before using.
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) Gas 4. When ready to bake the tart, on a floured board, roll out the pastry and use it to line a greased 23-cm/9-in. tart pan.
To make the bean filling, put the cooled bean purée, egg yolks, cottage or curd cheese, sugar, butter, flour, cinnamon and orange flower water in the food processor and beat until smooth. Transfer to a bowl.
Whisk the egg whites and carefully fold them into the bean mixture. Spoon the mixture into the pastry shell, arrange the apricot quarters over the surface, if using, and place the tart in the preheated oven. Bake for 35–40 minutes, until the filling is just set. Serve warm or at room temperature and sprinkle with icing/confectioners’ sugar.