There’s a good reason goat’s cheese tart has remained a staple of pub and restaurant menus up and down the country for the best part of 40 years: it’s an irresistible pairing. The sharp, saltiness of the goat’s cheese alongside the sweet, aromatic onions is a classic pairing; and if it ain’t broke, why fix it?
In fact the star of the show here isn’t actually the goat’s cheese, but the onions: cooked as slowly as possible with just a little bit of thyme, sugar, butter and vinegar, until burnished gold and meltingly soft. Don’t skimp here: I know 30 minutes minimum seems a long time to cook onions for, but they literally and figuratively carry the goat’s cheese, and their depth of flavour will make a big difference to the tart.
Of course, you don’t have to make your own pastry, but the recipe below is a cinch, and my absolute go-to savoury shortcrust. Infinitely better than the shop bought stuff, it really is worth the extra time it’ll take you. If you’ve never braved pastry making before, this is an excellent place to start: easy to pull together, and not too difficult to roll into tart tins, but still giving a rich, buttery, crumbly case. You’ll never look back.
Goat’s cheese and caramelised onion tartlet
Makes: 4 individual tarts
Takes: 10 minutes plus chilling
Bakes: 20-30 minutes
170g plain flour
100g butter, very cold
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg yolk
2 medium onions
1/4 teaspoon thyme, dried or fresh
1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
160g round goat’s cheese
1. First, make your pastry. Cut the butter into small cubes, and rub into the flour with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the salt and egg yolk: use a knife to combine the yolk into the flour and butter mixture; as it begins to come together, you can use your hands to shape it into a ball. If the dough refuses to form a ball, add very cold water, just a few drops at a time. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, begin cooking the onions. Slice the onions into slivers, and cook on the lowest heat your hob can manage, with the butter, sugar, vinegar and thyme, until dark, sticky and very soft, stirring occasionally. This should take around 30 minutes. Set to one side until ready to use.
3. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Divide the chilled dough into four and roll each quarter into a disc about the thickness of a pound coin. Place these discs carefully into individual tart tins, using excess pastry to push the dough so that it lies flat against your tin. Prick the base of the tart with a fork, line with clingfilm and fill with baking beans, or dry rice, right up to the edge of the tart case. You can cut the pastry flush against the tin with a sharp knife, or leave it untrimmed for a more rustic look. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove the baking beans and clingfilm, and bake for around another five minutes until the base of the tart is dry, and the sides are starting to colour.
4. Turn the oven up to 200°C. Divide the onions between the cases and place a medallion of goat’s cheese – about 1cm thick – on top. Bake the tarts until the cheese is golden and bubbling; this won’t take long at all. Serve immediately with a green salad dressed simply with lemon and olive oil.