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Soft Goats Cheese and Thyme Leaf Tart with Tomato Oil

Maybe you will think I am crazy or just plain sad or at least think I have too much time on my hands when I tell you that I dry out my own tomatoes. I am afraid it is true. At the end of the summer when there is a glut of superb and inexpensive tomatoes, I cut them in half, put them on a wire rack, season them with a little salt and pepper, pop them in a very low oven and forget about them for about 12 hours. They dry out and become wizened and intense. Then when cooled, they go into jars with basil or marjoram leaves, are covered with olive oil, labelled and dated and disappear into the fridge to be used right the way through the months when good tomatoes are scarce. The basil and marjoram, while flavouring the tomatoes, is beautifully preserved in the oil, and is also fished out for use when otherwise getting those herbs would involve an aeroplane. So I accept that that’s all a bit too dedicated for the reality of most people’s lives and you will be happy to know that good quality, shop bought, semi-dried or sun blush tomatoes work perfectly here.

The goats cheese is simply pushed into the tart base, sprinkled with thyme leaves and then the savoury batter is poured over.

The tomatoes are used not in the tart itself but in a little salsa like oil that accompanies it. The oil is also good on a simply grilled mackerel or sardines.

The combination is a good one and I like a simple leaf salad to accompany this.

If you choose not to serve the Tomato Oil, the Salad of Rocket Leaves with Lemon and Honey is a good salad option here.

  • A fresh goat’s cheese that is soft enough to spread is required here. In this part of the world I use Ardsallagh goats cheese
  • Sundried, semi-dried, sun blush are all types of dried preserved tomatoes and any of these will do for the accompanying oil. The quality varies enormously, so look out for ones that are deep red and preserved in a good quality olive oil

Serves 6

 Ingredients

  • Short crust Pastry
    • 175g plain white flour
    • 75g butter
    • 1 small egg
    • Pinch of salt
  • Tart Filling
    • 350g soft goat’s cheese
    • 1 heaped teaspoon of thyme leaves
    • 2 eggs and 1 egg yolk
    • 300ml cream
    • 50g finely grated parmesan
    • Salt and pepper

 Method

  1. First make the pastry.
  2. Place the flour into the bowl of a food processor.  Add a pinch of salt. Cut the cold butter into small cubes and add to the flour. Using the pulse button, blend the ingredients to a fine crumb. This will take only a matter of seconds. Remove to a bowl. Beat the egg thoroughly and using a fork, stir into the flour. When the fork ceases to be effective at mixing, remove and continue bringing the pastry together with your fingers. Knead the pastry lightly, again for only a few seconds, to form a smooth mass. The pastry should not be sticking to your fingers. If it does, add a little sprinkle of flour and work in gently. Form the pastry into a little round disc, about 2 cm thick. Wrap in greaseproof paper and chill for at least 30 minutes.
  3. To line the flan ring, dust the worktop with flour. Place a 24cm flan ring with a removable base on the dusted surface and with your fingers, draw a circle in the flour around the tin, allowing for the risen edge of the pastry. This template should help you to roll the pastry as close to your requirements as possible. If the pastry is hard from the fridge, knead if for a few seconds to make it malleable. Move the pastry occasionally as you roll it to prevent it from sticking. Brush off the excess flour and roll the pastry around your rolling pin. Drape the pastry over the top of the flan ring. Gently encourage the pastry to drop into the ring. Firm it into the base and sides of the ring. Pinch off the excess pastry from the top, allowing an extra 1 cm for a little overlap of pastry. Press the overlap forward and upwards to attain a raised edge on the ring. In other words, the finished pastry will be about ½ cm above the edge of the flan ring. Clean up the edges to attain a neat finish. Line the tin with greaseproof paper and fill to the top with dried baking beans or old rice. Chill for 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 180c / 350f / gas mark 4
  5. Place the chilled tart shell in the preheated oven 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and remove the beans and paper. The paper and beans can be saved for another day. Paint the base of the pastry lightly with a little beaten egg or egg white. Place in the oven for a further 5 minutes. This will help to crisp up the base and make it liquid proof. Remove from the oven and place the tin on a wire rack.
  6. Press the goats cheese into the tart shell and sprinkle on the thyme leaves in an even layer, gently pressing them into the cheese with your fingers.
  7. Beat the eggs and cream with a pinch of salt and pepper and add the grated parmesan. Taste and correct seasoning.
  8. Pour into the tart shell. This will seem a little strange with the cheese on the tart base and the batter on top. Its fine, honestly. You end up with a layer of goats cheese on the base of the tart and a golden layer of custard on top. I think its looks quite beautiful when cooked. Place in a preheated moderate oven 180c / 350f / gas 4 for 30-40 minutes or until the tart is set. You will know the tart is set when the filling no longer ripples when gently shaken.  Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack for at least 5 minutes.
  9. Remove the tart from the tin and place on a large flat plate and serve with the tomato oil drizzled over each slice and a bunch or rocket or with a Salad of Rocket leaves with Lemon and Honey.
  10. This tart tastes best when served warm.

Tomato Oil

  • 100g sun dried or sun blush semi dried tomatoes
  • 50ml olive oil
  • Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • Blend the tomatoes and oil to a coarse puree. Taste and correct seasoning.