My very first attempt at making a Red Onion and Goats’ Cheese tart was many years ago with my friend, Rosey. She was hosting a party and, as is often the case, I offered to help out in the kitchen. I can’t remember exactly why we decided to make a batch, but suspect it had something to do with a surplus of pastry.
That first batch was made with puff pastry. Everyone got an individual tart made in a muffin tin, filled with sweet onions and topped with some melted cheese. They were a triumph and have been a go-to recipe for me ever since. Well, I say that knowing full well that we never wrote down a recipe. As such, every subsequent version has been a variation on the theme rather than a faithful reproduction.
Not that it really matters – you just need to make sure you don’t scrimp on the key components. Firstly, a generous heap of sticky and sweet caramelised onions is essential. It will take at least half an hour to get them to the right texture where they break apart under pressure, but just about retain their shape. The colour comes from a splash of balsamic vinegar and a touch of soft brown sugar added near the end of the cooking process.
The onion mixture gets topped with a good quality goats’ cheese. Something nice and sharp to contrast the sweet onions beneath. I like to take a few chunky slices off of a log of cheese as it means everyone gets a generous amount. A softer cheese might work – I can’t say I’ve ever tried. As long as it melts slightly and goes golden on the top you’ll be fine.
Which leaves the pastry. Experience tells me that both shortcrust (as here) and puff both work well. Just make sure it stays nice and crispy when cooked – soggy bottoms do not go down well here! This shortcrust is crumbly and will melt in the mouth, without losing any crispness. If you blind bake the case until it’s golden you’ll have no problems from the onion filling. Trust me on that front.
If you prefer puff then I have two bits of advice. Firstly, buy it and don’t make it – nobody has the time for that sort of faff. Secondly, make it as a large flat tart topped with the onion mixture. This helps it to stay crisp and gives the edges of the pastry the opportunity to rise up as it bakes.
I think this is a great recipe to serve as a dinner party starter. Indeed, you should get 6 to 8 slices out of each tart if serving it that way. It’s also nice as a supper for a smaller group – where 4 people would easily get a main meal sized portion. A bit of dressed green salad on the side is all you need to make it into a meal.
Red Onion & Goats’ Cheese Tart
For the Pastry
- 250 g Plain Flour
- ¼ tsp Sea Salt
- 125 g Butter
- Ice Cold Water
For the Filling
- 2 tbsp Olive Oil
- 25 g Butter
- 750 g Red Onions peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 tsp Sea Salt Flakes
- 1 tsp Dried Thyme
- 2 tbsp Soft Brown Sugar
- 3 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
- 150 g Goats’ Cheese log cut into thick slices
Make the Pastry
- Mix the flour and salt together, then sieve into a large mixing bowl.
- Cut the butter into 1cm cubes then rub into the flour/sugar mixture using your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
- Add 1 tbsp cold water to the bowl and start to bring the dough together to form a ball. You may need to add a little splash more water to hold the dough together, but take care not to add too much as this will affect the texture.
- Pat the dough into a thick disc. Sprinkle a little flour over both sides then wrap in clingfilm. Put into the fridge for at least 30 minutes to rest.
Prepare the Onions
- Whilst the pastry case is resting you can start work on the filling. Heat the oil and butter in a deep frying pan. Add the onions and sauté over a medium-low heat for 30-40 minutes until they are soft and translucent. Stir regularly to ensure they don’t catch on the pan.
- When softened add the salt, rosemary, sugar and balsamic vinegar. Cook for another 5-10 minutes until the colour has darkened and the onions have caramelised. Remove from the heat until needed.
Bake the Pastry Case
- Whilst the onions are cooking you can prepare the pastry case. Lightly dust your work surface and rolling pin with a little flour. Roll out the pastry to suit the shape of your tart tin, until it’s about the thickness of a pound coin (3mm).
- Carefully transfer the pastry into the tart tin and gently press into the flutes and corners as necessary. Trim off any excess pastry to just above the edge of the tin. If you get any tears or gaps you can fill them with some of the excess pastry. Put the pastry and tin back into the fridge for a further 15-20 minutes to chill.
- Whilst the dough is resting, pre-heat the oven to 170°C
- Cut a piece of baking parchment that’s around 5cm larger than your tart tin. Scrunch it up into a ball, then lay it over the pastry in the tart tin (the scrunching should make it easier to press it out to all of the corners). Weight it down with some baking beans (or uncooked rice if you don’t have them) and make sure they’re spread right to the edge of the tin to stop the pastry rising.
- Transfer to the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Carefully remove the baking parchment and baking beans, then return to the oven for a further 5 minutes, or so, until the pastry is golden.
- When the pastry case has been blind baked fill with the onion mixture, making sure you spread it out to the edges. Arrange the slices of goats’ cheese over the top of the onion mixture.
- Transfer to the oven and bake for 15 minutes until the mixture is cooked through and the cheese has turned golden on the top. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
- Serve whilst still warm, with a dressed salad.