The other delicious thing I brought back from Amsterdam was a couple of lovely Dutch cheeses. A scrumptious Gouda with Pepper, and an irresistible Goat’s Cheese.
The question of what to do with Cheese The First was answered very quickly
And as for Cheese The Second? Last weekend, Stephen hosted a cheese and wine night at his home… The perfect excuse to make some delicious cheese-based snacks for all!
One of the reasons I enjoyed making this is that it reminded me of my days working at Gresham College- the early days, that is, back when Barbara Anderson was the Academic Registrar! We would occasionally host events that had marvellous drink receptions at them which included copious amounts of wine and, when we were lucky, delicious canapés produced by Fine Taste Caterers. One of these canapés would be a miniature Goat’s Cheese and Red Onion Tart! They were outstanding and along with the never-ending pour of red wine, I was in heaven! More often than not, these evenings would feature a spontaneous 30 minute break consisting of Barbara and I hiding in the kitchen, guzzling wine, gossiping and scoffing these delicious canapés! Unfortunately, such delights retired along with Barbara eight months later, but the memory remains as strong as the cheese! I knew these would be a favourite for Stephen’s party!
Another reason I enjoyed making this, or perhaps I should say was proud to make it, is that after much threatening I finally made my own puff pastry! So this recipe contains a step by step walk-through for that too, and I hope more pastry lessons are to follow!
- 225g of plain flour
- 1/2 teaspoon of fine salt
- 250g of unsalted butter
- 150ml of ice cold water
- 2 red onions
- 2 cloves of garlic
- A few splashes of Balsamic Vinegar
- 1 big splash of port
- A scrunch of black pepper
- 1-2 tablespoons of caster sugar
First we’ll prepare the onions…
1. Peel and finely slice the onions.
2. Put a small sauce pan on a very low heat. Place the onions inside along with your two peeled garlic cloves (whole) and splosh over a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and a teaspoon of sugar. Gently stir so everything is covered, then cover the saucepan with a lid and leave. Cook slowly for about an hour to an hour and a half, stirring and adding sugar and vinegar in small amounts every 15-20 minutes. After about 45 minutes, add your port and black pepper and stir! For the final 3-5 minutes, I advise increasing the heat and to keep moving rapidly without stopping. Then remove from the heat immediately and leave to one side to cool. Remove the garlic.
And the pastry?
Ooh, the scary part! I picked up a few tips from this one, the most important of these to keep everything cold. I kept my flour and my rolling pin in the freezer, while my mixing bowl and jug of water were in the fridge. The butter I had at just below room temperature. I remember James Martin banging on about this on Sunday Kitchen or whatever it’s called, and I figure maybe he knows his stuff!
1. Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl and stir in the salt.
2. Cut the butter into small cubes and add to the mixing bowl. Stir, so all the cubes are covered in flour.
3. Pour in the water then, working quickly, use a round bladed knife to bring everything together in a dough (you are not working to mix the butter into the dough at this point!)
4. Keep the dough together using your hand and turn out onto the work surface. Squash into a sausage without kneading, then wrap tightly in cling film and place in the fridge for 15 minutes.
5. Lightly flour the work surface and the dough, then roll out in one direction until it’s about 1cm thick and longer than it is wide. Fold once in full towards you and once in full away from you, then turn the dough over and roll again.
You want to repeat in this until all the butter has faded into the pastry, and you have a nice pale yellow dough. If at any point the dough seems greasy or springs back when you roll, then cover and chill it for 10 minutes or so before continuing.
The Goats Cheese and Red Onion Tart!
1. Pre-heat oven to 200
2. Roll out your puff pastry to about 1/2 cm thick. Cut out circles and use to line the cases of a none-stick mini pie/cupcake tin. Use a knife to pierce the bottom of the pastry cups so they don’t rise and morph in the centre. Or, if you have those clever baking beads, use them!
3. Bake for 15 minutes. They won’t quite be cooked in this time, but that’s the idea. Remove from the tin and leave to cool.
If, like me, you’re baking these for a friend’s do then I will use this moment to mention how very good they are for this. The love and care of homemade but, as of this point, very easy both to transport and complete!
4. When the time comes to make the actual Goat’s Cheese and Red Onion Tarts, pre-heat the oven to 180. Place your pastry cups on a baking tray (or, in my case, a roasting tin. It was all that was available at the time, but did the job nicely).
5. Put a hearty and generous scoop of your slow-cooked red onion into each cup.
6. Dice your goats cheese and add an impressively high pile to each cup. If you’re using soft goat’s cheese, that’s fine, just use a big hearty scoop!
7. Bake for 20 minutes, until the cheese is beautifully golden on top. It all melts down and hides itself with that scrumptious onion you whipped up early. Oooh WHAT a delight, especially warm with a large glass of red!
8. Enjoy with friends until you fall asleep.