So, it’s dinner party time again! I thought about giving you all of the recipes from our weekend dinner in one go, but decided it might not do them justice, so you can have them separately. Plus, I thought the goat’s cheese and caramelised onion tart starter would make a perfect Midweek Munchies post, so here we go.
It’s always lovely to cook for friends and spend an evening enjoying nice food in the comfort of your own home, but I find it’s the planning that’s the hardest part – especially if one of your guests is a vegetarian. As you know, Mr M and I are massive carnivores, so when it comes to thinking of a meatless menu, we find ourselves a bit stumped! Fortunately Zoe eats fish so there was one helping hand to our plight.
After hours of cookbook scouring and web searching, we decided on a menu. First up, goat’s cheese and caramelised onion tarts. Who doesn’t like those bad boys? I found a few recipes but actually settled on one from fellow blogger What Katie Ate. I’ll only include a brief resume of how I replicated it as she’s the one who deserves the credit. The main attraction for an amateur like me was that it’s super simple, can easily be prepared in advance, and looks and tastes great.
All you need are onions, sugar, balsamic vinegar, goat’s cheese and puff pastry, and maybe a few sprigs of thyme and some balsamic glaze to garnish.
The longest element is by far the caramelised onions, so I started these early in the day. Essentially you’re cooking onions long and slow in balsamic vinegar and sugar. Follow Katie’s recipe for timings etc, but at a certain point you just have to take over yourself and decide if it’s thick enough, and sweet enough for your liking. I ended up putting in a bit more sugar and balsamic then cooking it with the lid off for a little while to get a really thick jammy consistency.
After that, it’s more of an assembly job than anything else. ‘What, didn’t you make your own pastry?’, I hear you cry. No, I didn’t. I’ve heard more than one chef say it’s okay to use shop bought, so that’s exactly what I did. A ready-rolled sheet of puff pastry, cut into circles as big as you like really. I just picked a bowl that matched the size of cheesy onion-ey goodness that I wanted and used that as a template. Once you’ve cut out your circles, you need to score another, smaller circle inside (not cutting through to the bottom), so you’ve basically left a border round the age. Then you prick the bottom of the middle bit, and egg wash the border. This means your border will rise, while your bottom will cook underneath the filling.
Pile up your onion mixture in the middle, laying circles of goat’s cheese on top with a little sprig of thyme on top of that. Then it’s in the oven on baking paper on a tray to be cooked at 200 degrees (if you have a fan oven, 220 if not) for about 20 minutes. Katie helpfully warns you to be careful of an uncooked bottom on your tart, and I managed to escape this. What I did manage to produce were beautiful golden tarts, with crumbly pastry border, edging rich, melted goat’s cheese piled on top of sweet, thick onion.
Out of the oven, an artistic drizzle of balsamic glaze (Katie makes her own syrup but I opted out of that challenge), and you have a perfectly easy, vegetarian friendly dinner party starter. I’d definitely recommend it as you can stay sociable, effectively prepare most of it in advance, and then pop in the oven when you like. Thanks Katie for your recipe, I’ll definitely be doing it again. Plus I had plenty of caramelised onion jam left for my lunches this week too. Everyone’s a winner!
Obviously this is just the starter. The next courses are coming up, so check back here for more delights from this dinner party…