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Tomato, Onion and Goat's Cheese Tart

The tomato, known as the 'love apple' because of its presumed aphrodisiac qualities, originated in South America, being well known to the Aztecs. It was brought to Europe by the early Spanish explorers at the beginning of the sixteenth century but did not become popular or well used for some time. In fact, for 200 years it was grown largely for its ornamental qualities. It seems that Jewish families in Britain with their links to Mediterranean Europe were more adventurous and recipes began to appear at the beginning of the nineteenth century. But it was not until the end of that century that cartloads of the crop found their way beyond the walls of the most wealthy, and even then the tomato remained unpopular and was associated with witchcraft and disease.
Successful tomato recipes are those where the distinctive taste of the fruit surmounts the other flavours. I think this tart succeeds in this, but partly through its soft texture. You can, of course, vary the nature and quantity of the herbs to suit your own tastes.

ingredients

serves 6 - 8
225 g (8 oz) plain shortcrust pastry
6 ripe, firm and well-flavoured tomatoes (preferably on the vine)
2 red onions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley, plus extra to garnish
55 g (2 oz) fresh breadcrumbs (white or wholemeal)
3 eggs, lightly beaten
300 ml (1/2 pint) double cream
salt and freshly ground black pepper
115 g (4 oz) Cheddar cheese, grated
1 round (85 g (3 oz) goat's cheese

method

1. Line a deep 23 cm (9 in) tart tin with the pastry and pre-bake or bake blind.

2. Pre-heat the oven to 200°C (400°F) Gas 6.

3. Put the tomatoes in a bowl, cover with boiling water and leave for just over 1 minute, then lift them out with a slotted spoon.

4. Skin and chop the tomatoes (it doesn't matter if a bit of skin gets left on one or two), then drain them in a colander or sieve to get rid of excess juices and squeeze out most of the seeds. Put them to one side.

5. Fry the onions gently in the olive oil in a covered frying pan for 5-10 minutes or until they are just soft, stirring occasionally. Add the herbs and breadcrumbs and stir to mix. Turn off the heat.

6. Put the eggs into a bowl, add the cream and salt and black pepper. Add most of the Cheddar cheese, saving 2 teaspoons for the garnish.

7. Spoon the onion, herb and breadcrumb mixture into the pre-baked pastry case. Add most of the tomatoes, reserving just a few for the garnish.

8. Pour in the cream mixture, then break the goat's cheese into small pieces and press into the cream mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining Cheddar, tomatoes and a little chopped parsley. Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes or until the pieces of goat's cheese have browned around the edges (you may need to turn the tart round a bit once or twice during cooking).

9. SERVE hot or warm as a main course with courgettes or green beans and some small boiled potatoes with their skins on, or as a starter with rocket, chicory and avocado.

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