This is a very simple tart that is great eaten either hot or cold and is, for me, tart that can be enjoyed at any time of the year. It can be assembled in minutes so that is is merely a matter of baking the tart.
It is even easier using bought pastry, but if you are buying the pastry, go for the all-butter variety: the cheaper puff pastry made with oil is not good at all.
A good pastry is a must
I am such a fan of flavoured pastry and I often add dry flavours such as spices and herbs to my pastries. So for this tart I made a very quick mustard-flavoured pastry using grated frozen butter, taking about 20 minutes to make up.
The pastry follows the rough-puff pastry/puff pastry approach for getting the layers in there but is quicker, and it works like a dream with this tart. I went for less butter than I would normally use for a pastry such as this, purely as I had, for once, run out of butter and really could not be bothered to go to the shops, but this reduced amount worked well and still resulted in a light, flaky pastry.
I appreciate that beetroot is not to everyone’s tastes but I adore it either roasted or simmered until just soft. And I actually like it mixed with a splash of good vinegar when eaten with a salad: and by good vinegar I mean wine vinegar, cider vinegar or baslamic vineger, but most definitely not the murderous intentions of malt vinegar!
I used a variety of beetroots that we were growing last year that, for once, we managed to store over the winter effectively, but any beetroot works well here.
The earthy, slightly sweet flavour of the beetroot, especially when mixed with a little balsamic vinegar, goes so well with the goats’ cheese and the slightly bitter crunchy walnuts are quite wonderful: little wonder these ingredients are such good bedfellows!
This tart also works brilliantly with ready cooked beetroot from the supermarket: the ones that have simply been boiled and vacuum-packed rather than the beetroot that is swimming in vinegar!
The joys of balsamic vinegar
A good quality balsamic vinegar make a world of difference: and you don’t need much at all.
To make the tart even more special you can make a quick balsamic syrup by putting the balsamic vingear in a small pan over medium heat, bringing it to the boil and simmering gently until it has reduced to a light syrup: it has a more intense and slightly sweeter flavour.
Recipe: beetroot, walnut and goats’ cheese tart – serves 6
Easy “puff” pastry: (or use about 500g bought all-butter pastry)
- 250g strong white plain flour
- 4 teaspoons mustard powder (or fennel powder or a mixture!)
- 5g fine salt
- 160g unsalted butter, frozen solid
- about 140-160ml cold water
- a couple of medium beetroot, simmered until just soft, peeled and cubed: about 250g for a large tart
- 1 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, plus extra to finish
- generous pinch of salt
- 100g goats’ cheese
- small handful walnuts, roughly crushed
- 1 onion, sliced
- the leaves from a few sprigs of fresh thyme
- a tablespoon or so of vegetable oil
- freshly milled black pepper
If making the pastry:
(1) Mix the flour, salt and mustard powder in a medium-sized bowl. Grate the frozen butter over, dipping in the flour from time to time. Mix the grated butter into the flour with a knife so the butter is fairly evenly distributed.
(2) Add about 120ml of the water, stirring gently with the knife. Add more to give a soft but not sticky dough.
(3) Turn the dough onto a floured surface and roll it out to a long, thin rectangle: about 50cm by 20cm, but you don’t need to be too precise here.
(4) Fold the bottom third into the middle and bring the top third over the centre. This is the first turn. Rotate 90 degrees and repeat two more times. The pastry is now made. Chill until needed.
The slideshow below shows how to do this: the dough in the pictures is for a rough-puff pastry (using larger lumps of butter in the dough rather than grated butter) but the principle for the folding is the same.
Prepare the topping:
(1) Heat the oil in a pan and add the onion and thyme. Cook gently for about 15 minutes until the onions are just soft: you can cook them on a lower heat for a longer time (30 minutes or so) to caramelise them if you prefer a sweeter onion base. Cool.
(2) Roll out the pastry thinly to a long rectangle and use a sharp knife about 1cm from the edges, mark out a border. Don’t cut right through the pastry: only go a little way into it. As it bakes the border rises up more than the centre with the filling, creating a shallow lip all the way round, but the tart works well without a border.
NB: for smaller, individual tarts, cut out the rectangle into squares or circles
(3) Scatter the cooled onions over the pastry, coming just within the edges. Scatter over the walnuts.
(4) Mix the beetroot with the balsamic vinegar and scatter loosely over the onions.
(5) Dot the goats’ cheese over the top and give a generous grinding of black pepper.
(6) Brush the pastry border with beaten egg for a more golden sheen to the tart or leave it as it is. Bake for about 20 minutes until the pastry edges are golden brown.
(7) Cool for about 5 minutes before serving, drizzling over some more balsamic vinegar.