Thursday, 23 August 2007

A country showing

Many a happy memory is held of our annual family outing to the Queensland Royal Agricultural Show - or the Ekka as everyone calls it in my hometown, Brisbane. Eating strawberry icecream, watching the dog shows and the wood chopping competition, catching the chairlift from one end of the showground to the other, spending hours choosing the two show bags we were allowed, and huddling together on the stands in the main ring at night time to watch the fireworks with the crowd chanting ‘red’ 'blue’ ‘green’ as we tried to guess the next colour that would explode in the sky.

Imagine my delight when I discovered that my visit to a friend’s place in Wiltshire coincided with the Gillingham and Shafttesbury Agricultural Show. There were jousting knights, ferret races, large farm machinery and fashion for sale and best of all, a food tent showcasing the region’s finest produce. I will never look at a sausage the same way after sampling more than is healthy in one day- researching suppliers for the café.

Competition standard may not have been world class. Some dubious entries in the craft and home baking categories attracted harsh comments from the public viewing the entries on display...

but there was nothing shameful about the size of their vegetables.

These magnificent buddha-esque onions inspired me to bake a tart – practising for my entry next year in the vegetable tart category.

Goat cheese and caramelised onion tart

40g butter
4 large onions (relatively speaking- they don’t have to be the size of those pictured)
salt pepper
freshly grated nutmeg
120g goats cheese log
2 eggs
250 ml crème fraiche
24cm shortcrust pastry case baked blind (10mins with baking paper on, 10 minutes without)
2 sprigs lemon thyme

Preheat oven to 180 degrees.

Melt butter in large pan. Add onions and a good pinch of salt and cook stirring over medium to high heat until softened (about 5-10 minutes). Turn heat down to low, cover with a lid and leave to soften for about 30 minutes, stirring often. Remove lid and continue to cook until liquid is evaporated and the onions are a golden colour and have a jam like consistency (about another 30 minutes but depends on how much liquid you have to start with). Add salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. Remove from heat and leave to cool.

Cut the goats cheese into slices about 5mm thick and then into halfmoons. Beat eggs with the crème fraiche until smoothly combined. Stir in the cooled onions and add salt and pepper to taste. Pour mixture into pastry case and arrange goats cheese slices over the top. Scatter over the thyme leaves and some ground pepper. Place tart in the oven and bake until golden and just set (about 25 minutes). Let stand for half an hour before serving.

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