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Although you could imagine this as a starter, don’t even think of doing it. This is a rich as well as rich-tasting tart, even a small slice will satisfy, so it’s perfect as a meatless main served with a simple salad. Believe me, this unassuming winner will delight your guests time and time again.

Smoked Cheese & Brown Onion
on Flaky Pastry

Ingredients


  • olive oil
  • 5 – 6 large white or yellow onions, coarsely chopped
  • sugar and red wine vinegar to taste
  • salt and freshly-milled black pepper to taste
  • 400 g puff pastry with real butter (Woollies, if possible)
  • 1 egg, beaten well with a little cold water
  • ½ a tub (100 g) plain low fat cream cheese
  • 5 – 15 ml crushed garlic paste (in a tube, from Woollies)
  • 65 ml coarsely chopped basil leaves
  • 125 g smoked mozzarella cheese, cut into thin slices
  • anchovy fillets, cut into thinner strips (to taste)
  • Parma ham, cut into thin strips (to taste)
  • pitted black olives (to taste)



Chef's hint: If you feel like the trouble, do make small, individual tartlets. So much more elegant and lots more of that delightful flaky edge!

Method


Heat a good quantity of oil in a large heavy bottomed pan and add the onions. Sauté until translucent then add sugar and vinegar to taste (about 30 ml sugar and 45 ml vinegar is the average in my kitchen!). Stir well and reduce heat. Cook on low heat for 20 to 30 minutes or until the onions are done to your liking. Keywords are “meltingly tender and caramel brown”. Remove from the heat and season to taste bearing in mind the saltiness of the other ingredients to come. Set aside and allow to cool down considerably.

Make sure the pastry remained chilled until now. Now place the sheet of pastry on a board and score it about 2 mm deep right around, about 3 cm, from the edges. This ensures that the pastry flakes and rises beautifully (see image). Lightly paint the edges with the egg wash but not the centre oblong of the pastry.

Mix the cream cheese with the garlic and basil and spread over the surface of the oblong in the centre of the pastry. Arrange the smoked mozzarella on top and then spread the onion out on top of the cheese. Now, as much as your own taste allows, arrange thin strips of anchovy fillets in a criss-cross lattice pattern on top of the onions. Fashion small rolls of the Parma ham strips and place that in the centre of each square of anchovy fillets and top with a pitted black olive. Dust with black pepper if you wish and bake in the oven preheated to 200º C for 25 – 35 minutes or until the bottom pastry is cooked and the pastry edge is golden and flaky.

Serve sliced with a plain green leafy salad made of rocket, basil and spring onion julienne.

Serves 4 – 6