After inviting friends for dinner we often find ourselves with a large amount of surplus cheese. On this occasion I was home alone with not much in stock for dinner other than a couple of eggs and the deteriorating remains of a week-old cheeseboard. So it was a pleasure to stumble across Rosie Birkett’s recipe in the Guardian a couple of days ago for precisely this situation — I had all the ingredients on hand except for pickled onions. It was so good I’m recording my slightly adapted version here in case the online version disappears. Gorgeous bubbling, gooey cheese, with a crunch and a bit of acidity added by celery and cornichons. A salad would be good with it.
You can use any cheese you have, hard or soft. I had no soft cheeses, but I had a couple of stubs of Pyrenean tomme, some Morbier, and an unidentified but fairly mild blue cheese.
shortcrust pastry, either bought or home-made
1 onion, sliced
1 stick celery including leaves, sliced
1 tbsp thyme leaves
2 tbs olive oil
salt and pepper
Worcester sauce to taste
fresh or dried tarragon
200 ml cream (I used a bit of crème fraîche topped up with whipping cream)
a few small cornichons, chopped
about 200-250 g cheese, any kind
Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a 20 cm tart tin with the pastry and bake blind till lightly coloured. Meanwhile, melt olive oil in a frying pan and cook onion, celery, thyme, and a bit of salt over a moderate heat for 8-10 minutes, till soft but not brown. Remove from heat and add a glug of Worcester sauce. Leave to cool.
Dice most of the hard cheese, and grate about 50 g or so. Crumble any soft cheese (or just pour it in if it’s really soft, e.g. St Marcellin). In a jug, whisk eggs and cream together and season with salt, pepper, nutmeg, and tarragon. Stir in most of the grated cheese, leaving aside enough to sprinkle on top of the tart.
Spread the onion and celery mixture over the bottom of the tart and sprinkle the chopped cornichons on top of it. Now distribute the diced and crumbled cheeses over the top, and pour over the egg mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining grated cheese and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the top is golden and bubbling. Let it cool and settle for a few minutes before serving. Leftovers should be reheated so that the cheese is warm and oozy again.