The first thing I should point out is that the Quark I am referring to is not a particle that makes up a Hadron (as witnessed on my recent visit to the LHC in Geneva). I am referring to ordinary Baker’s Cheese which used to be readily available as Quark in Australia, was then rebadged as ‘Continental Cheese’ and has since disappeared from our supermarket fridges. It was a great low fat replacement for ricotta, cottage or any number of other soft cheeses and curds and was also half the price.
The second thing I should point out is that I’m not a big fan of fresh tomatoes. I’ve never been keen on their texture and will always be pick them off a sandwich or leave them on the side of a plate. But, I don’t mind fresh tomatoes in small quantities if a little heat has been applied and it’s not the main focus of the dish. The tomatoes I bought the other day at a roadside farm stall near our farmhouse in Bremgarten bei Bern were freshly picked and the inspiration for this dish.
Happily, Quark is readily available in Switzerland. I’m spoiled for choice here – full fat, low fat, fruit flavoured. Incidentally, ‘Fruche’ is actually Quark however, selling a ‘cheese dessert’ posed too big a challenge so it is marketed as the trendier Fromage Frais. (Perhaps they should get the Kunefe marketers on to it). So the chance to buy some Quark and pair it with some lovely yellow slow roasted tomatoes provided the perfect opportunity to get into the kitchen whilst those endless World Cup games are playing.
Slow Roasted Tomato & Quark Tart
- 6 small Roma tomatoes or 12 grape tomatoes
- 1 1/2 cups Quark (Continental Cheese or Ricotta as a substitute)
- 6 large or 12 small pickled onions (optional)
- 1/2 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
- 1 egg
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1 tbsp fresh thyme leave
- 2 tbsps raw sugar (white is fine)
- 1 sheet chilled puff pastry
- extra salt & pepper, olive oil, white sugar, egg wash
Slow Roasted Tomatoes – Slice the tomatoes in half and place on a lined, lightly oiled baking tray. Drizzle generously with olive oil, salt and pepper and a small sprinkle of white sugar. Slow roast in an oven at 120c for 45 minutes to 1 hour. This concentrates the sugars in the slow roasted tomatoes and also avoids a soggy tart. Remove tray from oven and allow to cool.
Caramelise Onions – rinse pickled onions and then cut into quarters (small) or slices (large). Heat a small amount of oil in a frying pan on a medium heat. Add onions and start to fry as you would for fresh onions. After a few minutes, add 1/4 cup of water and tbsp of raw sugar. Stir to dissolve sugar and allow water to slowly boil and reduce to a syrup. Stir onions as you would any fried onions, adding more sugar if you are after a stickier mixture or a little extra water to loosen the mix. It should only take 5 – 10 minutes to caramelise the onions which should be brown and sticky with little or no syrup remaining. Allow to cool in pan.
Create Filling – combine Quark, Parmesan, lemon zest, thyme and egg. Season well with salt and pepper. Keep chilled.
Prepare the Pastry -Take the sheet of puff pastry and divide in half. One piece is your base, the other will build the sides of the tart. Slice the ‘side’ piece into three even lengths. Cut one of the lengths in half. You should now have four side pieces (2 long and 2 short) and the base.
Assemble the Tart – Place the base pastry piece on a lined and greased baking tray. Using an egg wash, place the lengths (flat) on top of the four sides of the base. Spread the chilled filling onto the base, inside the four side pieces. Place the onions and slow roasted tomatoes evenly on the filling. Season with salt and pepper and extra thyme if you wish.
- Slow Roasted Tomatoes – Make sure you check the tomatoes every 15 minutes. Once they start to collapse and caramelise, they can burn very quickly. It may take longer than an hour, depending on the size of the tomatoes.
- Onions – Fresh onions can be substituted for pickled onions but will take longer to caramelise – a lot longer! The high sugar and vinegar content in the pickled onions allows them to caramelise quickly and makes them chewy.
- Filling – leftover filling and egg wash can be used as a tasty low fat cheese layer in lasagne or as an omelette filling