Chèvre, masculine noun (un chèvre, le chèvre, des chèvres) = goat’s cheese (pronounced shai-vre, shai as the sha sound in shared, vre with the r pronounced in the back of your throat, tricky!).
But chèvre, feminine noun (une chèvre, la chèvre, des chèvres) = goat (pronounced in exactly the same way).
So, chèvre, the animal, is feminine (stands to reason, she gives milk to make cheese) and chèvre, the cheese, is masculine (le fromage de chèvre, abbreviated to du chèvre).
France produces a multitude of very different, very good goat’s cheeses. Words you might need to know: chèvre chaud = literally hot goat’s cheese, in other words toasted goat’s cheese; chèvre frais = fresh (soft) goat’s cheese; chèvre fermier = farmhouse goat’s cheese; chèvre fondu = melted goat’s cheese.
The little round hard goat’s cheeses are called crottin (= farm animal droppings). The long roll shaped cheeses are called bûche (= log).
My recipe is for une tarte au chèvre et au miel, a honey and goat’s cheese tart. It is a main dish, but could be made in tiny portions as apéritif bites, or small individual portions as a starter.
The quality of bought puff pastry varies enormously (and no one makes their own puff pastry, no one I know anyway). Do buy the best quality available, made with pure butter.
For 6 people as a main dish you will need:
- one 26cm round of pre-rolled good quality puff pastry
- 1 large onion
- 1 pot of thick cream or crème fraîche
- a jar of sundried tomatoes
- 1 roll fresh goat’s cheese (for once it doesn’t have to be the finest quality, or 2 or 3 crottin cut into slices to make rounds
- 1 tbs runny honey
- salt, pepper
- a little white wine
- a little olive oil
- 1 tsp fresh thyme (optional)
- Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
- Peel and chop the onion, fry it in a tbs olive oil until it starts to colour. Add a tablespoon of dry white wine and a teaspoon of the honey and cook until caramelized.
- Line a tart dish with the puff pastry, prick all over with a fork, and put into the hot oven for 5 minutes.
- Spread the caramelized onion evenly over the bottom of the tart, then a layer of cream. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cut the bûche de chèvre into slices and spread them over the cream in a symmetrical pattern, leaving room in between for about 6 sundried tomatoes.
- Drizzle the rest of the honey over the cheese (maybe avoiding too much on the tomatoes, it tends to make them burn a bit during cooking). Top with a tsp very fresh green thyme leaves if you choose to use them, but don’t use dried.
Put back into the oven and cook for 20-25 minutes. Leave to cool for 5 minutes before serving. A green salad goes well with this tart. And another glass of the dry white wine you used to cook the onion. White wine goes excellently with goat’s cheese.
Do not have the brilliant idea of substituting mozzarella for goat’s cheese should you have the one and not the other in the fridge. The mozzarella would lose a lot of water and make the whole tart soggy. Goat’s cheese is not watery. But you do not need a “great” goat’s cheese for this recipe. A standard fresh, white, soft goat’s cheese will do. Save the more expensive ones for your cheese board.
If you wish to do smaller versions as a starter, as I have done, the method is identical. Line individual size tart dishes with pastry and continue the recipe, putting a whole round of goat’s cheese in the centre of the dish and half slices of cheese and tomato alternating around the circumference. You will only need to cook these for about 12 minutes.
For apéritif mouthfuls (tartelettes), it is useful to have appropriate silicone molds. Still prick the pastry and precook for about 4 minutes. They will puff up anyway, but just break the bubble with your thumb. Put a tiny amount of each ingredient in each tart shell and top with a little triangle of goat’s cheese. Put hardly any honey in a teaspoon, and let droplets fall on each tartlet; I’ve done a few of these too to show you how good they look! Only cook them for 5-7 minutes.
I have just devoured a few of these for my lunch. So good, I can’t tell you!