Torta Caprese: goat’s cheese, egg plant, and tomato tartlet

Caprese Tartlet

Caprese, as in Caprese Michelangelo (the name of my village) means ‘of the goats’. The village coat of arms contains a goat, and indeed legend has it that after his birth here in the castle, Michelangelo was left by his father, to be raised by the wife of a goat herd, before taking him off to Florence.

In cooking terms, for most people caprese is a salad. Nothing to do with goats there—the mozzarella cheese used to make it comes from buffalo milk—since the name derives from the island of Capri down in the bay of Naples. This tartlet, which I’ve named for the village, has a distinctly goaty flavour, as it uses Tuscan goat’s cheese.

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I was introduced to goat’s cheese in a big way by my friend Brent Zimmerman, who used to run a goat farm a few miles away at Valle di Mezzo. Unfortunately, he returned to the USA a couple of years ago where he is making cheese at Lime Kiln Farm in New York’s Hudson Valley. If any of you are in the area, I’d recommend you check him out. Tuscan goat’s cheese is hard like a pecorino as opposed to the soft French chèvre. If you can’t get any hard goat’s cheese, I’d recommend that you make these with pecorino or even cheddar.

I ate mine hot with a salad, but these make the perfect picnic food. Anyway, here’s how. Buon appetito!

Caprese Tartlet

Torta Caprese

Serves: 4
Preparation time: 45 mins
Cooking / waiting time: 1 hr 45 mins
Total time: 3 hrs
Ingredients
For the pastry cases
125g (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
250g (2 cups) plain flour
1 pinch salt
1 egg
100ml (3 ½ fluid oz) water
For the filling
125g (1/2 cup) ricotta cheese
1 egg
1 egg plant
olive oil
4 tablespoons tomato purée
4 sundried tomatoes
200g (2 ½ cups) grated goat’s cheese

 

Method
Make the pastry cases
  1. Rub the butter into the flour and salt using your fingertips until it has the consistency of breadcrumbs.
  2. Add the eggs and mix with your fingers until it has been absorbed.
  3. Add the water little by little using your fingers to bring the dough together. Stop adding water as soon as the dough is of the correct consistency and try not to work it very much.
  4. Flatten to form a disk about 3cm thick, wrap in cling film and chill for at least one hour.
  5. Remove from the fridge and cut into four equal pieces. Roll them out and use them to line four buttered 10-cm patisserie rings or tart tins. Chill for at least one hour.
  6. Fill each pastry case with greaseproof paper and baking beans. Bake at 180° C (355° F) for twenty minutes. Remove the beans and cook bake for another five minutes. Leave to cool completely and then remove the rings.

 

Make the filling
  1. Mix the ricotta cheese together with the egg.
  2. Cut the egg plant into slices about 1cm (1/2 inch) thick. Using a pastry cutter, cut them into 6cm disks. Paint each side with olive oil and then fry on a hot griddle for about 5 minutes each side. Allow to cool.
  3. Spread the tomato purée on the bottom of the pastry cases.
  4. Divide the ricotta cheese and egg mixture evenly between the pastry cases.
  5. Insert a disc of egg plant in each case.
  6. Place a sundried tomato on the top of each piece of egg plant.
  7. Cover with the grated cheese.
  8.  Bake at 180° C (355° F) for about 30 minutes, or until the cheese has browned.

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