Although the combination of cheese and mint in a dessert pastry might strike some as odd, it’s not uncommon in the islands off of Spain, Italy and France and elsewhere around the Mediterranean. In this version, the filling of eggs and fresh sheep’s cheese is poured into a crust with an intriguing hint of aniseed.
Cheese and Mint Tart
For the pastry:
- 1 2/3 cups (9 oz./250 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 3 Tbs. granulated sugar
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. aniseed
- Pinch of fine sea salt
- 4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) (2 oz./60 g) cold unsalted butter, diced
- Grated zest of 1 lemon
- 1 egg, beaten
- 4 Tbs. anisette, Pernod or other anise-flavored liqueur
- Butter or olive oil for greasing
For the filling:
- 14 oz. (400 g) fresh sheep’s milk cheese or other fresh cheese
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup (7 oz./200 g) granulated sugar
- 12 fresh mint leaves, minced
- 1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz./100 g) superfine sugar
- Fresh mint leaves for garnish
1. To make the pastry, in a large bowl, stir together the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, aniseed and salt. Add the butter and rub in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. (Alternatively, combine the dough ingredients in a food processor or stand mixer.) Add the lemon zest, fold in the beaten egg and liqueur, and knead briefly until the dough is smooth and pliable. Form the dough into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
2. Preheat an oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease an 8-inch (20-cm) tart pan with butter or olive oil.
3. On a floured surface, roll out the dough and line the tart pan, cutting and patching the dough if it tears. Prick the base all over with a fork and press the dough into the walls of the pan.
4. To make the filling, in a small bowl, break up the cheese with a fork into a coarse mash. In a bowl, beat the eggs with the granulated sugar, then add the cheese and chopped mint, mixing well. Pour the filling into the prepared pastry shell. Bake in the oven until firm and lightly browned on top, about 35 minutes.
5. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool. Just before serving, dust with superfine sugar and decorate with the mint leaves. Serves 6.
Find more than 100 recipes for the simple, unassuming, and satisfying food of the Spanish countryside in Rustic Spanish by Paul Richardson.