This is Achievement Food. Once made, you can say “I made this” and be proud. And then you can eat it. And it will be tasty.
I made the pastry myself. You don’t have to, you can buy ready-made, I won’t think any less of you I promise. But I urge you to have a go if you’ve got the time. I’ve learned that making pastry is a lot less frightening and difficult that I thought it would be and it’s a skill worth having, if only because hardly anyone bothers any more. Its a good string to a cook’s bow.
This onion tart is sweet and savoury, the sweetness of the very slowly cooked onion, the savouryness of the cheese and the egg. Lovely.
This is for a 71/2 inch flan/quich/tart dish
For the shortcrust pastry
170g plain flour
a pinch of salt
30g lard (LARD!), cubed
55g butter, cubed
Very cold water to mix
1 egg yolk
For the onion filling
2 small onions or 1 1/2 large ones
30g Cheddar cheese, grated
5 tablespoons milk
5 tablespoons single cream
Salt and Pepper
A knob of butter
Peel the onions and cut in half lengthways. Slice the halves thinly and break up into individual crescents. Melt the knob of butter in a non-stick frying (or sauce) pan and pop the onions in. Make sure it’s on the very lowest heat and then simply leave it alone.
The important thing when caramelising onions is for them to be on a low heat for a very long time. There’s no getting around this – it’s going to take a while. Ideally about an hour and a half. Give it a stir every 20 minutes or so, and what you want is for the onions to become soft and sticky and very lightly brown. If they start to burn, turn the heat down and put a lid on it so that they will stew in their own juices rather than fry.
While the onions are cooking, you can get on with the pastry. Make sure you’re wearing an apron. Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl and then rub in the cubes of lard and butter wth your fingertips. Try to do this lightly and persevere until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. This takes about 5 or 10 minutes.
Add two tablespoons of water to the mixture. As the recipe I work from specifies “very cold”, I use ice-cubes. This may be a bit extreme but it works, so I’m not complaining.
Mix to a firm dough, first with a knife and then with your hands. If absolutely necessary, add more water but the pastry should not be too damp – although crumbly pastry is more difficult to handle, it produces a lighter result. I use 2 ice cubes and don’t need any more.
Once it’s all come together, smoosh it into a ball, pop it in a plastic bag and put it in the fridge for half an hour. This chilling will make it easier to roll out later. Go and make yourself a cup of tea and check on the onions.
Now comes the tricky bit – rolling the out. With a floured rolling pin, roll the pastry out on a floured surface into a circle big enough to line the quiche dish. Now, shortcrust pastry is tricky and I sometimes have to do several attempts before I successfully manage to line the dish – the pastry tears easily. The best way is to roll it out and then roll it round the rolling pin and use that to lift it over the dish, and then roll it back out onto the dish. Be gentle and coaxing with the pastry, and if you get little tears don’t worry about it and just patch it up with the excess pastry, no one will know.
Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F.
Make sure the pastry is well fitted into the dish, pushing it into the corners. Line the pastry case with some foil or baking parchment and fill it with dried lentils, beans, rice, or even pebbles or coins – this is to prevent the pastry bubbling up during cooking. When the pastry is half-cooked (about 15 minutes), remove the “blind beans” and foil/paper. Brush the pastry with the egg yolk and return to the oven for 5 minutes until it’s turned a nice golden colour. Remove from the oven and set aside. It should look something like this:
Turn the oven down to 150F/300C.
By now the onions should be nice and sticky and should even smell a little sweet. Mix together the milk, cream, eggs, cheese and onions and season with salt and pepper. The mixture will be all gloopy. Pour it into the pastry case. It should look something like this:
Pop it back in the oven at the lower temperature for 40 minutes. When done, the top of the tart will be slightly golden. Take it out of the oven and let it cool a little and set. You can either eat hot or cold.
I had mine hot with some sauteed potatoes and peas. Lovely