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FRENCH ONION TART

For this month I have chosen a savoury tart from the Alsace, which has been a firm favourite for many years. It’s well suited to the summer weather - either as a lunch or supper dish accompanied by a crisp green salad, or as a part of a buffet or a picnic. You could serve it warm or at room temperature.

I grew up with imperial measurements, and found the original recipe easy to remember - 2lb onions, 2 oz butter, 2 oz cheese and 2 eggs - but I have converted it to metric for the benefit of younger cooks.

It does seem like an awful lot of onions when you start off, but you will find that they collapse into a much smaller volume once they have cooked down. If possible, try and prevent them from browning, as this will affect both the look and the flavour of the finished product. The slow stewing in butter creates a sweetness and a melting texture, which is complemented by the aromatic tang of the Gruyère cheese.

It is definitely worth making your own pastry, (in advance is fine) as the result will be incomparably better. However, to save time you could use ready-made pastry. You will need a flan dish or tin measuring about 22 – 24 cm (9”) across.

Ingredients

  • 900g large onions
  • 50g butter
  • Shortcrust pastry:
  • 125g plain flour
  • 25g wholemeal flour (or use all white)
  • pinch of salt
  • 75g cold butter, diced
  • 2-3 tablespoons cold water
  • (Or use shop bought ready-made shortcrust pastry)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 50g Gruyère cheese, grated
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tomato cut into 8 wedges (optional)

Method

Cut the onions in half lengthways, peel, and slice thinly into half-moons.

Melt the butter in a wide, heavy-based, lidded pan and add the sliced onions.

Stir well to coat the onions, turn the heat to the lowest setting, and cover the pan. Give the onions a stir with a wooden spoon from time to time to check that they are not sticking.

Stew them gently, covered, for about half an hour – they should be really soft. If they start to dry out, add a splash of water to stop them browning.

Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl.

Rub the butter into the flour, using your fingertips. When the mixture looks like breadcrumbs, make a well in the middle and add the water. Using your fingers, mix till the dough forms a ball.

Alternatively, use a food processor to blend the flour and butter, adding the water at the end. Much quicker!

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and form into a small round disc. Roll out into a circle about 30cm (12”) in diameter and lift it into your flan tin or dish, easing it down into the corners.

Trim off any surplus pastry, patching any cracks with the trimmings.

Neaten the edges and cover with a piece of aluminium foil.

Place in the fridge and chill for at least 30 minutes (or overnight).

When you are ready to bake the tart, pre-heat your oven to 170oC, Gas 5.

Put baking beans (either ceramic or dried beans) on the foil to prevent the pastry rising, place the flan dish on a baking tray and bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes.

Remove the foil and baking beans, and bake for a further 10 minutes, until the pastry is cooked and pale gold in colour.

Take out of the oven.

Meanwhile, tip the cooked onions into a bowl and let them cool slightly. Stir in the beaten eggs and three quarters of the cheese, adding salt and pepper to taste.

Pour the mixture into your prepared pastry shell, and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.

Arrange tomato wedges around the edge if you like.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the filling is set and turning golden brown on top.

Posted in Erika’s Kitchen on Jul 01, 2022