There are many ways to get through a dull weather Cumbrian day, and one of those is to make something that hints at spring and summer. I know that’s corny, but it’s true too.
Onion Tart (nicked from Nigella and tampered with) with Avocado Salsa
Starting with the pastry (which is divine, I promise), take 4oz wholemeal flour (you can pretend it is good for you), 2oz cold butter and whizz in the food processor until the butter’s more or less incorporated into the flour. Tip it out into a bowl and slowly add cold water, a bit at a time, mixing it into dough with a dinner knife. On no account do this with your fingers.
Clag it together into a dough ball with your hands, but don’t touch it more than you have to, and tip it immediately into a plastic bag and leave in the fridge.
Yes, I’m saying Treat the uncooked pastry like a bomb. Do not disturb it.
Put the oven on at 200 deg C.
So, then you move on to the filling. Slice at least two onions into rings (as much as possible without losing a finger) and dice a third. Melt about 1 tbsp butter and dash in some oil to prevent the butter burning.
Turn down the heat and saute the onion for as long as you dare before it starts trying to stick (about 20 minutes).
Into the onion mixture, upend a couple of capfuls of brandy (think Nigella used marsala) and an extra splash for luck. Salt it, stir it around. If it’s sticking, turn down the heat.
Take a sheet of kitchen foil and fit it to the inside of the saucepan, touching the onion mixture so it acts as a really close lid. Put the lid on the saucepan.
Cook the onions for maybe ten more minutes, but keep checking them under their cap and give ’em a stir. When the ones on the bottom start turning brown, the others are quick to follow and that’s when they’re cooked.
While the onions are cooking (or after, if you’re the cautious type), get out the pastry and roll it with plenty of flour to fit the dish. (Mine was about 20cm size).
Blind bake the pastry at 200 deg C for about 15-20 minutes. Use baking beans or whatever to keep it flat as it cooks. (Mine is a cake tin that fits perfectly inside the pastry base).
After the pastry is baked, turn the heat down to 180 deg C.
Tip the sludge of browned onions into the cooked base and crack open two eggs into a bowl. Separate a third egg and add the yolk to the bowl – use the white for meringues, maybe?
Beat about 150ml double cream / creme fraiche into the eggs to make the beginnings of a custard. Salt it quite well, grind a sensible quantity of black pepper into it and grate in nutmeg – as much as you think.
Pour the egg mixture gently into the onion tart until it’s about half full, then place it in the front of the oven and pour the rest in, careful not to ship it over the edges. Top it with a bit of grated Lancahire Cheese (not cheddar, it can be way too overpowering – if there’s no Lancashire, do without, it’s the sour taste which is important).
Bake for about 20-30 minutes. It’s supposed to be set but not firm. I overcooked mine, but it was just lovely.
As much avocado as you think, a large tomato with the seeds discarded and sliced as thinly as possible. A quarter of a red onion. A clove or two of garlic, grated into a pool of extra virgin olive oil, and a fair lot of lemon juice squeezed over everything. Salt, pepper.