I need to prepare ahead for Christmas so I don’t go truly mad. I’d love to be able to drift through the big day with a relaxed glow but honestly, it just doesn’t happen! If I make a plan, write a list (or two) and get a few things in the freezer it helps not only with the practicality of getting food on the table but just with helping me avoid panic.
Whilst I don’t want to run anything with military precision, there are always more people around to be fed just as I would like to kick back and relax a bit. So, my way around this is to get all the extras for Christmas Day in the freezer – the roast potatoes, bread sauce, gravy base, cranberry sauce, sausages in bacon etc. These can be done in not much time now and I can’t tell you how reassuring it is to know all you have to focus on on Christmas Day is the bird, some greens and pudding (really).
I adore canapés, the greedy me loves something before supper and it adds necessary ballast, I need a liner when I am drinking! Canapes add a bit of sparkle to events (even just the four of us gathered by the fire) and as I never feel like making these at ten to six in the evening, having some in the freezer is a win win. Cheese gougeres (November 2016) and cheese sables (December 2013) would be a suggestion and they just need a few minutes in a hot oven.
Some delicious bread goes a long way to augmenting a lunch of leftovers, a soup made from tired vegetables or a salad served with Christmas cheese. Either buy a good loaf and stash in the freezer or make a loaf of soda bread (seedy soda bread April 2013/olive, thyme and chilli soda bread December 2018) which doesn’t need proving and is simply stirring store cupboard ingredients in a bowl and putting it in the oven.
A plan means you can relax, a suggestion of what you want to eat and then knowing you have what you need in the store cupboard. I like to spread the shopping, both physically and financially. Buy a few things now to hide in the back of the cupboard or freezer. Top up pantry essentials. A roll of good puff pastry or flour to make some shortcrust means you are minutes away from a tart or galette, there are four or five recipes in the archives here for both sweet or savoury versions. Whilst leftovers are an integral and important part of Christmas, a list of a couple of great salads to jazz up the cold turkey means you are a step ahead, maybe my Christmas salad (December 2013) which is crunchy, fresh and ideal or have a celeriac in the fridge and make Celeriac Remoulade (January 2016). If you don’t feel like it, you can always make celeriac soup or a comforting gratin. Options and ideas are what I like.
Christmas should be cosy, sparkly and fun and it can be. Realistically though, there is also a lot to do. Knowing I have treats in the freezer and some bottles of fizz in the fridge, a list of easy ideas and the wherewithal to make them goes a long way to helping me enjoy it all. Make a plan and write a list. Buy some, make some, freeze some. Have fun.
For many more tips and suggestions, see my posts 8 December 2020 and 21 December 2020 here.
Although apples are available all year it is in Autumn when I think of cooking with them. Laden apple trees in the early morning mist are a treat to behold and biting into a crisp juicy apple is the autumnal equivalent of a handful of Summer strawberries snaffled from the fruit cage. We have several apple trees in the garden in varying stages of vintage and productivity. Unfortunately late frosts this Spring did not suit some of the trees and one hasn’t produced a single apple. The Bramley is usually my failsafe and I make lots of puddings based on its large generous apples that cook down to fluffy snow. Sadly it is a little disappointing this year but one of the eaters has masses of fabulous, crisp and delicious apples.
Eating apples obviously cook in a different way to the Bramleys so I look to different recipes to make the most of their firmer flesh and sweet tang. There couldn’t be a better way to showcase those qualities than this fabulous galette. Sweet crumbly pastry that is the work of minutes (I promise) encases slices of apple. Genuinely one of the easiest puddings to make, it comes into its own at this time of year and regular visitors to this site will know its close relation the plum galette.
I make this often, fruit based puddings being one way I can persuade myself (as if) it is ok to tuck in to a pud. That this one is so genuinely full of apples means I have even turned a blind eye on occasion to it being breakfast. What?
Generally I keep this fairly simple but if you want to go for an apple pie vibe then add a little ground cinnamon into the chopped apples or dust the cooked galette with some icing sugar combined with cinnamon. You only need a teaspoon of beaten egg for the glaze so take it from another egg that is being cracked for another purpose if possible otherwise use milk. The galette in the picture used four big, tennis ball sized apples and maybe there were a couple of slices too many, three would have been fine. I don’t mind too much apple but let you know this as a guide.
100g plain flour plus a heaped teaspoon extra
60g cold butter, cubed or grated
A good pinch of fine salt
60g caster sugar, divided in two
30ml cold water
4 crips eating apples, peeled, cored and cut into slices
Squeeze of lemon juice
A teaspoon or so of beaten egg (see introduction)
A dessertspoon of demerara or caster sugar
Preheat the oven to 190 and put a baking tray into heat up. Put the flour and butter into a medium size bowl and rub together with your fingers. There isn’t really enough to justify getting a food processor out. When it looks like breadcrumbs add the salt and 30g of sugar followed by the water, bring it together into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and leave somewhere cool for half an hour. Mix the sliced apples with the teaspoon of flour, remaining 30g of sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice. Roll out the flour to a rough 30cm circle and place on a sheet of parchment, tumble the apples onto the pastry leaving a good gap and turn this pastry edge over the apples. Brush with your glaze, egg or milk and sprinkle with the dessertspoon of sugar. Carefully transfer the galette on its parchment paper to the hot baking tray and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown on top and crisp underneath. Let it cool for a few minutes as the apples will be piping hot before dusting with cinnamon icing sugar if desired (see intro).
The relaxed shuffle through the days that is the summer holidays has come to an end. A return now to the hustle and bustle, the tail chasing and packing too much into each day. My cooking takes on a very casual attitude when school is out, I lose the menu planning and list making structure of term time. If there are loads of beans in the garden then dinner will feature those. Mackerel on offer from a fishing friend? Fab, fire up the braai. Big salads and cobbled together meals are the fall back although I do need to have a loaf to hand and lots of protein around to feed always hungry teenagers.
Towards the end of these holidays I succumbed to a cold. It really was just a cold. The weather already felt autumnal and so I had some sausages from the freezer to make this recipe for lunch. In the end I felt so rotten lunch became sausages, baked beans and oven chips. Lifted by the fabulous local sausages (Down House Farm) and I won’t hear a word said against baked beans it was a fine lunch. This recipe however feels a bit more special, is hardly any more effort and not only tastes fabulous but includes some fresh tomatoes and works a dream with a big salad.
Like so many of my recipes, you can customise this as you please. If chilli flakes are too bold a choice then use some paprika, smoked if you prefer, which works a treat with the sausages. Hate tomatoes, then how about some little cubes of courgette or simply onions peeled and cut into 6ths. If you have the end of a loaf cut it into cubes, mix into the pan towards the end of cooking and you’ll have crunchy sort-of-croutons. Either rosemary or thyme works depending on what you have, the only absolute essential is some good sausages that share their savoury flavour with the other ingredients and don’t leech a load of water into the pan. It also makes sausages go a bit further without seeming mean if you have an unexpected guest.
Sausages and potatoes with tomatoes, rosemary and chilli
8 pork sausages
500g new potatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes (or paprika, see intro)
3 cloves of garlic, unpeeled and cut in half
Small sprig of rosemary, needles removed and chopped
A couple of handfuls of cherry tomatoes
Fresh parsley, chopped to sprinkle
Preheat the oven to 200. Cut sausages into three and halve the potatoes (if they are bigger than a squash ball then cut into three. Mix the sausages, potatoes, oil, chilli, rosemary and garlic in an oven tray and put in the oven for 25 minutes. After this time give it all a stir and add the cherry tomatoes and return to the oven for 5-10 minutes until the tomatoes are soft and blistered and the everything else is golden. Remove from the oven, leave for 5 minutes then sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serves 4 with a salad or greens but very easy to scale up.
I’m not sure I dare call this a recipe. So simple and using the minimum of ingredients yet quick, very useful and punches way above its weight. The difference between this and the usual blob of butter on potatoes is ridiculous. A roll of this in the fridge (or freezer) can elevate potatoes, greens or roast vegetables into the star of the show, and therefore dinner. It makes a superb version of garlic bread, a little more special than a regular garlic and butter loaf and miles better than a shop bought cellophane wrapped pallid brick.
As with so many of my ideas, you can customise at will. When the wild garlic is around I often use that in place of or in addition to the parsley. That the wild garlic is usually with us at the same time as the Jersey royals is serendipity itself. The combination is utterly delicious and will quite happily serve as dinner without embellishment other than a green salad. It is one of those meals where the vegetables really do take centre stage and deservedly so. A pan of everyday broccoli or green beans is zhuzzed up no end by a melting pat of this butter. It looks as if you’ve made loads of effort and rustled up something different and special yet it is the work of minutes.
I also like chives or chervil used in the butter with lemon zest. A tarragon, chilli and garlic butter melted over grilled or barbecued chicken – supper of dreams. Make my quick and easy flatbreads (March 2018) and melt one of these butters over them, heaven.
Parsley, chilli and garlic butter
Make as much as you need for one sitting or, as I usually do, make double that amount, you will be surprised how quickly a use for it appears in your head whilst it waits in the fridge. Below is what I used for the amount of potatoes you see here, 750g.
50g soft butter
A small handful of parsley, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
1 large clove of garlic crushed
Sea salt, a generous pinch
Mash all the ingredients together and either dollop straight over hot potatoes or vegetables or roll into a little sausage, wrap in tin foil and keep in the fridge or freezer.
You will know I have been making bread for ages but usually bake my regular loaf in a tin or direct on the baking sheet. My sourdough I cook in an enamel pan with a lid because Elaine from FoodbodSourdough, whose method I use, suggests this and as her method is the absolute business I see no reason to deviate. Recently though I have started baking my regular white bread in a pan and I love it.
As you all see from the picture, the loaf develops such a fabulous, all round crust and looks incredible. Couldn’t be easier, just heat the pot as you heat the oven and when both are ready, using oven gloves and extreme caution, put your dough in the pan. I use a Le Creuset because that is what I have, sometimes they are called a Dutch Oven, and you can also use an earthenware pot with a lid or said enamel pan. Bear in mind the oven has to get very hot so whatever you use must be able to withstand around 220 degrees.
This method is just so easy – no clattering in the cupboard looking for the right loaf pan, no anxiety about your ball of dough settling into more of a splat on a baking sheet (it’s happened…) just pop it in the pan and look forward to a crusty, beautifully risen loaf.
White Bread in a pan
It you have a stand mixer then this will take literally minutes of your time to rustle up. Before I got ours though I still made this and happily kneaded it for around 10 minutes. It is a calming way to spend 10 minutes (come on, it is only 10 minutes!) and you will be rewarded tenfold!
500g strong white bread flour
10g dried yeast
1 tablespoon soft butter (optional)
300ml lukewarm water
Put the flour into a large bowl (or the bowl for your mixer) with the salt on one side and the yeast on the other. Add the butter (if using) and water and bring it all together to form a sticky mess into a dough. Then using the dough hook put your mixer on for 6-7 minutes or knead by hand for 10. Sprinkle the inside of the bowl with a little extra flour, put the dough into the bowl, cover with a cloth and leave somewhere warm and draught free for an hour. After this time you will see your dough has risen so gently punch the air out of it by kneading a couple of times then form it into a ball. Put it onto a piece of floured baking paper, dust the top with flour and leave to rise for a further hour in a bowl or proving basket if you have one (covered). Towards the end of this time preheat your oven to 220 and put your le Creuset or pot of choice in the oven to heat at the same time. When ready to bake, USING OVEN GLOVES remove the pan from the oven, take off the lid and gently lower your dough into it, slash the top a couple of times, replace the lid and cook for 40 minutes by which time it should be perfectly bronzed. Let it cool on a wire rack and then dig in.
Easter biscuits should contain currants – you know that and I know that but on occasion we have to make adjustments. Some of my family balk at the idea of any cooked dried fruit. Christmas cake is a no no, as is Christmas pudding or mince pies. My festive season could consist of a pud for one if I didn’t take the alternative route and quietly sit and demolish a Christmas cake on my own over the holidays. That, as ever, is another story.
I remember Easter biscuits as a child and couldn’t countenance this weekend without some. It would be like forgetting chocolate or eschewing the Easter bunny. So as ever, I fiddle with the recipe and come up with these. You could argue that these are simply lemon biscuits but I like to add a pinch of spice and glaze to give them their Easter vibe. Whatever you wish to call them they are an absolutely cracker with a cup of tea, to give as a present in little bags and perfect to offer to any weekend guests you may be seeing (outside obviously) and in particular for those dried fruit phobes who won’t be tucking into the Hot Cross Buns with me.
This is an easy and reliable biscuit dough that rolls out with cracking or crumbling into a hundred pieces. At other times of year you can serve these as a crisp biscuit on the side of a posset (Lemon posset, March 2014) or fool (Blackcurrant Fool, February 2019). Try swapping the lemon for orange zest which is fabulous with melted chocolate trickled randomly over them (forego the glaze in this case). This amount makes about 30 – 40 depending on the size of your cutter.
Do of course add currants when mixing the dough if my omission concerns you, 50-60g would probably be about right but add more if you like. I don’t use the mixed spice if making these with orange zest.
100g soft butter
80g caster sugar plus a little extra for sprinkling
A good pinch of salt
Zest of one large or two small lemons
1/4 teaspoon mixed spice
200g plain flour
1 medium egg, separated
Preheat the oven to 200. Mix the butter, sugar and salt until combined. Add the zest, spice and egg yolk, mix again then add the flour. This should come together into a ball but add a drop of milk if you need to. Roll out on a floured surface and cut out – I use a fluted cutter but it is up to you, egg shapes or bunnies are equally welcome. Chill if you have time before cooking, it helps retain the cut shape. Whisk the egg white until frothy and then brush over the biscuits, sprinkle with the extra sugar and bake for 10-12 minutes until golden. Cool on a wire rack where they will crisp up further.
I was recently having one of those chats with a friend about what was for supper that night. When I said we were having the leftover sauce from a beef stew my friend was truly incredulous. We were, she suggested, having gravy for dinner. That I would plonk a salad on the table alongside it only compounded her astonishment and dismay. It wasn’t as mad or bad as it sounds.
A few days earlier I had cooked a piece of beef very slowly with finely chopped carrots, onions and celery – a sea of red wine and an abundance of herbs, thyme, rosemary, bay and parsley. After we had eaten the meltingly soft beef (both for Sunday lunch and two lots of leftovers packed lunches) I was left with a lot of the cooking liquor bolstered by the soft vegetables and herbs. That it had languished in the fridge for two days made only more full of deep, savoury flavour. I heated it, added a splash of cream and a handful of chopped fresh parsley and served it with spaghetti. It was glorious, not only delicious but with the added purr-factor of knowing that one piece of beef had gone so far.
I have always cooked like this -eeking out a dish if it can be reincarnated at a later date. Whilst I try not to keep pointless little pots in the fridge containing one potato I certainly always have a though on the next meal when cooking the current one. That and trying to come up with something from a seemingly empty fridge is a challenge I have long relished. So it was earlier this week. Trying to use everything up before my weekly shop I was faced with various herbs and a pile of potatoes. A riff on roast vegetables is a regular in my kitchen and with a sauce or two to jazz it up invariably goes down well and lends itself perfectly to leftover lunches the next day although on this occasion there was none left which was both good and bad….
Roast baby potatoes with herbed yogurt and green herb sauce
Here I used the chives I had with the yogurt in a take on the classic chive and sour cream dip – always a winner with potatoes. The herb sauce here was a combination of mint, coriander and parsley but my Fresh Herb Sauce (July 2013) would be perfect here. Use whichever soft herbs you have, a combination of just two of those mentioned will still be delicious. Incidentally I will be offering a mint/parsley version of this sauce alongside our Easter roast lamb this weekend.
New or baby potatoes, as many as you have, I used about 600g
A handful of parsley
A handful of mint
A handful of coriander
Juice of half a lemon
A splash of white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
4 tablespoons olive oil plus 1 more for the potatoes
Approx 150ml yogurt
A handle of chives, finely chopped
Preheat the oven to 200. Boil the potatoes in salted water for just 10 minutes until a pointed knife will pierce one with little resistance. Drain the potatoes and put into a roasting tin, roll around with a tablespoon of oil and a sprinkling of salt. Push down on each potato to just break the skin and squash them a little. Roast for around 20 minutes until bronzed and crisping at the edges. Meanwhile mix the yogurt and chives in a bowl with a splash of water to loosen and a pinch of salt. Put the parsley, mint, coriander, lemon juice, vinegar, sugar, 4 tablespoons of oil plus some salt into a jug and using a stick blender whizz until combined into a sauce. Serve the potatoes topped with both sauces. This was was a really good supper for 3 along with a green salad but you could always have it as your potatoes alongside a roast chicken or anything really.
In part one I made much of planning ahead, list making and multi-tasking ingredients. This means you can knock up some cracker dishes from your leftovers and also have some good ideas for what you want to cook and eat. However, I’m also a fan of having some fully made suppers in the freezer so when you can’t face another minute in the kitchen you know there will be something to curl up on the sofa with.
I will try and find the time to make a soup, chilli and stew over the week. Whilst none of these are ground breaking, they are hugely popular chez May and once defrosted will take little effort on my part. If you have the energy to jazz these up, a garlic bread with one of those baguettes from the freezer would go down a treat, or maybe some of my quick flatbreads or the homemade tortilla chips mentioned in the chilli recipe (Girls’ Night In, February 2014) – and don’t worry, I am not mad enough to suggest MAKING tortillas, this is just a way of jazzing up bought tortillas into crunchy chips.
If you have some extra sausages why not try the Penne con Salsiccia (March 2015) it takes a handful of ingredients, minutes to make and is so cosy and comforting. If you have some greens that need using up and some jaded tastebuds requiring a wake up try the greens with garlic and soy (October 2017) – I could happily have a bowl of these with rice for lunch. You know the lunches and suppers your family love but it is the little extras such as the garlic bread or crunchy seeds strewn over a salad that lift meals from the ordinary to the special Christmas meals – and we all need a bit of special this year.
Talking of which despite not being able to party, either Christmas drinks or a full blown New Year knees up, I will be adding sparkle and glitter to our menus where I can. Treats with drinks in front of the fire is something I love – gougeres (November 2016) and cheese sables with rosemary salt (December 2013) going into the freezer today in readiness. My cherries have been soaking for sometime and I can’t wait to tuck into my spiced cherries in bacon (November 2013), my ultimate Christmas canapé. Along with a Sloe Vespa, prosecco with sloe gin, I shall feel suitably and happily ready for Christmas.
For some last minute presents, anything edible always goes down well. The effort made is much appreciated and it’s also something fun to do with your children. We always make loads of spicy seeds (November 2018) to put in little bags with a festive bow. The Christmas biscotti (November 2012) and grissini with rosemary (May 2015) use mainly store cupboard ingredients so can be made on a whim.
This chocolate pudding cake below (December 2012) can be made ahead and frozen and it will fill you with joy to know you have this waiting to make an appearance, particularly when you have had enough of all the dried fruit based puds we immerse ourselves in at this time of year.
Food has the ability to raise spirits and cheer us all – I hope that some of these suggestions may find their way to your Christmas table and help you enjoy the best Christmas possible. Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas.
There is little more pleasing than a well stocked larder and fridge. That feeling of being able to hunker down and settle into the lazy rhythm of the holidays without visiting the shops is always comforting and this year, more than ever, it feels essential. Whilst I love soup and cold ham with cheese for lunch as much as the next person, I don’t want to feel I am coasting from meal to meal of remnants, bits fished out of the fridge. There is so much more to be done with leftovers and it’s not often I have both half a cold turkey to hand and the time to enjoy creating dishes out of it. However, in order to achieve this without teetering on the brink of insanity and panic for ten days, I need to be organised.
Regular readers will know I am super keen on getting ahead, my devotion to planning is well known and much discussed. Making what I can and putting it in the freezer, stocking up on treats and rustling up presents. In previous years I have posted plenty of get ahead suggestions and I list below which months to check them out in the archives. Suffice it to say I will be utilising these tips to get my ready-to-roast potatoes into the freezer this week along with pigs in blankets, stuffing, bread sauce, gravy and cranberry sauce – all of which come to no harm after a couple of weeks languishing in the icy depths. Moreover, the relief if not smug glow that you will feel on knowing all these dishes are already prepared for the big day is enormous.
It is not just Christmas Day that I want to prepare for nor simply the freezer that is your friend this month. Along with my larder planning and fridge filling I like to list the menus/recipes I have in mind for other days, where vegetables can multi task and of course, delicious ideas for those inevitable leftovers.
For instance, I couldn’t be without my Christmas salad (December 2013) as the perfect accompaniment to cold turkey, goose or ham. It is full of fresh crunch and vibrant flavour, just the job for palates feeling a little jaded or simply tired of rich winter food. That it’s made from vegetables that last beautifully – red cabbage, carrots, apples – is a bonus. However, once I’ve got my mitts on these ingredients I want to know there are other recipes I can use them for. We always have red cabbage with our Christmas Eve ham so that is the other half of this particular cannonball taken care of, why not try the Firecracker Red Cabbage (November 2013) or the gloriously crisp and tangy Red Cabbage, Radish and Herb Salad (January 2020). Apples I turn to for an easy Tarte Tatin (January 2019) as a change from the ubiquitous dried fruits as well as cooking until soft to accompany yogurt and Granola (January 2013) or porridge for breakfast. Carrots are a trusty fall back whether roasted to accompany Turkey, in my Thai-ish salad (November 2015) or New Slaw (May 2016) to accompany those turkey sandwiches and let’s not forget Beetroot and Carrot cake (which can be just carrot if that’s what you have) with lime frosting which is a delicious alternative to those not keen on Christmas cake (everyone I live with). So, that’s already four ingredients multi-tasking to the max.
Do you see what I mean? A little bit of planning and list making will make life so much easier. Rather than gazing at that pile of cold turkey hoping for inspiration simply check out your ideas list or use mine below. Choose some of what you want to eat over the next couple of weeks and you can adjust your shopping list accordingly.
By the way, leftover turkey can, of course, mean curry but it can also mean a riff on Bang Bang Chicken, Coronation Chicken (imagine this in those baguettes you’ve got in the freezer….) a fabulously zingy Vietnamese salad along with some of the crunchy veg mentioned above, a gratin or pie of course with ham and leeks. Use cooked turkey instead of the chicken in my Camp Fajitas (July 2016) which work so well in the Quick and Easy flatbreads (March 2018).
Bread freezes well and means you are prepared for sandwiches or soup (a happy finale for tired vegetables). Frozen naan always lifts a curry, sourdough makes a cracking bruschetta or rarebit (for some of that leftover cheese). Warm baguettes elevate sandwiches or soup and can made into a quick herby, garlic bread – incidentally a pinch of dried chilli flakes along with the garlic here is top notch. If you’ve got left over cheese why not put it to good use in a some Cheese and Chive bread, a gooey, savoury treat everyone will love (December 2014). And don’t forget soda bread, made start to finish inside an hour, no rising, Seedy soda bread, which can be regular soda bread without the seeds (April 2013) or jazz it up to be Olive, thyme and chilli soda bread (December 2018).
Frozen prawns or fish for a curry (November 2012) or Chermoula prawns (April 2020) when you want a break from the leftovers or mix prawns with a herby creme fraiche/mayonnaise to pile onto toasted sourdough for an easy canapé or snack.
A bag of frozen berries take minutes to transform into a bright and tangy smoothie or puree for cocktails (Raspberry Daiquiri, May 2014 – and we could all do with one of these to toast this year out…). Or treat yourself to that Ivy classic of frozen berries topped with white chocolate sauce – recipes online – or warm berries up with or without a splash of booze to have over ice cream along the lines of Cherries Jubilee. Frozen blackcurrants make a wonderfully tangy mousse (January 2017). Oh and please don’t forget my Larder Pudding (March 2015) which uses frozen raspberries but any frozen berries would work a treat or use golden syrup instead for possibly the best pudding in the world.
Make spicy seeds (November 2018) to nibble with drinks, sprinkle over salads, soups or gratins – I am making lots of these to put into little bags for hampers I am sending out along with Christmas Biscotti (November 2012). More of edible presents in part 2.
There are lots of ideas for canapés and party food on these pages and although this year we can’t plan parties, we can certainly treat those in our families and bubbles to some Christmas and New Year glitter and sparkle. Ideas for these plus essentials not to be without in part 2.
I could go on. I hope that some of these might help along with the make ahead tips you will find in the two November 2013, November 2016 and November 2019 posts. In the last is the recipe for Chocolate and Peppermint Bark which neither I, nor my children, would want to be without.
If you are not familiar with a Tarte Flambée then I would say you are in for a very special treat. This glorious tart marries smoky bacon with creme fraiche and sweet, slow cooked onions in spectacular fashion. Originally from Alsace, it brings to mind the Alps, and would make a cracking lunch after a morning on the slopes. Fortunately however, you don’t have to go skiing to enjoy this.
I first came across this years ago when I bought a little one from my local Sainsburys in Fulham and both G and I loved it. So much in fact that we started making our own from scratch as a regular Sunday evening supper. Now I might make it for lunch with a big green salad, but more often will serve one up before supper when we are having a drink and a chat.
A combination of the salty savoury bacon or pancetta and creme fraiche on the crispy base makes this a consistent success and it is usually gone in minutes (see last picture). This base is essentially a riff on my Quick and Easy Flatbreads (March 2018) just flour and yogurt with a splash of oil – it couldn’t be easier and works so well cooked in my slightly unorthodox fashion.
Two little asides – if you want to use up the creme fraiche and pancetta then look no further than my Savoy Cabbage with Pancetta and Creme Fraiche (February 2018) and should you wish to serve this to vegetarian guests I would happily swap the bacon for mushrooms cooked alongside the onions – stick with the thyme, it works a treat with mushrooms and then continue with the rest of the recipe.
I sometimes buy those little packs of cubetti di pancetta which usually come in weights of 100-125 grams which is perfect. Alternatively chop some rashers of smoked bacon or pancetta. I have also, in times of need, used a ball of mozzarella in place of the gruyere – you get more melty, pizza like cheese but less of the Alpine vibe that I love but it works if that is what you have.
125g plain flour, plus a little extra for rolling
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and roughly chopped
100ml creme fraiche
100-120g smoked bacon or pancetta in small pieces (see intro)
100g gruyere, grated
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
Preheat the oven to 210 and put a flat baking sheet in to preheat. Using a large frying pan, mine measures 30cm, cook the onions in one tablespoon of the olive oil and a pinch of salt for around 20 minutes until soft but not coloured. Put the other tablespoon of oil in a bowl along with the flour, yogurt and a pinch of salt and mix until it comes together in a ball. Using a little extra flour roll out the dough until approx 30cm in diameter. Tip the softened onions onto a plate and then transfer the rolled out dough into the frying pan – don’t bother washing it, that little oil left will aid crisping the base. With the pan on a medium heat spread the creme fraiche over the dough almost to the edge, sprinkle over the cooked onion and thyme leaves followed by the bacon. Finally sprinkle over the grated cheese. Carefully check the underside, it should be starting to colour and feel dry. Once you have finished arranging the topping and are happy that the bottom is cooking, slide the tart onto the hot baking sheet and cook in the oven for 10-15 minutes until golden and bubbling. Leave to cool just long enough that you won’t burn yourself then cut into slices or small squares, I can’t tell you how good this is…..