As a child in Yorkshire we seemed to go to a lot of point-to-points. I’m not sure why but it was definitely a feature of the winter months. Parked in a field somewhere, there were always other children I knew to muck about with and best of all, the row upon row of open car boots which signalled the picnics, an obvious highlight. Always hot sausages wrapped in a tinfoil parcel, soup of some description and of course the quiche. My mother made a cracking quiche which was transported from the Aga into the back of the car so as to be still warm for lunch. Crisp pastry, wobbly creamy custard and salty bacon, lovely.
Fast forward a couple of decades and maddeningly my children are not so keen on the old quiche, too much wobbly stuff in the middle apparently. What they are mad about however is this onion tart, probably because it is very much an onion tart as opposed to an onion quiche. I’m not sure it could hold its head up in the South of France as a pissaladiere but it is along those lines. Slow cooked melting onions with salty savoury anchovies on crisp pastry. Add black olives if you like, I sometimes do and sometimes don’t but I insist on the criss crossed anchovies even if it seems a little dated and similar may well have graced a 1970’s cooking article.
So, this is a tart I make all the time, whatever the weather. It comes into play for lunch with a big salad, it has been on picnics (though no point-to-points yet) and has even made a star turn as a vegetarian main. Where I find it most useful though is cut into small squares and served before lunch or supper – let me tell you, it goes down a storm.
I served this recently before Sunday lunch and couldn’t believe the speed with which all the children hoovered it up, seeking out the bits with the most anchovy which surprised me. It may be one of the easiest warm canapés to serve with drinks too as you can make it ahead and then cook it just prior to serving – I promise your guests will love it.
As my family love the saltiness of the anchovies I boost this flavour by spreading a thin layer of anchovy paste on the pastry before putting the onions on top. This addition is of course entirely up to you, the tart is delicious without it. Either make your own pastry using a 200g flour to 100g fat ratio, or use ready made – half a 500g pack is about right.
2 large onions, or 4-5 normal size ones, chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
1 egg, well beaten
2 tablespoons creme fraiche (or double cream if that is all you have)
250g (approx) shortcrust pastry, see introduction
Anchovy paste, optional, see introduction.
Preheat the oven to 200 and put a baking tray in the oven to heat up, this is to put the tart in its tin onto – the immediate heat will crisp the base. Melt the butter with the oil in a medium size pan, add the chopped onions and the salt and cook gently until soft but not coloured which will take about half an hour. Meanwhile roll out the pastry thinly and line a tin, around 18x30cm and put this into the fridge. When the onions are a soft sludge put them into a bowl to cool for 10 minutes then mix in the egg and creme fraiche along with some black pepper. If you are going to use the anchovy paste now is the time to spread a thin layer over the pastry then pour the onion mixture onto the pastry, level the surface and put in the oven (on the preheated baking tray) for 20 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes in the tin before carefully tipping onto a board and cutting up. Makes about 24 small squares but really this is up to you.