Elizabeth David’s Onion Tart ~ Elizabeth David predated Julia Child by 10 years in introducing the joys of Mediterranean cuisine to Britain ~ this simple tart is a great example!
She introduced exotic new foods like pasta, olive oil, garlic and aubergines to a people gastronomically crippled by years of rationing and bland food. Along with a whole new world of herbs and spices, she brought the romance and sensuality of the Mediterranean countryside to a war weary country. She was a little bit racy (ran off with a married man) ahead of her time, (her recipes still seem perfectly modern today) and tireless (she wrote 8 books, won numerous awards, traveled extensively, and even opened a shop).
I’m making her tarte a l’oignon, or onion tart because I love this kind of classic country cooking that relies on the deliciousness of a few simple ingredients: onions, egg yolks, and cream. This is kind of a proto-quiche…but lighter. It has an authentic air of the French countryside about it. Once mastered, this tart can be reincarnated with other ingredients.
This is Elizabeth’s exact recipe. I have no changes to make, except that the cooking of the onions took me more like 45 minutes. I put them in two pans because I didn’t have a large enough skillet. You want them to caramelize, not steam. I would also say that while this is amazing hot, I don’t think it suffers when it cools down.
Oh, and my tart pan was 10 inch, and it was perfect. I don’t know why she specifies an 8 inch pan, I think that would make the tart too thick. I used Martha Stewart’s No Fail crust
- one crust pastry
- 750g/1½ lb onions
- butter and oil for cooking the onions,
- salt, nutmeg and plenty of freshly ground pepper
- 3 egg yolks
- 150ml/¼ pint thick cream
- For the filling, peel and slice the onions as finely as possible, taking care to discard the fibrous parts at the root of the onions.
- Melt 60g/2oz of butter and a little oil in a heavy frying pan. In this cook the onions, covered, until they are quite soft and pale golden. They must not fry, and they should be stirred from time to time to make sure they are not sticking. They will take about ½ an hour. Season with salt, nutmeg and pepper.
- Stir in the very well beaten yolks and the cream, and leave until the time comes to cook the tart.
- Oil a 20-cm/8-inch tart or flan tin. Roll out your crust as thinly as possible (the great thing about this dish, as also the quiches of Lorraine, is that there should be a lot of creamy filling on very little pastry). Line the tin with the pastry, pressing it gently into position with your knuckle. Pour in the filling, cook in the centre of a fairly hot oven, with the tin standing on a baking sheet, at 200°C/gas 6, for 30 minutes. Serve very hot.
Gas mark 6 is about 400F Recipe from Elizabeth David's At Elizabeth David's Table
Elizabeth considers this a first course…I say, cut yourself a large hunk of it, make a salad, pour some wine, and call it dinner.
For the future, I’m envisioning throwing in some finely chopped ribbons of ham, maybe some fried sage, heirloom tomato slices…