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!
Today I’m making Elizabeth David’s 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, in this case: onions, egg yolks, and cream. It’s a 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.
Elizabeth David is famous for reinvigorating post war British cuisine. 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).
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.
Elizabeth was caramelizing onions before it became a ‘thing”. A whole 1 1/2 pounds go into this tart, but they cook down considerably as they lose their moisture and take on amazing flavor.
My tart pan was 10-inch, and it was perfect. I don’t know why Elizabeth specifies an 8-inch pan, I think that would make the tart too thick. Fyi I used Martha Stewart’s No Fail crust.
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…
I would also say that while this is amazing hot, I don’t think it suffers when it cools down.
we love quiches, tarts, and savory pies
- Quiche Lorraine
- Eggs Benedict Quiche with Hollandaise Sauce
- Mushroom & Boursin Puff Pastry Tart
- Sweet Onion Puff Pastry Tart
- Blue Ribbon Zucchini Pie
- Classic New England Fish Pie Recipe
Elizabeth David’s Onion Tart
- 1 pastry dough
- 1 1/2 pounds sweet onions
- 1/4 cup butter, for cooking the onions
- 1 tsp oil , for cooking the onions
- salt and fresh black pepper, to taste
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg, or to taste
- 3 egg yolks
- 1/2 cup heavy 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 butter and oil in a heavy frying pan over medium heat. 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.
- Heat oven to 400°F. /gas 6
- Oil a 20-cm/8-inch tart or flan tin. Roll out your crust as thinly as possible (for this dish, 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, then set the tart pan on a baking sheet.Cook on the center rack of oven for 30 minutes. Serve very hot.
Questions and Reviews
Years ago I had a recipe of Mrs David’s for an onion tart using mashed potato instead of pastry am I imagining this?
I don’t know, sounds interesting…I’ll have to look that up!
Hi – I made this recipe last night. The onion filling was delicious but it was so soggy – loads of onion juice at the bottom of the flan tin and it made the bottom of the pastry completely wet. Any ideas why this happened? The only thing we did differently to the recipe was use cream we had frozen (we defrosted it and whisked in with other ingredients). Any ideas would be much appreciated!
It is possible that the cream was the issue Alice, I’ve never used frozen cream before. Also, you have to really cook those onions down well, they release a ton of moisture. If yours were not cooked thoroughly they may have retained extra moisture that made the crust soggy.
The crust on this is gorgeous – looks so yummy 🙂
Looks wonderful! Cant’ wait to try it. I’m surprised the onions aren’t caramalized even more–like for French onion soup. Ham and sage would be a terrific additions.
I am hungry again. LOL