Elizabeth David’s Onion Tart

Elizabeth David's elegant Onion Tart

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!

Elizabeth David's elegant Onion Tart

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.

Elizabeth David's simple Onion Tart

we love quiches, tarts, and savory pies

Elizabeth David's elegant Onion Tart
4.60 from 15 votes

Elizabeth David’s Onion Tart

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!
Course lunch
Cuisine British
Yield 10 servings
Calories 176kcal
Author Sue Moran


  • one crust pastry


  • 750 grams (1½ lb) onions
  • butter and oil for cooking the onions
  • salt, nutmeg and plenty of freshly ground pepper
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 150 ml (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 400F/gas 6, for 30 minutes. Serve very hot.

Cook’s notes

Recipe from Elizabeth David’s At Elizabeth David’s Table


Calories: 176kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 75mg | Sodium: 79mg | Potassium: 146mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 301IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 37mg | Iron: 1mg
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although theviewfromgreatisland.com tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.

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  • Reply
    May 3, 2020 at 1:06 am

    5 stars
    Years ago I had a recipe of Mrs David’s for an onion tart using mashed potato instead of pastry am I imagining this?

    • Reply
      May 3, 2020 at 7:08 am

      I don’t know, sounds interesting…I’ll have to look that up!

  • Reply
    June 4, 2019 at 3:48 am

    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!

    • Reply
      June 4, 2019 at 8:50 am

      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.

  • Reply
    Taryn (Have Kitchen, Will Feed)
    September 11, 2011 at 2:44 am

    The crust on this is gorgeous – looks so yummy 🙂

  • Reply
    Linda A. Thompson
    September 10, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    5 stars
    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.

  • Reply
    September 10, 2011 at 6:25 am

    5 stars
    I am hungry again. LOL

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