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

Elizabeth David 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).

Today 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

Elizabeth David's simple Onion Tart

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…

Elizabeth David's elegant Onion Tart
4.34 from 9 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 American
Yield 10 servings
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
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
    September 10, 2011 at 1:27 am

    Once again you hook me with the soft focus glimmering wine glass in the background- wish i could be sharing this meal with you!

  • Reply
    September 9, 2011 at 5:45 pm

    this looks so elegant! I agree…huge slab, wine and a crisp salad…magnifique! 🙂

  • Reply
    September 10, 2011 at 12:18 am

    …ribbons of ham…fried sage…holy cow, woman- my heart just fluttered. While I do love the sound and look of this tart as-is, I think that your ideas sound like perfection!

  • Reply
    September 9, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    5 stars
    Oh my! Your pics are incredible, oh I’m making this too and I’m going to call it ‘proto quiche” I love that term!

  • Reply
    Gerlinde in Dallas
    September 9, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    What a delicious looking tart.. and lovely photos!

  • Reply
    September 9, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    Oh my, this looks so indulgent, but so delicious! Love all your gorgeous photos to highlight this simple, elegant dish in honor of Elizabeth David.

    • Reply
      May 18, 2020 at 1:02 am

      5 stars
      I remember the addition of 2 ozs of emmental or gruyere cheese in my Elizabeth David recipe…oh and soured cream

  • Reply
    Susan Lindquist
    September 9, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    Oh man! I am making this tart this week … I saw this recipe on one of the sites I used to investigate ED. You beat me to it, though, as a post. You rascal!

  • Reply
    September 9, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    This tart looks amazing. I can imagine Elizabeth measuring and baking in her kitchen. She certainly led a spicy life both in and out of the kitchen.

  • Reply
    September 9, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    I agree with you, I would cut a big slice and serve with salad and wine. Mmm, looks so yummy!

  • Reply
    September 9, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    I think the racy part surprised me the most. What a life she led!
    The onion tart looks wonderful!

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