Charred Onion and Swiss Cheese Tart from Delia Smith
East Anglia is not a place for gentle breezes, what you get here are mega-strong winds. Normally I quite enjoy the high drama of the lashing winds (or rather the sound of them), but on Sunday it was slightly different. I had settled in for a relaxing glass or two of wine and was just getting stuck into the Sunday papers when I happened to glance up and – shock horror – our adolescent apple tree, loaded with the choicest Bramleys, just keeled over in one particularly strong gust! No such thing as a relaxing day in the country, then. We leapt into action, called our gardener, Richard, and started picking as many of the doomed apples as we could.
It is hard to conceive how heavy even a youngish tree can be, but with the help of Richard’s truck and a harness we eventually got the tree into an upright position and staked really firmly. Some of the roots had remained intact so we will have to wait and see if they are sufficient to bring the patient round – a wee prayer that our little tree is saved is called for.
At least the apples from it are now safely stored in the apple storer, and I understand absolutely the 16th-century East Anglian farmer, Thomas Tusser’s words: ‘September blow soft till the fruit’s in the loft’! One harvest that is well stored, if not actually in a loft, are our onions – white, red and shallots – making a proud show drying off in the greenhouse. The sight of them inspired me to make up a variation on my traditional onion tart, using Swiss cheese (Gruyere in this instance). We served it with a plentiful amount of tomato salad tossed with an equally plentiful amount of basil.
For the pastry:
4 oz (110 g) self-raising flour
2 oz (50 g) butter
A pinch of salt
1 oz (25 g) grated parmesan cheese
For the filling:
8 oz (225 g) onions, sliced
1 teaspoon butter
1 teaspoon oil
4 oz (110 g) Swiss cheese, grated
8 fl oz (225 ml) single cream
2 large eggs
salt and freshly milled black pepper
You will also need a 7½-inch (19 cm) flan tin, greased.
To make up the pastry: sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl, sprinkle in the parmesan then rub the butter in until the mixture becomes crumbly. Then add enough cold water to make a dough that leaves the bowl clean. Place the dough in a polythene bag and leave it to rest in the fridge for half an hour or so.
In the meantime, melt the butter and oil in a frying-pan, add the sliced onion and cook over a highish heat, stirring now and then, for about 15 minutes until the slices have softened and charred round the edges. Then roll out the pastry to line the flan tin, prick the base with a fork and bake in the centre of the oven for 15 minutes.
Beat up the eggs (for the filling) and use a little of it to brush the inside of the pastry case, then return it to the oven for a further five minutes. Now spread half the grated cheese over the base of the flan followed by the charred onions. Spread the rest of the cheese over, whisk the beaten egg with the cream and some seasoning and pour over the top.
Return the tart to the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, until the filling is puffed up and golden brown. Then remove it from the oven and allow it to settle for about 10 minutes before serving.