This is such a simple tart but it really blows your socks off with its deliciousness, made with just four main ingredients (and that’s counting the thyme).
Although I always make my own sweet tart pastry and shortcrust I just don’t have the the time or inclination to make puff pastry and I really admire those who do go the extra mile and make the effort. I have looked longingly at recipes with photographs of the multilayered folds of soft dough, always telling myself ‘next time..’ but I have never got round to making it, except once about forty years ago in Home Economics class. I don’t think that counts really, although it does remind me of my Home Economics teacher, Mrs Bowker. I never knew her first name as the school was quite a strict girls’ grammar school where formality was the code.
This was the era of heels being measured with a ruler as girls waited in line to enter the dining hall at dinner time, anything over an inch was absolutely not allowed. Hair longer than shoulder length had to be tied back with navy or black ribbon, no jewellery whatsoever could be worn and a brown or black purse was required to be carried on a strap across the body. Navy blue PE knickers were not optional, striped burgundy ties had to be pulled up to the top of the always buttoned up shirt and if anyone was caught outside of the school gates not wearing a blazer or their beret it was a certain trip to see the Headmistress.
The formidable Headmistress, a small mouse-like grey haired lady called Miss Thompson, and her severe looking deputy Miss Page (think Wallis Simpson) were austere, stern figures who dressed like Miss Marple in dark tweed suits, lisle stockings and sensible brogues. Mrs Bowker was of a softer, more approachable disposition and although never my form teacher she was the one I always turned to if I had a problem or felt unwell. She was always very kind to me and I strived hard to please her with my attempts at cooking, I remember bursting into to tears once (I still do this quite a lot) when I realised I had left the flour at home for the cake I was going to make in the lesson.
As a shy fourteen year old I won the school prize for Home Economics, something that I completely forgot about until thirty years later when I became a baker, leaving many other careers behind me. As well as painstakingly hand painting a menu with yellow primroses for reasons I can’t remember, for my ‘O’ level Home Economics exam I made a Pissaladière, an anchovy and onion tart that is at a push on the same lines as this so I shall dedicate this post to Mrs Bowker.
It’s one of those tarts that anyone can make their own. Anchovies and olives would be good, feta works, a few halved cherry tomatoes, roasted red peppers and anything else you fancy. I was going to use up some brie I had already in the fridge but Michael very graciously popped into Waitrose on his way home and bought a piece of Taleggio. In my opinion this cheese pips all the others at the post on a hot tart. It melts wonderfully and being quite strong in flavour does not get overwhelmed by the sweetness of the onions. The trick to getting the the tart so sweet is to cook the onions for at least 30mins on a low heat. They do not need to take on any colour, just to sweat down nicely into a translucent pile of creamy lusciousness. Red onions will work fine too.
I cooked the onions in the morning and left them to cool (hot ingredients and raw pastry don’t mix), took the pastry out of the freezer to thaw and went out for the rest of the day. Usually I buy the all-butter puff pastry now available in supermarkets but I bought a few rolls of ready-rolled Jus-Rol normal puff for the freezer as it was on a super special offer. It takes a couple of hours to defrost, making it so handy for tarts or pie tops.
Supper entailed the not very onerous task of putting the onions on the pastry, tearing up a bit of cheese and throwing on some sprigs of thyme. Served with a simple green salad with some sliced advocado it was divine. An extremely relaxing, no stress supper. The best bit is there was enough left over for my lunch today which I am going to eat with a dollop of the Easiest Ever Oven Baked Apricot Chutney that I made the other day. If there is any left.
As a final thought, if anyone out there remembers Mrs Bowker from Ilford County High School for Girls, I would love to hear from you.
- 3 large onions, thinly sliced
- 100g Taleggio cheese
- 320g pack rolled puff pastry
- A few springs of thyme
- Butter and oilve oil for cooking
- Put a splash of olive oil and a knob of butter into a large frying.
- Gently fry the onions on a low heat until soft and translucent, at least 30 mins.
- Leave to cool.
- Turn on the oven to 180C (fan).
- Line a baking sheet with baking paper and lay the pastry sheet on the top. Using a sharp knife, score a line about a centimetre in from the edge of the pastry.
- Brush the edge with some of the oil from the onion pan.
- Put the onions on top and spread out to inside the score marks. Roughly cut up the Taleggio into walnut size pieces and space evenly over the onions.
- Tear the springs of thyme and sprinkle over the top.
- Cook for about 30 mins until pastry is golden and the cheese and bubbling and starting to brown.