Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Cheesey Caramelised Onion Tartlet

I don't often feel like cooking when the OH is away, cooking for one seems frivolous.  But..... I needed to use up some bits and pieces that have been lurking in the freezer, and one of these was some spare shortcrust pastry that I had used to make my world famous Cow Pie.

Caramelised onion tarty dishes are quite common place, but I remember the days when you could gauge the standard of a pub or restaurant by its menu, and the classier establishments would include one in some form or other. Quite commonly, it's coupled with goat's cheese, as the two flavours compliment each other very nicely.

I was shocked at how easy it is to make the onion part, and now understand why you can find it everywhere, including at least one weekly appearance on cookery competitions, or so it seems.

I decided to use cheddar, as it was the only cheese in the house. It's quite a nice, crumbly mature Welsh cheddar, and I was hoping that the strong cheese flavour would combine with the sweet and sour onion taste.

For this recipe, I used:

For the base:
Shortcrust pastry - I had some leftover from another cooking session, but you can easily find a recipe. It's basically plain flour, hard fat (butter, marge, lard or a combination) and ice cold water. If you have warm hands, it's advisable to cool them under a running cold water tap before making.

For the caramelised onion:
A small amount of butter - I used a teaspoon worth
1 tiny red onion - I was making just the one!
About ½ dessert spoon of demerara sugar
About 2 dessert spoons of balsamic vinegar

For the topping:
Cheese - I thinly sliced mine, similar to shaved parmesan
2 baby plum tomatoes, chopped (optional)

I pre-heated my oven to 190°C - it's fan assisted, so will be cooler than a normal gas oven; I would suggest 200°C. I am reliably informed that this is Gas Mark 6.

I rolled out my pastry, which had been left to defrost/chill in the fridge. I did attempt to shape it so that it was a proper case, but I don't own any tartlet trays, and I blind baked on a baking tray, so it flopped. You might be better equipped than me!

I placed some baking beans into the centre of my case (as it was still at that point....), and blind baked for 15 minutes. This is to prevent the tart from having a soggy bottom, so's to speak.

Whilst the pastry was baking, I made the caramelised onion part.

Firstly, I heated a small amount of butter in a pan at a medium heat; I use butter for the taste, and also because it requires a lower heat. The aim is to caramelise, not to burn, or fry the onion.

Add the onion, which should be thinly sliced. Make sure that you coat as much as you can with the butter, and then leave to soften, occasionally stirring or shaking.

Once softened, add the sugar, and stir.

When the sugar has melted, add the balsamic vinegar, and leave on the heat until the mixture starts to go sticky.

By this point, the pastry base should be ready. Remove from the oven, turn off the heat on the caramelised onion, and leave to cool for about 10 minutes. If you're tight, like me, you can also turn off the oven! I leave it to cool, as when I've made this using puff pastry, it is easier to prep.

Once cooled, top the base with the caramelised onion, and then the cheese, and then the tomatoes (if you wish).

Bake in an oven pre-heated to the same temperature as before.

Remove and serve warm; I had mine with some rocket (the only green salad I can eat) and a slice of Parma ham. I would say it was a total success, but then again I would!

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