Caramelised onion tart: the best of savoury baking

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I have always being torn between the savoury/sweet dichotomy. Down to heart I am a truly savoury person: between a slice of pizza and a piece of cake, 99 out of 100 times I would go for the pizza, and a two course meal, for me, is a starter and a main, no question about it. At the same time, though, sweets dishes are the ones that I enjoy to make the most, the ones that stimulate my imagination and creativity and the ones I like the most to make for people I love to feed. This blog is the “living” proof of that.

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Desserts look prettier, you can play much more with colours, decorations, and if you get something done really well done you can definitely show off more :). And to be fair, since I got pregnant and had my daughter, my sweet tooth seems to have slightly grew in size, and unfortunately not just that….those bloody hormones! Nonetheless, my love affair with savoury cooking, and especially baking is fully on and I am always on the look for recipes that can prove me wrong, that can show me that baking savoury can be as fun and rewarding as baking sweets.

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The closest I have got to it so far is this caramelised onion tart, a pleasure to make and a joy to eat. Flavours are tried and tested, but although I certainly did not invent anything new under the sun, practicing this recipes so many times led me to try slightly new combinations and perfect the flavours. There’s an indecent amount of onion going into this dish, hence a lot of crying and sweating, but, believe me it’s all worthwhile. The goat cheese is extremely important, it should not be gooey and creamy but a bit dry and crumbly to counteract the stickiness of the onions, and, of course, a good bit of pastry is essential: simple but delicious.

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Because of the importance of the cheese, you may wonder why I call it “only” Caramelised Onion Tart. If you have followed previous posts you may be aware that I have decided to go through life with a husband who is intolerant to cheese. And when I say “intolerant” I do not mean at a physiological level but at a logical (or illogical, for someone…) one. You are now probably thinking that he does not like this dish very much, and that’s where you would be wrong: the guy actually adores it, as long as I remove the cheese (can you imagine?!?), and therefore “forces” me to make two versions every times, the cheese-free and the proper one. The pictures posted here are from both versions so I thought it would make more sense to remove the cheese from the name. But please please please, do not remove it from the recipe, unless your marriage is on the line :).

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Recipe:

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For the pastry:
250gr plain flour
150gr butter cut in small cubes
1tsp salt
pinch of caster sugar
1 egg
1tbsp cold milk

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For the onions:
About 6-8 large red onions or double if smaller is size
Balsamic vinegar
Butter
Maple syrup
Salt

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Other ingredients:
Goat cheese like “Chevre Blanc”
Walnuts
Ground pepper

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For the pastry combine the dry ingredients with the butter to get a crumbly mixture. Keep everything as cold as possible, if working it by hands gets it too wart you can use a food processor. Incorporate the egg and the milk and work the dough just enough to bring it together in a smooth homogeneous mix. Roll the pastry to a sheet of a few mm`, line a tart base with it and put it in the fridge to cool down.

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Peel the onions and cut them in thin stripes. In a large frying pan melt 50-60 gr of butter on a low-medium heat and then add 5-6 heaped tablespoons of maple syrup. Raise the heat to high and allow the syrup to caramelise by becoming foamy and bubbly. Add the onions and mix to coat them in the maple caramel. It is important that the pan is not overloaded with onions so that the caramel can coat evenly the onions and that the pan does not cool too much. If the pan is not big enough you can make this in 2-3 batches and the combine once the onions are softened. Cook on a medium high and then medium heat until the onions have completely softened to a sort of jam texture but still retain their structure (it doesn’t need to become a mash). Add a couple of tablespoons of balsamic vinegar (or to taste) and salt. Cook for five more minutes and then remove from the heat and let cool down.

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Blind bake the pastry case at 180°C for about 20-25 minutes, then add the onions, the goat cheese in cubes (the amount of cheese to add really depends on your taste) and sprinkle with walnuts pieces and ground pepper. Place in the oven at 150°C, until the cheese has slightly melted and crisped up on top. Remove from the oven and serve warm but not hot.

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