Introduction

You don’t find this kind of recipe very often! It takes ingredients that we all have in our house and makes them into something unique! It is without a doubt an uncommon and a delicious addition to your pastry repertoire!

Materials

For the pastry
  • 250g plain flour
  • 150g cold unsalted butter, in cubes
  • 1x teaspoon of salt
  • 1x egg yolk
  • 3x tablespoons of milk (any milk is fine)
  • 1x egg, beaten for egg wash
For the onions
  • 500g round/small shallots (approx. 15x shallots), halved horizontally and skin on
  • 60g melted/softened unsalted butter
  • 10g thyme, leaves off the stalk
  • ¼ teaspoon nigella seeds
  • 1x teaspoon of Maldon salt
  • 1x tablespoon of honey
  • Zest of ½ lemon
  • 150ml white wine
  • 150ml vegetable stock (dissolve one cube in 150ml water)
  • Pepper
For the custard
  • 100ml double cream
  • 50ml milk (whole or semi-skimmed)
  • 3x eggs (what is left from the egg wash of the pastry, plus 2x more)
  • 5-10g of chives, thinly chopped
  • 100g gruyère or mature cheddar, grated

Method

Start by preparing the pastry. Add the flour and the butter in a bowl of a mixer and mix using the paddle attachment. Start with low speed for 1min and then mix for 2min at medium speed until fine breadcrumb consistency. Bring down the speed to low, add the egg yolk and mix to incorporate. Then start adding the milk (a tablespoon at a time), until the dough just comes together. Take it out of the mixer, wrap it in cling film and rest it for 1h at room temperature.

Add as much milk as it takes for the dough to come together (usually 1-4 tablespoons). The amount depends on the size of the egg yolk.

In the meantime, pre-heat the oven at 180oC/fan and make the aromatic butter. Add the butter, the thyme leaves, the zest, the honey, the nigella seeds, salt and pepper. Halve the shallots and place them on a small tray (I used a 23cm square one). Arrange the shallots with the largest surface facing upwards. On top of the shallots place a generous amount from the aromatic butter. Finally, from the edge of the tray, pour in (carefully!) the stock and the wine.

Chop the pointy ends of the shallots, to sit perfectly on the tray.

Transfer the shallots to the oven and cook for 1h and 30min. Cover with aluminium foil after 1h. When the shallots are nicely roasted, take them out of the oven and let them cool.

When the resting time for the dough is over, roll it into a circle using a rolling pin with guides at 4mm and transfer it to a greased tart-tin (23cm diameter). Make sure the circle of the dough is big enough to cover the sides of the tin as well. Tuck the dough in the crevices and corners of the tin. You can use some extra dough wrapped in cling film to help you do that. When the dough is well tucked in, cut the extra overflowing dough with a sharp knife. Make fork marks on the dough both the bottom and the sides and refrigerate for 30min.

After the 30min, place ceramic beads (or dried beans) on a baking paper on top of the pastry and bake for 15min. Then remove the beads and egg wash it (with a beaten egg) and bake for another 15min. Finally, take the pastry out of the oven and let it cool down.

Set the oven at 120oC/fan.

When both the pastry case and the shallots are at room temperature, place the grated cheese at the bottom of the pastry case. Then, peel the outer skins from the shallots and place them with the larger surface facing upwards, on top of the cheese.

Both gruyère and cheddar work well. The gruyère is more intense compared to cheddar which has a milder flavour.

In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs, the chives, the double cream and milk and whisk to combine. Pour the mix in-between the shallots trying not to cover their upper surface (but don’t get too stressed about it). Bake for 1h at 120oC/fan until the cream is set.

Discussion

This recipe is adapted from Julie Jones’s book (see references). I replaced the onions, with small shallots and I decreased the milk quantity while keeping the double cream the same.

It is no doubt an elaborate recipe and it will take a bit of time. However, it is unusual and it does work! The sweetness of the shallots together with the saltiness of the cheese and the buttery pastry, makes a unique combination! Try it for something different!

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