Legend has it that the Tarte Tatin was first created in the 1880s by accident at the Hotel Tatin in Lamotte-Beuvron, France, about 100 miles South of Paris. The hotel was run by two sisters, Stéphanie and Caroline Tatin. It is said that Stéphanie was overworked one day, when she started to make a traditional apple pie but left the apples cooking in butter and sugar for too long. On smelling the burning, she tried to rescue the dish by putting the pastry base over the apples and finishing the cooking by putting the whole pan in the oven. She turned out the upside down tart and was surprised to find how much the hotel guests appreciated the dessert. This Red Onion Tart Tatin is a savoury variation on the theme; the onions are caramelised in the same way and it has a delicious sweetness to it…
For the pastry:
- 125g plain wholemeal flour
- 50g soft butter
- 2-3 tbsp cold water
- 5-6 medium/large red onions
- 1 tbsp vegan margarine
- 1 tsp muscovado sugar
- 5-6 thyme sprigs
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
You will need a frying pan that you can put in the oven, ideally a cast iron pan with a removable wooden handle.
- First make the pastry: mix the margarine and flour to form breadcrumbs then add the water sparingly to make a pastry that just holds together and is not too crumbly. Don’t overdo it with the water or handle the pastry too much or it will come out like wood.
- Put it in a plastic bag and rest it in the fridge while you prepare the onions.
- Peel and cut the onions into quarters lengthwise – try and keep the quarter pieces whole.
- Place a large heavy frying pan over a medium heat and add the margarine, sugar and vinegar, give it a good stir while it caramelizes then throw in some of the stripped thyme leaves (keep back a few whole sprigs).
- Arrange the onions on the base of the pan, cut side down, jigsaw puzzle-style. Fill in any gaps with smaller pieces until you can’t see any gaps. Remember what you see when you turn the tart out is the cut side of the onions – like an upside-down cake!
- Seasoning with salt and black pepper, then scatter over the whole sprigs of thyme.
- Reduce the heat, cover and cook gently for at least 30-40 minutes until the onions are soft.
- Remove the cover and let some of the juices evaporate for 10 minutes or so. You want some moisture but it’s best not to have the onions swimming in juice!
- Roll out the pastry to a circle just a bit bigger than the pan. Place the pastry over the onions and tuck the edges down between the onions and inside of the pan.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes in the oven at 180°C.
- When the tart is cooked, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool for 20 minutes before turning it out.
- To turn it out, place a flat plate over the pan then flip it over protecting your hands with a tea cloth. It should just drop out onto the plate!
- Serve with new potatoes and a big green leafy salad.