Monday, June 21, 2010
I'm not sure how many of you look forward to Saturdays for the same reasons I do. You see, Saturdays are market days. They're bustling with basket wielding, trolley pushing folk, searching for the freshest and cheapest produce. On the other side of the stalls are the producers - ready to talk about their wares and the best ways to use them. They are beekeepers, market gardeners, charcutiers, hobby farmers, bakers, and wine and cheesemakers.
Cheese is a definite weakness for me. Rich, sticky triple cream brie, a sturdy Gouda, an amber hued Leicester and a smooth and creamy Chevre L Ail make a cheese board fit for royalty. The weekend markets are teaming with fresh products to pair with cheese. Homemade relishes, fresh and dried figs, raw honey, cured meats, crusty bubbly sour dough and crisp pears. One thing I haven't found at the markets is a worthy pastry item to serve alongside the award winning cheeses from the local cheese makers - Witches Chase Cheese Co. Until last night...
Last night when the kitchen, and surrounding neighbourhood were taken hostage by the sweet heady aroma of sweet onions and the fennel seeds which remind me of proper Middle Eastern curries.
Now I want fennel seeds in my caramelised onions all the time, and I'll stamp my feet if I don't get them! *Ahem*, so... moving on (and behaving like an adult now), I used a simple pizza dough for the base, but you could easily use a butter puff pastry sheet. Which I will definitely do next time. There aren't many things that aren't made better by adding puff pastry. And watch the temperature of your oven - I turned it up for the pizza base, but should have reduced it a bit after the first few minutes. Those onions laden with natural sugars developed over 5 hours of slow cooking are prone to pushing past the point of caramelisation very quickly.
Caramelised Onion and Fennel Seed Tart
2 sheets butter puff pastry, or enough pizza dough for 2 pizzas
6 large brown or spanish (or both) onion, sliced finely
2 tsp whole fennel seeds
60ml olive oil
4 tabs wholegrain mustard
1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
Over a medium heat, melt the butter with the olive oil and toast the fennel seeds until they change colour slightly. Add the sliced onions and reduce heat to the lowest setting. I cooked these for almost 5 hours because I never wanted that smell to end (4 hours with the lid on), but about an hour with the lid off will work as well. They should be very soft and an even pale brown colour. I had to taste about 8 times just to make sure they were right. ;o)
Over the base, spread the mustard evenly, then the cooled onions, and top with the grated cheese. From here you'll need to follow the directions for the base - but watch them after the first 10 minutes and adjust temperature to prevent them from burning.
Please make these onions - even if it doesn't make it to the tart stage. I could have eaten all of this just on its own, and almost did. Jar it up, freeze it, schmear it on sour dough or spoon it on some cheese. So good.