It’s that time of year again – the cork is permanently out of the sherry bottle, the old biscuit tin of mince pies is at varying stages of full and the string around the edge of the sitting room is overflowing with Christmas cards.
As the child of parents who are serial dinner party hosts – Christmas time being particularly lively of course – I am probably most at home when my house is filled with people. I love the sound of clinking glasses, people chattering and laughing together, and the delicious smells that waft from a kitchen about to serve somewhat tipsy guests.
As the ‘chef’ of our house Dad would always be in the kitchen when people arrived – pulling out various trays of roast meat, invariably spilling hot fat on a specially ironed shirt, and always somewhere towards the end of a bottle of red wine. Waves of guests would steadily make their way to the kitchen and say hello, sneak a look at what he was cooking and end up like hot sardines drinking merrily in our little cottage kitchen, while he dished up around them. Mum would set the table with her majestic orange tablecloth, always squeezing on another place setting and getting a spare chair for whoever it was that’d just ‘dropped in’ to say hi – the more the merrier!
Of course Christmas dinner parties in Australia are not the roaring fire, dark-at-4 o’clock-in-the-afternoon, wet boot affair of home. Instead, they are hot beachy barefoot events punctuated by COLD beer and and long summer nights. Weird, still, after 10 years living here! This delicious little onion tartlet recipe, however, bridges that Northern/Southern hemisphere gap and is an ideal dinner party main course whatever the weather, wherever you are! The real beauty of this dish though, is that if there is a vegetarian among your guests you don’t have to prepare two dishes. Simply don’t serve them the roast chicken and gravy. Maybe give them a bit of extra salad instead – if you like them! Of course if you do happen to get that extra person just ‘drop in’ they may be out of luck…
Prep time: 1 hour
Makes: 4 tartlets
1 sheet frozen shortcrust pastry
40g shaved/grated Parmesan
4 large brown onions
4tbsp olive oil
4tbsp malt vinegar
2 tsp sugar
4 tbsp water
salt and pepper
oil for frying
If you are cooking this WITH the chicken and gravy, the tarts are best cooked the day before or at the very latest the morning of dinner party. This will ensure that you only need to focus on roasting the chicken and making gravy.
Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
Place your non-stick tart tins on the square of pastry, and leaving about 1cm around the edge of each tart tin, cut out four equal circles. Flip them over and press the pastry lightly down into the tin, before trimming the edges to just above the tin lip (the pastry shrinks during baking).
Once you have done this, place a layer of baking paper on top of the pastry and fill with pie weights. Place in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until the pastry is golden. Once cooked, remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
To make the caramelised onions, halve and thinly slice 4 large brown onions. In a heavy based saucepan heat a good glug of olive oil over a medium heat and sweat the onion slices until softened before adding to the pan the vinegar, sugar and water. Continue to cook the onions until all the liquid has reduced and the onions become gold and sticky. Season to taste.
When you are ready to compose the tarts, first layer in 10 grams of either grated or shaved Parmesan followed by the onions. Garnish with fresh thyme before placing in a low oven to warm before serving.
Feta would make a lovely replacement for the Parmesan.
A leftover roast beef layer beneath the onions
Oak or butter lettuce leaves with a light vinaigrette if you where you live is hot.
If you’re in the Northern hemisphere, serve alongside baby tomatoes roasted on the truss, or my Winter prune, carrot and almond salad.