Tuesday, 31 December 2013

an onion tart for a party

Happy New Year! I hope the new year brings all what you are hoping for.

Hogmanay (the New Year's celebration) is really big in Scotland. The Scots are really good at putting up a great party and we have been to a few memorable ones (in a good way). This year is a bit different: we went to an afternoon Hogmanay party. I am relieved that we are not going to an evening party, I feel quite exhausted and run down just now. The party started at 2pm and I had a lovely time meeting new people and chatting to friends. The kids had a great time, too.

The party gave me the perfect excuse to make my favourite party food, an onion tart. I make one whenever I have the opportunity. Traditionally, in Bern (the capital city of Switzerland), onion tart is eaten on the 4th Monday in November or thereabouts. I grew up in a little village a few miles west of Bern in case you are wondering. It is the day of the Zibelemärit, the annual onion market, which is event that I remember fondly from my teenage years. Not so much for the onions but for the fun fair aspects of the market, and the mulled wine that is sold all over town. Farmers bring unbelievable amounts of onion to market, and garlic, too. Often the onions are braided or presented in other beautiful ways. There is plenty of tat and loads of confetti and die hard afficionados would get into town for 5 am. I have never been too sure why as the only produce to be sold is onions and onions are just onions really. It is not entirely clear where this tradition originates, it may be a celebration at the tail end of the St Martin's festival, another important calendar date in many parts of Switzerland and Germany. Others suggest that the tradition dates back to the middle ages, when the city of Fribourg was awarded the right to sell onions in Bern, a right awarded for the assistance Fribourg had given Bern after a fire destroyed the city in 1405. I have not actually done any research on the topic but it is fun day and maybe that's good enough.

I make this onion tart all year round and here is how I make it. For a tart tin of about 26 cm I finely slice 750 g of onions.

The onions are slowly cooked in a large mount of butter over a low heat until they just start to brown.

I don't leave the kitchen whilst I am doing this because the tart does not quite taste the same with brown onions. It is a good opportunity to listen to the radio undisturbed: the onion smell is quite pungent and will keep little ones out for a wee while. The tart tin is lined with pastry. I like short crust pastry but flaky pastry or shortcrust pastry is good, too.

I don't know why I poke holes in the bottom of the tin, it is something that I have always done. There is no need to blind bake the pastry by the way. All that is left now is to prepare a creamy egg mixture with 100 ml cream, 100 ml milk and one egg. I like to season this with salt and pepper and nutmeg.
Once to onions are ready and have cooled down a little they are mixed with the creamy goodness and spread evenly in the pastry lined tin. Bake this immediately for about 25 minutes in the bottom half of a hot oven (250 degrees centigrade). Voila!

This particular tart was vegetarian but if you have any bacon in your fridge, it adds a most delicious flavour to the tart.

I suppose a bit of end of year reflection would be appropriate at this point but I am not quite in the mood and we are watching Mrs Browns boys on the BBC iplayer, which is not the best background for reflection. I shall postpone this to a later point.

In the meantime, I am curious how you celebrate New Year's Eve this year?



  1. This is a fascinating post. I did not know about the onion tart, but it sounds like an interesting thing to eat, and I'd like to try it. I of course did not know you were Swiss, but that's interesting to know about too. We have some friends who spent a lot of time in Switzerland for his work and they gave our son a bib with a special type of dragon embroidered on it when was born; I guess this dragon is a traditional folklore character? I don't know the full story. We did not use the bib for eating, it was too nice, so it's been put away in my sock drawer for years. And there's my random story done for the day. :)

    1. Thanks for stopping by Jennifer. I am Swiss and Italian, but have been living in Scotland since 1998. Maybe I should add this to my profile information. I am not familiar with a dragon folklore character but Swiss folklore is not my strength (I resort to Dr Google or a book that my grandfather gave me a long time ago). Cx

  2. I know I'm a bit late to comment but I really enjoyed reading this with the background and the recipe - I would love this tart , I love onions! I'm not a fan of Mrs Brown's boys but have seen it, definitely not conducive to quiet reflective thoughts!