Monday, 13 June 2011

Making a Virtue of Necessity...

Public holidays in Germany can be a challenge for the impulsive cook. All shops except bakeries and travel essentials at stations and airports are closed, meaning you have to either plan ahead, or make do with the contents of your cupboards. Sometimes this can lead to quite satisfactory results.

Today, I had the urge to bake or cook something to serve me as packed lunches for the rest of the week, or failing that, at least a sweet treat. At first, I thought about making cupcakes, but as they don't keep well, I eventually decided on something savoury. Lasagne and other pasta bakes had to be ruled out, as I'm out of cheese, and most other recipes were ruled out for similarly lacking ingredients.

A raid of the fridge and cupboards came up with a pack of low-fat cream cheese (just gone past its sell-by date but still sealed and looking fine when I opened it), 2 eggs and some onions, as well as staples such as milk, butter and flour. After begging a friend for her shortcrust recipe (thanks, Natalie!) and making sure it didn't use egg to bind, I had quickly settled on a simple onion and cream cheese tart. Adding a bit of thyme from my herb pots (a sprig of lemon thyme and a few more of regular thyme) turned it into a very satisfying lunch, and there's plenty left for me to have at work for the rest of the week.

Onion tart with cream cheese and thyme

225g flour
100g cold butter
1/4tsp salt
40-60 ml cold water (just enough to bind)

200g cream cheese (mine had 17% fat)
2 eggs
splash of milk
6 medium onions
fresh thyme (6-8 small sprigs)

  • First, slice the onions and gently fry in a little olive oil on a low heat with a pinch of salt until soft, sweet and lightly browned. Preheat the oven to 200-220°C.
  • For the pastry, sift together the flour and salt into a food processor and add the cold butter in small chunks. Whizz together until it resembles breadcrumbs, then slowly add the water until the dough starts to come together. Roll out the pastry and line a 22-24cm round tin.
  • Once the onions are cooked, turn off the heat. Beat the eggs briefly, then mix well with the cream cheese and enough milk to give a runny consistency like buttermilk. season well with salt and pepper, and mix in the thyme.
  • Fill the uncooked pastry case with the cooked onions and pour over the egg mix.
  • Bake in the middle of the oven for 25-35 minutes, until the filling is set and starting to brown on top.