Lunches are never easy. You open the fridge and hope something jumps out dancing the salsa, shaking the tubs of parmesan and olives like maracas. After A YEAR of this Covid madness and, I repeat, A YEAR, I decided to bake a caramelised onion and feta galette which I had been threatening to do for a while, then had difficulty photographing it because it blended into the wooden work surface. Which got me thinking.
When you’re four years old, all your favourite foods create a patchwork of various shades of beige. It is so far from eating the rainbow, it is more like eating the earth. Without the health benefits.
On your plate you may have some fish fingers, chips, or those wonderful potato smiley faces which still hold a treasured place in my heart. Instead of fish fingers, you might prefer chicken nuggets and maybe some mashed potato, and then you round off the meal with a cookie. Your ever-patient parents despair as you wrinkle your nose at broccoli and sprouts but it’s so hard to explain: Mum, Dad, they simply don’t match my colour scheme!
I’d like to tell you we grow out of this weird food fad, but suffice to say I still enjoy a variety of beige foods. They come in a much broader range these days, which is encouraging for my palate and diet, but we can’t deny that cake, pastries, sandwiches, pizza, pasta – anything carby and comforting – are all beige. There is nothing wrong with this, of course, it’s just when you come to photographing your food (as one does) a plate of one colour is less aesthetically pleasing than one of vibrancy. Time and time again, if I’m taking pictures of cookies or roasted cauliflower, there’s that photographic battle between me and the meal.
Another of those delicious beige items is this caramelised onion and feta galette.
My family are not fussy. We can sit down to an anchovy-strewn salad full of pungent flavours like capers and paper-thin garlic slices, or a thick turkey soup, or mushroom and haggis pie which my dad tried for Burn’s Night. Everything is devoured and serving bowls are licked clean. But we still like foods in shades of beige. Cake will always go down well. And if we are including the galette in that category, as an addition it was a hit.
Galettes are freeform rustic tarts; there is no tin to line, no hairline cracks to seal. They are messy and imprecise and everyone loves them for it. They are proud of being themselves in a world full of flans and quiches. We should all aspire to be like a galette.
The pastry is a simple flaky pastry mixed with sour cream or yoghurt – yes, you read that correctly – which creates a light, surprisingly crisp texture, on to which I spread thick whipped feta and topped with caramelised onions and thyme. (Here, I must add a warning – fill your galette on the baking tray. Dear reader, make your life easier and learn from my mistakes.)
It bronzed in the oven, like a sunbather on a lounger, the egg-washed pastry darkening to gold, while the onions sizzled merrily. The salty tang of feta cream complemented the onions’ sweetness, and that lovely flaky pastry was crisp without a soggy bottom in sight. I served it with a bitter leaf salad, garnished with slivered radishes and pine nuts to off-set all that sweet richness.
After all, beige foods aren’t bad. They can just be a little frustrating to photograph. Not that four-year-old me would have really minded.
Caramelised Onion and Whipped Feta Galette
Adapted from A Beautiful Plate’s recipe
- 150g plain flour
- ½ tsp salt
- 115g cold unsalted butter, cubed
- 60g Greek yoghurt + 75g for the whipped feta cream
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 60ml cold water
- Two large onions – roughly 300g
- 30g butter
- 2 tsp dried thyme + 1 tsp extra for assembling
- 2 tbsp soft brown sugar
- 30ml balsamic vinegar
- 100g feta
- 1 egg
- In a bowl, mix together the flour and salt then add the butter and toss all together. Tip it into the food processor and pulse into rough flaky pieces and powdery yellow crumbs. Chuck it all back in the bowl and make a well in the centre.
- In a small bowl or jug, whisk together the 60g yoghurt, lemon juice and cold water and pour it into the dry ingredients. Stir it all together until it creates a rough dough. Tip it on the work surface and quickly bring it together, incorporating all the flour and crumbs until it’s all combined. Flatten it into a disc and wrap in cling film, then chill in the fridge for at least an hour.
- Peel and finely slice the onions either into strips or rings. Melt the 30g butter and once it’s sizzling add the onions. Stir it all together to coat the slices in the butter, then cover with a cartouche – a circle of greaseproof paper which you scrunch up then flatten. Make sure the cartouche is touching the onions and sealing in all the moisture. Lower the heat completely and leave to sweat for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the whipped feta. Crumble up the feta and either put it in the food processor or in a bowl. Add the 75g Greek yoghurt and whip in the food processor or using a hand-held electric whisk. When all combined, thick and creamy, taste a little and season with a squeeze of lemon juice.
- Remove the cartouche from the onions and stir. They should have produced a lot of water, and should be soft and a bit sweet. Season with sea salt and the 2 tsp dried thyme, then return the cartouche on top and sweat for another 5 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/395F and wash up!
- Add the sugar to the onions and stir together. Increase the heat and the liquid in the pan will boil. Stir regularly to stop the onions from burning. When the liquid begins to reduce, add the balsamic. Mix everything together and keep cooking until all the liquid has evaporated and onions are looking dark and caramelised. It should take 5 to 10 minutes. When they are ready, pour them onto a plate and spread them out so they can cool quickly. Don’t take your pastry out the fridge until your onions are cool enough to handle otherwise they will melt the pastry.
- Line a baking tray with baking parchment and sprinkle some flour on the work surface. Beat the egg for your egg-wash. Roll out your pastry into a rough circle, to the thinness of a £1 coin, then place it on the tray – some of the pastry will hang off the edge.
- Spread the whipped feta in a circle in the middle, leaving a border of 3-4cm around the edge. Top the feta with the cooled caramelised onions and sprinkle with the remaining tsp of thyme. Fold the pastry border over the onions in sections so that it folds and overlaps. Brush the pastry with egg wash and slide the tray into the oven to bake for 30-40 minutes, until the edges are golden brown and the onions are sizzling.