Onion Charlotte

Onion Charlotte

In the great pantheon of cookery ingredients, onions tend to get a bit of a raw deal, in my opinion.

Although they are fundamental to the development of flavour in a multitude of savoury casseroles, stews, soups, pies and salads, they are rarely celebrated with starring roles and are usually relegated to the sidelines: always the bridesmaid, never the bride.

This recipe puts onions front and centre – or rather quite the opposite – as a creamy, onion filling is wrapped in a golden, bread casing.

Normally viewed as a pudding dish, there’s no reason why the distinctive features of a fruit charlotte, namely the hot flavourful filling and crisp, buttery bread shell can’t be applied to a savoury dish.

It is a fine accompaniment, or with the addition of some cubes of cheese, mushrooms or bacon, can even become the main attraction.

Random Onion Tip: Include the papery, brown skins in your stock pot. They make for a wonderful colour.

Onion Charlotte

Farmhouse Cookery, 1930s

400g onions
400ml milk
200ml water
¼ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg or ½ whole nutmeg, grated
2tbs cornflour mixed with a little cold water.
15g butter
30g softened butter
6-8 slices of stale white bread. If you have none, then cut some bread into slices and arrange on a wire rack to dry a little.
1 x 1.2 litre pudding basin

  • Peel the onions and put into a saucepan
  • Add cold water to cover and bring to the boil.
  • Turn the heat down and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Strain the liquid off and set aside to use for soup.
  • Chop the cooked onions neatly and return to the pan.
  • Add the milk and water and simmer until the onions are cooked through.
  • Season with salt and pepper and the spices.
  • Add the cornflour mix and heat gently, stirring, until thickened.
  • Add the butter and stir gently until melted.
  • Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
  • Generously grease the pudding basin with the butter. A pastry brush will make this very easy.
  • Cut a circle of bread to fit into the bottom of the basin and place it there.
    Set one slice of bread aside to make the cover.
  • With the remaining bread, cut it lengthwise into strips about 5cm wide.
  • Line the sides of the bowl with the bread strips, overlapping each one slightly so that there are no gaps for the filling to leak through. Err on the side of caution and use extra bread if necessary to be sure the bowl is fully lined. The pieces of bread will stick out above the bowl rim, and this is fine.
  • Fill the bread-lined bowl with the onion mixture.
  • Butter the remaining bread and lay it, butter side upwards, on top of the onion filling.
  • Wrap the bowl in cling film, gently folding over the pieces of bread sticking up around the edges.
  • Place a saucer with a weight on top and chill in the fridge for at least an hour, or until required.
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas 4.
  • Remove the cling film from the pudding bowl, replace the saucer and weight with oven-proof equivalents.
  • Put the bowl on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour, until the bread is golden brown and crisp.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to rest in the bowl for five minutes, then run a knife around the bowl to loosen it and turn out onto your serving dish.
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