Amongst the lies, chicanery and subterfuge that currently passes for politics in the UK right now, most people may have missed a key part of Boris Johnson’s first speech to parliament since becoming Prime Minister.
In that speech he urged “let’s start now to liberate the UK’s extraordinary bioscience sector from anti-genetic modification rules, and let’s develop the blight-resistant crops that will feed the world.”
Johnson was obliquely presaging a post-Brexit UK/US trade deal, which would see genetically modified foods entering our shops, as well as the lowering of our current food sanitary safeguards. The underlying message was that UK citizens must be prepared to see lower food standards than we currently enjoy through EU regulation.
The USA is keen for us to start accepting its chlorinated chicken and beef grown with hormones and antibiotics currently outlawed here as well as its crops grown with over eighty pesticides which are also banned.
Food labelling regulations in the USA are inferior to those in the UK. In many cases US citizens do not even have the right to know whether the food they are buying contains genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Johnson’s furtive support for GMOs will be seen as a boost for the giant GMO corporations like Bayer and Syngenta, who have seen their industry contract in recent years as organic and sustainable farming practices have become important factors for discerning consumers.
But it threatens a dangerous and backward step for food and health standards in the UK.
Onion and thyme is a lovely combination, and even better when the onions have been gently caramelised. This lovely, hearty vegetarian tart with its melt-in-the mouth pastry is a perfect example.
This will be my last recipe for two to three weeks as we are having a new kitchen put in at home. I will be using that time to dream up some delicious new recipe ideas for my return.
caramelised onion and thyme tart
for the pastry
250g organic wholemeal plain flour
125g unsalted organic butter, chopped into cubes
40 ml cold water
½ tsp sea salt
1 organic free range egg
for the filling
4 onions, thinly sliced
6 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 organic free range eggs
150 g mascarpone
100 ml double cream
½tsp sea salt
125 g vegetarian Cheddar, grated
1. First, make the pastry. Put the flour, salt and butter in the bowl of a food processor and mix at the lowest setting until it looks like fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg and the water and process until the mixture forms itself into a pliable ball. Remove from the food processor bowl, flatten the ball slightly to a thick disc shape (this makes it easier to roll out later), wrap in clingfilm and put it the fridge for 30 minutes.
2. Pour the olive oil into a large frying pan or skillet and place over a medium heat. Add the onion and stir regularly for 5 minutes or until the onion is soft and translucent. Reduce the heat and add four of the thyme sprigs, keeping the other two in reserve. Cook the onions for a further 30 minutes on the low heat, by which time it will be very soft and will have caramelised. Remove the pan from the heat and set to one side to cool. Remove the thyme sprigs.
3. Preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F, gas mark 3). Grease a flan dish. Retrieve the pastry, roll out thinly and carefully place it into the flan dish. Trim the pastry so that there is a slight overhang of about 1 cm. Prick the base and sides of the flan pastry base with a fork and line it with kitchen foil and baking stones or beans. Bake blind in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, leave to cool slightly and then remove the foil and baking beans. The edges of the flan will have shrunk slightly, but now you can trim them neatly to the height of the flan dish with a sharp knife.
4. Remove the leaves from the two reserved thyme sprigs and chop the leaves finely. Whisk the eggs with the mascarpone, double cream and sea salt until smooth.
5. Increase the oven temperature slightly to 180°C (350°F, gas mark 4). Pour one third of the mascarpone, cream and egg mix into the flan base. On top of this evenly sprinkle a third of the grated Cheddar. Next, carefully distribute half of the caramelised onion on top of the cheese. Pour over half of the remaining mascarpone, cream, egg and sea salt mixture, followed by half of the remaining Cheddar. Distribute the remaining caramelised onion on top, followed by the rest of the mascarpone, cream and egg mixture and the rest of the Cheddar. Finally, evenly scatter over the reserved chopped thyme leaves.
6. Place the tart in the pre-heated oven for around 35-40 minutes until set and golden. Leave to cool slightly before cutting into portions.