Red Onion Tarte Tatin


A tarte tatin is a wonderful thing to eat, more commonly as a dessert when made with fruit and served warm with cream.

However, a savoury tarte tatin works very well indeed and this is one of my favourites, with simplicity being very much the key: the soft onions and the saltiness of the Parmesan work very well indeed with the crisp, buttery pastry. Despite the caramel this is not too sweet at all – the balsamic vinegar cuts a little through the caramel.

When it has been cooked and turned out I like to sprinkle a few garlic chive flowers over the top – they add a lovely garlicky kick without being too obtrusive. I love to serve to this particular tarte with a crisp salad tossed in a sharp lemon dressing.

I use an 8″ non-stick frying pan, but a larger frying pan works well – just increase the ingredients; you want enough of the “filling” to cover the caramel generously.

Red Onion Tarte Tatin (serves 2 as a main)

  • 200g puff pastry
  • 1 large red onion
  • couple of tablespoons grated parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • sprig of fresh thyme, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • garlic chive flowers, optional
  • salt and pepper
  1. Preheat oven to 190°C. Slice the onion thickly and separate into rings. Place in an ovenproof dish and mix with the oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and thyme. Roast for about 20 minutes until the onions have softened slightly.
  2. Meanwhile, roll out the pastry and cut to a disc that is just a little larger than the top of the pan. Chill.
  3. Make the caramel: add 3 tablespoons sugar and a tablespoon of water to the pan and mix to dissolve a little. Bring to the boil and allow to bubble vigourously for a few minutes until the caramel just begins to turn golden brown. Remove from the heat.
  4. Carefully arrange the onions neatly onto the caramel – these can be packed in fairly tightly and can be arranged in as rustic or as tidy a manner as you wish. Pour over the oil and vinegar that the onions were roasted in (the caramel should have cooled just enough when the onions were added that it shouldn’t splutter).
  5. Sprinkle the parmesan on top of the onions and place the pastry disc on top, pushing the edges of the pastry right down the sides of the pan – a wooden spoon might be easiest here as the caramel will still be hot.
  6. Bake for about 20-25 minutes until the pastry is well risen and golden brown. Leave to cool for about 5 minutes in the tin before turning out onto a plate. Sprinkle over garlic chive flowers (below) if using.


For each variation, cook the main component as suggested, make up the caramel and arrange the ingredients neatly over the caramel. Top with pastry before baking:

  • Fennel: slice the fennel, mix with a little olive oil, salt, crushed peppercorns, fresh thyme and a little finely chopped chilli before roasting at 180° for about 30 minutes until softened.
  • Apple or pear: peel, core and slice apples or pears fairly thickly, mix with just a little lime juice. Stir a few knobs of unsalted butter into the caramel, and place the apples or pears on top. You can use the pears halved or quartered, but cook for about 5 minutes or so in the caramel once the butter has been added to soften slightly before topping with pastry.
  • Shallot: peel, halve lengthways before roasting in oil, vinegar and thyme (as for the red onion tatin). Place cut-side down into the caramel.
  • Fig: add a star anise to the sugar & water just as it begins to boil. When the caramel has been made remove from the heat and leave to infuse for a few minutes. Remove the star anise and stir in a few knobs of unsalted butter. Place the halved figs (cut-side face down) onto the caramel.


  1. Tarte tatin has been on my “must get around to list” for a while. I imagine this would be lovely with a good salad to offset the richness.


  2. Definitely. A salad with a lemony dressing is especially good


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