Good meals don’t have to be complicated. This Cheese and Onion Pie is a dish my mother and grandmother used to make. I expect it was made by my great grandmother as well. It hails from Lancashire, where many of my family come from, and should really be made with Lancashire Cheese.
Since I live over the border in White Rose country, I’m quite happy to be a rebel these days and I use whatever I have in the fridge. No-one has complained yet.
It is satisfying and the onions give a sharpness to the taste which offsets the creaminess of the cheese.
And it is cheap.
If you bought ready made pastry, this Cheese and Onion Pie would only take 3 ingredients. Even the seasoning only requires pepper as cheese is plenty salty enough. Oh, I forgot the 3 tablespoons of milk for glazing.
By the way, I got into trouble once for using an egg to glaze a pie. Total waste.
Some folk add potatoes or even herbs and spices. My mother would turn her nose up at such high-falouting ideas.
I use a deep enamel plate for this type of pie. You could use any plate with a rim but I have three of these and I use them all the time.
One of the things people have problems with is laying the pastry in the plate ~ worse still a flan dish. Instead of picking the pastry up by wrapping it round the rolling pin, try folding it in in itself to form four corners. It lifts easily and can be centred and unfolded gently to fit the dish. Of course, calamities can be solved by patching. No one will know.
I’ve read recipes which say sauté the onions first but I really think that is unnecessary. I think it can cause the pastry to go a little soggy if you are making it ahead of cooking. Anyway, the crunch of the onions gives a change of texture to the pie.
I slice my onions with my mandolin to get them really thin. I chose this one when I replaced my 20 year old one as it has a good grip.
If you don’t have a mandolin, use a sharp knife and it will be fine.
This time I used Cheddar because I had a block needing using up. Build up thin layers of onion, cheese, onion and so on, adding a few twists of pepper on each cheese layer. Make sure you put plenty of filling in as it melts down during cooking. It needs to be domed before you add the lid.
Cover with the top layer of pastry and tidy up, pressing round the edge before cutting away the excess pastry. Pinch the edges closed and cut a few slits in the top and bake for around 40 minutes on 356F / 180C / Gas Mark 4.
We had it for lunch with a green salad. A jar of sweet pickle sat on the side and it was delicious.
It made 3 portions and the third one we split between us to supplement breakfast next morning. Naughty, but nice.
Preparation time : 20 min
Cooking time :40 minutes
Difficulty? : Easy ~ especially if you buy ready made pastry
Freezing? : Yes ~ preferably uncooked, though if using frozen pastry, this is unadvisable.
Portions : 3 (or 4 with another carb)
For the pastry
- 60g (2 oz) of COLD butter, cut into small pieces
- 60g (2 oz) of COLD lard, cut into small pieces. If you don’t like using lard or don’t have it in stock, just double up on the butter.
- 200g (7oz) of plain (AP) flour, plus extra for dusting your rolling surface.
- 1 tsp baking powder.
- A pinch of salt.
- About 3 tablespoons of milk to seal the pie and blaze the top.
For the filling
- 200g (9oz) of grated, hard cheese. Lancashire is traditional.
- 1 large onion, peeled and sliced very thinly.
- Black pepper for seasoning.
- Place some water in the fridge to cool.
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4
- For the pastry, put the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl and stir.
- Add the butter and lard and mix in.
- Use your finger tips to rub the fat into the flour. Work gently but quickly as the key to good pastry is to keep the ingredients cold. You want to end up with something that looks like coarse breadcrumbs. If you have a food processor you can use it to bind the fat and flour but keep an eye on it. The step from breadcrumbs to solid lump is seconds only!
- Add 2-3 tbsp ice cold water to turn the mix into a lump of dough. Lightly knead the dough until smooth, dust with flour and place in a plastic bag or wrap in clingfilm.
- Chill in the fridge for 30 minutes before using. If you are in a rush, you can use the dough straightaway.
- Roll out two-thirds of the pastry until it is about 0.5cm/¼in thick and line a greased 22cm/8¾” pie plate or tart tin, leaving any excess pastry overhanging the edge.
- If your plate is bigger or smaller, you will need to adjust the amount of filling.
- Now roll out the remaining pastry to a similar thickness fit the top of the pie with plenty to spare.
- Layer the onions and cheese in the pie dish, sprinkling pepper over each layer of cheese. Make sure you pile it high as it shrinks down on cooking.
- Brush the edges of the pie plate with milk to seal the lid on.
- Place the pastry lid on and press down the edges before trimming round the edges with a blunt knife. I use the back of a knife.
- Flute or crimp the edges to seal and then brush the lid with milk.
- Make three small slits in the top of the pie.
- Bake for around 40 minutes or until a lovely golden brown.
- Leave to rest for 10 – 15 minutes before slicing. If you don’t it may well crumble all over the plate and you will have burnt tongues!