Cheese and onion pie is very unassuming. You forget how good it is until you take a bite, and then, when it is gone, you wish that there was more. You can eat it cold, unwrapped from its greaseproof package in the pocket of your knapsack, or warm. I like it best straight from the oven, with a pool of orange baked beans swamping the rest of the plate. It makes a satisfyingly monochromatic supper dish: the dun pastry, yellow cheese, orange bean sauce and purplish onions. A brown dollop of vinegary HP sets it off nicely.
Once again, this is less a recipe and more the putting into words of something many of us were shown as children. I made two of these yesterday, with Seb. His favourite part is crimping the pastry edges with a fork, and pricking a pattern in the top. He chose stars, whole constellations of them.
Make some short pastry. For a single baking-sheet-sized pie, I suggest 250g/ 8 oz flour and 125g/ 4oz butter. Simply double (or triple) the quantities if you want to make more. Leave it in a cool place – the cold shelf in the larder, or outside in winter – while you prepare the filling.
Select a couple of medium sized onions. Red onions are nicest, if you have any. They lend their sweetness to the dish, and make it taste as though it has all sorts of complicated ingredients in it. It doesn’t.
Peel, halve and slice them.
Then slice a block of British hard cheese. My favourite is red leicester, and cheddar works well too. I think a crumbly cheshire would taste good. And there’s nothing to stop you using gooey camembert, or emmental, for a more continental outcome. Seb and I made two pies with 350g/ 12oz.
Cut your pastry in half, and, on a floured surface, roll out the base. It will be fairly thin, which is a good thing. Gently lift it onto your floured baking sheet.
Spread the onion half-moons over the base, leaving a thumb’s width all the way around the edge.
Arrange your cheese on top. You might want to break up some of those slices for more even coverage.
Roll out the rest of the pastry and cover the pie. If you run a wet finger around the bare edge of the base, you can then persuade the top to stick to it by rolling the bottom edge up and over. Crimp the edges all the way around with a fork. You don’t want any melted cheese to escape.
Prick it three or four (or seventy, if you are Seb) times and pop it into a warm oven (about 180 degrees Celcius/ 350 degrees Farenheit/ gas mark 4) for twenty minutes or so. It might take a little longer. It’s meant to be pale and interesting, although you could give it an egg or milk wash to glaze it.
A tasty alternative is to make it with apples instead of onions. I use the reddest, sweetest fruit from our tree, or Father’s eaters. Just swap thinly sliced apple for onion, and don’t change anything else.