Fanny may not want to call a 'Flan' a 'Tart' but she is keen for us to take a peek behind closed doors normally marked 'Private', she wants us to peer through windows where we are 'not meant to be' and even encourages us to pop on our 'cloaks of invisibility' (will JK Rowling be joining us?) to enter Part Two of her weekly Cookery Programme - the key to Sweet and Savoury Flans and Tartlets. Oh, so tartlets is ok, just don't call a tart a tart.
Lesson one - professionals never make flans with doorsteps around them, they never fold pastry paste into parcels and they never use crusts to hold pastry paste down during baking. Got it. They do however use rolling pins (phew) and dried beans, lentils or rice with greaseproof paper to hold the paste down. This is fine, this is how I have been making pastry for years, this is how my mum taught me. Hang on though, I think Fanny and I may be about to fall out - the recipe for shortcrust pastry for this Onion Flan (and all Fanny's flan recipes to come it seems) uses self raising flour...
Even as I am following this I am sure this time that it really is a typo, it can't be self raising flour in shortcrust pastry, it just can't be. After sifting the flour into a bowl, Fanny tells me to 'gather my fingers up like a posy' (I am not at all sure why or how), add into the centre the very cold butter, very cold 'lard' (substituted with Trex by this very cool vegetarian), grated Parmesan, salt and pepper and start cutting away at the mixture with two knives (one in each hand). I add a little very cold water now and again and keep chopping and cutting and drawing in flour from the sides until the mixture forms a thick, light pastry paste. Fanny tells me to roll it together and pop it into the fridge for at least an our and maybe as long as a week... I think she means it will happily stay there for a week.
After an hour, it certainly feels really soft and fluffy, very different to the shortcrust pastry I normally make, which is buttery and crumbly. It is stretchy and pliable and rolls out really well. Is it the self raising flour, the chopping or the mix of fats? None the wiser, I continue to roll and line my 'flan' tin, and prick the base with a fork.
I'm expecting this to be where I reach for my greaseproof paper, and baking beans, but no, Fanny insists I bake this one 'raw'... The filling for this Onion Flan is basically Onions and Garlic, no secrets here. I gently fry the sliced onion and crushed garlic until tender but not brown and add it to the raw 'paste'.
I am meant to add a trellis of anchovies and olives on the top here, but both are off the menu for me so it's straight into my oven for 30 minutes. I wonder if the pastry will puff up, but actually it emerges looking (and smelling, that'll be the Parmesan) great, cuts well, isn't puffed up, didn't shrink at all (is this the reason for the self raising flour?) and above all tastes delicious. It's a simple tart, I mean flan, eaten without dreary connotations or indeed thoughts of sex but I can't help but still wonder if that flour was a mistake.