• Nutritional information,  Savoury

    Watermelon and feta salad and birthday pandemonium

    Watermelon and feta salad

    I overheard a telephone conversation, in which Luc described the food at his birthday party, the previous day. His side of the conversation went like this:

    ‘Well to start with we had feta and basil tart, without the feta, which Fiona had left in a supermarket caddy in Dax. She had also planned a very pretty watermelon, cucumber and feta salad. Unfortunately as I said, the feta was M.I.A., and the cucumber hadn’t even featured on the shopping list. So the pretty salad was basically a bowl of watermelon cubes.’

    ‘The tuna steaks were a success, although some were very charred, because the marinade spilled onto the gas barbecue, which caught fire. It was pretty hairy actually, until we pulled the barbecue out from under the terrace into the bucketing rain. Oh and the desserts! We had chocolate cake and walnut tart. The cake was meant to be decorated with a ‘7’ and an ‘0’ candle, but as it turned out, the ‘7’ had opted to stay in the shopping caddy with the feta, so it was just the ‘0’, which felt quite liberating really.’

    What Luc failed to mention, was that I had pulled a muscle in my neck, rendering myself agonisingly immobile, just 10 minutes before the party started. Luckily a massage therapist friend was to hand (I choose my friends wisely), and he deftly put me back together. There was a lot of ‘now you see me, now you don’t’ rain in the morning, and very heavy rain in the afternoon, which meant that we had to use a covered terrace, 30 metres from the kitchen.

    After a few spectacular false starts, involving flying food, I nailed a ‘carrying a tray while holding an umbrella’ technique. Following months of drought, the ground was so dry that fast-running rivers formed between the kitchen and terrace, and I was able to complete my nonchalant look — my neck was too painful to risk a hairbrush — with mismatched wellington boots. Despite all this, or maybe because of it, everybody seemed to have a great time, and in the end, the sun shone through the rain. Although, not everyone was in a state fit to even notice.

    A picture speaks a thousand words
    The nonchalant look: unbrushed hair and wellington boots

    Watermelon health benefits

    The red colour of watermelon flesh comes from lycopene, which is a potent antioxidant. There is more of this nutrient in watermelon than any other fruit or vegetable, including tomatoes. It is also rich in an amino acid called citrulline that may help move blood flow, and can lower your blood pressure, and contains a pigment, that may protect your joints from inflammation. Lastly, watermelon is an excellent source of vitamins C and A and also copper and B vitamins. 

    Recipe for watermelon and feta salad (serves 4)

    • 1 ripe watermelon
    • ½ cucumber
    • bunch fresh mint, chopped
    • 1 red onion, sliced
    • 2 limes
    • 150g feta
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • pinch sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

    Chop the watermelon and cucumber into chunks and place in a salad bowl, along with the chopped mint. Soak the red onion slices in lime juice and leave to steep. Cut the feta into cubes and add to the watermelon, cucumber and mint. Add the onion slices, along with the lime juice to the bowl, and then add the olive oil and seasoning. Mix gently – the watermelon and feta are fragile! Serve chilled.

  • Nutritional information,  Savoury

    Cajun-style tuna steaks and raves on the terrace

    Plate with marinated Cajun tuna steaks and vegetables
    Cajun marinated tuna steaks, rich in Omega 3

    Welcome to my updated blog. Apparently the original blog, which was over ten years old, was ‘fine on the outside, but chaotic on the inside!’ Sounded horribly familiar!

    We’ve been cooking outside a lot; I haven’t wanted to use the oven because of the stifling heat. Unfortunately this is now no longer an option due to the fire risk. This recipe is easy and versatile, as the steaks may be cooked on a proper barbecue, a gas barbecue, or even in a hot frying pan.

    In my last blog, I mentioned that a deer had been snacking on the terrace at night. He is still a nightly visitor, and in view of the noise, I suspect he now invites friends. I know when they have been ‘partying’ because I do an inventory of the geranium flowers in bloom every evening, and again in the morning. I’ve arrived at the conclusion that in general, all hell has broken loose since our black labrador, Hugo’s demise.

    In just the past week a deer availed himself of the open terrace door to come into the house one night, no doubt in search of more geraniums, and a weasel woke our guests sleeping in the grange by rapping, very loudly, on the glass door. Then I knocked a man flying with a shopping caddy (which become lethal weapons in my hands) and Luc chucked our cleaning lady’s shoes in the bin.

    Also, I can’t remember how many people, or which people for that matter, I have invited to Luc’s birthday party next week; it could be 15 guests, or it could be 25. I have literally no idea. It should be interesting, particularly as some much-needed rain is forecast for that day.

    Tuna’s multiple health benefits (and a word of warning)

    Tuna is a very rich source of Omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3s are known for their anti-inflammatory properties as well as aiding mental, heart, bone, eye, and skin health. A lesser-known benefit of Omega 3 is that it can help sleep quality.

    Tuna is a good source of good-quality protein and also contains generous amounts of calcium, phosphorus, potassium, iron, zinc, B-vitamins, selenium, and choline.

    Despite the many benefits, consumption of tuna, and other big fish, should probably be limited to a maximum of once a week due to its mercury content.

    Recipe for Cajun-style marinated tuna steaks (serves 4)

    • 50ml orange juice
    • 50ml coconut aminos (or soya sauce
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
    • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
    • 1 clove garlic, crushed
    • 3 teaspoons Cajun seasoning
    • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 4 tuna steaks

    Mix the marinade ingredients together and generously coat the tuna steaks. Leave in the fridge overnight, if possible, or at least for a couple of hours. Best seared for a couple of minutes on each side on a BBQ, protected by aluminum foil. Otherwise they can be fried in a hot frying pan.

  • Savoury,  Soup

    Gazpacho and midnight feasts

    Spicy gazpacho – a simple summer soup

    France has been subjected to apocalyptic heat and unusually large, uncontrollable forest fires over the past ten days. Apparently though, this isn’t punishment enough; according to Britain’s half-witted Foreign Secretary, France is also single-handedly responsible for the giant tailbacks happening at the Port of Dover. And today, a colleague of the half-wit, who is also on the Genius Podium, is piling the blame on France for a ‘meltdown’ at the UK Passport Office. As Clément Beaune, the French Transport Minister, said: ‘France is not responsible for Brexit’.

    Although Java The Guard Dog has been sleeping outside during the hot weather (by ‘sleeping’ I mean running round and round the house all night, like a maniac), one of our resident deer has been sneaking midnight snacks, apparently consisting of Léo’s grapevine leaves, with a side order of my geranium flowers. As the geraniums are on the terrace attached to the house, this is pretty unabashed as petty crime goes, but Java, who is only interested, randomly, in guarding the compost heap, has been of no use whatsoever. There were no such unlawful goings on during Hugo’s watch, I can tell you. Java, get your act together!

    We’ve been eating a lot of gazpacho in the the past few weeks, as it’s been too hot to cook. We haven’t even been able to use the barbecue for fear of setting our surrounding forest on fire. The original recipe dates back to Roman times. Tomatoes are particularly beneficial during hot, sunny weather as research shows that a powerful antioxidant, lycopene, could protect our skin from UV damage from sunburn. Tomatoes are a rich source of lycopene.

    Recipe for gazpacho (serves 4-6)

    • 1 cucumber, peeled and chopped
    • 1 red pepper, deseeded and chopped
    • 1 green pepper, deseeded and chopped
    • 1kg ripe plum tomatoes, skinned and chopped
    • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
    • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
    • 50ml olive oil
    • 75g stale white bread, chopped
    • 3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
    • Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper
    • Dash of tabasco (optional)

    Place the prepared vegetables, bread and olive oil into a blender and mix until smooth. Then add the seasoning, mixing again. Taste and adjust. If the mixture is too thick, you could add some cold water. Refrigerate for at least two hours before serving.

  • French,  Hugo blogs,  Savoury

    Courgette flower fritters and a cruel summer

    Heavenly courgette flower fritters

    Léo and I went to London in June, leaving Luc in the company of a couple of deer that appear to have moved in. The lady deer, who Luc calls Georgette, is quite pally with the horses and they graze together in the sun every morning and evening, but the male, Georgio, is noisily territorial and barks at Luc if he approaches ‘his’ field after 9.15pm. For some reason, 9.15pm is the time at which time it becomes ‘his property’ and trespassers will be barked at, throatily, hauntingly, and incessantly. You can almost see the testosterone cloud descend to thicken the night air.

    On our return from London, where poor Léo spent five days spluttering in semi-isolation with a covid-not-covid virus, my phone clock proved resistant to reverting to French time. This meant that I spent a couple of days after my return arriving an hour late for every single appointment. The worst thing was the length of time it took for me to realise that my phone had gone rogue.

    Léo is becoming increasingly concerned by his father’s extravagant use of emojis. We went shopping a few days ago and received a message to buy chicken feed. Léo, from beneath furrowed brow, said ‘but we don’t have chickens; we have pigeons’. He went on to say that what he found even more worrying was that Luc had compounded his error with several chicken emojis🐔🐔🐔. That evening, Luc wrote to the notary who is currently handling a property transaction for us, adding a 👩🏻 when alluding to the seller (on a positive note, at least he’d got the right species; The mind boggles at the possibilities for misinterpretation and offence had he not.)

    Hugo❤️

    Ending on a very sad note, the punishing heat we endured a couple of weeks ago proved to be too much for Hugo, our gorgeous black labrador, who was a contributor to this blog (here is a selection). Forty-five degrees is very distressing for an elderly dog with respiratory difficulties, and we made the harrowing decision to help him on his way. He is now resting in a peaceful corner of our grounds alongside other departed friends. I imagine them wryly exchanging ‘at least we can have some peace and quiet here’ sentiments. RIP darling Hugo❤️; your endearing but authoritarian ways will be greatly missed, as will your blogs

    These fritter are divine. Of course, the courgette flower season is short, so make the most of them while you can. Because they’re eaten so fresh, they contain fair amounts of vitamins A , C, E and K and also minerals such as magnesium, zinc, and calcium.

    Recipe for courgette flower fritters (serves 4, although probably fewer!)

    • 12 courgette flowers
    • 80g flour
    • 150ml sparkling mineral water
    • 1 soup spoon olive oil
    • Pinch sea salt, freshly ground black pepper
    • 1 egg, beaten
    • 1 clove garlic, crushed
    • 6 basil leaves, shredded

    Gently rince the flowers, and set aside to dry on absorbant kitchen roll. Combine the flour, water, olive oil, seasoning, egg and garlic well to form a homogenous mixture. Cover the base of a large frying pan with olive oil and heat. Dip each flower into the mixture, coating generously, and then place immediately in the hot pan, and fry both sides. The fritters should be golden-brown, but not burnt. May be served alone with salad, or as an accompaniment.

  • Savoury

    Stuffed green peppers and a bread shop desert

    Stuffed green peppers

    Our son, Léo, has recently finished an intense cycle of competitive exams and interviews for his next three years of further education. He wants to pursue viticulture/oenology studies in an agricultural engineering establishment, and the relevant schools are based either in Bordeaux, Toulouse or Montpellier. After visiting Toulouse, Léo made a rapid decision to strike it from his list because, although it’s an excellent school — wait for it — there was ‘no bread shop within walking distance’. WTAF? Even allowing for cultural differences (Léo is French born and bred, or bread as the case may be, and I was born in the UK), I had trouble seeing the lack of a bread shop as a major hurdle. Luc, on the other hand, found Léo’s logic to be beyond reproach.

    Daily bread

    Once Léo had settled on, and been offered a place at the institute in Bordeaux and we started to look for an apartment, we quickly realized that a bread shop, or boulangerie, in the immediate vicinity is one of the biggest selling points for property; estate agents’ maps feature little baguettes to indicate their locations. I became mesmorised by the baguette icons, and began to count those in central Bordeaux, but only got to 78 before going cross-eyed. Google then fed my new-found bread shop statistic obsession with the reassuring fact that Bordeaux has 277 boulangeries/patisseries for 250,000 inhabitants. In the Anglo-Saxon world, we tend to prioritise things like schools, general shops, perhaps hospitals, and other amenities. Not so in France, the baguette is all powerful!

    We had a delivery from a man this morning whose first bemused question, once he’d eventually found our house at the end of the sandy track, was: ‘what do you do for bread?’. Reassured to learn that Luc made sure we had a constant supply, and delivery completed, he made his way back to civilisation in a shocked daze, shaking his head disbelievingly and muttering to himself: ‘Putain, ils n’ont même pas de boulangerie!’ (‘Fuck, they don’t even have a bread shop!’) I think the fact that, to all intents and purposes, we live in one of the few remaining boulangerie deserts in France, was a lot for the poor chap to process. I don’t think we’ll be seeing him again any time soon.

    Recipe for stuffed green peppers (serves 4)

    • 4 green peppers (or any other colour)
    • Olive oil
    • 2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
    • 2 onions, chopped
    • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
    • 150g arborio rice
    • 750ml chicken or vegetable stock
    • 20g raisins
    • 20g pine nuts
    • Sprig of thyme
    • 1 teaspoon coriander grains
    • 1 teaspoon paprika
    • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • Handful black olives, pitted and chopped
    • 200g goat’s cheese or feta cheese, sliced
    • Fresh coriander

    Preheat the oven to 180°C. Prepare the peppers by cutting off the top and scooping out the seeds. Place on a roasting tray with a little olive oils and pre-roast for about 15 minutes, until softened. Gently fry the chopped tomatoes, onions and garlic in a little olive oil until soft. Add the rice and continue to fry, mixing with a spatula. Add the stock, stirring well, and then the raisins and pine nuts. Then add the thyme, seasoning and black olives, and leave to cook on a gentle heat until the liquid is absorbed. Once the rice mixture is cooked add the cheese, mixing well. Fill the emptied peppers with the mixture, adding the fresh coriander at the end. Put the tops back on the peppers, pour over a little olive oil and return to the oven for 45 minutes.

  • Savoury,  Soup

    Courgette and goat cheese soup and raucous men

    Neither Luc nor I are fans of shopping, especially shopping together. You know those couples you see casually and contentedly wandering around shops hand in hand? That will never be us. Lockdown suited very well from that point of view; one of us went shopping (usually Luc as he thinks I’m an irrational, inefficient and irresponsible shopper), and the rest was bought online.

    But we needed new patio furniture and decided to brave the garden centre. I was very happy to try out the swing sets and suspended deck chairs, which I discovered weren’t properly anchored, while Luc frantically looked around for someone to help us. We’d been told that ‘Emilie’ was the salesperson to look for, but she was proving difficult to pin down. Problem solved: Luc planted himself in the middle of the expansive furniture section and absolutely boomed ‘E-M-I-L-I-E!’. After that it was plain sailing; eight dining chairs and two deckchairs were chosen, paid for, and loaded in under 10 minutes, and I hobbled out only slightly bruised.

    Because I’m old and broken (see above), I visit my physiotherapist twice a week. He loves to sing as he works, and last week launched into a charmingly boisterous rendition of an old French song about a once — but no longer — glorious, unseaworthy, abandoned ship: ‘Quand je pense à la vielle anglaise…’ (when I think of the old English woman…) Bursting into laughter I said ‘I’m so happy to have inspired you!’ Since then, strangely enough, he has refrained from refrains.

    This is a lovely, quick and easy soup for Spring.

    Ingredients (serves 6)

    45g butter

    1 onion, peeled and sliced

    2 shallots, peeled and sliced

    2 garlic cloves, crushed

    200g leeks, washed and chopped

    450g courgettes, washed and cut into rounds

    1 large potatoes, peeled and sliced

    1l chicken stock (or vegetable if you prefer)

    1 teaspoon paprika

    Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

    150g soft goat’s cheese

    Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onions, shallots and garlic, fry for about five minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Add the leeks, courgettes and potato coating in the butter and cook for a few minutes longer. Add the stock and seasoning and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft. Add the goat’s cheese and blend the soup until smooth.

  • French,  Savoury

    Provencal petit fours and a needy washing machine (on a tropical beach)

    We bought a new washing machine a few months ago, when the old one held up a white flag and said: ‘Have mercy, I can’t take any more dog hair!’ The thing is, as sophisticated and Germanically robust as the new one is, I’m not a fan; it’s too angular and white, with too many flashing buttons and digital messages, none of which I understand.

    Our new washing machine makes me think, irrationally, of gaudy designer labels, overly whitened teeth and forced metallic laughter. It’s all about pouting ‘look at me’ selfies in front of a tropical beach sunset. It’s smug and needy and gets super het up over fewer ‘likes’ than usual and bad hair days. You have to be really committed to the lure of clean clothes to summon up the patience and acumen to turn it on, and even then it might throw a hissy fit and refuse to comply for no known reason. I’ve decided to fly it out to a tropical island and abandon it on the beach; when there’s no one to look at it, admire it, even be annoyed by it, it will just cease to exist.

    Please, someone point me in the direction of uncomplicated, good-natured white goods and spare me from those with narcissistic personality disorders.

    Ingredients (serves 4-6)

    250g puff pastry

    2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

    Small can of tomato concentrate

    2 shallots, finely chopped

    70g grated gruyère (or any hard cheese)

    6 black olives, sliced

    6 anchovy filets, cut into small pieces

    Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper

    Paprika

    Twig of fresh rosemary

    1 egg yolk, beaten

    Olive oil

    Place the pastry on a flat surface and evenly spread first the mustard and then tomato concentrate. Distribute the other ingredients evenly over the tomato concentrate, season and remove the rosemary from the twig and scatter over the top. Gently roll the pastry and brush with the beaten egg yolk. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Place the roll in the freezer for about 15 minutes, remove and cut into small slices roughly 1cm thick. Place the cut pieces on a baking tray, greased with a little olive oil. Bake for 12 minutes, until golden. Delicious served hot or cold!

  • Savoury

    Beef Wellington and grazing blondes

    Following on from this post, I have just emerged, morally battered and bruised, from a ‘phone call during which I was flung around like a hot potato, between seven different employees of the Regional Health Agency (‘Agence Régionale de Santé’, or ARS, which is very apt). I am desperately, and unsuccessfully, trying to get an exemption for the C-19 booster, as my second vaccine caused me to need a ‘little lie down’ that went on to last four months.

    The rules for exemption in France are quite simple: if you’ve had two vaccines and lived to tell the tale, then you have absolutely no excuse not to have a third. Or, if you reacted badly to the first or second jab, then they do another one to see whether you actually drop dead or not. If you do drop dead, it’s good news, because it means you’ll automatically qualify for exemption, which obviously you’ll be delighted about. People who have had one or two vaccines in good faith, but subsequently experienced horrible, sometimes long-lasting health problems as a result, not only suffer, they are also punished and silenced. It’s positively dystopian. After nearly an hour of ‘phone tag, the ARS’s employees seemed to weary, and gave me another number to call, which I did; it was a suicide hotline. You couldn’t make it up!

    Java had never seen cows before, so when we came across a field of ‘Aquitaine Blondes’ who had been put out to graze on the early Spring grass near the house yesterday, she stood stock still for a while, with her head tilted to one side quizzically. She was deciding what to make of these ‘not dogs, not wild pigs, not horses’. She looked so painfully confused, that I tried to explain — in some detail — that they were quite harmless, and a little bit like the deer she sees around the house, etc. I hadn’t realised that the farmer was just behind us, politely waiting for me to finish my pedagogical lecture. He said, with a cheeky grin, ‘have you taught her to read yet?’ As Jack Nicolson said in A few Good Men, ‘don’t I feel like the fuckin’ asshole?’ (https://memes.yarn.co/yarn-clip/afc700f8-a576-44dd-ba43-f872ae912c42)

    Ingredients (serves 4)

    1kg filet beef

    2 tablespoons olive oil

    500g puff pastry

    2 egg yolks, beaten

    For the mushroom duxelle:

    50g butter

    15 medium mushrooms, finely chopped

    2 cloves of garlic, crushed

    1 shallot, finely chopped

    100ml, dry white wine

    Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

    Melt the butter in a medium-sized frying pan and add the finely chopped mushrooms, cloves of garlic and shallots, stirring and coating with the butter. Continue to fry for about 10 minutes, until everything is well softened. Add the white wine and seasoning and cook until the moisture is absorbed (about 10 minutes). Set aside.

    Preheat the oven to 200°C. Sear the beef filet in olive oil for a few seconds on all sides and set aside. Roll out the puff pastry and place the filet in the centre. Cover the beef with the mushroom duxelle and envelop in the puff pastry, making sure to seal the edges. Glaze with egg yolk and cook for 20 minutes (or more, depending on how well-cooked you like the beef).

  • Savoury

    Celeriac and walnut gratin and greedy gourmet dogs

    Families that have managed to celebrate Christmas ‘normally’ seem to be in the minority this year, so I would like to spare a thought for all the people that have had a challenging time due to illness, bereavement, enforced isolation, travel restrictions, etc. Sending love to you all.

    A noisy commotion broke out next to our land yesterday, with lots of shouting, barking and swearing. We found out from a friend afterwards, that a hunter, who had stopped for a picnic lunch, had had his foie gras sandwich swiped by a greedy English Setter. I’m not sure if I’m more mystified by the refined tastes of the naughty dog, or by the fact that someone would fill a sandwich with foie gras, even if it was Christmas Day.

    I have been very busy lately because Léo had covid and had to isolate in the guest grange. His appetite wasn’t stinted, if anything, it increased, so I had a bit of a mini Uber Eats business running from my kitchen. Apparently my new venture meant I was too busy to notice a wasp hibernating in my trousers while getting dressed, and when I later slammed my thigh into a door, it understandably got very irate, stinging me in revenge for being woken up and concussed. So not only am I the only person I know to receive a PCR test result of ‘inconclusive’ 10 days ago, I’m also the only person I know to be walking around with an angry wasp sting in December.

    Ingredients (serves 6)

    1kg celeriac, peeled and cut into large cubes

    3 medium potatoes, peeled

    4 cloves of garlic, crushed

    15g butter

    200ml double cream

    Handful of walnuts, chopped

    Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

    100g, Comté, finely sliced

    Half teaspoon Espelette pepper or paprika

    Preheat the oven to 180°C. Boil the celeriac and potatoes until cooked. Strain and add the garlic and butter and puree until smooth. Add the cream, walnuts and seasoning, mixing well to create a homogenous texture. Transfer to a buttered oven-proof dish and cover with the sliced cheese and Espelette pepper. Cook for 30 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbling.

    Works well as a standalone dish with green salad, or as an accompaniment.

  • Savoury

    Onion and goat cheese tart, smoke signals and tyrannical parrots

    I have learnt three surprising things in the past few weeks. One: Results of recent genetic testing revealed that I have considerably more French genes than either Luc or Léo. (Which doesn’t stop everyone referring to me as ‘l’Anglaise’.) Two: Hugo, the labrador, hates violin concertos with a passion, something he made quite clear last week, when I had the audacity to listen to Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D Major. He growled in distaste and scratched frantically at the door to flee the aural offensive. And three: there exist worse-behaved dogs than Hugo and Java. In a restaurant at the beach last weekend, there was a beautifully leggy and elegant red setter casually sauntering over the table tops, checking out the plates, their contents, and their owners, as if it was the most normal thing in the world. Red setters are notoriously batshit crazy and disobedient, so now of course, I want one.

    Yesterday morning, we caught sight of a friend sitting outside in the car. When, 10 minutes later, he still hadn’t moved, Luc went out to get him. Our friend explained that he’d been waiting to see smoke coming out of the chimney before coming in, as he didn’t know whether we were awake. We will know for next time: three billows means coffee!

    Once inside, coffee in hand, he told us that when he lived on a boat in Brasil, he had a parrot. At the time he was a very heavy smoker (the friend, not the parrot; everything seems to revolve around coffee and smoke with this guy!), but knew it was time to give up when the parrot started to cough every time he saw him! That must have been some pushy parrot, because he hasn’t touched a cigarette since…

    Ingredients (serves 4)

    225g puff pastry

    50g butter

    4 medium onions, sliced

    1 tsp sugar

    200g goat’s cheese, sliced into rounds

    4 sprigs of thyme

    Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper

    Olive oil

    Preheat the oven to 180°C. Arrange the pastry in a baking sheet (or sheets). Melt the butter in a large frying pan and add the sliced onions, cover and fry gently for about 10 minutes, until softened. Remove the lid, add the sugar and continue to cook until golden and slightly caramelised. Spoon the onions onto the pastry, then top with the cheese and thyme, and season. Drizzle with oil and bake for 20 minutes.