Cheese and onion pie

Main course: Serves 4

For the pastry

125g beef dripping or, if you prefer, lard or butter
200g self-raising flour
pinch of salt
ice-cold water
For the filling
a good knob of butter
3 large, preferably white onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1 teacupful of water
salt and plenty of freshly ground white pepper
250-300g grated cheese
a little milk, to both seal and glaze the pastry

To make the pastry, cut whichever fat you are using into small chunks and place in a large bowl with the flour and salt. Gently rub the fat into the flour using fingertips until the texture is one that resembles very coarse breadcrumbs. Mix in enough water to just bind the mixture together as dough without it becoming too slack and wet; in other words, be cautious with the water. Knead the dough until fully amalgamated, dust with flour and slip into a plastic bag. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes before using. Preheat the oven to 350° F/180° C/gas mark 4 and also place a flat baking sheet in there too, which will help to cook the base of the pie more evenly.

Meanwhile, prepare the pie filling. Melt the butter in a roomy pan and add the onions. Allow to quietly wilt and stew for 10 minutes over a gentle heat without colouring. Tip in the water and seasoning and continue to cook over a similar heat, stirring occasionally, until almost all liquid has been driven off. Decant the onions on to a plate, spread them out and allow to cool.

Lightly butter a loose-bottomed tart tin (approximately 20cm wide by 4cm deep). Roll out two thirds of the pastry, moderately thinly, and use it to line the base and sides of the tin. Now roll out the remainder to a similar thickness; it should be generously wide enough to use as a lid for the pie. Cover the base of the pie with half of the cooked onions and then cover this with the grated cheese. Finally, cover the cheese with the remaining onions. Brush the edges of the pastry case with milk so as to seal the pastry lid upon it, while also pressing the edges together lightly before trimming off any excess overhang. Brush the surface of the pie with milk. Make three small incisions into the centre of the pie using the point of a sharp knife and, if you wish, further decorate the edges of the crust with light indentations, with the tines of a fork. Bake the pie on the middle shelf of the oven for about 40-50 minutes, or until crisp and golden brown, and with a clear indication that tiny oozes of cheesy-onion juices are bubbling up through those holes in the middle of the pie. Remove from the oven and leave for 15 minutes before taking from tin and cutting into generous wedges. Very good with piccalilli.
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