Recipe: Michelle Eshkeri’s Cheese and Onion Pie


A savoury, vegetarian pie worthy of a weekend feast. 

Recipe: Extract from Modern Sourdough by Michelle Eshkeri

Since opening, customers often ask for Margot or call me Margot. I didn’t know that this would happen but I answer to Margot too now.

When I named the bakery I was looking for something that communicated warmth, community and a different approach to baking. Various ideas were discarded in conversation with Lucy, designer and architect for the bakery, but Margot resonated as it made me think of two wonderful women, my husband’s grandmother Perlette, or Perla, and my Nana, Margaret. The Greek and Latin words for Pearl are the root of the names Margot, Margaret, and Pearl.

My Nana, though not a baker, is from Oldham in Lancashire, and has been a constant kind and generous presence in my life along with my grandfather. This pie connects me to the place I was born and I think of my northern family when I make it.

Makes one 25cm (10 in) pie

INGREDIENTS

For the filling:
1.2kg (2 lb 10¼ oz) brown onions, peeled and finely sliced in half moon shapes
60g (2½ oz) unsalted butter
1 medium bunch of fresh thyme
800g (1¾ lb) Lancashire cheese (or aged cheddar), thickly sliced
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the hot water crust pastry:
175g (6 oz) unsalted butter
170g (6 oz) water
463g (1lb ¼ oz) strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
125g (4 oz)/2½ whole eggs
1 tsp sea salt
beaten egg, to glaze

METHOD

1. To make the filling, place the sliced onions, butter and 1 tsp salt in a medium saucepan. Cover and cook gently for 30–40 minutes, over a low heat, until soft and wilted. Set aside a few whole thyme sprigs (for garnishing the pie) and strip the leaves from the remaining sprigs. Remove the lid from the onions, add half the thyme leaves and season lightly; cook for another 15–20 minutes until the onions have dried out a little. Cool and check the seasoning. The onions should be meltingly soft and quite sweet but well seasoned.

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2. For the pastry, place the butter and water in a small saucepan over a low to medium heat until the butter is just melted. Allow to cool for 20 minutes before using.

3. Place the flour, eggs and salt in a medium bowl or in free standing mixer fitted with a dough hook. Begin to mix and when the eggs and flour are well combined, pour in the water and butter mix, stirring constantly, for 3–4 minutes until the dough is smooth or knead on a work surface for 4–5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and cover. Rest for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours.

4. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas mark 4.

5. Divide the pastry into two pieces, one twice the size of the other.

6. On a lightly floured surface, roll the larger piece of pastry into a circle slightly larger than a 25cm (10 in) pie dish. Transfer to the dish by rolling the dough over the rolling pin and unrolling it carefully over the pie dish. Push into the corners but leave the edges overhanging the dish.

7. Arrange a layer of cooled onion at the bottom of the dish then a layer of cheese. Add black pepper and a sprinkle of thyme leaves as you build the layers. Continue with the layers of cheese and onion until all the ingredients are used up.

8. Roll out your remaining piece of dough into a circle a little larger than the top diameter of your pie dish and place on top of the pie. Trim the edges and pinch them together – you can make a pattern or just firmly press to close them.

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9. Brush with the beaten egg and arrange the reserved thyme sprigs on top of the pie, making sure they make good contact with the pastry.

10. Make several holes in the top with a knife so steam can escape and bake for 50–70 minutes until hot, golden and the cheese is bubbling. Serve warm or cold.


This is an extract from Modern Sourdough by Michelle Eshkeri, Allen & Unwin, RRP $49.99.

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