Recipe: Red Onion Tarte Tatin

by olivia hoffman
Photos by Klaus-Maria Einwanger and Recipes by Martin Walker and Julia Watson

Bruno Courrèges, the protagonist of Martin Walker’s hugely popular “Bruno, Chief of Police” mystery series, is not just the fictional constable of an idyllic Périgord village: He also happens to be an impassioned amateur chef. In a delightful new cookbook, Walker and his wife, Julia Watson, infuse the flavors of Bruno’s Dordogne countryside town into creative, local recipes!


For the May/June 2024 magazine, we shared a sampling of Bruno’s recipes which are inspired by the flavors of the bountiful region where the books are set. In real life, authors Walker and Watson – who reside in the Périgord – have learned everything they know about French cooking from their generous neighbors and friends. Walker explains in the Introduction of Bruno’s Cookbook – Recipes and Traditions from a French Country Kitchen:

“This is not a conventional cookbook, just as my novels about Bruno, the local chief of police, are not conventional crime stories. They include much more food and wine than most of the genre (although don’t forget that Sherlock Holmes loved his oysters and his woodcock and claret). … The food of the Périgord is what brings all these themes together – the landscape and the history, the thrusting battlements of the medieval castles that dot the skyline, the hunting and the fishing, the potagers – the vegetable plots – and the woodlands with their truffles and mushrooms, and the rhythm of the seasons. They combine to form a distinct and unique culture, the canvas on which I set my tales.
This cookbook is not written by professional chefs, but by two writers who simply love good food, and who learned to cook from our mothers, our friends, and our neighbors in the Périgord.”

The recipes are organized by categories of ordinary culinary life for people living in the French countryside: The vegetable plot and the market, the fisherman, the hunter, the butcher, the cheesemaker and the dairy man, the baker, the forager, and the winemaker. We are delighted to treat you here to a recipe from Bruno’s vegetable plot (le potager) for a Red Onion Tarte Tatin.

Red Onion Tarte Tatin

To accompany the dish, Walker contextualizes the recipe with an inventive story as to how “Bruno” got inspired to create this simultaneously sweet and savory meal:

“One of Bruno’s favorite hunting partners, a wealthy retired industrialist nicknamed ‘the Baron,’ is famous for the tomato tart he cooks for the hunters’ regular evening get-togethers. But because the juicy tomatoes gave the pastry base a soggy bottom, it occurred to Bruno not only that tomatoes would respond well to a tarte-Tatin treatment—that renowned apple tart that is cooked under a crisp pastry lid, then flipped upside down—but that the method might be applied just as successfully to most vegetables. With a crop of onions hanging in his barn, he came up with this recipe, which he served to the hunters to great applause, and not a little grumpiness from the Baron, with an arugula salad dressed in a mustardy vinaigrette to counterbalance the sweetness of the onions.”


“Every dish in this book was cooked in our Périgord kitchen, and photographed straight from the oven.”

Check out the full book here to see more of Bruno’s recipes!

To see the other recipes we featured from Bruno’s Cookbook – including Chilled Roast Tomato Soup, Meatballs with Garlic-Roasted Tomatoes, Herb-Roasted Halibut on Summer Vegetables, and Périgord Apple Puff – get a copy of the May/June edition of the magazine here.

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