the clas­sic ONION

donna hay - - IN SEASON - ONION - pho­tog­ra­phy CHRIS COURT styling STEVE PEARCE

We’d be hard-pressed to find a pantry that doesn’t have a stash of onions, unas­sum­ing and fa­mil­iar, wait­ing to be added to all man­ner of ev­ery­day dishes. We’ve cast a fresh eye over this es­sen­tial in­gre­di­ent, from slow-brais­ing for amaz­ing caramelised flavour, to pick­ling for the best onion rings of your life (yes, re­ally!), mak­ing it the hero of the hour in ir­re­sistible golden com­fort foods.

onion and cockle chow­der

1 ta­ble­spoon ex­tra vir­gin olive oil 150g smoked speck, rind re­moved, chopped 8 pick­ling onions, quar­tered sea salt and cracked black pep­per 50g un­salted but­ter, chopped ½ cup (125ml) white wine 500g chat pota­toes, quar­tered 2½ cups (625ml) milk 1kg flame cock­les+ ½ cup (120g) crème fraîche

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add the speck and cook, stir­ring con­stantly, for 3–4 min­utes or un­til crisp. Add the onion, re­duce heat to medium and cook, cov­ered, for 10 min­utes or un­til onion is soft. Add the salt, pep­per, but­ter and wine and cook for 4 min­utes or un­til re­duced. Add the potato and milk and bring to just be­low the boil. Cook for 8–10 min­utes or un­til potato is ten­der. Add the cock­les and cover with a tight-fit­ting lid. Cook for 3–5 min­utes or un­til the cock­les have opened. Stir through the crème fraîche. Di­vide be­tween bowls and sprin­kle with pep­per to serve. Serves 4. + Flame cock­les are a large va­ri­ety, avail­able from se­lected fish­mon­gers. If un­avail­able, sub­sti­tute clams (von­gole).

sage and nut­meg onion gratin

1kg onions, sliced into 1.5cm-thick rounds 2 cups (500ml) sin­gle (pour­ing) cream sea salt and cracked black pep­per 1 cup (80g) finely grated parme­san 1 ta­ble­spoon ex­tra vir­gin olive oil ½ cup sage leaves freshly ground nut­meg, to serve

Pre­heat oven to 180°C (350°F). Place the onion in the base of a large deep-sided oven dish. Place the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to just be­low the boil. Re­move from the heat. Add the salt, pep­per and half of the parme­san and whisk to com­bine. Pour over the onions, cover with alu­minium foil and cook for 1 hour 30 min­utes or un­til the onion is ten­der. Re­move the foil and cook for a fur­ther 20 min­utes or un­til golden brown.

Heat the oil in a small fry­ing pan over high heat. Add the sage and cook for 30 sec­onds or un­til crisp. Top the gratin with the sage and sprin­kle with the nut­meg and re­main­ing parme­san to serve. Serves 6.

wagyu corned beef sand­wiches with roasted onion rel­ish

1kg brown onions, sliced into 1cm-thick rounds ¼ cup (45g) brown sugar 2 ta­ble­spoons malt vine­gar 2 ta­ble­spoons ex­tra vir­gin olive oil 1 ta­ble­spoon Di­jon mustard sea salt and cracked black pep­per but­ter, for spread­ing 8 slices sour­dough ¼ cup (20g) finely grated parme­san 200g sliced havarti cheese freshly grated horse­rad­ish wagyu corned beef

1.6kg wagyu corned sil­ver­side beef 3 bay leaves 6 cloves 1 car­rot, sliced 1 bulb gar­lic, halved 1 onion, quar­tered 1 cup (250ml) malt vine­gar 1 cup (175g) brown sugar 1 tea­spoon black pep­per­corns

To make the wagyu corned beef, place the beef, bay leaves, cloves, car­rot, gar­lic, onion, vine­gar, sugar and pep­per­corns in a large saucepan. Add cold wa­ter to the pan to just cover the beef. Place over high heat and bring to the boil. Re­duce heat to low and cook for 1 hour 30 min­utes or un­til ten­der. Re­move the corned beef from the saucepan and set aside to cool slightly be­fore slic­ing very thinly. Dis­card the liq­uid and solids.

While the beef is cook­ing, pre­heat oven to 220°C (425°F). Place the onion on a large deep oven tray. Place the sugar, vine­gar, oil, mustard, salt and pep­per in a small jug and whisk to com­bine. Pour over the onions, cover the tray with alu­minium foil and cook for 40 min­utes or un­til ten­der. Re­move the foil and cook for a fur­ther 10 min­utes or un­til caramelised and golden brown.

Spread the but­ter on both sides of each slice of bread and press into the parme­san. Di­vide the havarti cheese, corned beef, horse­rad­ish and onion rel­ish be­tween 4 of the slices of bread. Sand­wich with the re­main­ing slices. Heat a large non-stick fry­ing pan over medium heat. Cook 2 of the sand­wiches, cov­ered, for 3 min­utes each side or un­til golden brown and cheese is melted. Re­peat with the re­main­ing sand­wiches. Serve. Serves 4. Note: Any left­over corned beef can be kept re­frig­er­ated in an air­tight con­tainer for up to three days.

If you start a meal by peel­ing an onion, you’re usu­ally on the right track. A many-lay­ered marvel, the savourysweet flavour soft­ens in in­ten­sity the longer you cook it, slowly be­com­ing translu­cent, then the colour of honey, be­fore the nat­u­ral sug­ars caramelise and rich trea­cle tones are re­vealed.

tar­ragon and brandy braised onion and chicken

50g un­salted but­ter, chopped 1kg onions, thinly sliced into rounds us­ing a large

sharp knife or man­do­line sea salt and cracked black pep­per 3 cloves gar­lic, thinly sliced 2 ta­ble­spoons brown sugar 1 ta­ble­spoon plain (all-pur­pose) flour 2 ta­ble­spoons bal­samic vine­gar ¹⁄³ cup (80ml) brandy 3 cups (750ml) chicken stock 2 tea­spoons ex­tra vir­gin olive oil 6 chicken thighs (about 1.4kg), skin on and bone in 6 sprigs tar­ragon

Pre­heat oven to 220°C (425°F). Melt the but­ter in a large heavy-based flame­proof oven­proof shal­low saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, salt and pep­per, cover, and cook, stir­ring oc­ca­sion­ally, for 20–25 min­utes or un­til golden brown. Add the gar­lic, sugar and flour, and cook, stir­ring con­stantly, for 3–4 min­utes or un­til caramelised. In­crease heat to high. Add the vine­gar and brandy and cook for 2 min­utes or un­til re­duced slightly. Add the stock and bring to the boil.

While the onion mix­ture is cook­ing, heat the oil in a large non-stick fry­ing pan over high heat. Sprin­kle the chicken skin with salt and pep­per and cook, skin-side down, for 4–5 min­utes or un­til golden brown. Place on top of the onions, skin-side up, and cook in the oven for 15 min­utes. Add the tar­ragon and cook for a fur­ther 5 min­utes or un­til the chicken is dark golden brown and cooked through. Sprin­kle with salt and pep­per to serve. Serves 6.

salt and vine­gar onion rings

500g onions, sliced into 1cm-thick rounds 2 cups (500ml) sherry vine­gar 2 tea­spoons sea salt flakes 1½ cups (225g) self-rais­ing (self-ris­ing) flour 2 ta­ble­spoons caster (su­perfine) sugar 3 cups (750ml) cold soda wa­ter 3 cups (450g) corn­flour (corn­starch) veg­etable oil, for deep-fry­ing smoked sea salt flakes, to serve

Place the onion, vine­gar and salt in a large bowl, sep­a­rat­ing the onion into rings. Set aside for 1 hour 30 min­utes to mar­i­nate.

Drain the vine­gar mix­ture from the onion. Place the self-rais­ing flour, sugar, soda wa­ter and 2 cups (300g) of the corn­flour in a large bowl and stir to just com­bine. Place the re­main­ing corn­flour in a sep­a­rate large bowl. Half-fill a large saucepan with the oil and place over medium heat un­til it reaches 190°C (375°F) on a deep-fry­ing ther­mome­ter. Work­ing in batches, dust the onion in the re­served corn­flour, dip in the bat­ter and cook for 2–3 min­utes or un­til golden brown. Re­move us­ing a slot­ted spoon, drain well, sprin­kle with smoked salt and serve im­me­di­ately. Serves 6.

warm ba­con and cheese french onion dip

1 ta­ble­spoon ex­tra vir­gin olive oil 100g smoked ba­con, finely chopped 3 brown onions (about 700g), thinly sliced 2 ta­ble­spoons white wine vine­gar 1 cup (250ml) chicken stock 2 cups (200g) grated pro­volone 1 cup (120g) grated vin­tage cheddar 250g cream cheese, soft­ened 1 cup (250ml) sour cream 4 small round loaves sour­dough, hol­lowed out grissini+, to serve

Pre­heat oven to 200°C (400°F). Heat the oil in a large non-stick fry­ing pan over high heat. Add the ba­con and cook for 3–4 min­utes or un­til crisp. Re­move with a slot­ted spoon, drain on pa­per towel and set aside.

Re­duce heat to medium, add the onion and vine­gar and cook, stir­ring oc­ca­sion­ally, for 10 min­utes or un­til golden brown. Add the stock and cook for a fur­ther 10–15 min­utes or un­til liq­uid has re­duced com­pletely and onions are very soft.

Place the pro­volone and cheddar in a large bowl and mix to com­bine. Place 1 cup of the cheese mix­ture in a small bowl and re­serve. Add the cream cheese and sour cream to the re­main­ing cheese mix­ture and stir to com­bine. Add the onion and ba­con and stir well to com­bine. Spoon the mix­ture into the bread loaves and place on a large oven tray. Sprin­kle with the re­served cheese mix­ture and cook for 20–24 min­utes or un­til dark golden brown and bub­bling. Sprin­kle with pep­per and serve im­me­di­ately with the grissini. Serves 8.

+ We served the dip with grissini, but you can serve it with the bread from the sour­dough.

tea and rose­mary smoked onions

1 cup (200g) jas­mine rice ½ cup (90g) brown sugar ½ cup (40g) English break­fast tea leaves 4 sprigs rose­mary 1 ta­ble­spoon fen­nel seeds 1 small bunch thyme 1 sprig bay leaves 6 strips lemon peel 12 small onions (about 1.5kg)

Pre­heat oven to 200°C (400°F). Place the rice, sugar, tea leaves, rose­mary, fen­nel seeds, thyme, bay leaves and lemon peel in a large bowl and mix to com­bine. Line a large, deep-sided flame­proof oven dish with 2 lay­ers of alu­minium foil, add the rice mix­ture and spread evenly. Place a lightly greased wire rack in the pan, en­sur­ing it sits above the rice mix­ture. Place the pan over high heat. Once the rice mix­ture be­gins to smoke, place the onions on the rack. Cover tightly with alu­minium foil. Cook in the oven for 1 hour. Re­move from the oven, still sealed, and set aside for 10 min­utes. Care­fully re­move the foil and dis­card the rice mix­ture. Peel the onions to serve. Makes 12.

Notes: We served these onions with sour­dough bread as part of a char­cu­terie board. Any left­over smoked onions can be kept re­frig­er­ated in an air­tight con­tainer for up to one week.

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