Don’t cry for me, onion-peeler

The hum­ble onion is the star of the show in these two dishes from Si­mon Hop­kin­son

Country Life Every Week - - Simon’s Kitchen -

How­ever, what re­ally an­noyed me (a teenager, even then, could be ‘an­noyed’) was that the re­sult con­trib­uted to staff sup­per, rather than the pay­ing guests. After all, the chop­ping was re­ally quite good, in the end—and I wept buck­et­fuls, too,

As a pro­fes­sional cook (I have al­ways seen my­self as a cook, rather than a real chef), to deal with onions has al­ways been a plea­sure—whether it’s chop­ping or slic­ing them and cook­ing them in but­ter or stew­ing them in­tact—and the cry­ing dries up, even­tu­ally, although I couldn’t tell you why.

Sliced wafer-thin when raw, the fresh­est and best-grown onion can present it­self as quite some­thing else: sweet and savoury all at once, to­gether with an as­trin­gency that tick­les the palate in the very nicest way.

Some folk, how­ever, hugely dis­agree—a well-known food writer I knew years ago went so far as to say that ‘snipped chives in or on any food are an abom­i­na­tion’ or sim­i­lar words to that ef­fect. Each to their own, of course, but there can also be fur­ther com­pli­ca­tions, onion-wise, with, how shall we say, awk­ward con­se­quences.

My friends Jane and Robert, who live in a big house in Sevenoaks, Kent, grow very good onions in­deed. While stay­ing with them over a late-septem­ber week­end about a year ago, I lov­ingly pre­pared a whole bucket of these bul­bous al­li­ums as an ac­com­pa­ni­ment to a Sun­day roast lunch.

They had been left to dry and form pa­pery skins in the gar­dener’s green­house, all laid out on spe­cial racks and ready for this cook to choose the very best of the crop.

This was quite dif­fi­cult, in fact, as al­most ev­ery sin­gle one was as per­fect as an onion can be, but I wanted to roast them cut into quar­ters, so the big­ger the bet­ter.

Top oven of the Aga for 10 min­utes, cov­ered, then about an hour in the bot­tom, un­til golden, sticky and nicely bur­nished. A tri­umph they were, if I may say, and were wolfed down by all, to such an ex­tent that var­i­ous fin­gers were greed­ily em­ployed tak­ing up rem­nant smear­ings in the bot­tom of the dish.

Fast for­ward to the 6pm cock­tail hour. Robert ar­rived back with news from the crease: ‘Felt a bit sorry for the wicket keeper this af­ter­noon. Rather windy out there!’ ‘Oh God, yes,’ said Jane, ‘me too.’ ‘And me,’ chimed in the el­dest. ‘And me.’ ‘And me,’ re­peated the younger two. I, who had en­joyed an af­ter­noon nap, fur­ther mut­tered some­thing about ‘al­most need­ing to tether the du­vet’.

‘But they were de­li­cious,’ said Jane, ‘and, thank­fully, all is calmer now.’

‘Ah, good,’ I sighed. ‘So that’s gone with the wind, is it?’

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