the classic ONION
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.