Mul­ti­lay­ered

Anna Jones’s ideas for onions

The Guardian - Cook - - Front Page - Anna Jones Anna Jones is a chef, writer and au­thor of A Mod­ern Way to Eat and A Mod­ern Way to Cook (Fourth Es­tate); an­na­jones.co.uk; @we_are_­food

Onions are ar­guably the stars of the kitchen. They are cheap, read­ily avail­able and cru­cial for lay­ing the foun­da­tions of so many dishes, across count­less cook­ing cul­tures.

Few good dishes I cook start with­out an onion, and I love how they can be taken to both ends of the flavour spec­trum, from brac­ingly pick­led to sweetly slow-cooked, al­most caramel in tex­ture.

That onions are es­sen­tial to so much cook­ing is no se­cret, yet – save for the oc­ca­sional onion soup à la Ju­lia Child, the odd tart, per­haps a chut­ney or a pick­led onion as a side­kick for other things – rarely do they take the lime­light.

So, this week, I de­cided to put onions well and truly cen­tre stage with two of my favourite al­lium prepa­ra­tions: but­ter-basted roast onions with the warm, gen­tle notes of bay and star anise, and fail­safe crispy shal­lots (which also work with onions), which make ev­ery­thing you eat bet­ter. Here – be­yond the full recipes that fol­low – are 10 ideas to show you how:

1 They’re an ex­cel­lent gar­nish for Asian sal­ads, such as gado gado.

2 They’re great on top of a curry, a dal or a laksa.

3 You can scat­ter them over a stir fry or a noo­dle dish like a pad thai …

4 … and pile them into a cheese sand­wich with some sharp pickle.

5 They are the best fin­ish to scram­bled eggs and an un­beat­able fill­ing for an omelette. 6 You can sprin­kle them over a shak­shuka or spicy huevos rancheros.

7 With some sour cream and chopped green chillies they are great on a chilli.

8 They make any au­tum­nal or win­ter soup that much tastier.

9 They’ll im­prove a but­tered baked potato – or, even bet­ter, a sweet potato – with a dab of creme fraiche and a pinch of chopped ca­pers.

10 Lastly, they are the per­fect fin­ish­ing touch to a rich au­tumn tomato pasta.

Star anise and brown but­ter baked onions

Eat these with good bread or a plump warm grain, such as spelt, and some soft goat’s cheese for din­ner, or even roughly chopped and stirred-through but­tered noo­dles or pasta. They also

make a good side. Ve­gans can use olive oil in­stead of but­ter here.

Serves 8

60g un­salted but­ter

4 star anise

6 bay leaves

10 medium onions

Salt and pep­per

1 Pre­heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Put the but­ter into a pan with the star anise and bay and al­low it to melt. Put to one side while you get on with ev­ery­thing else.

2 Peel the onions and cut the bot­toms so they sit flat, keep­ing the pointed tops in­tact. Put them on a bak­ing tray cut-side down. Evenly pour over the scented but­ter and then sprin­kle with salt and pep­per.

3 Put in the hot oven to bake for 35-40 min­utes. Check and baste half­way through, then con­tinue to cook un­til soft and al­most but­tery. Re­move from the oven and al­low them to cool slightly be­fore serv­ing.

Top-any­thing crispy shal­lots

As I men­tioned ear­lier, this crunchy gar­nish will hap­pily top any­thing from a bowl of noo­dles even just a fried egg or some av­o­cado on toast. They pretty much make any­thing savoury a bit bet­ter. This recipe makes a good jar­ful.

"Onions can be taken to both ends of the flavour spec­trum, from brac­ingly pick­led to slow-cooked and caramel in tex­ture"

Makes one jar

6 ba­nana shal­lots

Rape­seed or other flavour­less oil

Sprin­kle of sea salt

1 Slice the shal­lots as thin as you can – if you have one, you can use a man­dolin to get them re­ally wafer thin and this will make sure they cook evenly). Fill a sau­cepan with 2-3cm of room-tem­per­a­ture rape­seed oil and heat the oil.

2 Once hot, add the shal­lots. Watch the bub­bles. First you’ll see small bub­bles, then more rapid ones as the wa­ter from the shal­lots evap­o­rates off. Cook on a high heat. When the bub­bles sub­side, it means the mois­ture has cooked off the shal­lots – and they should look golden brown.

3 Trans­fer the cooked shal­lots to a pa­per towel-lined sur­face to cool com­pletely. Store any left­overs in a jar (not in the fridge) and use over a cou­ple of days.

PHO­TOG­RA­PHY YUKI FOR THE GUARDIAN FOOD STYLUNG ANNA JONES WITH NENA FOS­TER PROP STYLING ANNA WILKINS

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