Category Archives: Onions

Tartiflette

 

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Until recently I’d never even heard of tartiflette, but I have made it twice now and I know it will become one of our staple meals from now on because it ticks two major boxes – easy – tick, and delicious – big tick. This is what I call a proper comfort dish. Like a big, soft blanket wrapped around you, perfect for when the weather turns nippy. A great way to use up those homegrown potatoes and onions, with a bit of hot chilli pepper if you like. The bacon can be substituted for a little chopped ham or chorizo, or if you’re veggie just leave it out.

Thanks to the BBC Good Food for this recipe and many others that I’ve come to rely on. They really are my favourite recipe site.

A few slight alterations I made were – not to peel the potatoes, skins on works fine for me and stops the potatoes breaking up too much, I added a heaped teaspoon of wholegrain mustard (leave this out if you’d prefer), and I didn’t bother with the addition of breadcrumbs on top at the end. If I’d had some I probably would have added them, so feel free to do so if you wish, but it still tastes great without them. On the matter of cheese, the original recipe uses vignotte, which I’ve never been able to get hold of, I have tried it with cambozola and brie, both of which were lovely. I bought some reblochon specially for using in this dish, but then ended up eating it all before I had chance to make it! I reckon it would taste great with any old cheese, so just use whatever you have.

Scrub clean and thickly slice 2 large potatoes or 4-5 smaller ones, boil in salted water for 5 minutes, then drain and set aside. Meanwhile, slice 1 onion, add a little oil to a hot pan and fry the onion gently until soft. Add some chopped bacon and continue to fry until cooked. Remove the onions and bacon and add a little more oil to the pan. Add the potatoes and fry until they start to brown. Heat a grill to hot. Put the bacon and onions back in the pan, and mix everything together. Don’t worry if anything starts to stick, just keep stirring. Add around 100ml of double cream (or, as I do, use creme fraiche with a splash of milk to loosen it). Add 1 heaped teaspoon of wholegrain mustard, stir together. Nestle some chunks of soft cheese in between the potatoes, sprinkle over some chopped chilli, and then place the pan under the hot grill (protect the handle with foil if necessary) for around 5 minutes or until everything turns a lovely shade of golden brown.

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Beetroot, red onion and cranberry relish

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The beetroot has grown pretty well as usual this year. There isn’t a single crop that I grow without some sort of pest or disease to challenge it (or me) along the way, but some are definitely easier than others, needing little attention, and beetroot is one of those. It always germinates okay, grows whether it’s cold and damp or hot and dry, and apart from needing a little thinning in late spring/early summer, it looks after itself. Some grow big, some stay quite small, but that’s okay with me.

The leaves sometimes get a bit nibbled and then rusty towards the end of summer, and the bulbs also get eaten slightly, but whatever it is that attacks them only ever gets as far as a small hole in the side and then gives up. They don’t burrow all the way in and eat the entire build from the inside out like the eelworms in potatoes. So it’s quite easy to chop these holey sections off when trimming and peeling them. And less than perfect veg is always fine for chutney and relish making, nobody will ever know.

I came across a recipe in Alys Fowlers book Abundance (which I can highly recommend) for beetroot marmalade, and decided to adapt it ever so slightly to make this, which I’m controversially calling a relish. To be honest I don’t really get the difference between a pickle, chutney, relish or marmalade. The definition of marmalade seems to universally be a preserve made with the juice and peel of citrus fruit, so where does that leave caramelised onion marmalade? I think (personal opinion alert) it can be anything sweet made with slithers of fruit, veg or peel, suspended in a syrupy juice. Relish perhaps suggests something more savoury, whereas this is sweet, although you eat it with savoury dishes! Confused? Me too.

Anyway, call it what you like, it tastes lovely with a chunk of tangy cheese or cold meat. Anywhere you might use onion marmalade in fact, or cranberry relish, which lets face it, is really a jam! I’ll say no more.

Ingredients:

  • 1kg beetroot (trimmed and peeled)
  • 100ml balsamic vinegar
  • sea salt, to taste
  • zest and juice of 1 orange
  • 2 large red onions, or a handful of smaller ones
  • 50g light brown sugar
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 400ml red wine vinegar
  • 100g dried cranberries, or feel free to use fresh.

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160ºc. Cut the beetroot and the red onions into quarters and place in a roasting tin with a good dowsing of the balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle over some sea salt and the orange zest. Mix everything together and roast for 40 mins, or until you can pierce the beetroot with a knife. Set aside to cool – you can do this one evening and leave them overnight to make up the relish the next day.
  2. Grate the beetroot into a bowl, and set aside.
  3. Take out the onions and roughly chop them. Put them into a large pan with any balsamic juices from the pan, and the brown sugar and set over a low heat, stir until the sugar dissolves.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients to the pan (including the beetroot) and cook on a gentle simmer for 30 mins until the liquid has reduced by about two-thirds. It might take a bit longer. Stir from time to time to avoid anything sticking.
  5. You know when the relish is ready when you draw a spoon across the bottom of the pan and it stays clear for a few seconds before the syrupy juices fill back in. If there are no juices you may have overcooked it, in which case, add a little more vinegar and sugar and cook briefly.
  6. Spoon the relish into warm sterilised jars – I do this by washing the jars in hot water and then placing them into a cool oven to dry. Or you can just run them through a dishwasher.
  7. Place the lids on and store in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months.

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Courgette Bhajis

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The courgettes keep on coming, and in return I keep on inventing different ways to use them. I have somehow managed to sneak them into almost every meal over the last few weeks; lots of pasta dishes, risotto, curries and stir-fries, salads, you name it. I am almost at the point of making soup, but I feel that might be a last resort, that or chutney. Not that they don’t make a lovely chutney, just that I have made so much chutney in past years that I have stocks to last me through a nuclear war.

So, as I wondered through the aisles of the supermarket one day, my eye caught sight of some onion bhajis, and after my brain thought ‘mmm bhajies’, in a Homer Simpson type voice, I then thought ‘ooh, I wonder if I could make bhajis with the courgettes?’ Okay they’re a little wetter than onions, but maybe it could work. After a quick internet search it seems (as usual) I’m not the first to have come up with the idea.

I found a couple of specific courgette bhaji recipes that looked quite complex, and in the end decided to adapt a normal onion bhaji recipe.

SourceHow to make the perfect onion bhajis by Felicity Cloake. Original recipe here with my adaptions in italics.

Ingredients:

  • 60g gram flour
  • 30g rice flour (I couldn’t get hold of rice flour, so used all gram)
  • 1 tbsp ghee or butter, melted
  • Juice of ¼ lemon
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ tsp fennel seeds (I didn’t use these)
  • 1-2 hot green chillies (to taste), finely minced
  • 2 tsp root ginger, finely grated
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • Small bunch of coriander, chopped
  • 2 fresh curry leaves, chopped (optional) (I didn’t use)
  • 2 onions, halved, core removed and thinly sliced (I used 1 small onion)
  • Vegetable oil, to cook
  • 1 large or 2 regular sized courgettes, deseeded if they’re large, grated and the excess water squeezed out using a tea towel.

 

Sift the flours into a mixing bowl, then stir in the ghee and lemon juice and just enough cold water to bring it to the consistency of double cream. Stir in the spices, aromatics and herbs and add salt to taste. Stir in the onions and courgette so they are well coated.

At this point, I used a shallow fry method, adding a few cm of oil to a large pan, heating well, and then dropping in a spoonful of the mixture at a time and flipping them over with a spatula after a few minutes. I then put them onto a baking tray lined with parchment and finished them off in the oven for 20 mins or so. However, feel free to use the deep fry method detailed below.

Heat the oil in a deep-fat fryer to 180C, or fill a large pan a third full with oil and heat – a drop of batter should sizzle as it hits the oil, then float. Meanwhile, put a bowl of cold water next to the hob, and a plate lined with kitchen paper. Put the oven on a low heat.

Once the oil is up to temperature, wet your hands and shape tablespoon-sized amounts of the mixture into balls. Drop into the oil, being careful not to overcrowd the pan, then stir carefully to stop them sticking. Cook for about four minutes, turning occasionally, until crisp and golden, then drain on the paper and put in the oven to keep warm while you cook the next batch. Serve with chutney or pickle.

These are lovely as the starter or side to a curry dish, but equally nice with a piece of grilled chicken or fish and a salad. Or just eat them as a snack.

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Caramelised onion, courgette and feta pies

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These rustic style pies are basically the same as the onion and herb tart I made a while ago, except I divided the pastry into 4 to make smaller, individual portion ones. They would make perfect picnic fodder, or for taking with you to the allotment for a tools down break time.

To make the pastry (this is my tried and trusted method): rub 100g butter into 200g plain flour (with an added pinch of salt) until it resembles breadcrumbs. Break in 1 egg, fill half an eggshell with water and add. Bring together into a dough, place onto a sheet of clingfilm, wrap and place in the fridge for 30 mins.

Slice 1 large or a couple of smaller onions. Slice a couple of small courgettes (or a regular sized one) into rounds. Heat some oil in a pan and gently sauté the onions until soft and starting to colour. Remove and set aside. Add the courgettes to the pan and fry until just coloured (these won’t take as long as the onions).

Take your ball of pastry dough and divide into four. Roll a piece out into a rough circle, about saucer sized. Add a couple of large spoonfuls of the onion mix to the middle of the pastry, top with a few slices of courgette and finally a few cubes of feta cheese. Bring the sides of the circle up, overlapping slightly as you do. Do the same with the other 3 pieces.

Beat 1 egg and add a heaped tablespoon of crème fraîche, or roughly the same of double cream. Mix together and pour the mixture into each pie. Brush the outside of each pie with a little milk. Bake in a moderate oven for around 25-30 mins.

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Lamb and spinach curry

Lamb and spinach curry

John made this for us on Saturday night using some of our allotment grown spinach, onions and garlic. It’s not too hot, nice and fresh.

Source: an adaptation of this recipe from Olive magazine.

Ingredients

  • Ginger a small chunk, peeled and chopped
  • Garlic, 2 cloves, chopped
  • Onions, 2 roughly chopped
  • Fresh Red chilli 1, chopped
  • Ground turmeric, 1 tsp
  • Garam marsala, 1tsp
  • Ground cumin, 1 tbsp
  • Ground coriander, 1 tbsp
  • Chilli powder, 1 tsp
  • Salt and pepper
  • Chopped lamb, 600g
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cup of water
  • spinach 100g bag, chopped
  • Fresh or frozen peas 50g
  • Fresh coriander, half a bunch
  • Dash of Worcester sauce

Method

  1. Brown the meat well in a frying pan with a couple of tablespoons of oil and then put to one side.
  2. Chop the ginger, garlic, chilli and onions, add these to the pan with some additional oil and fry gently for 4-5 minutes.
  3. Add in the browned meat and all the spices. Stir in the tomatoes, and cup of water, then bring to a gentle simmer.
  4. Cover and cook for 1 hour.
  5. Add the spinach and peas and a dash of Worcester sauce then cook for another 10 minutes.
  6. Garnish with chopped coriander.
  7. Serve with rice or nan bread.

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Free-form onion and herb tart

onion tart 1I love making tarts and quiches, but sometimes the effort involved in preparing the pastry, lining the tin, blind baking, cooking the ingredients, filling, baking, blah blah, puts me off slightly. It’s fine when you have all afternoon and nothing better to do, but not when time is short.

So when I spotted one of these on Pinterest I thought – of course, why didn’t I think of that? I’ve made a fruit version of this lots of times before, it’s what I usually call a ‘one crust pie’. You roll out the pastry, dump the fruit in the middle and bring up the sides, bake, ta-dah! Not the prettiest looking pie/tart, but tastes just as good, so if you’re not out to impress anyone with aesthetics, it’s a huge time-saver. But I’d oddly never considered making a savoury version.

Okay, you still need some time on this to slice a couple of onions, and then gently, slowly cook the onions down, but it’s not a great effort. I also confess I bought a block of pastry, which I never normally do, just to save a bit more time. I won’t lose any sleep over it.

This uses the first of our onions that were planted as sets back in the autumn and have been growing over winter. They weren’t left to dry out, so were used ‘wet’ or ‘green’ as they’re called. This means they are slightly milder in flavour, but they still managed to make my eyes water! We had this with pork and leek sausages and asparagus (sadly not my own – next year) and some of my homemade apple jelly.

Ingredients are listed in bold. My own recipe.

  1. If making your own shortcrust pastry, follow the link here for my standard shortcrust pastry recipe, and place in the fridge to chill.
  2. Slice 2 largish onions as thinly as you can.
  3. Strip the leaves from a few stalks of thyme, and/or chop some chives.
  4. Heat a shallow pan and add a splash of oil and a knob of butter.
  5. Turn the heat down and cook the onions for around 30 mins until soft and slightly caramelised.
  6. Add 2 tablespoons of creme fraîche (or double cream) the herbs and if you like a bit of cheese (I had some stilton to use up so threw that in) season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for a few more minutes.
  7. Roll out the pastry into a large circle. I found it helpful to use a plate as a guide to the size I wanted the tart, and then you’ll need roughly a 2 inch border. Transfer to a parchment lined baking tray.
  8. Spread the onions over the central circle, then bring the sides up, overlapping as you go.
  9. Brush with a little beaten egg and bake (around 180ºc) for about 40 mins or until golden.

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