THE Best Way to Cook Onions ~ Honestly! ~ plus delicious ways to use them.

This is the way I most often cook onions; it concentrates the flavour and makes them sweet and very tender.  I believe my proficiency in this department has helped a lot in my professional life and also, perhaps, in my personal life, if you believe the old adage about the way to man’s heart being through his stomach.


how-to-cook-onions

Sweet & Tender Onions


med/large onions – about 250g ea
15 g butter OR 1 tablespoon of olive oil (healthier and still delicious) per onion
pinch of salt

~    Peel the onions, halve them lengthwise and thinly slice into half moons.
~    Heat the butter or oil in a small pan with a lid and toss and separate the sliced onions in the fat to coat.
~    Sprinkle with a little salt.
~    Press something appropriate (a piece of foil, a piece of baking parchment, greaseproof paper or a butter wrapper) directly onto the onions to cover completely.  Try not to burn yourself on the side of the pan.
~    Turn the heat down to low and put the lid on the pot.   The onions should not so much fry in the butter as gently steam in it.
~    Cook slowly until the onions are soft enough to cut with the edge of a wooden spoon.  You can stir once or twice during this time - they will take about 30 minutes.

They are now melty and delicious and quite sweet too because of the natural sugars in the onions.  


Caramelised Onions


To caramelise the onions, when they are are completely soft take off the lid, turn up the heat and cook on high for a few minutes stirring constantly until the onions begin to caramelise and just start sticking on the bottom of the pan.


how-to-caramlise-onions



These onions, caramelised or not, can now be used without further ado to enhance many simple dishes – add to sandwiches, burgers, steaks, see towards end of post for loads of ideas.

They can also be used as the basis of so many dishes.  Here’s a few recipes to get you started and then links to lots more ideas and recipes.

French Onion Dip


In the States there has long been a recipe for French Onion Dip which was, basically, a packet of soup mix stirred into sour cream.  Not this one! 

Again, whichever onions you prefer will work for this but red are prettiest.
2 x 225g/8oz onions
30g/1oz butter
225g/8oz sour cream
200g/7oz mayonnaise
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
freshly ground black pepper to taste

~   Melt the onions as per usual.
~   When completely tender turn up the heat and stir until caramelised.
~   Allow to cool.
~   Beat together the sour cream and mayonnaise then stir in the onions.
~   Season to taste with the Worcestershire sauce and pepper.

homemde-french-onion-dip


Handy hint for the benefit of my American readers; in the UK we say “Worcester Sauce”, which we pronounce “wooster sauce” – give it a go, it’s so much easier!

Brie baked with Caramelized Onions


2 x 225g/8oz onions
30g butter
1 x 250g Brie in its box
60ml dry white wine
crunchy sea salt
an optional sprig or two of thyme

~   Melt the onions in the butter.
~   When completely soft add the wine and then simmer it away to nothing!
~   Preheat the oven to soubise 350°F/180ºC/160ºC fan/gas 4.
~   Unwrap the cheese and remove and discard the top rind.
~   Return the cheese to its box and stand it on a baking tray.
~   Top with the melted onions, sprinkle with sea salt and top the thyme sprigs.
~   Bake for 10-15 minutes till melted and turning golden round the edges.
~   Serve immediately with crusty bread or crackers for dipping purposes.


baked-brie-caramelised-onions

Melted Onion Risotto 

Serves 4

4 medium sized onions of either colour
3 tablespoons olive oil
950ml/33½ fl oz chicken or vegetable stock
50g/2oz butter
200g/7oz – 300g/10½oz Arborio rice
120ml/4¼ fl oz dry white wine
50g/2oz freshly grated Parmesan or similar
freshly ground black pepper

~   Melt the onions in the olive oil in accordance with the genius recipe, continuing to the final step so that they are fully caramelised. Set the onions to one side.
~   Bring the stock almost to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer gently.
~   Add half the butter to the oniony pan and melt over medium heat.
~   Stir in the rice and turn in the buttery onions to coat. 
~   Cook stirring gently for about a minute till the rice looks glossy and a little translucent round the edges.
~   Add the wine and cook for about a minute, stirring, till the rice has absorbed it.
~   Add enough of the simmering stock to the rice to just cover and simmer, stirring frequently, till almost all the broth has been absorbed.
~   Continue adding stock and simmering till absorbed until the rice is just tender – i.e. it has just a little bite to it when you try it.  It may not need all the stock.
~   When just right add the rest of the butter, half the onions, half the cheese then taste and season.
~   Serve immediately topped with the rest of the onions and the rest of the cheese.

Blue cheese is a good alternative to Parmesan type cheese in this risotto and here’s a handy hint.  Keep a piece of blue cheese in the freezer and grate from frozen, it is easier that way.


caramelised-onion-risotto


Miroton de Boeuf 

Serves 4

Whilst in the UK we tend to make Cottage Pie with our leftover roast beef the French have a different way of dealing with their leftover rosbif (or with leftover pot au feu). This is a simple version because there are many different ones out there involving such things as, mushrooms, tomatoes and cornichons.

600g/21oz or so leftover roast beef – sliced
2 med/large onions melted as above
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
600ml/21fl oz rich beef stock (if using leftover pot au feu use the stock from that)
a handful of fresh breadcrumbs

~   When the onions are really tender and just starting to turn golden stir in the flour and cook gently for a couple of minutes.
~   Add the hot stock and bring to a boil, stirring till smooth and thickened
~   Turn down the heat and simmer for at least 10 minutes to amalgamate the flavours, adding a little more stock as necessary.
~   Stir in the vinegar then taste and season.
~   Arrange the beef slices in an ovenproof dish.
~   Pour over the gravy, sprinkle with breadcrumbs and bake till hot and bubbling – 15 minutes or so.

For a more substantial version arrange the sliced beef over a bed of sliced


homemade-caramelised-onion-scone-recipe


Caramelised Onion Scones


1 medium onion
15g knob of butter
a little salt
1 x key recipe – no sugar

~   Cook the onion as above and caramelise it.
~   Allow to cool.
~   See here for my Basic Scone Recipe  and make the scones as usual adding the cooked onion before the milk and then adding the milk abstemiously.




Mushrooms Soubise 


Soubise has, traditionally but confusingly meant either a dish of rice and tender onions OR, more commonly, tender onions in a béchamel sauce. My sister and I, however, have always this term as a short form for this our much preferred method of cooking onions. We even named this dish after it.   
    
1 medium onion
1 ounce butter and maybe a little more
½ teaspoon minced garlic
450g button mushrooms
100ml dry white wine
1 veg bouillon cube (optional – in fact it’s all optional really, get creative!)
175ml double cream

~   Melt the onions in the butter till really tender but not taking any colour.
~   Quarter the mushrooms.
~   Tip the melted onions and all their buttery juices into a hot frying pan.
~   Add the quartered mushrooms and the garlic and sauté all together, adding a little more butter if necessary, till both the mushrooms and the onions are turning a little golden.
~   Add the wine, which will boil instantly, quickly crumble in the bouillon cube if using, and cook till almost all the wine is gone, which won’t be long!
~   Add the cream and bring to a boil.
~   Turn down the head and simmer for a minute or so till thick.
~   Taste and season.

island-art-cafe



My sister Maggie (now of the lovely Art Café and Cake Hole on Mersea Island) and I used to call this method “soubising”, I think "soubise" is a real word, possibly French and it’s even possible that it may have something to do with onions.  I’m not sure that it is used as a verb but to us it is a doing word related to onions.







And here are more dishes you can make or enhance with sweet, tender and possibly caramelised onions ...

Onion, White Wine & Parmesan Tagliatelle


Add these delicious onions to ...

Pan Sauces * Etc!

These onions are also the basis of my Super Flexible Soup Recipe.


jonathan-swift-onion-quote



I imagine Jonathan Swift hadn't tried my sweet melting onions but he is right in pricipal; onions should be fully cooked!
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Roti Upma aka Fried Bread Curry - don't worry, it's really good!

I have just eaten A Very Interesting Thing which was also quick, cheap and used leftovers but I doubt very much that it was healthy. - fried bread curry!


roti upma recipe fried bread curry, a great way to use up leftover bread


Upma is a actually a South Indian porridgy dish usually made with semolina but also with lots of other things that will mush down such as rice or bread.  I don't like porridgy things so have never tried it and so didn't feel I could rightfully include the bread version in my bread section of Creative Ways to Use Up Leftovers (see below ***). 

Recently however I have noticed a few Upma recipes using dried or fried bread which retains quite a bit of crispness so decided to give it a go. 


fried bread curry, roti upma, in Hindi

Roti Upma 


A somewhat inauthentic recipe because I didn't have all the right ingredients! ~ serves 1

useful pinterest image of roti upma a curry made from leftover bread   
2 separate ½ tbsp vegetable oil or ghee
1-2 slices bread - stale is good - diced or torn into pieces
(for me a small slice of sourdough and ½ an old roll I found in the freezer!)
¼ tsp mustard seeds
1 hot red chilli chopped
(I keep a bag in the freezer, they are easily chopped from frozen)
½ onion finely chopped
¼ inch ginger finely chopped
1 pinch turmeric
(I am ashamed to say I had no fresh ginger or turmeric so replaced these with a ¼ tsp curry paste which worked very well)
5 or so cherry tomatoes, quartered
a handful of cashew nuts
fresh coriander, chopped plus a sprig or two to garnish

~   Heat ½ tbsp oil in a frying pan then fry the bread in it till turning crisp and golden. Set aside.
~   Add the second ½ tbsp oil to the pan and then the mustard seeds and wait till they start popping.
~   Stir in the onion (and the ginger if you've got some) and cook till starting to go translucent then add the chilli and the tomatoes.
~   When the tomatoes start to mush down stir in the turmeric and/or curry paste and cook together a minute or so.
~   Taste and season then stir in the bread, cashews and chopped coriander. 
I stopped at this point because I don't like pappy meals but you could cook the mixture down a bit and maybe add a little hot water to achieve a more porridge-like consistency.  As I say, it was great and next time I feel I have been eating too healthily I intend to balance things up by making it again! 

***  In this book I give all the information, ideas, recipes, handy hints, cook’s treats, storage info, ideas of what goes with what that I can think of for over 450 possible leftovers including at least 16 ways to use up leftover bread.

cookbook of ideas and recipes for leftovers


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How to Make the Most of Delicious Extra Virgin Olive Oil


My friend Diane recently gave me a bottle of single estate extra virgin olive oil, her son’s Italian girlfriend’s father grows olives and presses his own oil, it is lush.

So, it seems the right time to do a post on delicious ways to use extra virgin olive oil aka evoo!


recipes for extra virgin olive oil

I am not, in this post, going into the details of extra virgin olive oil for cooking.  It was long held that high heat damaged the oil but recently this has been disproved and evoo is held to be one of the better cooking oils. However, if like me you have a delicious oil to play with don’t cook with it, these ideas will make the most of its flavour.

Drizzle Olive Oil


Rich greeny/gold evoo oil both looks and tastes good drizzled over many dishes such as soups, salads and hummus and other bean dips. 

Olive Oil Dip


Neat extra virgin olive oil is great to dip good bread (I normally use my homemade sourdough).  You can, of course, add all sorts of other things too, try …

~   Salt and pepper
~   Crushed garlic
homemade sourdough recipe and how to make dipping oils
~   Stir in a little balsamic vinegar – the two go very well together.
~   All three of the above simultaneously – yum.
~   Finely grated lemon zest and parsley or black pepper.

~   Black garlic
~   Roasted Garlic
~   Freshly chopped herbs or dried herbs.
~   Finely grated Parmesan cheese.
~   Crushed chilli flakes – I have some chipotle chilli flakes and they work well.
~   One of the infused oils below.



Vinaigrette


Delicious oil is essential when making salad dressings, see here for lots of vinaigrette ideas all of which will benefit by using extra virgin oil!

delicious ways to use evoo, ideas and recip with extra virgin olive oil


Flavoured Olive Oil


There are lots of ways to add more flavour to oils, here are three rather special ideas …

~   Parmesan Oil – this is a great idea for leftover parmesan rind; marinate the rind in olive oil together with flavourings such as peppercorns or chilli. Discard the rind and use the oil to drizzle or dip.

Marinated Cheese


Certain cheese, such as Feta, Mozzarella and goat cheese, are good marinated in olive oil together with flavourings as you fancy.

You need a completely clean and dry kilner jar or similar.  You also need …

Cheese
Olive Oil
Seasonings of your choice – peppercorns, fresh herbs and spices
Maybe something else – olives, for instance

~   Cut the cheese into bite sized pieces, softer cheese such as goat cheese can be rolled into balls.
~   Toss the cheese with your chosen seasonings.
~   Layer the cheese up in the jar with any additions.
~   Pour in enough olive oil to completely and utterly cover the contents of the jar – nothing should be sticking out.
~   Seal the jar and store in the fridge for up to month. 

DO NOT discard the oil, use it to drizzle on salad, as a dipping oil or to dress pasta as in …

Aglio e Olio – serves 2


This is a classic Italian dish.

200g spaghetti or other fine pasta such as linguine or spaghettini
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 fresh red chilli – seeded and finely chopped (or a pinch of dried chilli flakes)
2 cloves garlic – finely chopped
2 tbsp parsley – finely chopped

Aglio e Olio, olive oil sauce,  with extra virgin olive oil, garlic, parsley and chilli, pasta sauce
~    Warm the oil and add the chilli and garlic, cook over a low heat until the garlic is just turning golden.
~   As soon as this happens stir in the parsley set aside till the pasta is cooked.
~   Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling well salted water (this will be the only seasoning) till just cooked or al dente as we cooks say!
~    Drain but not too thoroughly, a little cooking water will enhance the sauce.
~    Make sure the oil is still hot and then toss together with the pasta.
~    Serve immediately.

This can be varied quite a lot – use basil instead of parsley, add olives or artichoke hearts or chopped tomatoes or sun dried tomatoes or finely chopped red onion etc. And I would sprinkle the finished dish with freshly grated parmesan and probably some crunchy pangrattato!!!  

Here’s a similar recipe …

Linguine in Lemon & Herb Sauce


200g linguine
A handful of coarsely chopped fresh herbs of your choice – probably parsley, basil etc.
2 thinly sliced spring onions – diagonally sliced is prettiest
2 finely chopped garlic cloves
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
finely grated zest and juice of half a juicy lemon
knob of butter - optional

~   Cook the linguini in boiling salted water to al dente, drain, reserving two tablespoons of the cooking water.
~   Gently cook the garlic in the olive oil till fragrant.
~   Add the reserved pasta water to the garlicky oil, simmer, turn of the heat and stir in the herbs, lemon zest and juice.
~   Stir in the optional butter – go on!
~   Toss with the pasta and, of course, season to taste.

Serve as it is or add whatever you like really (seafood, chicken, bacon etc.) to make a more substantial meal.

olive oil pasta sauce, evoo, garlic, lemon and herbs


Baked Feta 


~   Place a chunk of Feta on a piece of lightly oiled foil.
~   Drizzle with lovely olive oil and season according to preference. I usually add oregano and chilli flakes but roasted garlic is good too.
~   Loosely seal the parcel and bake in a hot oven (
200°C/400°F/180ºC fan/gas 6) for 10-15 minutes depending on the thickness of the cheese.
~   Serve with crusty bread and red wine.



baked feta cheese with olive oil, hebs, garlic and chili


Warm Potato Salad with Fresh Herb Vinaigrette – serves 4


In two stages as the ingredients are somewhat repeated!

Stage 1

700g new potatoes – washed but not peeled
120ml extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons cider or white wine vinegar
½ teaspoon salt

~   If the potatoes are large cut them into attractive bite sized pieces.
~   Cook the potatoes in gently boiling water for about 15 minutes till tender.
~   Meanwhile whisk together the rest of the above ingredients
~   Drain the potatoes, cool for a few minutes and then toss gently with the dressing and set aside for about half an hour.

Stage 2

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 finely chopped shallot
a small handful of chopped parsley
a small bunch of chives – finely sliced

~   Stir together the above five ingredients over a low heat till just warm.
~   Stir through the potatoes and serve.

If making ahead just re-warm the salad slightly when serving.
warm olive oil dressed potato salad

Pan Bagnat for 2


This is a delicious soggy sarnie from Nice!  I usually make this with a baguette but other breads work well too – just not sliced bread!! Here's how to make it your own ...

½ a baguette
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
Your selection of the kind of sandwich fillings you think a French person would use!
(tomatoes, olives, artichoke hearts, red onion, fresh basil leaves, ham, tuna (but not these two at the same time!)
3 tablespoons of vinaigrette

(see here for lots of vinaigrette recipes and choose one!)  

~   Slice the baguette in half lengthwise and scoop out the soft bread from the bottom half.  See here for lots of ideas for leftover bread – don’t waste it!
~   Brush inside both halves of the sandwich with the oil.
~   Rub each half with a cut clove of garlic.
~   Make a salad using your choice of ingredients.
~   Dress the salad with the vinaigrette.
~   Pile the dressed salad into the scooped out half of the bread.
~   Put on the lid and wrap the whole thing in cling film/plastic wrap.
~   Put in the fridge with a weight on top of it to crush all together – a heavy pan for instance, or a brick?
~   Unwrap and cut in half to serve (with some red wine and maybe some cheese depending on your other ingredients).


λαδοβρεχτό Greek recipe for bread grilled with olive oil


λαδοβρεχτό which is Lovely!


Do see here for how to make this delicious Greek Grilled Bread, it’s really worth knowing about!                

Do you know I am So Old I can remember when you could only get olive oil in a tiny bottle from the chemists - I wonder why!





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How to Spice Up Your Cooking with Smoky Chipotle Paste


spoonful of chipotle chili paste

I was chatting with a friend the other day about cooking in Tortola (“Where?” he said, as usual, because he’s fed up with me mentioning the lovely place I used to live, lucky me!) and how I missed chipotles in adobe; canned smoked chillies in a tangy tomato sauce which I haven’t seen in the UK. 

He suggested I try Asda’s Chipotle Paste and I did, and now I am hooked and chipotle paste has become another of my must-have store cupboard staples.

If you do invest in some I urge to test it tentatively before using it as it can be quite (but not very) fiery.  I use about half a teaspoon in most things I make just for myself but you might feel differently.


What is Chipotle?


smoke dried jalapeno chilis are chipotles
Chipotle peppers are smoke-dried ripe jalapeño chillies. They are medium hot and look like this – happily looks aren’t everything!

I do have dried chipotles in my storecupboard too, but chipotle paste is a much easier way to add their lovely smoky heat to your cooking.


How to Use Chipotle Paste


Well it is very inspiring stuff, here are some of the ways I have used it so far …

tomato ketchup mixed with chipotle paste


Chipotle Ketchup


Stir chipotle paste into the ketchup to taste, I really like this with egg and chips!


Pizza Sauce


Taking the above a little further a REALLY CHEATY pizza sauce which these days I use all the time is a mix of equal parts tomato ketchup and tomato paste. You can frown in my general direction if you like!  For myself I add half a teaspoon of chipotle paste to my portions of sauce but, not, of course, for my real man. You can add a little chipotle paste to more sophisticated pizza sauces too.

Chipotle Cheese Straws


how to make cheese straws from leftover pastry
Quite often I cook a pie for my real man, steak and kidney, chicken and leek, that sort of thing.  With the puff pastry trimmings I always make us some cheese straws to nibble on while the rest of the dinner is cooking.  All I do is roll out the pastry, sprinkle with grated mature cheddar, fold in half, sprinkle and roll, fold, sprinkle and roll about 5 times.  I then cut into strips, brush with egg yolk, sprinkle with sea salt and bake along with the pie at 200°C/400°F/180ºC fan/gas 6 or thereabouts.  For me I often spread a little chipotle paste on the pastry before the first sprinkle.  Lots more ideas for leftover pastry here. 

ideas for adding chipotle to your cooking



Chipotle Mayonnaise


This is particularly good with seafood and chicken and lovely to dip sweet potato fries into.  Just stir together mayonnaise and chipotle paste. I use about half a teaspoon of chipotle paste to a tablespoon of mayo, sometimes a little lime juice is a good addition. See here for more ideas for flavouring mayonnaise.





Honey Chipotle Vinaigrette


80ml olive oil
80ml cider vinegar
80ml runny honey
½ - 1 tsp chipotle paste – or even more if you like
salt

Liquidise, whisk or shake in a jar the first four ingredients and then season to taste with the salt. Not only good on salads but makes a great marinade for chicken, seafood and beef.

Chipotle Alfredo Sauce


This is delicious served tossed with cooked seafood or chicken and pasta or as a cream sauce for either without the pasta! Just add make this easy Alfredo Sauce and add a little tomato paste for pinkness and chipotle paste to taste. 

Sweet Potato Soup


Chipotle goes brilliantly with sweet potatoes try replacing the Thai chilli paste with chipotle paste in this lovely sweet potato soup.

add chipotle paste to sweet potatoes as in this soup recipe

Chipotle Egg Dishes


~   Add a little to scrambled eggs – see here for how to scramble eggs properly plus other egg ideas that might benefit from a bit of delicious smoky heat. 
~   Egg mayo sarnies
~   Add to the hollandaise when making Eggs Benedict – maybe change the name, any suggestions? Easy hollandaise sauce recipe here
~   Use it in my best omelette ever.

potato- chorizo-cheddar-chipotle-chilli-omelette

Chipotle Butter


This is wonderful on sweetcorn, more ideas for flavouring butter here

~   Mix a little into Black Bean Dip – see here for hummus and other bean dips etc.  

~  Add to Cheese on Toast.

salmon glazed with chipotle honey butterChipotle Honey Butter Salmon 

For 4

60ml honey
110g soft butter
1 tsp chipotle chilli paste
a little salt
4 x 180 fillets of salmon

~   Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F/180ºC fan/gas 6
~   Gently melt together the first three/four ingredients, taste and add a little salt if you wish.
~   Place the salmon fillets in a lightly buttered rimmed baking dish and pour over the delicious sweet spicy butter.
~   Bake for 12-15 minutes till the fish flakes easily.


White Fish with Beans and Chorizo


I have been making this for my dinner for ages and here’s the recipe, but recently have been adding a little chipotle paste to great acclaim from myself. 

white fish, white beans, chorizo in a tomato sauce spiked with chipotle peppers

~   Add to Chilli con Carne and other meaty beany dishes. ~   Add to Homemade Burgers, Meatballs, Meatloaf and so on.  Homemade burger are even easier than getting takeaway!

How to Pronunce Chipotle


how-to-say-chipotle
Just in case you were wondering!
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