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The Culinary Quiet Acheiver

Filed under Ford On Food

July 12, 2015

by Jason Ford
Ford on Food

Onions are one of the most humble and least glamorous vegetables on Earth, but most cuisines would be unrecognisable without them.

Onions have a long and colourful past and are probably one of oldest culinary ingredients in human history.

Egyptian hieroglyphics and artwork tell the story of how onions where purchased at great expense to feed the slave workforce and keep them physically healthy and motivated while building the pyramids.

Countless religious writings, scriptures and historical documents from all over the world make references to onions.

There are a myriad of varieties grown for culinary, medicinal and ornamental uses, but only a dozen or so common varieties are found in regular grocery stores.

Brown onions would possibly be the mainstay in most kitchens, because of their savoury, full bodied flavour.

White onions are a little more earthy and pungent, while red onions are quite sweet and are well suited to eating raw in salads.

There are also smaller shallot onions that have a complex balance of sweet and pungent, and are popular in French cuisine.

Pearl onions are small and crisp, and exceptional for pickling.

There are also many fresh green stalk-like species such as Spring Onions and Leeks that are delicate, sweet and subtle in flavour.

Onions are often the quiet achiever of the kitchen, yet it’s all but impossible to imagine a world without them.

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French Onion Soup

French onion soup is a bistro classic, and beautifully warming on a cold winter day. This recipe will serve four people, and takes about an hour to prepare.

Ingredients:

  • 50g butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 kg brown onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 250ml dry white wine
  • 1.3 litres hot strongly-flavoured beef stock
  • 4-8 slices French bread (depending on size)
  • 140g Gruyère cheese, finely grated

Method:

  1. Melt the butter with the oil in a large heavy-based pan.
  2. Add the onions and fry with the lid on for 10 mins until soft.
  3. Sprinkle in the sugar and cook for 20 mins more, stirring frequently, until caramelised. The onions should be really golden, full of flavour and soft when pinched between your fingers. Take care towards the end to ensure that they don’t burn.
  4. Add the garlic for the final few minutes of the onions’ cooking time, then sprinkle in the flour and stir well.
  5. Increase the heat and keep stirring as you gradually add the wine, followed by the hot stock.
  6. Cover and simmer for 15-20 mins.
  7. To serve, turn on the grill, and toast the bread*
  8. Ladle the soup into heatproof bowls.
  9. Put a slice or two of toast on top of the bowls of soup, and pile on the cheese.
  10. Grill until melted, then serve immediately.

*Alternatively, you can complete the toasts under the grill, then serve them on top.


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