KNOW YOUR ONIONS

I’D FIND LIFE VERY DIFFICULT WITHOUT ONIONS.

Leaving aside pickled onions for a moment, which we get though a fair whack of in this house, as I’m married to a pickled onion fanatic (and let me take a moment to pay tribute to the delightful tiny cocktail onions which blessed my Gibsons, before I stopped drinking alcohol). I tend to buy three types: red onions (which, for some unknown reason, are called Spanish onions round these parts), spring onions (or scallions to our American comrades) and brown onions.

I generally use the red onions for salads, often lightly pickling the sliced onion segments in the bottom of the salad bowl, either in lemon juice or vinegar, as I prepare the other ingredients. It’s also worth noting that a red onion, sliced in half against the grain, is a thing of remarkable beauty.

Spring onions are obviously good for dishes originating in Asia, like stir-fries or ramen, or indeed in salads – but not in the truly wretched British salads of my childhood, which consisted of a couple of lettuce leaves, some slices of cucumber, a couple of tomato quarters, a couple of spring onions and some protein (usually one of the following: a hard-boiled egg, some cheese, a slice of ham, Spam, tinned corned beef, tinned salmon), with only a blob of Salad Cream to alleviate the suffering.

As I use brown onions for all other basic cooking, from finely chopped in sauces and stews, to sliced and fried on a sausage or vegeburger sandwich, I get through a lot more of these.

Spem in Allium.

Here, then, is my hot tip: I always buy brown onions by the sack. In my experience, a sack costs not much more than what at small net of onions costs (see above pictures) and contains about ten times more. It’ll be ages before they start to sprout and go soft (pick out any that do), and you’ll have already saved loads of money. Obviously, you need to have somewhere to store them, and I’m fortunate to have room. Keep an eye out for any that go off, though, because they stink.

If you come to the end of a jar of pickled onions, don’t discard the vinegar, try just filling the jar with sliced brown onions. They’ll quickly pickle and are delicious.

As something of an afterthought, it came to me that I should include onion powder here. I’d never used this until a year or so ago, when I saw it being included in lots of American cooking shows. If you’re making something burger-y, onion powder is a fantastic addition; it gives loads of onion flavour without disrupting the form of the burger. Anyone who has despaired as their vegeburgers fall apart in the pan will appreciate this. It’s also essential in those barbecque or chilli sauces that you make for, say, baked beans or Buffalo wings.

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