Cooking with onions: inspiring recipes
This versatile ingredient is bold enough to take centre stage in a range of robust, rustic dishes
What to look for
The fresh onion season runs from late summer to autumn but, as most of those we eat are stored until they are sent to market, theyre in season all year round. Look for firm, dry skins with no damp or soft spots.
All-purpose brown-skinned onions with a creamy flesh are most commonly used in cooking and are an essential base to many dishes. The sweeter red variety is delicious in salads and salsas, and roasts particularly well. Spanish onions are similar to the brown variety but are much larger and milder. White onions are less commonly available and have an assertive flavour that makes them more suitable for stuffing and baking rather than eating raw. Shallots are a close relation and are the favourite of chefs, who prefer their finer, less harsh taste in sauces and dressings. Small, round pickling onions are grown for preserving as pickles look for them in early autumn.
How to store
Onions keep very well for a long time in a cool, dry place, but they will go soft quickly if put in the fridge. Once cut, though, you can store them in the fridge and use within a couple of days.
How to prepare
To chop an onion, peel and cut it in half through the root. Slice horizontally, then vertically, leaving the root intact. Slow, gentle frying (sweating) in fat or oil reduces the acidity or harshness and enhances the sweetness. However, they burn easily because they contain a lot of natural sugars adding salt at this stage helps to stop them catching in the pan. Shallots should be finely sliced or chopped and are excellent served raw in dressings. Blanching whole onions or shallots in boiling water for a few minutes helps to reduce their acidity before further cooking. The skins also add colour and flavour to stock.
Onions combine well with apples, beef, cabbage, chilli, cream, hard cheese, potatoes and tomatoes. Also good this month Cabbages (green), cauliflower, chard, crab, purple sprouting broccoli, lobster, native oysters, radishes, rhubarb (forced and outdoor), wild garlic, spinach, sorrel and watercress.