This week it’s one of the big ones: onions.
The whole world runs on onions, everyone eats them and loves them and no-one would eat a hotdog in a million years without them.
When I was a kid my mum used to fry them so they would go crispy and they were fantastic but on a Wednesday night we would have boiled onions. They need about an hour to cook with a bit of salt and vinegar but what my mum would do, which was brilliant, was scoop out the middle and put a lot of cheese on top so it became like an onion mornay. It was delicious and if you’re feeling a bit posh then add a bit of cream or butter as well.
I also had a thing for pickled onions and their juice and, when I was a kid, my mum used to go crazy because I was always drinking the pickled onion juice. I still drink it now.
What is amazing about onions is that they are one of the few vegetables that are as good raw as they are cooked or pureed. They love fresh thyme and because of their heavy flavour they can take anything.
At the moment button onions are coming through. They are hard work to peel but what I would do with them is leave the skins on and roast them in the oven with some salt.
Red onions are also in right now and they are absolutely brilliant. Chuck them in a pan, reduce them down, chuck in some pasta and a bit of cream and it will come out this glorious red colour. It might freak the kids out a bit but it’s fantastic. If you really want to give it a bit of a kick you can also chuck in some red chopped chillies and you’ll get a dish that’s like a red risotto.
It loves strong flavours, vinegar, sugar, rosemary and even chives, they go together like summer and sunshine, giving each other a lift.
It works really well with beetroot and apple. Finely chop some beetroot, apple and onion, blitz them in a food processor, add some yoghurt and you’ve got a fantastic little Scottish root vegetable winter dip for crudités.
Something we have on the menu at the moment is onion and porridge flapjacks. Get an onion, chop it, blend it with yoghurt and oatmeal, roll it into biscuits and cook them in the oven. It’s like porridge but cooked and it’s fantastic, especially with a bit of cheese: just like what the old clans would have eaten.
Obviously you can pickle them but more of a winter thing to do with them is to peel them, roast them in the oven like a jacket potato and, when they are just about ready, put some salt and soy sauce on them, roll them in puff pastry and put them back in the oven. It looks like a haggis and the centre is onion all the way through. However, if you’d rather try something quicker, chop the onion into quarters, get the kids to wrap the bits in puff pastry and put them in the oven. It’s like onion puff pastry baguettes.
It also goes really well with horseradish. If you want to go back to basics chop up your onions, fry them off in olive oil, chuck in a handful of sultanas, a splash of vinegar, some lentils or barley, a little bit of stock and some lamb mince and, at the last minute, add some cream and horseradish. Leave all of the fat in, don’t drain it off and make sure you cook the lentils off first. You’re basically making a winter warming lamb hotpot and if you want to make it vegetarian just leave out the mince.
You can also boil them in ale, chuck in some chickpeas and herbs and make a lovely hummus and they make a wonderful bread sauce. Just boil your onions and, when they are almost ready, chuck in some white bread, thyme and nutmeg and, if you want a bit of wow, add some cream, blitz it and serve. It works well with any white meat and it’s lovely hot or cold.
Onions are fantastic and work well with anything. They are like man’s best vegetable friend.
Onions are a staple part of the Scottish diet but did you know that the vegetable is toxic to cats and dogs?
Here are 10 more fascinating facts that you might not know about onions.
1 The word onion comes from the Latin ‘unio’, meaning large pearl
2 Onions contain sulphuric compounds which often cause people to cry when peeling or cutting into them
3 Eating half a raw onion a day increases the good type of cholesterol (HDL) in your body by around 30%. It also helps increase circulation, lower blood pressure and prevent blood clots.
4 A single serving of onion contains 45 calories
5 The largest onion ever grown weighed 10 pounds 14 ounces. It was grown in Silsden, England.
6 Onions contain quercetin, an antioxidant which helps delay damage to your cells and tissues
7 It is believed that the thickness of onion skins can be used to predict the severity of the coming winter. A thin skin shows a mild winter ahead, while a thick skin indicates rough weather.
8 Onions are high in energy, low in calories and contain generous amounts of vitamin B6, B1 and folic acid, which is required for DNA and RNA synthesis.
9 Eating one or two sprigs of parsley dipped in salt or vinegar is believed to be a cure for onion breath
10 According to the book 1,000 Places To See Before You Die, New York City was once called the Big Onion because it is a place where you could peel off layer after layer and never reach the core.
In Season: 11 things to do with blood oranges