Caramelised onion and how not to cry
This may take some time to do – up to an hour – but it’s so worth the effort.
The rich, savoury flavour of caramelised onion is a superb match for sandwhiches and burgers plus you can dollop a spoonful into your favourite soup or spread over a pizza base.
Caramelised onion tips
It’s important to keep these on a low heat, otherwise they will burn. Also, use a large pan so you do not overcrowd it which causes too much moisture (= caramelisation fail).
The slow cooking method ensures the sugar inside the layers of onion steadily caramelises. There’s no need to stand and stare at it like a hawke. It’s probably a good time to get some of that dreaded house work done because you can just check back on them every 5 – 10 minutes. When you do check on them, you may notice a sticky glaze on the bottom of the pan. This is what is known as “fond” and helps create the flavour. Simply add a little liquid (known as deglazing – you can use water) and then stir it back into the onion mixture. If they’re starting to burn, turn down the heat.
If, like me, you have a gas stove which lends itself to a stronger heat, it may be a challenge to keep them from burning. if so, place pan on smallest gas ring and pour in a tiny amount of water at intervals when needed (not too much so that it’s soggy, but just enough to stop it from over drying.
The finer you chop the onions, the less time it will take to soften. Taste every now and then to see how things are going.
The type of pan you use will have an impact on the result. A stainless steel or cast iron pan enables the beautiful caramelisation to occur.
Towards the end of the cooking process, deglaze the pan with some balsamic vinegar to add some more flavour.
I’ve used coconut sugar in this recipe. Not to be confused with coconut palm sugar, it is considered the most sustainable sweetener in the world and is made from coconut palm blossoms (coconut palm sugar is made by boiling the sap from coconut palm trees).
Onion chopping tips
Now, the biggest challenge of all – how NOT to cry when chopping onions. I’ve compiled a list of tips from various sources including amateur chefs (ie my friends and family). See which one works for you.
a) Palm the job off to someone else. Guilty as charged! (sorry Nicholas)
b) Wear sunglasses
c) Do as renowned chef, Marco Pierre White suggested on Masterchef – don’t look down as you chop. Sounds great in theory but that takes tonnes of practise to not cut your fingers and I’m pretty sure you don’t have the time for that. If you do, go for it (and make sure you have a generous supply of band-aids handy).
d) Put a number of matchsticks in your mouth with the red part sticking out. The sulphur will absorb the onion. You may cry a little but not as much.
e) Fill sink with some water and chop onions in said water. Drain.
f) Wear swimming goggles
g) Chop in sink under running tap water
h) Purchase a Tupperware Turbo chef (easy to use and pulls apart for easy cleaning)
Why this is so good for you
Onions strengthen the immune system, help regulate blood sugar, reduce inflammation, reduce the risk of gastric ulcers. thin the blood (thus warding off blood clots, help fight asthma, chronic bronchitis, hay fever, diabetes, atherosclerosis, inhibit stomach cancer and detoxify the body from heavy metals.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (or oil of choice)
- 4 - 5 medium to large brown or red onions, finely sliced
- Ground sea salt
- 1 tablespoon coconut sugar
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- Heat oil in large frying pan over low - medium low
- Add onion and ground sea salt and stir.
- Cook slowly for about 30 - 40 minutes or until onions are softened and tinged with colour.
- Add the sugar and keep cooking, scraping the crust that forms at the bottom at intervals.
- Deglaze (add liquid to lift off the sticky glaze/crust) pan with some balsamic vinegar
- Taste test it along the way till you are satisfied with the result.
- Tastes even better the next day!