french onion soup
Have you ever ordered something in a half-asleep kind of way?
A few weeks ago when ordering pie ingredients from Cardiff Market I ended up with about 10kg of onions in excess even after cooking many caramelised onion pies. In the process of making the order I was wearing my astute-business-woman face, hiding tiredness from a long day at work. And the only thing I heard the helpful man say was ‘very little money for a lot of onions’ to which of course I said ‘yes’. It is unlike me to be imprecise with orders (on food or anything really) but this wonderful mistake gave me the opportunity to experiment cooking with a lot of onions within a short period of time.
Admittedly Dan and I will not have onion soup again for a while. But we gratefully savoured its thyme and wine flavours during a May week when the weather had turned bad, we got ill and the heating came on again. French onion soup recipes online are plenty but my version is closest to Elise Bauer’s one on Simply Recipes because I also use no butter. And on occasion I choose to leave out the garlic and also make Gruyere cheese toast on granary bread instead of baguette croutons.
The bulk of my excess onions however I turned into a spiced onion chutney. I almost followed a recipe from Allotment Growing Recipes but did not use as much sugar and added ground pimento berries, bay leaves, port and red wine. The result is a fragrant onion chutney that compliments strong and piquant cheeses competently and also works well with beef burgers. I converted and amended the recipe below for you.
Make up to 9 medium jars and about 4Kg of Chutney.
5kg onions (peeled and chopped)
800gr dark brown sugar
9 Tbsp olive oil
3 lemons, juiced
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tsp ground cinnamon
3 tsp ground nutmeg
3 tsp ground ginger
6 tsp ground coriander
3 tsp ground cloves
6 tsp salt
3 tsp black pepper and pimento berries ground together
9 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
6 Tbsp malt vinegar
1 shot of red wine
1-2 shots of port
Preparation and jarring
At least 4 hours
Heat the oil in a 5lt pot, add onions and sauté for at least 10 minutes stirring occasionally.
Add the vinegars, lemon juice and spices and cook for 2 minutes.
Add sugar and then simmer uncovered for at least 3 hours.
Half way through cooking add the wine and port.
The chutney is ready when the liquid is reduced even if not fully evaporated- it will thicken when you stir.
About half an hour before the chutney is done sterilise jars.
Boil clean jars and their lids in bubbling water for 10 minutes.
Whilst doing that preheat the oven at 110 centigrade.
Line a baking tray with a clean towel.
Place the jars upside down on the tray using metal tongs.
Leave in the over for 15 minutes.
Ladle the chutney into hot, sterilised jars and seal immediately.
Label the jars when fully cool.
The chutney should keep for a year.
- Be prepared to peel and chop 5 Kg of onions for about hour if you have as small a kitchen as mine.
- I added the vinegars and lemons half an hour in the cooking process is as I was adding and sautéing onions gradually.
- Leave the lid off!
- Keep on low heat and stir regularly. Caramelised is good and burnt is bad.
- I put 800gr sugar but next time I’ll use less.
- Keep the jars in the oven if you have to wait a bit longer for the chutney to cook. The jars need to be hot if you are filling with hot chutney.
- Good instructions for sterilising can be found on Taste.com, an Australian website.
- The simple rule of jarring is to never add hot chutney to a cold jar and vice versa.
What a couple weeks these have been. I have been working, meeting, talking and writing non stop in my day job and for other endeavours: research, analysis, re-editing and a talk all on things water-related.
I have not been idle in the kitchen too: it has been my down time. Filled peppers, with wholemeal rice, mushrooms and lentils are cooking in the kitchen as I write this. And I have cooked and photographed a chickpea and kale curry that I will share with you this weekend: a recipe that my dear friend Petra Derkzen left as a comment to the Amok Curry recipe on this blog.
In a recent email conversation about my food blogging a friend said, ‘Everybody is doing it (blogging) at the moment!’ And right you are Mrs Winnard, as we say in Cardiff. Everybody is doing it and what a sterling job they are doing too!
I have discovered the entertaining food ramblings of Joanne, a medical student in New York, whose writing is intimate. Eats Well with Others is personal and entertaining: an emotive diary of an intelligent young lady who dazzles us with her skills: an athlete, a cook, a down-to-earth woman and a hard working medical researcher. Today’s recipe on Joanne’s blog is a parsnip and carrot soup, with a great photo for the entry.
My second discovery is They Draw & Cook, a blog both ingenious and unique. It merges art, cooking and design in the perfect visual recipe. Artists from around the world have submitted illustrated recipes they have drawn and designed and illustrated, and there is a map that pinpoints where contributions come from. This is the baby of Nate and Salli , the photograph of whom is really telling of affinity and friendship. Big up to both. And another great thing is that artists who submit their work and receive royalties for any print sold.
We love bites is another recent discovery: the blog of fellow Cardiffian, Rachel Kinchin, who also writes a vegetarian food column for WM Magazine in Wales. Rachel’s writing is warm and ‘tasty’. She writes about ‘snazzy eats’ and her adventures as a ‘seasoned vegetarian’ and ‘passionate amateur cook’. It’s quirky and I love the latest tagine recipe that she has executed and photographed for the blog. I hope to read more of your ‘vegetarian shenanigans’ and to meet you soon Rachel.
And last but not least, I want to tell you about Pandespani, the name of which, Pan di Spagna, means sponge cake and, believe it or not, is my favourite cake of all: particularly when dunked in dark strong coffee! Pandespani successfully makes gourmet cooking simple and approachable: ‘cooking seriously, for fun’ is the blog’s catch-phrase. Recent tantalising entries include white chocolate fudge with oreos and French onion soup. Mmmm! The blog comes mainly in Greek but is also translated in English by Fyllosophie. The contributions come from lady Pandespani and Mr Greekadman, and strike a cord with me. Pandepani seems a product of friendship and fun. Perhaps I have imagined this, but I recognise hybridity in the language and also style of the blog: of fellow Greeks that have also lived abroad possibly? Is it by luck that lady Pandespani talks about the ‘various expressions of her perfectionism’, refers to Greekadman’s ‘self sarcasm’ and Fyllosophie’s ‘competitive Welsh humour’? Traits that, unexpectedly perhaps for some, to me emphasise the compatibility of Greek and British cultures. And just a day ago Greekadman left a message on my blog, ‘Here’s to the Greeks in Wales’, he said. You three: I wonder what your story is? And I can’t wait to hear it!