Here’s to the humble onion

In Recipes on November 13, 2011 at 4:29 am

It is hard to imagine how cooks throughout the centuries would have fared had they not had the common onion to flavour their dishes.  Many dishes around the world begin with onion gently fried in oil or butter – these include soups, stews, casseroles and sauces.  European peasants, in particular, would have eaten some very plain food if they had been deprived of onions as a seasoning.  Onions are very versatile and can be pickled, fried, baked, stuffed or caramelised.

Onions have unique health giving properties and are said to contain antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, they can help lower cholesterol and they are said to be useful against osteoporosis, particularly when women are at the highest risk – during menopause.

When onions are cooked down slowly in some oil and butter they become sweet.  The addition of a couple of bay leaves, some sugar and a little balsamic vinegar, combined with further cooking down, gives a lovely caremelised result.  These can be used as a base for various tarts and pizzas, or on homemade burgers.  The French classic, pissaladiere, combines a pastry base spread with caramelised onions, topped with a diamond pattern of anchovies, studded with olives and baked.  I make a number of variations on this classic recipe – with less anchovy and sprinkled with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and chopped capers or you can omit the olives and anchovies and top it with crumbled feta instead.  If you have frozen puff pastry sheets available these tarts make a quick lunch or snack and can be made from ingredients to hand.

Onion tart with a touch of anchovy, olives, capers and Parmesan

Onion Tart  


6 large onions (this makes enough for 3 pastry sheets)

1 tbs butter

1 tbs olive oil

2 bay leaves

1 tbs sugar

1 tbs balsamic vinegar

3 frozen puff pastry sheets

beaten egg

an assortment of toppings to be used in your favourite combo – anchovies, capers, feta, Parmesan etc.


Heat oil and butter in a heavy based pan, add sliced onions and bay leaves.  Fry until translucent.  Reduce heat and add sugar, balsamic and a tbs of water.  Allow the onions to cook gently for 30 mins stirring occasionally and adding a little more water if the onions are sticking.  The finished result should be pale brown.

Thaw pastry sheets and score around the edges.  Spread 1/3 of the cooled onion on each base, inside the scoring.  Top with your chosen toppings.  Brush egg around the edges and bake 15 mins in a pre-heated 220c oven.  Reduce heat to 180c and cook for a further 15-20 mins or until the pastry is golden brown.

A simple lunch option

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