The English serve their bangers and mash with onion gravy, the Americans love their fried onion rings, the Danish cherish their bløde løg and Norwegian serve caramelized onions with coalfish. However it is the French who bring the onion to the fore with their onion soup and onion pie.
I have always loved onions, and so does my mother. But my brother hated onions, so my mother had to hide the onion by grating it when making meatballs. She did this to enhance the flavour, but recent studies reveal how healthy this is. All types of onions have great health benefits related to both cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Of all positive effects, maybe the most fascinating is this: Onions are anti-bacterial and a natural antibiotics!
There is also another reason why I love onions. The onion is a magician being able to transform itself from sharp and pungent to sweet and caramelized if you cook it slowly. The key to both French onion soup and onion pie is slow cooking the onions, and this may take some time: First the onions begin sweating, a process where the water in the onion evaporates. After the water has evaporated caramelization starts and the flavour becomes sweeter. The final phase is the changing of colours into brown, which starts after half an hour or more.
Caramelizing may be tricky and it is important to use the correct temperature (medium-low) and pan (wide frying pan). Use a (wide) frying pan, instead of a small pan. Stacking too many onions of top of each other will cause more steam and inhibit the process of caramelization.
French onion pie (makes 3–4)
160 g flour (gluten-free flour works fine)
1 egg, lightly whisked
75 g cold butter in cubes
50 g butter
1 garlic clove
500 g brown onion
2 tbsp thyme (the leaves)
275 ml milk and cream (half and half)
75 g grated cheese (e.g. Gryère or Jarlsberg)
¼ tsp grated nutmeg
salt and pepper
1. With your hands crumble the flour and butter. Add the egg and mix it together into a dough by using a spatula. Wrap in plastic and let rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
2. Lightly dust a baking table with flour and roll out the dough with a rolling-pin. Transfer to a pie tin and prick the whole pie shell with a fork. Let rest in the freezer for 30 minutes.
3. Preheat the oven to 160C/320F.
4. Slice the onions thinly. (Save a few onion circles for garnish). Gently fry on medium-low heat for about 45 minutes. Stir about every 5 minute. Add the thyme leaves the last 15 minutes of the caramelization.
5. Remove the pie crust from the freezer and prebake for 10 minutes until slightly golden.
6. Whisk the egg and cream in a bowl. Add grated nutmeg and cheese and season with salt and pepper.
7. Take out the pie crust from the oven and add the onion, then the egg filling. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes until the pie is golden.
Salad with onion, walnuts and honey
½ red onion
a handful of walnuts
1 tsp honey
1 tsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
Wash the lettuce and tear roughly apart with your hands. Finely slice the onions into rings. Slice the cucumber lengthwise, scrape out the center with a spoon and cut into chunks. Mix everything in a bowl with the walnuts. Mix honey, vinegar and olive oil and add to the salad right before serving.