food for thought

by michelle

Posts Tagged ‘onions

two cooked salads

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These two Middle Eastern style salads make an excellent accompaniment for fried halloumi cheese, or grilled meat, chicken or fish. You could also serve them as part of a mezze (appetiser) first course.

In this salad the combination of sweet onions and peas is balanced by salty preserved lemon.

Heat some olive oil in a small saucepan and fry 1 large chopped onion until it is soft and translucent. Add frozen baby peas and 2 quarters of finely diced preserved lemon rind. Continue to cook until the peas are just soft. Turn off the heat and add 1-2 tablespoons of yoghurt, 1 crushed clove of garlic and salt to taste. Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with a little sumac. Serve warm or at room temperature.

The recipe for this salad of leeks and carrots is from Turkish Cooking by Gülseren Ramazanoglu, an invaluable cookbook I bought many years ago from the Australia-Turkish Friendship Society.

Wash and cut 1-2 leeks into 4cm (1½”) lengths. Trim and cut 2-3 carrots into diagonal slices. Heat some olive oil in a heavy saucepan until very hot. Add the carrots and leeks and cook them for a few minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of long grain rice, some salt and a little sugar. If your carrots are very sweet just a pinch of sugar will do. Continue to cook and toss in the hot oil for a few more minutes before adding 1 – 1½ cups of boiling water. Reduce the heat, cover and allow to cook for approximately 10 minutes or until the leeks are quite soft. Transfer the salad to a serving dish, sprinkle with some fresh chopped parsley and allow to cool. When cooled a little, add lemon juice to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Written by michelle picker

January 29, 2020 at 12:08 am

barley, lentils and mushrooms with fried onions

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Once again Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipe imparts amazing flavours to a vegetarian meal.


In a small bowl cover 20g (¾ oz) of dried porcini with 1¾ cups of boiling water and leave to stand for an hour. After an hour, remove the mushrooms and strain the liquid through a very fine sieve to remove any grit, then return the mushrooms to their liquid. Place 120g (4¼ oz) of barley (pre-soaked) and 170g (6 oz) of brown lentils in a large saucepan. Add 4 times the volume of cold water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a rolling simmer and cook for 15 to 20 minutes. Drain, transfer to a bowl and leave to cool down. Cut an onion into thin slices lengthways and toss in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of flour. Heat oil in a medium saucepan (enough to cover the onion slices in batches) to high heat and fry the onion in batches for three to four minutes, until golden-brown. Remove them to a plate lined with paper towel and set aside to cool. Slice a second onion into wider wedges. In a large sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over high heat and fry the onion wedges for five minutes until charred and soft. Stir in 1½ teaspoons of ground cumin, 1 teaspoons of ground allspice and 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon. Next add 4 sliced large mushrooms, the finely sliced rind of 1 lemon and ½ a teaspoon each of sugar and salt. Fry until the mushrooms start to soften then add the porcini and all their soaking liquid. Boil rapidly for five minutes, reducing the liquid to approximately ½ a cup. Reduce the heat and add the lentils and barley plus 1 tablespoon of dried mint, 1 teaspoon of dried dill leaves, ¾ of a teaspoon of salt and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. Cook for a minute more then remove from the heat and add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Serve garnished with the fried onion and chopped parsley with sour cream on the side.

Written by michelle picker

May 5, 2017 at 6:05 am


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On a recent trip to southern France, I was delighted to see my friends Franbi and Milan who invited me to a wonderful lunch. The starter was Franbi’s pissaladière, a traditional onion, olive and anchovy tart which originated in Nice.


I don’t have Franbi’s recipe but I hope she approves of this one. To make this tart you can use ready-made puff pastry. Place it in a greased pie dish or oven tray and refrigerate while you prepare the filling. Heat some olive oil in a heavy pan and gently fry 4 large sliced onions until wilted. Add some sprigs of fresh thyme, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and continue to cook until the onions are caramelised. If you want to hurry this along you can also add a little brown sugar at this stage. Spread the onions onto the prepared pastry then lay good quality anchovies over the top in a criss-cross pattern. Place Kalamata olive halves in the spaces between the anchovies. Bake the tart in a moderate oven until the pastry is crisp and golden brown.

Written by michelle picker

September 19, 2016 at 5:48 am

chicken with cardamom rice + spinach salad with dates

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Two fragrant dishes from JERUSALEM by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.

This one-pot chicken and rice dish is wonderfully spiced, rich with caramelised onions, tangy with barberries and fresh with herbs.


First put 2-3 tablespoons of sugar into a small saucepan with an equal amount of water and heat until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat, add 25g (less than 1 oz)  of dried barberries and set aside to soak. Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a large sauté pan which has a lid. Fry 2 finely sliced onions over medium heat until quite brown. Remove from the pan and set aside. For this recipe you can either cut a whole chicken into pieces or use portions. Place them in a bowl and season well with 1½ teaspoons of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Add 10 bruised cardmom pods, 2 broken cinnamon quills, ½ a teaspoon of whole cloves and 2 tablespoons of olive oil and mix well with your hands. Heat the pan again and sear the chicken pieces on each side for a few minutes then remove from the pan. Now add 300g (10½ oz) of basmati rice to the pan along with the caramelised onions, the strained barberries, 1 teaspoon of salt and more freshly ground black pepper. Stir well then push the chicken pieces into the rice. Pour in 550ml (18½ fl oz) of boiling water then cover the pan and cook over very low heat for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and quickly replace with a tea towel or paper towels under it. Allow to stand for a further 10 minutes. Garnish with 15g (½ oz) of chopped herbs consisting of equal parts parsley, dill and coriander (cilantro).

This baby spinach salad with dates and almonds has a wonderful balance of fresh, tart, sweet and crunchy elements.


In a small bowl combine ½ a finely sliced red onion, 100g (3½ oz) of pitted and quartered Medjool dates, a pinch of salt and 1 tablespoon of white vinegar. Mix well and allow to marinate for 20 minutes. Meanwhile heat 1½ tablespoons of butter with 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a fry pan. Add approximately 100g (3½ oz) of torn pita bread and 75g (2½ oz) of roughly chopped whole almonds. Cook, stirring, until the pita pieces are crunchy and golden brown. Remove from the heat and add 2 teaspoons of sumac, ½ a teaspoon of chilli flakes and ¼ of a teaspoon of salt. Set aside to cool. When ready to serve, place baby spinach leaves, the pita and almonds and the drained dates and onions in a salad bowl. Add a little olive oil, 2 teaspoons of lemon juice and some salt to taste. Toss and serve immediately.

Written by michelle picker

September 13, 2016 at 6:12 am

grilled sardines

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Fresh sardines are wonderful and for those who have only had them canned, quite a different kettle of fish! This simple recipe will let them shine.


If you buy your sardines whole they will have to be gutted. This is quite simple if you prefer the heads off. Just cut through the head and pull down and the insides should just pull out. We prefer sardines whole which involves slightly more fiddling around but is still not overly difficult. When you have gutted and washed the sardines dry them well with paper towels and smother them in chilli paste. Sambal Oelek is a good choice as it has plenty of salt and vinegar, or Vietnamese chilli paste which has garlic as well. Depending on which chilli paste you use you may have to season the sardines as well. Allow them to marinate while you thickly slice 1 or 2 onions. When you’re ready to cook, a barbecue with a flat plate is ideal or a heavy pan. Coat the sardines and onions in vegetable oil and cook them together over medium to high heat for a few minutes on each side. We ate ours with rice and a fresh green salad. If you don’t mind crunchy bones you can eat the whole fish.

Written by michelle picker

February 9, 2016 at 5:43 am

Posted in fish & seafood

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rice with onions, chick peas and currants + butternut salad

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Here are another two inspired Yotam Ottolenghi recipes from his book Jerusalem.


This dish is made with a cup of basmati rice and ¼ of a cup of wild rice both pre-cooked separately. Heat some sunflower oil in a saucepan and add 2 teaspoons of cumin seeds and 1½ teaspoons of curry powder. After only a few seconds add a drained can of chickpeas and ¼ of a teaspoon of salt. Stir over the heat for a minute or two and transfer to a large bowl. Thoroughly mix 1 very finely sliced onion with ½ a tablespoon of flour. Wipe the saucepan clean, add a generous amount of sunflower oil and place over high heat. Add the onion in batches and fry for 2-3 minutes until golden brown then drain on kitchen paper. Sprinkle the onion with a little salt. Add both types of rice to the chick peas along with the onions, 100g (3½ oz) of currants, 2 tablespoons of chopped flat-leaf parsley, 1 tablespoon of chopped coriander (cilantro), 1 tablespoon of chopped dill and salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.


This butternut pumpkin (squash) and onion salad has a wonderful tahini dressing. Cut a large butternut pumpkin and 2 red onions into wedges and place them in a bowl. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and toss well. Spread them on a baking sheet and roast in a moderate oven for approximately 40 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked and colouring a little. Remove them from the oven and leave to cool. Meanwhile combine 3½ tablespoons of tahini paste with 1½ tablespoons of lemon juice, a crushed clove of garlic, 2 tablespoons of water and ¼ of a teaspoon of salt. Whisk well until you achieve a consistency like thin honey. To serve, arrange the roasted vegetables on a platter or in a bowl and drizzle with the tahini dressing. The original recipe includes a scattering of toasted pine nuts. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of za’atar (a mixture of dried herbs and sesame seeds available in Middle Eastern stores) and garnish with flat-leafed parsley.

Written by michelle picker

June 10, 2014 at 5:53 am


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This pesto and tomato bruschetta and caramelised onion and blue cheese bruschetta are equally good for lunch or a light evening meal.


Make sure you have crusty Italian bread. For each bruschetta peel and finely slice 2 brown onions and dice 2 cloves of garlic. Cook them over low heat with a generous amount of olive oil, stirring occasionally until they are much reduced and beginning to brown. Add 2 teaspoons of red wine vinegar and 1 teaspoon of brown sugar for every 2 onions. Continue to cook, stirring more often, until they are quite dark brown then set aside. Meanwhile cut some ripe tomatoes (1 per person) into wedges. Put them in a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Place in a hot oven and roast until they begin to shrivel and brown. For the tomato bruschetta, you will also need pesto. You can use a store-bought pesto or for a home-made one follow my recipe here. When the bread is toasted spread half with pesto, lay the tomatoes on the pesto and top with some mozzarella and pecorino cheese. Spread the other half with caramelised onions and dot with pieces of blue cheese (gorgonzola or stilton). Place the bruschettas under a hot grill until the cheeses have melted. Serve the onion bruschetta garnished with fresh roquette.

Written by michelle picker

December 12, 2013 at 5:51 am

Posted in bread & pastry, cheese, vegetables

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