There are a few varieties of onion, generally categorised by colour. The most common type, brown onions, have a strong flavour and are great for cooking. Red, also known as Spanish, onions have a milder flavour and taste great either cooked or raw. White onions have a white skin and flesh. They have a mild, sweet flavour and are best eaten raw. French shallots, or eschalots, are very small and have a brown-pink skin. Each eschalot contains several small bulbs. They are often used in French and Asian dishes.
Choose firm, papery, well-rounded onions with small necks. Avoid onions that are soft or have uneven colouring.
Onions can be stored in a cool, dark place for up to a month. Peeled or cut onions should be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
Peel away the outer, papery layers and cut the base to remove the stringy root, then chop or slice as required.
Four quick ways with onion
Flavoursome French onion soup is a classic dish. Sauté 4 thinly sliced onions (a mix of brown and red) in a large saucepan for 10 minutes, until softened. Add 2 crushed garlic cloves and cook for 1 minute. Add 4 cups reduced-salt vegetable stock, 2 cups water and the leaves from 8 sprigs fresh thyme. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes, until soup thickens slightly. Top with torn pieces of French bread and parmesan.
Top steaks, burgers or savoury tarts with caramelised onions. Sauté 4 thinly sliced onions (any colour) over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes until golden. Add 4 teaspoons sugar, 8 tablespoons balsamic vinegar and 1 cup water. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer until thickened.
Onions are great addition to any roast meal. Simply cut into wedges, spray with olive oil and roast alongside your other vegetables.
Try stuffed onions for dinner tonight! Cover 4 large, whole, unpeeled brown onions with water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, until tender. Drain and leave to cool. Meanwhile, sauté 300g chopped mushrooms and 1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs. Add 1/2 cup passata and cook for 2–3 minutes until sauce thickens. Stir in 2 tablespoons chopped parsley. Peel cooled onions, trim base and remove tops. Scoop out the flesh, leaving a 1cm shell, and place on a baking tray. Combine flesh with mushrooms, then stuff back into onions. Top with parmesan and bake at 180°C for 35 minutes.
Did you know? Allicin – the chemical that can bring you to tears when chopping onions – has been shown to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels.