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Make your own – Caramalised onions

I was so pleased when I woke up this morning and the temperature had dropped overnight and that today was expected to be 30°C (86°F).  We have had so many days of hot weather, even up to 42°C (107°F), that it has made being in a small, hot kitchen rather difficult.  Given the blessing delivered to me I decided to create something that took some time and that I had been wanting to do for a few weeks.

Slowly caramelising onions brings out their deep, rich, sweet flavour as the natural sugars breakdown and become a beautiful mahogany colour.  This process takes time and patience, but trust me, it is well worth it.

There are probably a million and one recipes out there for caramelised onions and mine is adapted from several of those.  I just wanted mine to have a little bit of spice along with that balance of sweet and sour.

You can use these deeply golden strands in many ways.  One of the classics is added to a steak sandwich.  I love to use mine in little savoury pastry tarts with beetroot and marinated feta.

caramelised onions (recipe created by Fiona from Food 4 Thought)
makes approximately 560g

3 – 4 Tablespoons olive oil 
800g (28 ¼ oz) brown onions, thinly sliced    
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
Pinch of dried chilli, to taste
250g (8 ¾ oz) brown sugar
185ml (6 ¼ fluid oz) balsamic vinegar
185ml (6 ¼ fluid oz) water 
2 star anise
6 sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat a large heavy based pan over medium heat. 

Add olive oil to the pan, add onions, reduce heat slightly.  Stir and sauté for 15 – 20 minutes, until the onions have softened and started to become golden.  Add the garlic and chilli, stir to combine and cook for a further 3 – 4 minutes.  If the onions begin to stick to the pan, add a little water.

Add 200g of the sugar, vinegar and water into the pan, stir to dissolve the sugar.  Add the star anise and thyme.  Increase heat and bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 1 ½ hours.

The onions should become dark brown and sticky.  Taste the mixture and adjust the seasoning, sweetness and sourness until you have the flavour you like.

Store in sterilise jars.  You can keep this in the fridge for up to a month, but like most things they are best consumed soon after making.

My tips:  *I start with 200g of sugar and add more if I need to.  The alterations will depend on how sweet the onions are.  *If you would like a slightly different flavour, substitute 50ml of the water with your favourite port.  It provides yet another dimension.

ease: 8/10. (you can slice the onions in a food processor to make this even easier).
prep time: 20mins.
cooking time: 90mins.
total: 1hour 50mins.

taste: 9/10. Star anise is one of my favourite spices.  It has an evocative headiness to it, an amazing intensity that makes me want to sleep with it under my pillow.  Adding it to the onions creates another level of deliciousness.  I especially love the sweet and sour balance that is created in this condiment.

would I make it again: Yes – yet another thing that I can have fun making and no longer have to buy.

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