Know Your Onions – Onions Braised in Wine and Balsamic Vinegar

What a funny expression that is. I struggled to find a decent explanation for it, although we use the expression to mean “knowing a lot about a subject”. If anyone can enlighten me, I’d love to know more!

Over on the beautiful prairies of the Midwest of America, our very dear friend Celia goes along each year to a big swapping fiesta. She usually comes home with some exotic and adorable creature like a white peacock or beautiful Boo the dog. Here, swapping is rife but generally restricted to gluts of fruit and vegetables and also poultry and eggs. As we’re not around so much right now, we can’t offer much but our dear friends and neighbours are busy keeping us supplied with delicious goodies.

Yesterday Big Man said he was popping out to see a man about some onions, as you do, and this is what he came home with.

Cebollas (3)

A lot of onions. And we’re due to be heading back to England in about a week, so there’s no way we can pack them into the car…we’d be asphyxiated by onion fumes. Time to get creative with onion recipes. Well, there’s Up the Mountain Onion Soup, of course. And maybe a caramelised onion tart. How about something different? Memories of my godmother, who came from the north of Italy, near Venice, and her method of cooking tiny onions in balsamic vinegar inspired me. I’m not sure if it’s exactly her recipe, but the taste was very similar and definitely worth buying onions to make specially.

Ingredients

  • Onions
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • White or red wine
  • Salt and pepper
  • A few stems of a hardy herb like oregano (or you could use thyme or rosemary)

Chop the tops and bottoms off the onions so that they will sit flat in a deep frying pan or saucepan. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle over the balsamic vinegar (I used about 2 tablespoons for approximately a dozen onions), the same quantity of olive oil and pour over a glass of wine. I used Vino del Terreno (this translates as Wine of the Earth or Terrain) which is a wine many of our neighbours produce, a little rough and slightly sweet but oh so good with salty food. Scatter over the herbs and cover tightly with a lid or foil.

Cebollas (7)

Bring the pot to boiling point and then reduce to the lowest heat possible and cook gently, turning the onions once or twice, for about an hour. Just before serving, remove the lid and turn up the heat to reduce the delicious cooking liquid slightly. We ate these onions hot as a side dish but they would be delicious served at room temperature as a tapas or starter.

And just in case you don’t like wine but do like dogs (clearly not braised in wine and balsamic vinegar) here is a completely gratuitous shot of my pups Luna and Alfi hoping I don’t notice they are hogging the sofa.

No Dogs On The Sofa Please
No Dogs On The Sofa Please

 

Braised Goat (or Lamb) with Squash and Red Wine

Finally we have had a small drop in temperatures and it looks as though rain may well be a real possibility in the next few days.  Me, a Chica who hates the cold and damp, breathing a sigh of relief at the thought of rain which is so badly needed for the olives, the fruit trees, the rivers.  What a long way I have come on my Andalucían journey!

Winter weather means warming winter food.  After having friends over recently, I was left with half a kilo of chopped goat which had not been cooked so I froze it for a rainy day. That rainy day came round and to make a change from the simple local way of cooking it with garlic, chilli, bay leaves, peppercorns and white wine I decided to make a stove top casserole.

We are still being supplied with squash by Big Man´s cousin and I wanted to use some of this too.  I also felt that if I “disguised” the squash slightly with lots of warming flavours, I might be able to persuade Big Man to enjoy it as much as me.  I think it worked, he ate it with gusto and even had seconds.  No leftovers for the dogs or to serve as tapas the next day with this dish!

Ingredients (to serve 2 if the meat has bones, 4 if it is boneless)

  • 500g chopped lamb or goat (use a cheap cut like neck which is full of flavour)
  • 500 squash or pumpkin, peeled and cut into 2cm cubes
  • About 5 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion thinly sliced
  • ½ litre of lamb stock or use chicken stock plus a teaspoon of marmite or a beef stock cube
  • 2 glasses of red wine (or replace with stock if you prefer not to cook with alcohol)
  • 2 tsp of tomato purée
  • Salt and pepper
  • A sprig of rosemary, leaves removed and finely chopped
  • Olive oil for frying
  • About half a cup of flour
  • 1 teaspoon of mustard powder
  • 1 dried red chili crumbled (optional)

Mix the mustard powder with the flour and season and toss the cubs of meat in it. Fry the meat until slightly browned and remove from pan.

Add more oil if necessary and gently fry the onions, garlic and squash until the onion is soft and transparent.

Add the meat to the pan, pour over the stock and wine, and add the tomato purée, rosemary and chili (if using). Let it bubble for about 5 minutes then reduce the heat and cover.  Cook gently for about an hour and half until the meat is tender and the sauce thickened. Taste and adjust seasoning.

We ate this with some fried polenta, but it would also be great with rice or mashed potato and a glass of that lovely red wine you opened to put into the cooking sauce.