As well we know, the cold and flu seasons are upon us. An old folk cure for the cold was to put a sliced onion on the soles of your feet, apply socks then hit the sack. The remedy likely has its roots in onions’ impressive nutritional values, as they are rich in vitamins A, B6, C and E and the minerals sodium, potassium and iron.
These nutrients are at their highest if you eat your onion raw. You can make a tasty instant pickle (inspired by South Asian condiments) of very finely chopped onion – yellow or red – mixed with finely chopped red chili, a good pinch of sea salt and a squirt of lime. The lime juice removes that pungent aftertaste and onion breath. This pickle is lovely on any kind of curry dish. The chili will also quickly unblock a stuffy nose!
There’s no denying that some of these dark days are bleak. But a delicious dish can help the mood. Especially something deeply hearty with maybe a bit of sweetness thrown in. French onion soup always hits that spot for me. It’s a cheap meal and makes an excellent lunch – but note: it’s not a quick dish.
The classic version uses a beef stock, though some cooks prefer to use chicken stock. Make your own if possible. Vegetarians need to work harder to get that umami flavour, but it definitely is achievable. You can add a teaspoon of marmite, or soy sauce or miso paste.Depending on the flavour of your onions, you might need an extra spoon when you do your final taste adjustment before serving. I always add a Parmesan rind when I add the stock – it makes a world of difference.
For maximum flavour, make mushroom stock. Peel and dice a carrot, wash and slice a leek, roughly chop an onion, peel and half six medium garlic cloves, wash and quarter a kilo of button mushrooms. Get a few sprigs of parsley, six thyme sprigs, a bay leaf, two teaspoons of whole black peppercorns, 2.8 litres of water and a quarter teaspoon of sea salt. Heat a couple of tablespoons of veg oil, add the veggies (minus the garlic and mushrooms) stir for about eight minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a minute. Add the mushrooms, parsley, thyme, bay leaf, peppercorns and salt and cook for four minutes. Pour in the water, bring to the boil, then simmer for an hour. Strain and freeze what you don’t need.