Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Use your onions

The haemanthus are popping up in the garden
There's nothing like a 36 degree day followed by some rain (not much but it's a start) to bring me inside to get on with some cooking.  Last week I made my annual batch of tomato sauce and tomato relish, a honey and apple cake and ratatouille made exclusively from vegetables out the garden.  I know...... so satisfying.  Ratatouille is so simple and is a perfect early autumn dish, which can be eaten hot or cold.

There really are no rules.  All you do is layer sliced eggplant, zucchini, capsicum, basil and garlic in a dish, seasoning and drizzling with olive oil as you go.
I usually peel a few tomatoes and chop them, then add a bit of sliced onion and spread that over the top to finish.  Put it in a moderate oven for 20 minutes then turn it down to about 120c cover with a bit of baking paper and cook gently until the vegetables are soft.  This can be done in the simmer oven of the Aga.
Thinking of ratatouille reminded me of the movie of the same name. ....
It's hard not to love little Remy the rat but at this time of year that the rodents start to think that it's a bit nippy outside and would like to take up residence inside our house.  Bastards.  I hate them, and the way they poo every two steps and really stink when they die.

Life in the country involves many encounters with wildlife, some welcome, some not so.   Last week Tim and I went up to his mother's house for dinner and as I was driving home, in the dark, I noticed and extremely large spider on the right side of the windscreen.  Spiders don't normally worry me but I was keeping a close eye on it as it seemed to be on the move.  Conversation:

"There's a massive spider on the windscreen.  Have you got a rolled up newspaper or something to kill it?'
Looks up from phone.  "Where?  Na, it'll be  right."
(Thanks so much for your gallantry).  
I carried on, one eye on the spider, wishing I had worn skinny jeans and not linen pants and imagining it crawling up my leg.  

So focussed was I on the internal wildlife that I failed to observe the external wildlife and very narrowly avoided cleaning up two huge kangaroos that bounced over the road in front of us.  We then got onto an very slippy, slidey dirt road which requires undivided concentration in the dark and the spider disconcertingly disappeared from view.   Gallant husband again looks up from phone:

"Shit there's the spider".  It had wandered over to the passenger side window and with that he picked up my rather nice suede handbag and wedged it onto the spider squashing it into the folds of suede.  "I think I got it."  Nice.  Thank you.

During rest of the journey I saw about ten rabbits and two foxes and just as we drove in a rat ran from the house verandah across the drive and into the garden shed.  Hate to think where it had been.   Possums are also hated by country folk, they cause unspeakable damage in the garden.  The dogs love to chase them but ours so rarely catch one.....
Hashtag country living.  Say what you like it's nothing if not eventful out here. 
I have grown another crop of enormous onions:
Your'e not meant to harvest them until the tops die down and go brown, so I leave them in but by golly they get big.  They do keep well in a cool dark spot but I have been thinking of ways to use them.  Naturally they went into the sauce, relish and ratatouille but I was very happy to find a recipe for Grain salad with onion confit on Food 52.  The onions are slowly cooked in olive oil and the onions go in the salad and the utterly delicious remaining oil is used on the salad.  Here is the confit after it has been in the Aga for a couple of hours:
ONION CONFIT (from Food 52)

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 large onions, sliced (I only had to use one of my monsters)
salt and pepper

Warm the oil in a sturdy pot, add onions and season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer.  Leave on a gentle simmer for 45 minutes on the stovetop or move to a 120c oven (simmer oven in the Aga).  It will take up to 2 hours in the oven.

Strain the onions from the oil.   Add the onions to the salad and use some of the oil to dress the salad.  The oil has a lovely sweet earthiness and any left over can be used  for frying, marinades, dressings, drizzle over cooked meat, whatever you like.
And here is the resulting salad:
I used farro and quinoa (cook in boiling water until tender then strain, put into a bowl and cover with a tea towel while it cools.  This helps to absorb moisture and stops the grain from becoming gluggy). I also roasted any veg I had floating around...cauliflower, pumpkin, sweet potato, zucchini and mixed those in with lots of fresh herbs, fetta, chopped red chilli, the confit onions, onion oil, lemon juice, lots of salt and pepper and topped it with toasted almonds.
Tomato Relish
A little bonus for you.  Read this amusing article on Shirts in history from the Guardian.

Ripper sunrise this morning...