Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Grilled Onion Salad

We went to France last week for a few days sorting out work on the house and had a couple of days at the beach, defeating the scorching heat of la canicule by frolicking in the surf. It was fabulous. Food was pretty amazing too. Fresh oysters from the Arcachon Basin slipped down like velvet essence of ocean, and des fruits de la mer served as mountains of sweet fresh crustacea on ice. As always in our village in the Gers duck was the speciality - in the midst of a heatwave confit just doesn't work but salads do - gesier or thinly sliced smoked breast were perfect.

Back to London Sunday night and the weeks food is a bit of a challenge - we have lots of nice things in the freezer but no fresh things, vegetables or fruit. London is having its own version of a heatwave so complicated is out, but salads are best when the vegetables used are grown for flavour rather than appearance so a supermarket shop is something I'd rather avoid if possible. There's a little fruit and veg shop round the corner from the office that always has a supply of English produce so I popped in there at lunchtime and bought a selection of what looked good. They had Essex potatoes with a sign on them saying 'great flavour' (which seemed as good a recommendation as any) as a base for a creamy potato salad to go with grilled sausages Monday night. Indeed the sign did not lie - briefly boiled then mixed with Hellmans when cold they were great.

I also wanted to make something else a bit different to go with it. I had some big fat spanish onions and recalled watching Delia on the tv once a long time ago making a salad with them. If I'm honest I'm not a great fan of Saint Delia - her failure to ever taste anything as she goes along strikes me as curiously passionless though it is possibly as much a construct as anything else on tv. I remember being astounded and outraged in equal measure that the bbc had agreed to produce her 'how to cook' series a few years ago - starting with how to make toast and boil an egg - but now I can see that she does indeed have a point. Perhaps not toast but I can see that there is an increasing need to help people to know how to cook, to make proper, decent unprocessed food for themselves and their loved ones. I guess I query that done the way she does it without any visible pleasure would not really inspire spmeone who didn't cook to give it a go. Though if they did attempt one of her recipes it would more than likely result in the dish they set out to create and that would probably inspire them to try more.

Anyway - back to the onions. I did what I remember Delia doing all those years ago - really I was just making it up as I went along and hoping for the best - more homage than accurate recreation. Inspired by her.

Grilled Onion Salad

2 spanish onions
2 tbspns olive oil
2 tspns balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Peel the onions and slice them through the rings into three thick discs. Put them in a grill pan that is lined with aluminium foil, drizzle generously with olive oil, season well with salt and ground black pepper then put them under a very hot grill. With the magic alchemy of the kitchen they puff into little mountains as they cook, the edges blackening as the sugars caremalise.

They take about 20 minutes till they achieve a thorough softness then you simply tip them with their oil into a bowl, sprinkle with a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar and mix gently.

Dinner was then a summer version of the classic sausage, mash and onion gravy. Hot grilled sausages and creamy potato salad and the onions, sweet and burnt and soft, bringing it all together. Brilliant.

No comments: