Ottolenghi’s Stuffed Onions

Ottolenghi Stuffed Onion

It’s a funny thing about cookery books, at the last count I had well in excess of 100 but I haven’t cooked from all of them. Some of them are just beautiful to look at but a little impractical.  Some are practical, every day reference books, perfect when you can’t remember what temperature to slow roast pork at or how to make a Victoria sponge.  Some are great for creating inspirational meals. Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi manages to be both beautiful and inspirational; I have only had this book for 2 months and I have already made 7 of the recipes in it. I am also aware that this is the second time I have blogged about it but I make no apologies.

If I am a little obsessed with the book then I should let you know that I am seriously obsessed with these stuffed onions.  I have made them four times already and will definitely be making them again (and again…).

I can’t remember the last time I followed a recipe and had absolutely no desire to change anything.  I nearly always want to nudge a dish a little – add a bit more of this or a bit less of that, maybe use coriander instead of parsley, but this is perfect exactly as it is.

If you follow the recipe exactly too you will have quite a lot of left over onion and stock.  Please don’t throw them away, make soup or start a stew, throw the onions in with your roast potatoes and add the stock to your gravy – do anything you like with them just don’t waste them.

I have served the stuffed onions as part of a meze style dinner with some vibrant salads (also from the book), as part of a vegetarian lunch with crusty bread to mop up the juices and as an accompaniment to roast lamb.  You, of course, can serve them however you like but I promise you will fall in love with them.

Ottolenghi's Stuffed Onion Recipe

Ingredients

Serves 4

A knob of butter

500 ml/ 1 Pint Vegetable Stock

350 ml / 12 fl oz White Wine

4 large Onions

3 small Tomatoes

120g / 4 oz fresh white Bread Crumbs

90g / 3 oz Feta (crumbled)

80g / 3 oz Parsey (finely chopped)

3 tbsp Olive Oil (plus extra to finish)

2 Clove Garlic (crushed)

3 Spring Onions (finely sliced)

3/4 tsp Salt

Pepper

Method

Pre-heat the Oven to 180° C / 350°F / Gas Mark 4

Use the knob of butter to grease a small oven proof dish.

Place the stock and wine in a medium sized saucepan and bring to the boil.

Meanwhile, trim 5mm off the top and bottom of the onions.  Cut them in half, lengthways and remove the brown skin.  Gently remove most of the insides retaining 2 or 3 of the outer layers.  Carefully seperate the outer layers from each other and place them in the simmering stock a few at a time.  Cook for 3-4 minutes until tender, drain and cool slightly.  Keep the stock.

To make the stuffing, use a course cheese grater to grate the tomatoes (you will be left with most of the skin in your hand; discard it).  Place the grated tomato in a large bowl and add the breadcrumbs, feta, parsley, olive oil, garlic, salt and some pepper.

Fill each onion layer generously with stuffing.  Pull the sides together so you end up with a fat cigar shape.  Place the stuffed onions, seam side down, in the buttered dish and pour over about 75 ml / 3 fl oz of the reserved stock, just to cover the bottom of the dish.

Bake for 45-50 minutes or so until the onions are soft and lightly coloured and the stuffing is bubbling; add more stock if they dry completely before the end of the cooking process.  Drizzle with oil and serve warm.

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Meat Free Mondays at the bun scuffle cafe

Mushroom and Hummus sandwichRegular customers, and those of you who follow bun scuffle on Facebook or Twitter, will know that we have engaged with the Meat Free Monday campaign almost from the start. However, not everyone understands what it is all about so I thought I would have a go at explaining.

The campaign aims to encourage people to eat less meat; it is that simple and that complicated. There are three key reasons for this:
1. To improve our health – various studies have shown that eating too much meat (especially red or processed meat) can lead to increased risk of certain cancers, heart disease and strokes.
2. To save the planet – ok, so that’s a bit of a dramatic claim but it is true that livestock production is responsible for a hefty chunk of global greenhouse gas emissions.
3. To save money – a plant based diet is generally cheaper than a meat based diet and we could all do with a little more cash in our pockets.

If you search for the Meat Free Monday on-line you will find research to back up these claims as well as lots of recipe ideas. You will also see that the campaign has been high jacked by some producers of “meat alternatives” and you may be forgiven for thinking that MFM was started by the McCartneys: It wasn’t, it has been around much longer than that, but they have done a great deal to promote the idea of a meat free day each week. Of course, you could forego meat on any day you like but Meat Free Monday is just so wonderfully alliterative.

At home, we eat meat free meals two or three times a week. That allows us to save a little money so that on meat eating days we can afford to spend a little more and buy the best quality meat possible – sourced from local farms where we know the animals were properly looked after.

At the café, our motivation was a little different. We have a number of lovely regular customers who are vegetarian and one or two who are vegan. We always have at least one veggie meal on the menu each day but we wanted to go a little further and give vegetarians more choice. Buying into the Meat Free Monday idea means that those customers know when that choice is available. We also liked the idea of challenging dyed-in-the-wool carnivores to try something different.

On Mondays (as on every other day) you are likely to find a soup on the menu; this might be something spicy and warming or maybe something a little lighter. Today, for example, we have a vibrant green, creamy spinach soup available. Our soups are usually served with crusty, organic bread but we are also experimenting with some savoury muffins – yum!

You will also find a lighter dish on the menu (for example a quiche or tart of some kind) which is served with a salad made from locally sourced leaves, tomatoes, cucumber, celery, peppers, apple, grapes, spring onions and a homemade dressing, plus a little homemade coleslaw on the side.

Spanakopita recipeFinally, there will be something a little more filling to try; maybe a mushroom and hummus “burger” or a vegetable, bean chilli or perhaps homemade beans on toast.
Whatever you choose we promise it will be tasty. We also promise that, on those days where meat features on the menu, it will be locally sourced and of good provenance.

Baked Beans on ToastPlease don’t misunderstand, we have no intention of preaching at you and no desire to convert you to vegetarianism – after all, we eat meat ourselves. We engaged with meat free Monday to increase choice for our customers so if you come in on a Monday and really want some meat we could always rustle up a bacon butty.

But just think, if you have eaten a tasty lunch, improved your health and helped to save the planet then you could always celebrate with a little guilt-free cake for afters…