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Monday, 22 December 2014

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Raising some humble onions and putting them at centre stage

LATELY we’ve been overtaken by the strangest urge to grow – plants, that is.

Perhaps it’s something to do with the change in seasons and seeing things come to life all around the farm and in the surrounding countryside.

There’s nothing more amazing than looking out of the window to see a couple of deer grazing in your own field. And nothing LESS amazing to find the dog bringing in freshly caught mice and toads, but hey ho, with the smooth comes the rough.

After our success as hen keepers (well, they’re still alive, seem happy and are producing eggs), where we decided to boldly go where no Andalcio had gone before, we’ve decided to adopt the same laissez faire attitude to a spot of gardening.

Largely we are sure that this year will be a process of trial and error. Some things will work and some things will be a disaster. Some things will be a labour of love, only to deliver poor results, and others will be triumphant successes where we will have done nothing more than ‘leave it to its own devices.’

It’s a bit like when you are starting out in cooking. Don’t for a minute think that we have not had our fair share of disasters in the kitchen, or dinners that did not hit the mark . . . even now.

The only way to learn is to have a bash – so wish us luck with our potatoes, beans, pumpkins, strawberries, butternut squash, sweetcorn, Swiss chard, carrots, parsnips, beetroot, peppers, tomatoes, herbs, brassicas and onions!

Well, as Ricky says, “if you’re going to be a bear, be a grizzly.”

And as we were lovingly placing each of our, latterly mentioned, onion ‘sets’ (we acknowledge the RHS allotment handbook for that one) in their designated raised bed, it occurred to us that this veg is often overlooked. It is just about always part of the base of a savoury dish, but rarely the centre piece. So this week we know our onions.

Serves 4

4 large red onions

2 tbsp olive oil

2 cloves garlic, crushed

75g fresh white breadcrumbs (cut the crusts from a few of slices of bread and whizz in a food processor)

50g walnuts, chopped

50ml vegetable stock

125g mature cheddar, grated

½ small pack fresh thyme, leaves stripped from woody stems

salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil and simmer the onions in their skins for 10 minutes. Remove from the water and allow them to cool slightly.

When cool enough to handle, cut each onion in half through the root.

Remove the onion skins. Scoop out the centre, reserving the shells for stuffing.

Chop the scooped out onion flesh and fry in one tablespoon of the oil, in a frying pan, until just starting to colour.

Add the garlic and cook for a further two minutes then set aside to cool slightly.

Place the breadcrumbs in a bowl with the walnuts, vegetable stock, 75g of the cheddar and the thyme leaves.

Add the cooked, cooled onion and garlic, stir to combine and season.

Spoon the mixture into the reserved onion shells and place in an ovenproof dish or tray.

Scatter with the remaining cheese and drizzle with the remaining olive oil. Cook in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes until bubbling and golden.

Serve with some crusty bread and a simple salad such as a bag of rocket, mixed with cherry tomatoes and avocado and dressed with a little balsamic vinegar and olive oil with some parmesan shavings.

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