06 August, 2008

The most versatile

I confess that I adore cookbooks. From the big glossy tomes sporting celebrity names, to local, school-centenary editions, I covet them all. Somewhere in between these two extremes falls The Complete Book of Small-Batch Preserving, authored by Ellie Topp and Margaret Howard. It’s a wonderful, comprehensive and encouraging guide to making and preserving jams, jellies, pickles, chutneys and salsa. As much as I love to collect recipe books I fear that I may never need another on this topic!

This is not the first recipe that I’ve made from this book, but it’s certainly the most versatile. We ate this red onion relish on Sunday with rye crackers and cream cheese, yesterday for lunch on English muffins with apple and cheddar, and I’m confident we’ll eat it again with a vegetable curry tonight. The authors suggest it as a pizza topping and an accompaniment to braaied meat.

Although excellent as is, the recipe is the equivalent of basic blueprint. Next time I’ll be experimenting with spices: ground clove, ginger or cumin, and maybe a little orange zest. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Red onion relish

4 large red onions
100 ml light brown sugar
6 tbspn balsamic vinegar
2 tbspn port
400 ml water
freshly ground black pepper

Peel, halve and thinly slice the onions. Place onions and sugar into a wide, heavy-based saucepan. Cook over a low heat, stirring continuously, until the onions start releasing water. Turn up the heat and cook, still stirring frequently, until the onions are soft and caramelized, between 30-50 minutes.

Add vinegar, port and water. After bringing to the boil, reduce the heat. Simmer the onion mixture for 20 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spoon the relish into clean jars. It will keep in the fridge for up to three weeks, and longer in the freezer.

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