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What to do with those pickled onions

"open mouth, insert pickled onion, chew" TheSkewed/Reddit commenter

Well yes indeed you - well I - could just eat them. And I have to say that most of the Reddit commenters, in answer to the question - what to do with pickled onions? - said the same thing, but not put quite as succinctly. And indeed in my childhood and youth I did. They were a common snack just as they were, or as an accompaniment. Well, you know, to be completely honest I don't actually remember what we did with them. I certainly remember making them, with both my mother and my grandmother. and I do remember that I loved the taste, but how and when we ate them I'm really not quite sure.


Most of the English - yes I think this is more English than overall British - would say that they are just a part of the Ploughman's lunch or a snack in the pub - along with the bag of crisps. And pickled onions as an accompaniment to cheese, and cold meats are certainly a wonderful way of using them up, but we don't mostly eat like that in this house, although the next time we have a biggish gathering here, I should put some out with the cheese. - cut up a bit I think. If I left them whole they would just sit there. Mine are biggish.


Still on the Ploughman's lunch, however, I was somewhat surprised to find that Jamie Oliver didn't really do pickled onions. I'm not even sure he has a recipe for the traditional kind. He had about four pictures of different Ploughman's lunches, but noneof them seemed to include a pickled onion! He certainly has recipes for the oh so fashionable quick pickled red onions that you see everywhere these days, and I also discovered that he used the sweeter silverskin pickled onions in a trio of recipes - Succulent lamb stew;  Guinness beef stew (I haven't bothered with the picture here) and Cauliflower remoulade.



And, of course you could substitute the hotter and sharper kind that I have a surplus of. But it would be a different kind of taste. Ok for the stews but perhaps not the remoulade. Does he not like the traditional English pickled onion? He grew up in a pub so surely he ate them? Maybe he's just more of a chef than you might think.


If you read my Saturday's post - The pickles in my fridge - you will know that this week I am on a mission to use up some of the pickles I have lurking in the fridge, and I began by using my last pickled cucumbers on the pizza we had on Sunday night. Good choice by the way. I'm not eating today - it's a fasting day - so I'm thinking about tomorrow - well the whole week ahead, and I decided to start with the pickled onion because that's not actually in the fridge. I have one lone pickled onion sitting in a jar on my kitchen bench. There are more in the pantry but I'll ignore them for now. As I mentioned, it's not as small as pickled onions should be, certainly not as small as those silverskin ones you buy in jars, but nevertheless it's a small onion so it won't be the major feature of whatever I choose to do. Unless I retrieve some of those in the pantry.


I might start this investigation with the super plain Cheese and onion sandwich that I found on The Sugar Hit website, because we haven't really moved on from the snack notion. The writer tells a story of how she and boyfriend were moving into a new home, with all the stress that that entails, finishing with this recipe:


"You take two pieces of sliced white bread, and slather them with salted butter. Then you take 3 pickled onions (gasp!) and thinly slice them, and lay them on. Next layer is a smattering of crumbly vintage cheddar cheese, the nicer the better, and finally a layer of your finest salted potato chips. Top it all with your second slice of buttered white bread, and then here comes the therapeutic part: CRUNCH. You press it down with your palm. It’s addictive, that crushing, cracking feeling. It’s like popping bubble wrap. So soooooothing. So good for the soul." The Sugar Hit


This is definitely not food for the gourmets amongst us. It doesn't look flashy and able to be served in a top restaurant, but you know I'm guessing it would be pretty great. Washed down with a bottle of beer. An example of very ordinary looking food that can be absolutely delicious.


Or you could make a toasted/grilled cheese and ham sandwich or a variation on a Welsh Rarebit (Ailsa Brown/Sainsbury's Magazine). I mean an open grilled cheesey sandwich is the perfect base for improvisation is it not? And a sliced pickle onion could well be one of them. This particular version, for example, looks somewhat browner than most Welsh Rarebits because of the brown ale that is used in the cheesey mix that goes on top.


Then there's the quick tip from Pam Corbin of River Cottage, whose recipe I think I used to make my onions: "sauté in a frying pan until well caramelised to serve with sausages or lamb cutlets." Well not just as a side - I guess what this suggests is that actually you could use pickled onions any time you sauté sliced onions as part of a dish. Particularly good with sausages I would think. Or you can deep fry in beer batter says chef Matt Tebbut/BBC Good Food.


So let's go a little bit more complicated with Cheddar and pickled onion sausage rolls - Angela Boggiano/Sainsbury's Magazine; or Pickled onion tarts - Meliz Cooks/TikTok (wrong kind of pickled onions, but certainly an idea that could be adapted); Smoked cheddar and pickled onion turnovers - All that I'm Eating and Cheese, pickled onion and mustard scones - Sarah's Slice. All of these I see as 'idea' recipes that could be varied at will.



And then we move onto the fancy - some of which might be worth trying, or at least adapting to be slightly less fancy - Beef BBQ ribs - Tom Kerridge/BBC Good Food; Chicken and cheddar cobbler pie - Donal Skehan/BBC Good Food;Rarebit and pickled onion croquetas - Laura Rowe/Olive Magazine; Pickled onion, steak and ale pudding/Valentine Warner/Olive Magazine.




The chicken cobbler dish is particularly tempting I think. However, I certainly won't be trying this one: Welsh rarebit tartlet / confit & pickled onions / pickled walnuts purée x cheese bechamel x burnt onions skins by @chefthomlemercier⁣/The Staff Canteen. There isn't a recipe for it anyway, just a picture, but it just shows that with any ingredient you can go from the ridiculous (the cheese and crisps sandwich) to the sublime - well maybe sublimely ridiculous, in no time at all.


Before I started all this hunting I was thinking in terms of a quiche perhaps and I just have just discovered that this is not an original thought. Well of course it isn't and in fact this Red Leicester, pickled onion and watercress quiche is from Felicity Cloake, but this time in the Sainsbury Magazine, which I have to say has been a good source in my today's search. Could be an idea, but I'm thinking of watercress for my guru recipe this week, so maybe a more heavily pickled onion quiche. Perhaps with mushrooms. I have a few of those to use up. And chorizo? I have a chorizo that needs using.


I also thought sausages, pickled onions and things - maybe bacon, potatoes, mushrooms - in a traybake? In soup, a stir-fry, and omelette - not in pasta surely?


Then if I use up all these pickles I'll be left with a whole lot of pickle juice. That's easier though - I used a little in my salad dressing last night, and you can always make some of those trendier red onion pickles, or just add it to things that need a bit of sharpness - instead of lemon juice or vinegar. The real problem is just remembering it's there. That's why I have all these pickles lurking in the fridge.

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