Having fallen head over heels in love with Italy after our summer road trip along the west coast this year, I couldn’t help but feel inspired to create an Italian themed menu at my most recent supper club.
This salt baked onion, combined with fresh thyme and Parmesan and finished off with crispy sage leaves is a total winner when it comes to a pleasing a crowd. You can prepare them well in advance and reheat when ready to serve. I especially love this dish as it manages to combine all my favourite festive herbs without any of them overpowering each other. This is well worth a try and is the perfect starter to kick off a killer Christmas roast.
Preparation Time 15-20 minutes
Cooking Time 90-120 minutes
4 White or red medium / Large onions (1 per person)
Box of sea salt
Several sprigs of thyme
200g Parmesan (Or vegetarian version) – Finely grated
1 Tsp sugar
Several turns of black pepper
Handful of sage leaves
Several glugs of olive oil
Sprinkle of sea salt
Ciabatta/Turkish flat bread – For dippers
Half a bunch of rosemary
2 Large knobs of butter
Begin by preheating your oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
Place your onions in a baking dish that they fit in snugly arranging them so the tops are facing upwards. Sprinkle the salt around them holding them in place then tightly cover the baking tray in foil and place in the oven for one hour 30 minutes. If they are small, an hour will be enough. Once cooked remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly for ten minutes. Next take a sharp knife and cut the top third off of each of the onions and scoop out the insides, leaving two layers of onions as the cup. Using a sharp knife you can make a small cross in the middle of the onion if you’re struggling to remove the inside, this will help make it a little easier.
Next blitz up the contents of the onion along with the Parmesan, fresh thyme, salt, black pepper and sugar.
NOTE – If prior to blitzing the onion the onions don’t seem sweet/soft enough then roughly chop and place the onion with seasoning and herbs in a frying pan and cook over a medium heat for 20-25 minutes or until soft and sweet.
Once you have a smooth consistency remove the onion mixture from the blender and pour back into the onion shells, sprinkle over some extra grated parmesan and return to the oven until hot, golden and crispy on the top.
In a small frying pan add a generous glug of oil and heat over a medium to high heat before adding in the sage leaves and fry for a minute or so until they turn crisp. Remove and place on paper towel to drain some of the oil then sprinkle with salt.
For the rosemary butter, simply melt butter with several sprigs of rosemary in it and allow to cook for 5 or so minutes on a low heat. Once you’ve toasted your bread and cut into fingers simply brush the rosemary butter over them using the sprigs of rosemary for extra flavour.
Serve the onion with 2-3 bread dippers and eat straight away.
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Anna has worked in events and celebrity booking for MTV and Channel 4, has spent many years as part of the team at British fashion label House of Holland – but she’s still primarily known to her friends as ‘The Feeder’.
Her lifelong obsession with cooking led to a weekly blog, ‘The Reluctant Vegetarian’, which she spent two years writing for UK newspaper The Independent.
She now contributes a monthly recipe spot on Miss Vogue, while running www.AnnaBarnettcooks.com and has just been appointed as one of Grazias resident cooks for the magazine. She regularly turns her house in Hackney into a pop-up restaurant and has been featured extensively in the glossies, nationals and online.
Her debut cookery book ‘Eat the Week’ launched this summer.