How to make caramelised onion jam (plus eight ways to use it)

Dutch baby pancake dolloped with onion jam and goat's cheese (recipe below).
Dutch baby pancake dolloped with onion jam and goat's cheese (recipe below). Photo: Katrina Meynink

Onion jam has got to be the world's flavour saviour for a quick dinner juju. It is one of those foundation elements – the ones you should bother cooking on the weekend to throw through all manner of meals during the week. It can be as simple as throwing it at a steak or some grilled veg, to incorporating it into all manner of baked pastry delights. Its uses are many and the end result, always spectacular.

Some key tips

  • Slice your onions evenly. This helps for even caramelisation and cooking time.
  • Cooked onions are passengers for flavour. Add all the butter, herbs, salt and pepper as this will add dimensions to your jam. Think red onions with rosemary and deep balsamic, or white onions with lemon thyme, lemon zest and white wine vinegar.
  • Low and slow is your friend. Give this as long as you can when cooking down so the flavours amalgamate, and the sugars and vinegar can turn into sweet and tart jammy goodness. Also, the longer the onions swelter in the butter and herbs initially until very, very soft, the greater the depth of flavour.
  • Store in an airtight container in the fridge for a few weeks or if tightly sealed the jam can also be frozen, just be sure to store in a freezer-proof container.

Onion jam

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 red onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • hefty pinch of salt
  • ¼ cup brown sugar, plus extra to taste
  • ¼ -½ cup apple cider vinegar

METHOD

  1. Place a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the olive oil, wait until the oil takes on a shimmer, then reduce the heat to low and add the onions. Sweat until white, translucent and soft.
  2. Add the salt, sugar and a quarter cup of vinegar and continue cooking over low heat until a dark, jam-like consistency is achieved (about 15 to 20 minutes).
  3. Taste to check for a balance of tartness and sweetness and adjust the sugar and vinegar as needed. Transfer to an airtight container.
Caramelised onion jam.
Caramelised onion jam. Photo: Marina Oliphant

Makes about ¾-1 cup

Dutch baby with onion jam and all the cheese

Take this traditionally sweet American breakfast delight into savoury territory, adding all the cheese. It's a pancake meets quiche meets omelette all-in-one and that can only be a good thing. Make sure you really push the browning of the butter – it adds a great depth of flavour and colour.

Don't be alarmed – when you first pull this from the oven she will be all puffy and proud and amazing but will deflate a little as it cools. This is completely normal, it is simply a reaction to the heat, not that you did anything wrong.

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And lastly, try not to overwork the batter, a quick light-handed whisk is what we are aiming for here. It's flaky, bready, easy cheesy goodness that works for breakfast as much as it does for dinner.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 generous knob of butter (about 25-30g)
  • 1 generous cup plain flour
  • 6 large eggs
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 2 tbsp mixed herbs (I used thyme, tarragon and parsley)
  • 3-4 tbsp goat's curd
  • 4 tbsp onion jam
  • freshly grated parmesan, to serve

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 190C fan-forced (210C conventional).
  2. Add the flour to a medium bowl.
  3. Whisk the eggs, milk and herbs in a jug then pour into the flour and whisk until just combined – you don't want to overwork this.
  4. Add the butter to an ovenproof frypan (about 25-30cm diameter is a good size) and place over medium heat. Cook until the butter is sizzling and has taken on a lovely dark brown colour. Remove from heat.
  5. Working quickly, pour in the batter, much like you would if you were making an omelette, and dollop in the goat's curd and the onion jam (no need to incorporate it into the batter).
  6. Place in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until it is beautifully puffed and golden brown on the edges. Remove from the oven and grate over the parmesan. Season again and serve warm.

Serves 4-6

Some other suggestions

Smoky moz, tarragon and onion jam pastry puffs

These belong with drinks to welcome the evening or on a table for the long leisurely brunch we all dream about. Use a cookie cutter (about 10cm) to cut circles of puff pastry, and place the pastry rounds on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Top with about 1 tablespoon of onion jam per puff and a generous round slice of smoked mozzarella. Sprinkle over a few tarragon and/or thyme leaves and bake in a 180C fan-forced oven (200C conventional) for 15 minutes or until the pastry is puffed and golden, and the cheese is all melty, oozy and glorious.

Ricotta gnocchi with bitter greens, onion jam and parmesan

Make or buy some gnocchi, I love ricotta gnocchi because it's so light and counters the richness of the onion jam and the bitterness of the greens. Toss the gnocchi in a pan with a decent knob of butter and add some shredded bitter greens (such as kale or mustard greens) and cook until the gnocchi is taking on some colour and the greens have softened. Add some onion jam and heat until warmed through, then scoop onto plates, and shave parmesan over and season generously with salt and pepper.

Onion jam and spinach pasta

It's actually that simple. Cook some pasta – I used spaghetti – and as soon as you've strained it, dump it straight back in the pan with some onion jam, spinach and a heft of cheese, soft goat's or feta work well, as does a decent lashing of parmesan.

Loaded caprese toasted sandwich with pesto and onion jam. Toasties and jaffle recipes for Good Food June 2019. Please credit Katrina Meynink. Good Food use only.

Loaded caprese toasted sandwich with pesto and onion jam. Photo: Katrina Meynink

Don't stop there – add to burgers and steak sandwiches, use as a pizza topping, mix with labna and some ground cumin and make a new onion dip, or slather it over your next emergency cheese toastie (try my loaded caprese toastie recipe).

See also: Katrina's jalapeno jam