Tag Archive | food

How to caramelise onions


Traditional Caramelised Onions

The traditional way to caramelise onions is to fry them in a small amount of butter or oil at a very low heat for at least 30 minutes. They go soft and golden and the caramel flavour is entirely made from their own natural sugars.

1) Use brown onions and slice them into thin rings or half rings. Heat the oil to a medium heat, add the onions, then lower the heat and stir occasionally. You may need to very lightly deglaze the pan a few times with a couple of teaspoons of water. This will give you the most traditional results.At the end once they are soft and golden brown you can turn up the heat again to darken the edges.

2) You can also use a cast iron skillet to heat the oil and brown the onions initially then put them in a warm oven (around 150ºc to 180ºc) for 10 to 30 minutes rather than using the stove top. You will still get a long slow sweet and soft result. This is a good option if you’re roasting garlic or cooking something else in the oven and don’t need the onions right away.

Lazy Caramel Onions

But you don’t have to do it this way. You can have caramelised onions in a few minutes if you’re willing to cut corners. You can use one or both of these tricks to cheat at caramelised onions. They’re not as good but most of the time this won’t really matter especially if you’re adding them to a cooked dish rather than serving as a topping or sandwich filling.

1) Microwave the onions first. Microwaving the onions for 1 or 2 minutes before adding them to a very hot pan will help them cook quicker once they’re in the pan.

2) Add a teaspoon of brown sugar once the onions are browning. This will both soften the onions and give you a sweet caramel texture but you only have to cook them for a few minutes to get them brown then a further 1 minute to melt the sugar.

Vegan Chilli Cheese Fries – without the chilli, cheese or fries!

In our house chilli cheese fries don’t actually involve any chilli, cheese, or fries!


Being vegan we don’t eat cheese. I’m intolerant to capsaicin (not quite allergic but close) so I make everything – even chilli beans – with little to no chilli. And finally potato wedges are marginally more healthy than the traditional fry style chips (in general the larger the thing being fried or coated in oil the less fat it absorbs).

So these are made with mild ‘chilli’ beans, a vegan cheesy sauce and oven baked wedges. They’re still delicious and certainly not a health food!


Cook wedges. If using frozen pre-prepared ones follow packet directions (normally around 20 minutes at 200ºc).

To make from scratch:

Put potatoes in a plastic or paper bag along with 1/4 cup of flour, 1 tsp garlic salt, 1 tsp paprika, and 1 tsp of arrowroot powder (tapioca flour). Shake to coat.

Cook in a baking tray or lasagne dish for 35 minutes at 195ºc.

Not-chilli Beans

  • 1 tin refried black beans (or 1.5 cups homemade)
  • 140g tomato paste
  • 1 Tblsp seasoned salt
  • 1 tsp taco seasoning

Mix in a microwave safe bowl (or just use a saucepan for stove top) then microwave (or heat on stove top) for 4 minutes. Mix again and set aside.


Cheesy Sauce

I used the Angel Foods Cherub Cheesey Sauce mix made to directions with 2.5 cups of soy milk and 1/4 cup of hulled tahini.

Angel Foods Cheesey Sauce

Although if I was feeling less lazy I could have made some of my own cheesy bechamel.


Put wedges in a bowl or plate, add 2/3 cup of non-chilli beans, top with 3/4 cup of cheesey sauce. Devour.


Mustard and Bean Pies



(makes 6 half pies or 3 full sized pies)

  • 6 sheets of vegan pastry (or 1.5 batches of home made wholemeal pastry)
  • 2 tins of beans (or 4 cups of cooked beans) – e.g. kidney beans and/or mixed beans
  • 2 cups frozen mixed vegetables – use the diced varieties, I use Coles ‘Australian Mix’ which is diced potato, peas, carrot, and broccoli.
  • 1 medium onion, sliced or diced
  • 2 stems of celery, diced
  • 2 Tbls of olive oil
  • 2 Tbl of flour
  • 2 to 3 cups soy or nut milk
  • 3 Tbl of mustard
  • 1/2 tsp cracked pepper
  • 2 Tbls savoury yeast flakes (nutritional yeast)


Defrost pastry. Pre-heat oven to 180ºc (355ºf) and line and grease two cookie sheets (or three pie dishes)

Add veggie mix and drained beans to a large bowl and leave to defrost while cooking the sauce.

Heat oil in a medium saucepan. Add onion and fry until browning. Add celery and cook until bright.

Add flour and mix thoroughly. Then slowly add milk (in 1/2 cup amounts) and blend slowly allowing to thicken before adding a further amount of milk. Once the sauce has a thick consistency add the mustard, yeast flakes, and pepper. Turn off the heat and continue to stir until fully mixed.

Once cooked and while still warm, add the sauce to the bowl with the beans and vegetables and stir through.

Assemble pies according to your preferred method. To assemble half pies take a single sheet of pastry and place on greased cooking sheet. Add enough filling mixture to cover half of the sheet with a 2.5 cm (1 inch) border.

Mustard and bean pie filling

Fold over the other half to cover the filling. Seal the edges firmly ensuring that top and bottom are melded into each other. Then fold the edges to create a crust and press down again. Cut three or four small vents into the top of the pie with a sharp knife.


Cook pies for 20 minutes at 180ºc until golden.



Sunday Brunch: Red Wine Mushrooms and Spinach with Half-hearted ‘Hollandaise’


This is so easy. But it is another one of those things that seems easy once you know it but if you don’t cook much isn’t necessarily obvious.


  • 2 Tbls of crushed garlic
  • Sprig of fresh rosemary (optional)
  • 500g button mushrooms (chopped roughly)
  • Red wine or red wine vinegar to deglaze
  • 200g of fresh baby spinach
  • 1 cup leftover not-quite-mornay
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon


If preparing the sauce from scratch do it first. In this case I was using left overs from a few nights before.

Heat pan and oil or margerine if using (I use a tiny bit of olive oil sprayed on the pan but a large tsp of margarine is also tasty or it can be done with no oil at all).

Fry garlic at medium-high heat until golden. Add rosemary leaves and heat for a few moments until bright. Add mushrooms and fry until starting to brown and pan needs to be deglazed. Deglaze with red wine or red wine vinegar. Salt and pepper to taste.

Continue to cook until the red wine reduces.


Add spinach and stir through thoroughly – cook for about 30 seconds to 1 minute until spinach is wilted.


Heat the leftover not-quite-mornay for 1 minute in a microwave (or heat in a small pan at low heat on stove top) then whisk in extra lemon juice.


Toast a vegan bagel, toast or crumpets.


Plate and serve. Optional: consume until too full to move.



How to deglaze the pan

I’m often surprised how few people have learned to deglaze a pan. Even some experienced cooks give me a blank look when I mention it. It is an absolute must in low-fat cooking (especially if you’re sautéing without any oil). It is also super simple and you may even already do it without knowing what the word for it is.

Fry or sauté your food and/or spices until a dark residue builds up on the bottom. This is sugar and juice from the food and is full of flavour. If you’re browning or caramalising something (say an onion or mushrooms) then don’t deglaze until after the food is also starting to brown.

When the pan is ready to deglaze it should look a little bit like this:


Then you add your liquid – you can use wine, vinegar, stock, various types of juice or just plain water. In Indian cooking you will often deglaze your hot whole spices with a paste of turmeric and garam masala or similar powdered spices and water.

In this case I’m using red wine vinegar. The liquid will bubble hot and then you can spread it around the pan to pick up all of that caramelised flavour off the bottom and distribute it back into your food. Once you do this all of the sticky stuff should have lifted from the bottom of the pan ready to mix into your meal.



You can do this more than once because the liquid will evaporate and/or soak back into the food. In this case I let that happen and then browned the mushrooms further. Like so:


Remember: some foods, like mushrooms, will produce liquid if you expose them to salt. Some button and brown mushrooms will have so much stored water that if you salt them when you would have deglazed them they will actually deglaze themselves!

Bonus: the pan will also be easier to clean. You can also clean pans hot if you have the right kind of brush – effectively deglazing your pan to clean it.


Gourmet-ified Vegan Nuggets


My husband insisted on buying vegan faux ‘chicken’ nuggets. This was the result.

Oven baked nuggets:


Grilled broccolini:

Foods_090Simple mushroom gravy:

Fry 1 cup of mushrooms in 1 tablespoon of margarine. Once they start to bleed and brown add some salt and pepper. Fry for another 2 minutes or so until more liquid has built up. Add 1/2 cup to 2/3 cups of water. Blend 1 tablespoon of arrowroot (tapioca flour) into 1/2 a cup cold water. Add the arrowroot and water to the hot mushrooms, blend the white liquid in quickly and bring to the boil. Simmer until milky white shade has completely disappeared and the gravy is thick and rich but translucent.


Sweet potato and parsnip mash with truffle oil:

Chop then boil or microwave 1 large kumera (sweet potato) and 1 large parsnip (about 2 to 1 kumera to parsnip ratio) for around 10 to 15 minutes. Drain all liquid. Add back into a large mixing bowl. Add a drizzle of truffle oil, a pinch or three of smoked salt, and a pinch of white pepper. Blend with a stick blender or masher.



Combined on plate for pretty. The sauce in the little dish is leftover sweet and sour sauce with a drizzle or extra sweet chilli sauce.