Oh Onions!

The sight of onions floating down the streets of Pukekohe last summer was enough to make you cry.  The backbone of so many dishes, onions are loved the world over but seldom as the hero. Sure, the French have their soup, but I say the way for everyone to celebrate the lovely layers of an onion is to fry them. I still remember when I discovered the beauty of an onion ring and can never visit Little India without an order of onion bhajis! So here is my ode to onions with the mantra, don’t cry over onions, fry them!

Onion Bhajis

These are based on Little India’s onion bhajis, where they are a must order.

2 onions, thinly sliced
½ tsp carom seeds, also known as Ajwain seeds
½ tsp cumin seeds
¾ tsp ground turmeric
1¼ tsp salt
pinch of red chilli powder
oil for deep frying
2 cups chickpea flour
¾ cup water

Place sliced onions, carom and cumin seeds, turmeric, salt, and chilli powder in a bowl and stir together.

Add oil to a large pan over a high heat so it is ready for frying when the batter is.

Working quickly, combine chickpea flour and water in a separate bowl to make the batter. Whisk until batter has a smooth custard-like consistency. Feel batter with your fingers and remove any small clumps of chickpea flour. Immediately add batter to onion and spices and stir together with your hands. Do not leave batter to sit as it will go watery and the onion bhajis will not come together correctly in the hot oil.

Make batter and onion mixture into a palm-sized fritter and carefully place in hot oil (the oil is ready when batter dropped into the oil rises to the surface). Repeat with remaining mixture. The bhajis can be a bit fiddly so it is best to fry one at a time. Fry onion bhajis until golden brown.

Tamarind sauce
2 tsp vegetable oil
½ tsp each cumin, cardamom, and ground ginger
½ cup tamarind paste
⅓ cup brown sugar
½ cup water

Heat the oil and spices in a small pot and cook for 1–2 minutes. Add in the tamarind, sugar, and water and simmer.

Buttermilk Onion Fries

This recipe is the delicious combo of the flavours you find in fried chicken and onion rings!

1 large (or 2 medium) onion
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups flour
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
½ tsp celery seeds
½ tsp white pepper
1 tsp salt

oil for deep frying

Peel and halve the onion, and then with the flat sides down slice the onion thinly vertically. This is often referred to as pole to pole and will result in thin strips as opposed to half rings.

Place the onion slices in the buttermilk and allow them to marinate for at least an hour.

In another bowl mix together the remaining dry ingredients.

Heat the oil in a deep fryer (or large pot) to 180°C.

In batches, dredge the buttermilk-soaked onion in the flour mixture and then place carefully in the hot oil. Fry until golden and crispy. Drain on paper towels and repeat with remaining onions.

Serve while warm and before you munch them all!

Beer Battered Onion Rings

I’m a sucker for a good onion ring – battered, definitely not crumbed. The beer in this recipe conveniently means there is half a bottle spare for the cook – although I am not endorsing drinking and frying! You can swap the beer for sparkling water which will give you just as light a batter although not quite the same flavour. A teaspoon of cumin seeds is not essential, but a beautiful addition to the batter, especially if you are making these just to munch on with a beer.

1 cup self-raising flour
½ tsp salt
½–1 tsp cumin seeds (optional)
1–1½ cups beer (any will do although I prefer a lager)
2–3 large onions
oil for frying

Place the flour, salt, and cumin seeds (if using) in a bowl. Slowly whisk in 1 cup of beer to form a smooth batter, adding more if the batter is too thick.

Carefully peel the onions, trying to avoid cutting into the layers. Cut the onions into ½ cm rings. Separate the rings, adding the large/medium ones to the batter. The innermost rings can be saved and used next time you need onion.

Heat the oil to 180°C and carefully drop the batter-covered onion rings into the oil. This is best done using tongs and in batches. Also make sure you allow excess batter to fall off the rings before you place them in the oil. Cook the rings until golden, turning them at least once. Remove from the oil and place on paper towels to soak up a little of the excess oil. Season with additional salt if desired and serve.

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