Being flat stony broke these days, I like to try and bring my lunch to work with me rather than be dependent on cafés. Sometimes the lunch is leftovers from dinner the night – rice or pasta with some kind of sauce – but other days I am forced to rely on sandwiches.
Having eaten plain ham sandwiches for years as a secondary school student my boredom threshold is quite low so I try to ring the changes as much as possible with different breads, fillings and spreads. One thing that really lifts a sandwich, be it ham, cheese, pate or chicken, beyond the ordinary is this sticky and savoury Red Onion Marmalade. It’s a great standby to have on hand. You can put it into jars if you want to keep it for a while but mine doesn’t get a chance to hang around. I just put it straight into a covered tub in the fridge. It’s great with any kind of sandwich, I have often pressed it into service as a relish when I’ve been eating cheese and crackers and, in her Cook’s Companion, Stephanie Alexander suggests stirring a spoonful through cooked pasta.
Red Onion Marmalade is not difficult to make but it does involve some time. I find that it is a good thing to cook while you’re doing other things around the house. Peeling the onions is probably the worst part of the job and, no matter what evasive action you take, you’ll be shedding bucket-loads of tears before you get the last onion chopped! I try to stand by an open window or at least make sure the kitchen is well ventilated. After peeling each of the onions, rinse it under cold water and leave it to drip in a colander in the sink until you start chopping. This won’t prevent the tears but it might lessen them somewhat.
Red Onion Marmalade
Olive oil – 1 tablespoon
Butter – 25g
Red onions – 5 large, thinly sliced
Brown sugar – 150g
Fresh thyme leaves – 1 tablespoon
Balsamic vinegar – 75mls
Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper
Heat the olive oil and butter in a large heavy-based frying pan. Add the onions, sugar and thyme leaves, season well and cook over a moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until very soft.
Add the balsamic vinegar to the pan and stir well. Simmer over a low heat for 15 to 20 minutes until the liquid has reduced and the onions are richly sticky.
Pour into warmed, sterilised jars, cover and label. Store in a cool dark place.
Or, when cool, store in a lidded container in the fridge. I have kept mine for over a month with no problems.
Makes approximately 2 jars.