Mother's Little Helper No.1 : Caramelised Onions


As the days start whizzing by until Henry heads to university in Wellington, it is all becoming a bit too real. I had always said I would give him some instruction in his favourite recipes before he goes, and yesterday as I started chopping away to make Caramelised Onions he said "Write it down Mum!" I did. I have called these Mother's Little Helper No.1 as these onions are one of those invaluable things to have on hand in the fridge (and they are probably  almost as addictive as the original Mother's Little Helper - I think Valium in the 60s???, but packed full of health boosting nutrients instead!). I have several of these go-to home-made 'extras' to perk up quick meals. The Caramelised Onions (sometimes called onion jam) are one of Henry's favourites, here they are layered onto grilled ciabatta with prosciutto, avocado and fresh tomatoes with a good seasoning of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. They are a natural partner for pumpkin, mushrooms, feta, eggs, cheese, and of course meat - there are so many ways to use them, here are just a few:

  • On a pizza base, topped with prosciutto and mozzarella or sliced cooked potatoes, blue cheese or Parmesan and fresh rosemary
  • With any kind of grilled or roast meat from beef to lamb or chicken
  • In your favourite beef burger
  • In sandwiches or wraps with salad, cheese and pastrami, ham or chicken
  • Served with chicken liver pate or with blue cheese on crostini
  • Stirred through pasta with cooked mushrooms or pumpkin and a little cream and parmesan, topped with toasted pinenuts, mmmmm!
  • As a base for vegetable tart or tartines
  • Stirred through salad with pumpkin, roasted peppers, semi-dried tomatoes and chorizo
  • As a base for French Onion Soup - just add beef stock and cook longer
  • Layered onto puff pastry with crumbled feta as a super-quick tart
  • Layered into a potato and red pepper frittata or a in a simple ham quiche
  • Stirred through pan-fried field mushrooms

3-4 tbsp olive oil
5 medium red onions, peeled and sliced (thin or thick, generally I like them quite thin, but up to you!)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp caster sugar
black pepper
1/2 tsp chilli flakes optional

Heat 3 tbsp olive oil in a big heavy based pot. Add onions and salt and cook over a medium heat for 25-30 minutes until nice and soft, stirring every once in a while so that they don't catch on the bottom. In between stirring, half cover with the pot lid - I always rest it on the wooden spoon laid across the top of the pot, so it is mostly covered, but not completely. After half an hour add balsamic vinegar and sugar and cook a further 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. If you like a little heat, throw the chilli flakes in now too. Once you add the sugar the onions will brown up more and go more caramelisey - if your heat is a little low, you might need to increase it a bit now. If the onions seem a little dry add the extra tablespoon of olive oil and stir through then season with a bit of black pepper. Leave to cool then spoon into a sealable jar or container. These will keep for up to 10-12 days in the fridge, if they get the chance! Mother's Little Helper No.2 Basil Pesto coming soon....


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks Oihana - hope you like it! :)

    2. Hello,
      Made this morning for Sunday dinner later today. Absolutely delicious.
      Thanks you so much.