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Caramelised red onion chutney

May 19, 2013


One joy of living in the sunshine state is that the light is oh so much better for photography. I lose track of the number of times I discarded writing a post because a) I’d finished the recipe at 1am and was too tired to do anything but fall into a sugar-induced coma, or b) even at 6pm, it was cloudy, rainy, and definitely not conducive conditions for food photography (even amateur-level photos). If there is anyone in existence who can make food look good under fluorescent lighting, well…they deserve some sort of award. In San Francisco, such an award could even stretch to near sanctification, since every other person at a restaurant seems to pause at least once during their meal, phone in hand, snapping their food for future reference. I’m sure they’d welcome a way to make their food look good even in tasty but unnatractive diners like Pearl’s burgers.

This recipe is nice and easy (it has to be, given that I completely made it up), but does take a while. The result is worth it though, since I get the feeling that in SF, this relish doesn’t exist so readily. You might hesitate to try back home, given that ASDA doesn’t do a bad job and sells some for £1.50. The strong flavours are good for cheese, bread, as well as comfort dinners like sausage and mash…

Makes: 2 jars


  • 3 red onions, finely chopped
  • 1.5 cloves garlic
  • olive oil
  • 1-2 tbsp brown/raw cane sugar
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, plus more to taste
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • pinch chilli flakes (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp salt and pepper

The key to this recipe is not to burn the onions, so patience is a virtue. First, heat 1 tbsp of oil in a large pan, then when a piece of onion sizzles, add all the onion, and stir to coat evenly in the oil. Cook the onions on low heat until soft and translucent, adding a little more oil if needed. It’ll take around 15 mins in total, try not to cry too much in the meantime from all the fumes (especially if one’s kitchen doesn’t have an extractor fan. Why would you have an oven without a fan? Crazy americans).



Once cooked, you’re ready to caramelise (excuse the photo, this wasn’t daytime lighting). Simply add in the sugar, balsamic vinegar, paprika and chilli flakes and stir to coat. Return to heat, probably for the next 20 mins or so, during which time the onions will cook down further, becoming sticky and a dark golden brown red colour. Taste and season with salt and pepper. You may also want to add more balsamic vinegar and brown sugar, to get the right balance of sweet / tart; bear in mind it changes as the onions cook. Add a tiny bit of water if the mixture looks to be drying too much.


When soft, sticky and fully caramelised, leave the onions to cool. Once ready, either take half of the mixture and blend in a food processor, or transfer all the contents to a bowl and use a hand blender to process the relish to a more-spreadable consistency. In either case, leave enough of the mixture un-blended to add texture (or you end up with onion jelly, which is a bit odd). Re-season if necessary, and when fully cold, package up into sterilised jars for safekeeping.


I have no idea how long this would store for, but like most jams and relishes, the sugar should make it fairly durable. They’re called preserves for a reason, don’t you know….


(Also: hopefully the relish is good enough to be finished off long before one worries about expiry dates)



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