Friday, 24 April 2009

Onion Knowing

For the last little while the lines, 'What fun/ My thumb instead of an onion', have been a constant in my head like a favourite pop song. So I was rather surprised this morning on taking down from the shelf the book – Ariel – to find that Sylvia Plath actually wrote: 'What a thrill – / My thumb instead of an onion.' A thrill indeed.

Yesterday I delivered the final draft of the thing that was new and difficult to the people who after reading it will tell me things I already know about my weaknesses. But I don't care, it's done and I'm free to go back into the kitchen. Or play with my birthday presents. Or read a book.

Last night, by way of a small celebration I made Tortilla for supper which we had with my latest favourite drink: an Australian sparkling wine that actually does taste of pear-drops. The first time I ever ate Tortilla was from a deli in St. Albans: a thick slab of cold egg the colour of butter liberally dotted with fried potatoes and onions. I couldn't believe how delicious it was: salty, oniony, oily heaven. I've been making it ever since, though we tend to eat it hot straight from the pan, too impatient to wait for it to cool down. Lucky Bob gets to have it cold for his packed lunch the next day too.

500grams of waxy spuds
two large onions
6 large eggs
olive oil (not extra virgin)

Boil the spuds til they're softish. Heat a good layer of olive oil in a frying pan. Add the spuds to the hot oil and brown them all over. Slice the onions as you like them, über-fine isn't necessary, and add them to the pan. Let the onions catch a bit in places. Break the eggs into a bowl or jug and with a very delicate hand cut the yolks into the whites until all is yellow. Sprinkle salt onto the spuds and onions then add the eggs. Keeping the heat low so as not to burn the egg leave it until the egg has set. Sometimes I faff about lifting the edges as they cook to allow the runny stuff to hit the pan, other times I just leave it and then put the whole thing under the grill to set the top. Last night I faffed cos I was in full kitchen mood, I wanted to feel thoroughly involved in the process of getting supper on the table.

I like to serve this with a salad of mixed peppery leaves dressed with mustardy vinaigrette, and maybe a hunk of crusty bread for mopping purposes.

I meant, this year, to try and grow my own onions, but what with one thing and another I didn't get round to organizing it. I wonder if it's too late now? What I really need is an allotment where there are people who know these things all around.


The sun being over the yard arm and all


Kim Ayres said...

Can't help much with onions I'm afraid, although Maggie's always quite knowledgable about these things. If you get the chance to pop down and see her exhibition, you could ask :)

PI said...

I can feel your relief. Well done and to hell with any carpers.
How strange about Sylvia. Did you read the 'Peeling Onions' book by Anna - The Apprentice? Well worth reading. Enjoy a bit of relax.

savannah said...

yippieyippieyippie!!!!! hurray for you, sugar! #2 son learned to make that in madrid and was in constant demand when he visited a couple of christmas' ago when all the kids were in town..anyway, yes, i finally learned how to make it and it is divine! i'm with pat re to hell with the carpers!xooxoox

(are you still knitting squares for your chair! i still have yarn to send)

Eryl Shields said...

I will come next week, Kim, as I am now free to do what I choose with my time, mostly.

Pat ~ any carping will be ignored, with a smile, of course. Funny you have called them carpers because we call our workshops 'the carp sessions.'

I haven't read the peeling onions book but now I know about it I will search out a copy.

Savannah ~ the thing about the carpers is that they are adorable and have been very helpful, but I know in this instance I haven't given (at least one of) them quite what they were after. Still, I will aim for dignity when they do carp.

I will now begin my nightly knitting again. I dropped it for a while there. And look forward to a package of southern yarn arriving at some point

david mcmahon said...

Delivering the final draft of anything is always a great experience. I know the feeling well.

I live in Australia. My agent lives in Toronto. And my publishers, Penguin, are just about everywhere.

We would not be able to function without the net!

Conan Drumm said...

Welcome back to the kitchen, Eryl. And here's to fizzy pop!

Yes, if the seasonal timing's the same there as here you can plant your onions now (just) - 10cms apart about 3cms deep and leave them in the ground until September/when the leaves start falling over. I've been doing a course but it will be next year before it pays off with produce.

Well done on getting the work in and if the people are good then the feedback will be another step forward.

Eryl Shields said...

David ~ Hello, nice to meet you. The net is a marvellous tool. Feeling strangely flat, not having that pressure, today, but yes, hugely relieved too.

Conan ~ I should have known you'd know about onions. So it's a trip to the nursery for me tomorrow, great stuff!

You're right, the feedback will be well worth the torture.

Leigh Russell said...

Sounds delish. I wish I could cook. My efforts lean towards disastrous. In desperation, my husband's taught himself to cook. It's the only way he'll ever get a decent meal in our house.

Eryl Shields said...

Seems to me, Leigh, that you do enough. I learnt to cook, I'm sure, because for 20 of the, almost, 25 years I've been married I didn't work, and it was the only regular creative activity I had access to. That and the fact that I'm pretty greedy.