Stuffed onions

My mother used to cook big Spanish onions stuffed with minced beef and vegetables a lot when we were young; an economical family dish, if not quick to make. Whole onions take ages to cook, but the actual hands-on time isn’t that much.

I haven’t had them for years, and a sudden cold snap after weeks of warm weather made me think of this comfort food. These are nothing like my mother’s, but they are delicious anyway; I just made the recipe up as I went along. If you want something more like hers, replace the stuffing with some home-made ragù bolognese.

4 large sweet onions
250 g good sausage meat
handful fresh breadcrumbs
2 slices Parma ham (or similar), finely chopped
4 tbs Parmesan cheese, grated
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbs tomato puree
oregano (fresh or dried)
salt and pepper
1 egg
olive oil
white wine or stock (optional)

Remove loose skin from the onions, wash thoroughly. Bring plenty of water to the boil in a pan big enough to take the onions, and boil them for 25-35 minutes, depending on size. Drain and allow to cool for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200C. When the onions are cool enough to handle, slice off the tops and remove the skins. Remove the centre of each onion with a paring knife or small spoon (a grapefruit spoon or melon baller is good), leaving a shell of 2-3 layers. Patch any holes with spare bits of onion. Put the onions in a small baking dish into which they fit snugly.

Finely chop about half of the extracted onion (save the rest for something else), put in a bowl, and add the meat, breadcrumbs, ham, 3 tbs cheese, garlic, oregano, tomato puree, and egg. Mix well. Season to taste (if the sausage meat was highly seasoned, you won’t need much extra salt and pepper).

Fill the onions with the meat mixture using a teaspoon, and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Pour a little water, stock, or white wine round the onions, drizzle a liberal amount of olive oil over them, put in the oven and cook for about 45 minutes, until the stuffing is cooked through and the onions are tender. If you have too much stuffing, you can put the remainder in a ramekin and bake alongside the onions.

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