One batch of caramelised onions, four different recipes | Get ahead

Golden and sticky, caramelised onions are the base for myriad dishes. Slow-cook a big batch and gradually turn them into a classic French soup, a savoury tart, speedy pasta and a Persian-style pilafOnions are surely one of the most versatile vegetables on earth, providing the base for countless recipes. You can’t really skimp on their cooking time, as doing this as slowly as you can is what will bring out their caramel sweetness and depth of flavour.What follows are recipes that use 10 large onions in total, slowly caramelised during the first stage of preparing a delicious French onion soup. Half the cooked onions should be set aside and placed in the fridge to be used up as the week goes by. Continue...

No trick, just treats: Yotam Ottolenghi’s pumpkin and squash recipes

Pumpkin and squash are living proof that what we eat is more than just physical sustenance – it comforts and feeds the soul, tooThe more familiar we become with images and stories from Syria that shock, the more essential it is to emphasise the humanity we all share, and how this is often made manifest through food. That’s why I’ve given my support to the book Soup For Syria, as I wrote last week. Every conflict has a food story to tell, and in Food Stories From Syria, a recent Food Programme on Radio 4, Dan Saladino unveiled a few of those stories, told by asylum seekers, aid workers and food writers.Many of the stories we hear from the region are about a dire lack; but they are also connected by a sense of the pride that people have in relation to the food of their home country, as well as the humility and hospitality that goes into making and sharing it. Continue...

Down mezcal way in Oaxaca

You can find it on the menu in London’s hipster bars, but mezcal, known as ‘tequila’s father’, is best tasted in southern Mexico. Our writer tries some of the finest on a tour of distilleries and in the bars of Oaxaca city It’s late morning 20 miles outside the city of Oaxaca, in southern Mexico, and I’m staring at what looks like a meteor crater filled with giant pine cones. The cones – from the agave plant – are still warm to the touch, and there’s a sweet smell in the air, like pineapple and caramel. The crater looks like something prehistoric, almost primordial, but it is, in fact, an agave oven, used to make mezcal – the drink sometimes called tequila’s father – and I’m on a day-long mezcal tour to find out more about it.A few years ago, relatively few people in the UK had tried mezcal, but gradually it has made its way into the booze aficionado’s repertoire, sometimes as a tipple on its own, sometimes as a base for cocktails. Dedicated mezcal bars have popped up in London recently, in fashionable but edgy Dalston (at appointment-only boutique LN-CC) or in plusher Fitzrovia (at Mezcalería, above the Charlotte Street branch of the Mexican restaurant chain Wahaca). Continue...

Just an old tea set my grandmother gave me – but it means so much

Items given to Gavan Naden by his grandparents take him back to childhood summers in their care, before he became aware of the hardships they enduredAs a small lad I would arrive from the big smoke and be left to run around my grandparents’ Derbyshire garden in the quaintly named Two Dales. It was full of hidden crevices, little ceramic signs and rooms that smelled of Pears soap.I knew they were kind and I knew I loved them, but I had no idea what they thought about the world. I only saw them in the good times. They were of a different generation, so I didn’t think of them as fully rounded people with faults, hopes and dreams. Yet they represented something so basic and fundamental, I was constantly drawn there. Everything about them seemed warm and loving. Continue...

Readers’ recipe swap: chocolate spread | Eve O’Sullivan

Your imaginative ways using chocolate spread have resulted in some incredibly indulgent recipes – including cheesecakes, hazelnut profiteroles and a bread-and-butter pudding ...... next time we’d love to hear about your recipes that use clementines. Send them along to recipes@theguardian.com or upload with pics if you have them to GuardianWitnessChocolate spread is one of those indulgences I normally find is best avoided, simply because, if it’s in the cupboard, every venture to the kitchen will involve sneaking a spoonful. At least this week, I’ve had very good reason to be eating it, and even better, there are no half-full jars left to tempt me.First up, a savoury canape. Marmaduke Scarlet’s chorizo, chocolate and oregano toasts horrified and delighted guests in equal measure. Chocolate mousse profiteroles from ColonialCravings were too wolfed down in seconds, the chocolate spread adding an extra element of creamy sweetness to a classic dessert. Fadime Tiskaya’s chocolate, hazelnut, thyme and halva loaf is my new go‑to banana bread; the thyme manages to take the edge of sweetness off its fellow ingredients, with the roasted hazelnuts and chopped banana adding interest to the texture of the loaf. Bread and butter pudding got a super-rich spin from detoutcoeur Limousin, with croissants, chocolate spread and chunks of dark chocolate falling into a custardy base. I managed to rationalise this as a weekend breakfast, and suggest that you do the same. If you’d prefer to make your own chocolate spread, however, then Adam Holden’s recipe is straightforward and pretty good for you, to boot. Continue...