Saturday, February 26, 2011

Oh those onions!!

I have seen onions with wings and onions with a turban,a spectacle,it was a real pinched onion simulating our esteemed prime minister, thanks to our cartoonists.
There is so much of a hoo ha about these haloed bulbs,I wondered why India is so obsessed with onions and potatoes.So much so that there is a phrase 'as common as onions and potatoes'used commonly in hindi and yet these humble vegetables are the ones which are quick to bag the head-lines as soon as it marginally moves from the expected norm in every sense.
(Onion belongs to the genius allium capa.
The bulb of the onion which grows underground is supposed to store energy.
Ancient Egyptians worshipped onion.The Ancient Egyptians worshipped it,believing that its spherical shape and concentric rings symbolized eternal life. Onions were even used in Egyptian burials, as evidenced by onion traces being found in the eye sockets of Ramesses IV.

In ancient Greece, athletes ate large quantities of onion because it was believed that it would lighten the balance of blood. Roman gladiators were rubbed down with onion to firm up their muscles. In the Middle Ages, onions were such an important food that people would pay their rent with onions, and even give them as gifts. Doctors were known to prescribe onions to facilitate bowel movements and also to relieve headaches, coughs, snake bite and hair loss. The cultivated onion was introduced to North America by Christopher Columbus on his 1492 expedition to Hispaniola. However, they found that strains of wild onions already grew throughout North America. Native American Indians used wild onions in a variety of ways, eating them raw or cooked, as a seasoning or as a vegetable. Such onions were also used in syrups, as poultices, as an ingredient in dyes and even as toys. According to diaries of colonists, bulb onions were planted as soon as the Pilgrim fathers could clear the land in 1648. Onions were also prescribed by doctors in the early 16th century to help with infertility in women, and even dogs, cats and cattle and many other household pets ).
My experience with onions are limited.
My fascination of onions were actually ignited in some of my umpteen visits with the TB boys to the Kutcherry in Daltonganj which serves one of the best mutton curries I have eaten in my life.Apart from the slight awkwardness of the eyeballs of the pan-chewing lawyers and the under-trials upon you while you eat your coveted afternoon lunch,it is an experience in itself.
The cook in the Kutcherry gives the hospital people a better service but what really caught my eye were the cut onions in the huge utensils which simmered in oil for over an hour with occassional ladelling in between,which I believe is the secret.My onions never fry beyond a few second.
When I started my kitchen in HCH,toughest part of the day was figuring out what to eat.The days I got invited over,it was not so much the anticipation of a good meal but the thought of not having decide what to eat which made the invite a pleasure.
My sister in Delhi gave me a simple has never failed to get me compliments.
Soak some grams overnight.
Fry the onions in a minimum oil,put in the soaked grams and green chillies,salt to taste,turmeric and let it simmer over a low heat.
That is actually it!
That is cooking mom's way -accentuating the natural flavour and not killing it. I saw my sister brown thinly diced onions over the biryani she was cooking,it's facinating what you can do with the common onion.

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