Elizabeth David is famous for saying ‘faites simple’ and, if you’re forced to shop in the likes of Tesco’s every day or week you have no choice but to do just that. But simple doesn’t mean boring or uninspiring. This recipe, for example, is an adaptation of one from Delia Smith’s Winter Collection; she explains that she got it from Mark Hix and Tim Hughes at Le Caprice and though the original uses San Daniele ham, Italian shallots and pecorino, it’s easy to adapt it to normal life via prosciutto, red onions and Parmesan. And it really is simple: there’s only one thing to chop, one thing to cook and two or three steps to put it all together. If you can get fresh thyme great, but it won’t hurt if you don’t have it. And it’s just yummy. So, though you may have to shop à la Tesco’s you are, in some senses, dining à la Hix. Not a bad way to spend a Wednesday night.
For two people (she makes it for four as a starter)
Cupboard (or things you may already have)
55ml extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon brown sugar
55ml balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and black pepper (to season)
2 tablespoons water
350g (2-3 medium) red onions
175-225g prosciutto di Parma (any air-dried ham would be good including Serrano)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (optional)
1. Peel, top and tail and chop the onions in slices.
2. Heat the oil in a lidded saucepan, add the sliced onions, cover and cook on a medium heat for about five minutes.
3. Add the sugar, thyme, water, a little salt and pepper, cover again and leave to cook on a low heat until the liquid has mostly evaporated and the onions are soft and slightly sticky. You’ll need to watch/stir them every so often because they can catch and burn. This takes about 30 minutes.
4. Once the onions are done, take them off the heat, stir in the vinegar then leave to cool. (I’ve no idea whether putting them straight into the oven at this point will make a massive difference to the taste; might be worth a try if you’re in a hurry.)
5. Whilst the onions are cooling heat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas 4. Then put the ovens in a lidded dish to reheat in the oven for about 15 minutes.
6. Serve the onions topped with slices of prosciutto and Parmesan, the onion juices and dressing drizzled over the lot and seasoned with salt and pepper.