The Christmas issue

Our December issue is out now, featuring Paul Carmichael's recipes for a Caribbean Christmas, silly season cocktails and more.

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Mango recipes

Nothing says summer like mangoes. Go beyond the criss-cross cuts - bake a mango-filled meringue loaf with lime mascarpone, start off the day with a sweet coconut quinoa pudding with sticky mango, or toss it through a spicy warm weather Thai salad.

Chilled recipes for summer

When the mercury is rising, step away from the oven. These recipes are either raw, chilled or frozen and will cool you down in a snap.

Shark Bay Wild Scampi Caviar

Bright blue scampi roe is popping up on menus across Australia. Here's why it's so special.

Dark chocolate delice, salted-caramel ganache and chocolate sorbet

"The delice from Source Dining is a winner. May I have the recipe?" Rebecca Ward, Fitzroy, Vic REQUEST A RECIPE To request a recipe, email fareexchange@bauer-media.com.au or send us a message via Facebook. Please include the restaurant's name and address, as well as your name and address. Please note that because of the volume of requests we receive, we can only publish a selection in the magazine.

Koh Loy Sriracha Sauce, David Thompson's favourite hot sauce

When the master of Thai food pinpoints anything as his favourite, we sit up and listen.

Paul Carmichael's great cake

"Great cake, also known in Barbados as black cake or rum cake, is a variation of British Christmas cake that's smashed with rum and falernum syrup," says Momofuku Seiobo chef Paul Carmichael. "This festive cake varies from household to household but they all have two things in common: tons of dried fruit and rum. It's a cake that should be started at least a month out so the fruit can marinate in the booze. Start this recipe up to five weeks ahead to macerate the fruit and baste the cake."

Taming the Wilderness

Heading to Canada’s far-flung places means a whole lot of adventure with life’s luxuries on the side.

Vegetarian canape recipes

If you're skipping meat at your next party, try these fast and fresh vegetarian canape recipes.

Onions sans tears

Forget the chopping: the thing about onions that really makes me want to cry is seeing how often they're not cooked properly. Right now I'm looking at a pot of finely chopped onions. They're the base of my Bolognese, and in them I see the kernel of the finished dish. The way I cook and season these onions will determine in a large part the depth and quality of flavour of the sauce when it's done. Onions have all sorts of uses, of course, but perhaps their most essential deployment is in forming this sort of foundation, whether it's for a soup, a braise, a sauce, a tagine or a curry. These humble onions will eventually cook down and meld into the sauce, but far from disappearing, they play a major role in how the dish looks and tastes.

At the risk of stating the obvious, when you're making something such as a beef or lamb casserole (or, of course, French onion soup) you want the onions to give a deep and rich flavour, so you cook them until they turn dark golden-brown. If you're cooking something more delicate, such as a goat's cheese and onion tart or a chicken ragù, then you want your onions to be only pale golden-brown. In both cases the onions will lend a unique character and colour to the dish, and in neither can the cooking be rushed.

The more gently onions are cooked, the sweeter their flavour. As they get darker, they will take on a kind of richness, until they begin to acquire a bitterness. This is something you usually work to avoid, but in the right context a touch of bitterness can be desirable, as in a Vietnamese beef noodle soup. In such cases onions are fried (or roasted) until they are very brown to pretty much charred, which gives that beautiful shade of dark brown to the soup, pleasing to both the eye and the palate.

The thing that surprises me is how often this step is misunderstood in the home kitchen - either the cooking is not taken far enough or it is not done gently enough before the caramelisation is arrested by the introduction of liquid and other ingredients. I have witnessed chopped onions being placed into a pan along with the oil (often before the pan is hot), and once they've been cooking for barely five minutes, in goes the carrot, the celery, and very soon after the tomato paste, the mince and so on. It's a big mistake. The onions haven't had a chance to actually cook - they need to go from raw to cooked and soft before beginning their browning. If they're cooked too quickly, you'll have raw onion inside and brown outside, and never get the richness of flavour you're after.

I like to cook onions in generous amounts of oil and butter (a little bit of butter gives a nice flavour and the oil keeps it from burning) which have been warmed over a medium heat before the onions are added. This lets the onions sweat and sizzle, slowly turning soft and translucent before becoming a rich golden brown. This is the beginning of caramelisation, and it is precisely what I want. It is this reaction of the starches and sugars in the onions over a high heat which causes them to undergo their transformation.

I like to use a heavy-based pan for cooking onions because it gives an even, slow heat - as opposed to, say, a lightweight aluminium frying pan which tends to colour the onions too quickly. My favourite is a heavy copper saucepan - the copper distributes the heat beautifully. Start with a high heat, then, once the onions are added and have started to sweat, turn the heat to medium and keep stirring. They should be giving off steam and gently sizzling but not frying, which will make them brown too quickly. I always salt the onions once they've started softening - the salt draws liquid out into the pan and helps in the sautéing process. Salting early also gives a depth of flavour that can never be equalled by seasoning at the end of cooking alone. Add some salt in the beginning and adjust the seasoning when you've finished cooking.

To enjoy the magic of well-cooked onions on their own, make them the star of a dish and not just the bass line. French onion soup made with a rich beef stock and garnished with melted Gruyère on toast is the ne plus ultra at this time of year, while a flaky pastry filled with caramelised onions and goat's curd is also hard to beat. And then there's my all-time favourite onion dish, the Bavarian classic Käse Spätzle: small dumplings baked with caramelised onions and grated mountain cheese such as Gruyère.

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Latest news
Explainer: wild scampi caviar
30.11.2016
GT's Christmas hamper
29.11.2016
David Thompson's favourite hot sauce
28.11.2016
Our 2016 Christmas issue is out now
28.11.2016
Bruce Pascoe’s crowd-funded Indigenous agriculture project
27.11.2016
Where to start with French beef cuts
18.11.2016
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