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Ploughman’s lunch with pickled onions and onion-rye bread

Australian Gourmet Traveller recipe for ploughman’s lunch with pickled onions and onion-rye bread.

By Emma Knowles & Lisa Featherby
  • 20 mins preparation
  • 50 mins cooking plus standing, proving, cooling
  • Serves 8
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Ploughman’s lunch with pickled onions and onion-rye bread
You'll need to begin the pickled onion recipe 3 weeks ahead for the flavours to develop. The onion-rye bread is best eaten on the day of making.


  • To serve: aged Cheddar, such as Quickes Traditional
  • To serve: shop-bought fruit chutney
Pickled onions
  • 2 tbsp sea salt flakes
  • 500 gm pickling onions, trimmed
  • 4 small red chillies, halved lengthways
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp each black peppercorns and fennel seeds
  • 500 ml white wine vinegar (2 cups)
  • 2 tbsp white sugar
Onion-rye bread
  • 350 gm each of “00” flour and rye flour
  • 20 gm brown sugar
  • 20 gm dried yeast
  • 250 ml milk (1 cup)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1½ onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, plus extra for dusting


  • 1
    For pickled onions, combine salt and 500ml cold water in a non-reactive bowl and stir until salt dissolves. Add onions and stand overnight, then drain and rinse. Pack into sterilised jars, layering with chilli, bay leaves and spices. Combine vinegar and sugar in a saucepan, stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves, bring to the simmer and cook until a light syrup forms (4-5 minutes). Pour onto onions to completely cover, seal and stand at room temperature for at least 3 weeks for flavours to develop.
  • 2
    For onion-rye bread, preheat oven to 180C. Combine flours, sugar, yeast and 2 tsp sea salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Combine milk and 310ml water in a saucepan, warm over low heat to lukewarm, then, with motor running, add to flour mixture, kneading until smooth and elastic (4-5 minutes). Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, turn to coat, cover and stand in a warm place until doubled in size (45 minutes-1 hour). Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add onion and stir occasionally until caramelised (12-15 minutes), add fennel seeds, stir until fragrant (1 minute), season to taste and set aside. Knock down dough, roll out on a lightly floured surface to a 25cm x 30cm rectangle. Spread with onion mixture, then, with shortest side facing you, roll away from you to form a cylinder. Place in an oiled 11cm x 27cm loaf tin, cover and stand until risen (20-30 minutes). Brush top with water, scatter with extra fennel seeds and salt and bake until golden and cooked through (50-60 minutes; loaf will sound hollow when tapped). Turn onto a wire rack to cool completely. Serve thickly sliced with pickled onions, aged Cheddar and fruit chutney.


Drink Suggestion: English bitter. Drink suggestion by Max Allen

  • undefined: Emma Knowles & Lisa Featherby