A Maximum of Onions

Hello again spice lovers and welcome back to my end of the month recipe posts. Today we’re trying our hands at something a little less dessert-based again. Dōpiaza relish.

For those who aren’t familiar with the curry, dōpiaza is a red-coloured indian dish with all the flavours that entails but also onions. Lots of onions.

In fact, the name literally means “two onions”, referring to the inclusion of both fried and boiled ones.

Many restaurants over the years have screwed up this translation though. Rather than telling their customers that the dish has two types of onion or twice as much as any other curry, indian restaurants will often mark it down as a “maximum” amount of the vegetable. And that just isn’t true.

But what happens when we use an actual maximum of onions? I’ve wanted an answer to this for a long time and recently decided to find out.

I must warn you though, this recipe is simple but slow. It is worth in the end but absolutely not for the impatient.

First off, you need white/brown onions. The more the merrier really, so long as you can fit them in your pan. Chop them up into strips like so:

2016-08-26 13.35.10

Next, ready your spice mix.

This will consist of:

1tsp Garam Masala

1tsp turmeric

1tsp cumin – ground or seeds

1tsp coriander – ground or seeds, not leaves

2016-08-26 13.37.16

Also shown above are:

1tbsp tomato purée

2tsp chilli powder

2 star anise

Take the seeds from the star anise and discard the pods as these are essentially bark. Not a texture you want in your cooking. Set them aside for later with your chilli powder.

Not shown are:

1 clove garlic

an equivalent volume of ginger

Crush the garlic and finely chop both of these, making sure not to use the skin of either. Then add them to your pan with some oil, the tomato purée and your spices.

Heat them on the lowest setting you can, mixing well so that the tomato purée prevents any burning. Then, the moment they begin to sizzle, add the onions, stirring to coat them as evenly as possible.

Now add the chilli and star anise seeds, continuing to stir as you do so.

Star anise isn’t normally part of a dōpiaza but I add it to bring out the sweetness of the onions since their caramelized taste is the main flavour of any onion relish.

Continue to stir the mixture and cook on low to keep anything from burning until the onions are as sweet and soft as they will get. This could easily take an hour and a half, I’m afraid, but try not to rush it. If you burn anything, the recipe is ruined.

By all means take the pan off the heat for a moment if you’re ever worried that might happen.

Finally, when you’ve done all you can do to soften the onions, submerge them in water and turn your cooker up to full blast. As the new liquid bubbles away, lower the heat slowly, making sure to keep it at the boil as you do so.

After fifteen to twenty minutes, it should be just about gone, having transformed your spice coated onions into a wonderful, slightly saucy relish.

2016-08-26 15.09.00

Do note though that this pan was about two thirds full when I started. You lose a lot of volume as the onions cook down so make sure you use more than you think you’ll need.

It tastes primarily, as you might expect, of well cooked onions. The other flavours all shine through though, giving it a definite, if mild, red curry flavour that makes for a great approximation of the dōpiaza in relish form.

The texture is slightly more solid than your average onion relish from a jar. Just enough to give it what I think of as substance. A nice bit of extra bite in a cheese sandwich, say.

But, speaking of bite, how’s the chilli strength? Unusual. The powder I used has given the recipe very little actual burn but the afterglow is still potent. Far more so than the initial kick and quickly ramping up to what I would call a



warming the entire mouth from the back forward.

Not that you’ll get a lot of that heat when using this relish as it disappears into meals quite easily, leaving you with nothing but flavour.

That isn’t always a bad thing but some people will certainly want more. I know I do. So, if that heat isn’t enough for you, why not try a stronger chilli powder? I only used a generic one to see what heat level you’d be likely to get at home.

Or, if you’ll be eating it straight and that’s too much heat, you can always halve the amount of powder you put in. Maybe even leave it out altogether if you want.

The heat level is completely up to you.

Want a different flavour? Nearly any curry spice mix can be substituted for the dōpiaza one I used. Just look up your favourite curry and don’t forget to add star anise. If it doesn’t include tomato, use garlic or ginger paste/purée over the fresh equivalent to add that much needed moisture at the start.

I would expect pathia, madras and vindaloo to work especially well, while dansak and daal would lose a lot without their lentil content, unfortunately.

As for how to use this, I’ve said cheese sandwiches a bit already but a decent amount of this could also be used as the basis of a quick and easy curry or you could spread it under the cheese on a pizza for a delicious fusion food. Maybe even add it to spanish omelette.

I’m sure there are tons of things you can do with my relish but the rest are up to you to find out.


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