My grandad is 92. He still grows most of his own veg in his back garden and his front garden is always full of flowers. I remember when I was little we used to go round at the weekend and he would take me outside to show me the vegetables. When I was little the only vegetable I would eat was sweetcorn. I remember him picking the fresh corn cob off the plant and giving to me to eat raw. I can still taste it now. It was the sweetest sweetcorn I’ve ever tasted.
He also had pheasants & partridges hanging from the ceiling of the garden shed that you had to walk under to use the ouside toilet. Not so nice.
My grandad has 9 children, my dad being one of them, as well as 14 grandchildren, 12 great grandchildren and 1 great, great grandchild. When I was younger the whole family would descend on my grandparents every Boxing Day. The kids would open all their presents and play together and the parents would eat, drink and get drunk, generally.
One of the best things about Boxing Day at Nan & Grandad’s was the buffet. The table in the back room was filled with cold roast meats leftover from Christmas Day as well as the obligatory sausage rolls, chicken drumsticks and the cheese board. Next to the cheeseboard there was always a big jar of grandad’s homemade pickled onions.
When I was younger I remember being terrified of these pickled onions. I could see the whole red chillies floating around in the jar. That and the fact that the adults would dare each other to eat them and laugh when someone started coughing and going red in the face, stopped me from going near them until I was much older. Probably about 16.
Once I tried one there was no going back. They are fiery (depending on how long they’ve been left to mature) but also totally addictive. Just make sure you’re amongst family when you eat them. I wouldn’t eat them before a hot date or job interview. Not a good idea.
When we first moved to Spain ten years ago and opened the restaurant, my grandad came to visit with my uncle David. As usual, they asked if there was anything we needed from England, thinking we’d say Marmite or tea bags. I asked him to bring some of his pickled onions, half joking. And he did.
Can you imagine the look on the faces of the security at the airport? This was in the days before the 100 ml liquids rule obviously. I was very pleased, as you can imagine.
One of our very good customers at the time, Tim, always ordered the cheese plate instead of a dessert. We used to serve fresh fruit with the cheese, grapes or figs, whatever was in season.
One evening we didn’t have any fruit left to serve with the cheese so I explained this to Tim when he ordered his usual. He asked me if we had any pickled onions instead. I explained that all we had was a jar of my grandad’s homemade. He said that would be perfect.
Of course I obliged, warning him beforehand of their special potency, and he loved them! Every time Tim and Tony came for dinner from then on, Tim would order his cheese plate with grandad’s pickles on the side.
The funny thing is that Tim and Tony ended up being our best friends over here and 2 years ago they bought the restaurant from us. I like to think that it is all down to grandad’s pickled onions!
This year my auntie Pat came over with my mum and asked if we wanted anything. I couldn’t ask her to bring grandad’s pickled onions because of the no liquids rule and also because I knew she would be up to her luggage limit (It’s a woman thing!) So instead I asked her to bring the recipe so I could make them myself. That and some sumac, vanilla extract and allspice. There’s always something I can’t get here.
So here is the secret recipe for Grandad’s Pickled Onions. I’m only sharing it with you because you deserve it. Don’t go telling everyone about it though…..
Grandad’s Pickled Onions Recipe
makes 1 big jar, vegan, gluten-free
- 5oogr small onions/shallots, peeled
- 1 pint (550 ml) malt vinegar
- 2 large tbsp black treacle (I used miel de cana) or brown sugar
- 2 red chillies
Put the peeled onions in a bowl of cold salted water and leave for about an hour. Drain and leave to dry.
Put 1/2 pint (275 ml) of the vinegar in a saucepan with the treacle/brown sugar. Bring to the boil stirring continuously until dissolved and then set aside to cool.
Put the onions in your jar and pour over the cold vinegar and treacle mix. Top up with the rest of the malt vinegar, it needs to cover the onions. Cut the chillis in half lengthways and push them down inside the jar. Seal with a lid and store in a cool dry place for about a month before opening.
Lots of Love,