If my memory serves me correctly, the first time the ‘KISS principle‘ (Keep it simple stupid) really struck chord with me was at my second full-time job in an office in the city, after having recently moved from Canberra. When there’s a lot going on, there’s really no need to make things more complicated, because simple usually works just fine.
KISS is a good acronym and mantra to know in life and I try to be mindful of it everyday. One would think that it’s a pretty easy lesson to learn and then move on from, but for me it appears to be a recurring theme that often needs repeating.
As humans, we are naturally imperfect and sometimes make mistakes. It’s easy to overdo things or add too much to the equation, even though it’s usually done out of love. The older I get, the more I realize how precious time is, and that by complicating things – not only is it unnecessary, it can also be counterproductive.
When it comes to cooking, I sometimes find it difficult to keep things simple or be happy with the state of a dish. There have been numerous occasions in the past when I’ve either added too much of an ingredient (for example, salt) or an unnecessary ingredient (for example, salt), which usually results in the dish being either too salty or just plain weird, or both and barely edible. Story of my life.
While complex things and complicated dishes have their place in the world, there’s also beauty in simple foods and simple recipes. As a cook, my goal is to simplify my methods and focus on creating recipes that are both simple (within good reason) and delicious. I also want to learn more about how I can maximise flavour in my cooking from using a minimal amount of ingredients. I’ll keep you informed.
Pickled onions is an international delicacy with many different variations and recipes. I’ve shared the stellar grandma’s pickled onions recipe with you before, and today I want to share a simplified and faster version of it. You might be thinking, ‘aren’t you going against your KISS principle by creating another recipe when there’s already a recipe that works well?’
Good point. While grandma’s pickled onions recipe is a good one (and I can vouch for it here), I did find the 3 day brining process to be time-consuming and unnecessary. This new KISS recipe is similar to grandma’s recipe but it has been modified to be more user-friendly. I’ve reduced the brining process from 3 days to just 1 hour (this is important, especially if you’re using super small pickling onions, otherwise they’ll become too soft) and I’ve also altered the spices used.
From my humble point of view, besides the brining process (which helps make the pickled onions more crispy and crunchy), the secret to making good pickled onions is to use good quality vinegar. I used Cornwell’s Malt Vinegar but you can also try white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar. Just make sure it tastes good because at the end of the day, that’s what your pickled onions will predominantly taste like.2
Regarding the pickling spices – this is a matter of preference. I like to heighten the sharpness and bite of my pickled onions by adding both black peppercorns and halved fresh chilies (you can also use dried chilies or chili flakes). The bay leaves, allspice, brown sugar, etc. all add to the classic pickle flavour. Not only do they make the pickled onions taste sweet and delicious, the spices also impart them with a distinctive character.
You can choose whatever aromatics you like. To simplify things, you can just buy the ‘pickling spice mix’ from the shop. Otherwise, you can reduce the spices to just a few ingredients (or use whatever spices you have available), or omit the spices all together, but that would make your pickled onions taste a little plain. If you want, you can make this recipe totally simple by not bothering making it at all and just buying a jar of pickled onions from the shop instead, but where’s the fun in that?
I’m a believer in the KISS principle, although I do find the use of the word ‘stupid’ in the original translation a little offensive. As a result, I would like to call this recipe – ‘Keep it simple superstar pickled onions’. Yes, that sounds a lot better. Oh wait, how about ‘Keep it simple superstar pickled onions with malt vinegar, brown sugar, bay leaves, star anise, fresh chilies, etc.? No? I didn’t think so.
So, here you go. I hope you like the new KISS pickled onions recipe and give it try one day. If you do, please let me know what you think of it. It really is a simple recipe that you can make within a couple of hours (although, you still have to wait 30 days before you can eat them) and the flavour and texture of the onions will be well worth your effort and patience. That’s all folks and remember to KISS – mwah!3 <3 :D
- 1 kg of pickling onions
- 1 Liter of water
- ¼ cup of salt
- 1 Liter of malt vinegar
- ½ cup of brown sugar
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 star anise
- 2 fresh chilies
- 1 teaspoon of allspice
- 1 teaspoon of peppercorns
- 2 teaspoon of mustard seeds
- Cut the roots and tips off the onions, and peel them.
- In a large bowl, add ¼ cup of of salt and 1 Liter of cold water. Mix well together. Add the onions and stir through. Make sure there is enough water to submerge the onions. Place a plate on top of the onions and keep them submerged for 1 hour.
- In a saucepan, add the malt vinegar, brown sugar and spices. Bring to medium heat and gently simmer for 5 mins. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool down completely.
- Drain the onions from the saline solution. Rinse under cold water, drain and let dry.
- In a sterilized jar, half fill with the onions. Add the halved chilies and some of the pickling spices from the saucepan. Add the rest of the onions to fill the jar up.
- Carefully pour in the cooled infused vinegar mixture (liquid and spices) to cover the onions. Make sure the onions are submerged.
- Place the lid on the jar and seal tightly. Store the jar in a cool, dry and safe place for 1 month. 1 month later, open the lid and enjoy your delicious pickled delights!
- If you were wondering, I used the ‘Boost’ and ‘Heartland’ (#16) Actions by The Pioneer Woman for the photos in this post. What do you think of them? Check out the other great free Actions by The Pioneer Woman to enhance your photos here. [↩]
- Don’t forget to sterilize the glass jar(s) before placing the onions into them. Sterilizing glass jars is a quick and easy process that helps remove bacteria and other contaminants from the jar. It is an essential step that helps prevent contamination, and also extend the shelf-life of your pickled onions. There are several ways to sterilize glass jars. For more info, go to: http://britishfood.about.com/od/glossary/ht/sterilizingjars.htm. [↩]
- The onion watercolour illustration in this post was obtained from ReusableArt.com and is ‘copyright free and in the public domain anywhere that extends copyrights 70 years after death or at least 120 years after publication when the original illustrator is unknown’. [↩]