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Learn How to Cook Vegetables for Sunday Dinner - Onions

Updated on October 8, 2017
Diana Grant profile image

I'm a food lover, cooking family meals for over 50 years. Before qualifying as a lawyer, I worked in my family's restaurant & helped run it.

Part 1 of my Series of Instructions to Beginners on How to Cook Vegetables Properly

When I first left home, I didn't have any idea how to cook - I was brought up in Africa in a household with a cook, and was barely allowed in the kitchen at all, in case I got in his way. So getting married in England and having to learn cookery from sratch at the age of twenty was quite a culture shock. All I could do was make toast and boil an egg.

I'm sure that lots of people start adult life with very little knowledge of how to cook basic food, so this article will explain what you need to know to cook vegetables properly - vegetables which are neither underdone nor cooked to death.

There is also a Poll and a Quiz about Onions, and an amazing musical vegetable video.

Here's a Peeled and Cut Onion Showing its Structure

An Onion has Many Layers
An Onion has Many Layers | Source

About the Onion:

The Onion is a good vegetable to use to flavour stews and soups, or you can roast it as an accompaniment for meat. It is used as a popular vegetable all over the world - an ingredient of curry, stir-fries and many sauces.

The outer parchment-like leaves are inedible, so the onion should be peeled by stripping them off with a sharp knife.

You can find out more about the health benefits of onions in a separate article.

Lightly Fried Onion

A large onion, chopped small and fried lightly
A large onion, chopped small and fried lightly | Source

For soup, stews or fried onions:

  • Slice the onion in half, and then slice it or chop it into small pieces.
  • Then add a tablespoon of olive oil to a frying pan, and fry the onion on a moderate heat until golden brown - about 5 minutes
  • It can then be added to your soup or stew pot, to mix with the other ingredients.

Crispy Fried Onion:

If you want plain fried onion, as an accompaniment to burgers, cook it on a slightly higher heat to make it a bit crispy, stirring it, to prevent it sticking to the pan or burning.

Browning an Onion by frying in a pan until a bit crispy

A very large onion, sliced, chopped into small pieces and cooked till brown - cook for a minute more to crispen it up
A very large onion, sliced, chopped into small pieces and cooked till brown - cook for a minute more to crispen it up | Source

To give your stews and soups a stronger flavour:

  • Add a clove of garlic and a 1" slice of ginger.
  • Both of these should be peeled first, and then crushed, either in a garlic crusher or with something flat, like the handle of your kitchen knife - this brings out the juices and aroma.If

Fresh Onion, Ginger and Cloves of Garlic

Onion, Garlic and Ginger
Onion, Garlic and Ginger | Source

Tip: If you want a quick short-cut, you can buy bottled crushed garlic, crushed ginger or a mixture of crushed ginger and garlic

Whilst they taste slightly more bland than the fresh product, they are very popular and easy to use, saving time and, of course, washing up. I use them myself when I'm in a hurry.

This is What Bottled Garlic and Ginger Looks Like - Price varies but you can get it anywhere

Laxmi Paste, Ginger Garlic, 8 Ounce
Laxmi Paste, Ginger Garlic, 8 Ounce

I always keep a bottle of ginger garlic paste in my fridge, to use when I'm in a hurry or not in the mood to peel and chop these things myself.


Roast Onion:

  • Peel a medium-sized onion
  • Place it on a baking tray
  • Pour or spray about a teaspoonful of cooking oil over it
  • Add a little salt
  • cook it in the oven, medium heat for about 45 minutes, until brown, basting it with oil once or twice ("basting" just means covering it with oil).
  • You can cook roast potatoes and meat in the same baking tray, with some extra cooking oil, as the onion flavours the meat and potatoes.

Red Onions

I haven't overlooked red onions - but the method of cooking is the same as that of cooking brown onions.

Red onions are slightly sweeter than brown onions, and very nice when roasted. Personally I don't think you can taste much difference between red or brown onions in stews and other recipes, so, as red onions are usually a bit more expensive, at least in England, where I live, I don't normally use them, except for an occasional roast dinner, when I buy just a few.

Try this Quiz About Onions

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This is Amazing - Vegetable Orchestra

Add Your Weight to This Poll

Are you just learning how to cook, or are you quite experienced?

See results

Finally, a Labour-Saving Tip:

When I peel onions for cooking, I often peel more than is required, chop it up and put it in a small container in the fridge or freezer. Then if I need it for sandwiches, salad or any other appropriate recipe, I have it immediately to hand. Or sometimes I cook more onion than is needed and store it to use in dishes later - with tomatoes to make a tomato sauce for pasta, or to add to other vegetables to add flavor to a sauce or stew.

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Do Leave a Comment e.g. what other beginners' recipes you would like to see, or whether you found this easy to follow - I love feedback

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    • Diana Grant profile image

      Diana Grant 22 months ago from London

      Yes, everyone in my family loves onions and garlic in large quantities. I can remember a time in the 1960's when people didn't use garlic much in England, because it was smelly - food was a bit bland. Times have changed, and "foreign" foods have been incorporated into what the English eat - Mediterranean and Asian food especially. I eat curry once or twice a week nowadays.

    • BarbRad profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 22 months ago from Templeton, CA

      I love putting onions and garlic in almost anything savory. They are very popular at our house. Love your photos. They remind me I need to cook another batch of soup.

    • Diana Grant profile image

      Diana Grant 2 years ago from London

      Curries are so popular in the UK that they are almost considered as English food nowadays - I have some kind of curry at least once or twice a week. I use lots of onions, and then sometimes I use bought curry paste or curry sauce, and other times I use all my own spices and herbs. An Indian taught me how to cook curry when we were working together in a restaurant

    • Diana Grant profile image

      Diana Grant 2 years ago from London

      Yes, I'm a great fan of onions too - I use large quantities in stews, curries, Chinese stir fry and salads, not to mention sandwiches and toasted cheese

    • profile image

      Anukampa 2 years ago

      wow. great post. We use lot red onions in gravies and curries in India.

      Nice piece of info. Thanks

    • Lorelei Cohen profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 2 years ago from Canada

      I love onions raw or cooked so it really is a good thing that they are such a healthy vegetable.

    • Diana Grant profile image

      Diana Grant 5 years ago from London

      I have now written and published Parts 2 and 3, and added them as links above.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

      Thank you for sharing this gem and I vote up plus bookmark in with my recipe all from Hub pages. I will now keep my eye out for part 2.

      Take Care And enjoy your Day.