Food Opinion

Onion recipes to spare you the tears

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(Image supplied)

For those of you who can't stand crying over chopped onions, here's some news to help wipe the tears away. Along with a couple of onion recipes by Megan Jane de Paulo guaranteed to create a dish that will make crying the last thing on your mind.

YOU CAN’T MAKE an omelette without breaking eggs, you can’t cut onions without a decent cry... or so was thought.

An onion producer in South Australia, Dolling Produce, claims it has been cross-breeding onion varieties over the last 30 years to produce the Happy Chop — a variety of brown onion that doesn’t reduce the chopper to tears.

It’s not a new concept — similar varieties were launched in Japan in 2016, the U.S. after that and last year in the UK. They have not appeared to have taken the culinary world by storm.

Why do these delicious piquant orbs lash out at us so viciously?

(Image supplied)

Onions produce the chemical irritant known as syn-Propanethial-S-oxide, which is released when they are cut, causing the nerves around the eyes (lacrimal glands) to become irritated. Within each onion cell, there's a little glob filled with enzymes. When you bite or cut into an onion, these enzyme-filled blobs break open, releasing their contents which then mix with other chemicals to form syn-Propanethial-S-oxide.

Presumably, the Happy Chop has been bred to reduce this effect, but of course, this begs the question of how it affects the taste.

Tony Abbott will be gleefully chomping down on these unpeeled and raw. They have the look and crisp texture of onion but without that immediately evocative scent of the beginnings of a delightful bolognese or the promise of a lush beef bourguignon. They also taste much sweeter than that of your usual brown onion.

Once you peel away the layers of marketing and agricultural miracles being claimed, the root of the matter is — these aren’t particularly tasty and while they may work well raw in a salad, I would go teary old school of allium bulbs in any cooked dishes.

There are many hacks to preventing tears when chopping onions. Goggles, face masks, soaking them in water, chilling before cutting, having a fan blowing behind you while you cut... some hilariously amusing, most not especially effective. Chilling in the fridge is the easiest hack. The cool temperature slows down the chemical process of syn-Propanethial-S-oxide production, preventing tears — if you chop quickly enough.

Currently, Woolworths are stocking Happy Chop at $2.50 for 500 grams (about three onions), twice the cost of normal brown onions. Not particularly cost-effective, unless you are training a small child to like onions — which is a goal most parents would willingly pay any amount for.

Chopping them won’t make you cry, but the cost of using them in terms of shopping budget and the loss of flavour in dishes might.

In my research for this article, I was left with two rather bland-tasting onions. So I mixed them with some regular ones and doused them in flavour to create a Rosemary Caramelised Onion Tarte Tatin.

An onion tarte tatin is a savoury riff on the traditional apple tarte tatin and makes a pretty snazzy-looking dish. You can substitute thyme for rosemary. I use rosemary since I’m not especially fond of thyme.


Rosemary Rough Puff Pastry


  • 250 grams strong/bread flour
  • 250 grams unsalted butter, room temperature, medium-diced
  • 3 grams salt
  • 100 mls chilled water
  • 20 grams fresh rosemary, leaves, chopped


  • bowl
  • pastry cutter
  • rolling pin
  • silicone mat, ruled OR
  • long metal ruler


If you rub the butter in with just your fingers it will take longer. I prefer a pastry cutter because it’s faster and you touch and heat the butter with your fingers less. You need to mix, then rest in the fridge for 30 minutes, then knead and roll and fold, and rest again for at least half an hour before using.

Active time is not so much, but you need to factor in an hour's resting time. Actually, a good thing to make the night before while cooking dinner — make pastry; cook dinner during first rest; roll out; dishes/clean up; can rest until you want to use.

(Image supplied)


Place flour and butter in bowl. Use pastry cutter to cut the butter through the flour — you may need to rub some in, but you want small chunks of butter through the flour.

Mix through the chopped fresh rosemary.

Make a well in the middle, put in chilled water, mix into a dough. It will be a rough dough — that’s fine as long as it’s not sticky (which means too much water), or crumbling (not enough water).

Shape into a flat rectangular-ish slab. Wrap in plastic wrap. Chill in fridge for half an hour.

You can use a clean surface, but since I make a fair bit of dough I have an inexpensive large food-grade silicone mat to roll dough out on as well — handy because it has rulers along the side. Otherwise, you’ll need a ruler — and again, not a bad idea to have a metal one which you use for cooking only.

Trying to keep rolling in one direction, roll it out to 50 cm long and 20 cm wide.

Now you want to do the letter fold. Take the top third and fold it over the halfway mark. Then take the bottom third and fold it up over that.

Then turn it once clockwise, so the top fold is now the right side.

Again roll out to 50 cm long and 20 cm wide.

Fold the top third down over the halfway point and the bottom third up over that fold.

Wrap in plastic wrap and rest again, until you are ready to use.

When you are ready, slice and roll into whatever shapes you need — remember, though, the less you touch it, the more puffy it will be.

SCIENCE: The folding action is called lamination — the process of folding and rolling butter into dough over and over again to create super-thin layers.

(Image supplied)

Caramelised Onion Tarte Tatin

Brown or white onions are the best to use here. Coconut sugar is less sweet than caster or brown sugar which balances out better in this savoury dish.


  • 1 kg brown onions (about 5-6 medium — but really it depends on the size of your pan)
  • 50 grams unsalted butter
  • 15 mls olive oil
  • 60 grams coconut sugar
  • 60 mls balsamic vinegar
  • 60 mls water
  • salt
  • rosemary puff pastry (see previous recipe) or substitute store-bought puff pastry


  • goat’s cheese
  • extra fresh rosemary
  • pomegranate arils


  • stove top and ovenproof pan (a cast iron skillet works well)
  • knife
  • chopping board
  • tongs


Peel onions and cut into slices of around 2 cm thick. (Use any trimmed ends in stock, or chop to add to another dish.)

Melt butter in pan, add olive oil.

Sprinkle the sugar in, mix to dissolve.

Drizzle in balsamic vinegar, mix.

Add the onion slices and water, and cook over low medium heat for about 15 minutes.

Turn the onions over and continue cooking for another 15 minutes.

If at any time there is burning or rapid caramelisation, add some water, although the juices from the onions should prevent this.

Start preheating oven to 180ºC.

Grab your puff pastry and cut out a circle the diameter of the pan so it will cover completely.

Place pastry circle over the onions, tuck gently around the outside.

Bake for 30-40 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden.

Turn onto serving plate, add crumbled goat’s cheese, fresh rosemary leaves and pomegranate on top — and serve.

Megan Jane de Paulo is a Melbourne-based, inner-city latte sipper and social media provocateur. You can follow Megan on Twitter @gomichild.

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