Irish Onions - In Season

Irish Onions

Traditionally known as ‘the poor man’s meat’ onions (allium) are perhaps an undervalued item in our shopping baskets, but indispensable in the kitchen and very nutritious. Irish onions are not seen on supermarket shelves as often as they should be, but they’re coming into season now and should be easily available in shops and markets, so pounce on them when you spot them.

There are only a couple of commercial onion growers in Ireland - Country Crest, at Lusk in north Co Dublin, and the Miller family at Limavady, Co Derry - and they are able to supply for about nine moths of the year, then top up with imports to fill the gap.But many smaller growers sell new season produce through farm shops/farm gate sales and supply local shops with small quantities, so it’s worth keeping an eye out for them at this time of year.

As well as the very familiar salad onions, scallions (spring onions), which are available all year, quite a wide range of varieties are grown in Ireland, from shallots (small, but prized by chefs for their mild sweet flavour) to brown (full-flavoured, richly coloured, versatile); red (mild flavoured and colourful, good raw or cooked) and white onions (usually strongly flavoured, less often seen) of various sizes.

Being very low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, and high in dietary fibre, vitamins - B6, B9 (folate) and, especially, Vitamin C - also minerals including potassium and manganese, onions are an obvious choice as a healthy food. Better still, they’re not only delicious on their own, but this versatile vegetable brings out the best in a wide range of other foods and is the secret ingredient in more dishes than you could ever imagine.

Caramelised Onion and Gubbeen Cheese Tart

RECIPE: Caramelised Onion and Gubbeen Cheese Tart

This delicious tart is made with the wonderful Gubbeen cheese, produced on the Ferguson family’s near Schull in West Cork (, but another good cheese that melts well could be used instead. It can be made ahead and involves very little shopping

Serves 6-8


250g plain flour
Pinch of cayenne pepper
½ teasp. salt
15g butter, chopped
2 egg yolks, mixed with 1-2 tablesp. iced water


2 tablesp. olive oil
Good knob of butter
4-5 large onions, thinly sliced
Salt and black pepper
4 egg yolks
125ml-250ml cream
1 tablesp. freshly grated hard cheese
Pinch of nutmeg
50g Gubbeen cheese, thinly sliced

To make pastry: Whizz the flour, cayenne and salt in the processor. Add the butter and whizz again until it resembles breadcrumbs. Mix in the egg and water. Gather up the pastry and leave in the fridge for an hour to chill.

To make the filling: Heat a large pan with the olive oil and butter. Saute the onions gently until golden brown and caramelising. This takes about 20 minutes. Season and set aside.

To bake: Set the oven to Gas Mark 4, 180ºC, (350ºF) and slide in a baking sheet to heat.

Roll out the pastry to line a 28cm diameter x 3cm deep tart tin. Chill for 10 minutes.

Put a few balls of crumbled foil in the base of the pastry case and bake for 10 minutes. Remove foil and bake for a further five minutes. Spread the onions over the base of the tart case. Beat the eggs, cream, grated cheese and nutmeg together. Pour the mixture over the onions, place the sliced Gubbeen on top and bake the tart on the baking sheet for 45-50 minutes until firm and golden.

Delicious with a fresh green side salad and tomatoes.

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