Make your dishes sing with spring onions
- Spring onions are packed with flavour and make for much more than a garnish
- From pancakes to salads, this seasonal vegetable can be used across dishes
Whenever I buy spring onions, it is always a race against time. Spring onions are so quickly perishable, turning soggy and limp in no time, as though they got drenched in the Mumbai monsoons and got crushed in a fast local train.
Let that not prevent you from stocking up on these fresh greens and cooking with them. Easier to chop and faster to cook, spring onions are a delight to work with. They are packed with so much flavour it is a criminal waste to restrict their use to a garnish. Moreover, when used just as a garnish, there’s a high possibility that most of the bunch will end up in the compost pile.
This week, while buying vegetables from the van that comes into our society, some of us neighbours were thinking aloud if there are ways to use up the entire bunch of spring onions to avoid wastage. That got me thinking—here are some of the ideas I have come up with.
Korean cuisine utterly reveres spring onions, using it in almost every savoury dish. Maangchi’s YouTube channel is guaranteed to make you fall head over heels in love with Korean cuisine and I regularly make green onion pancakes (pajeon) using her recipe. Arrange whole spring onion greens in an oiled pan. Pour a batter made of flour, water and soybean paste over the greens and cook on both sides until golden brown. Serve with a soy-chilli-spring onion dipping sauce and you have a finger-licking good appetizer. Called pa in Korean, spring onions are also part of a very popular green onion salad (pa muchim) and a kimchi.
If you are not as enthused by Korean cuisine as I am, quite a few Indian dishes lend themselves beautifully to this ingredient too. Make a Tamil-style paruppusili (ground and steamed dal, crumbled and shallow fried) along with sautéed spring onion greens. Zunka is a Maharashtrian side dish made using chickpea flour and spices. This spicy preparation is served with a coarse thick roti called bhakri. Add plenty of sautéed spring onions while cooking the chickpea flour paste to amp up flavour and colour in the dish.
Gujarati theplas regularly feature chopped methi (fenugreek) leaves. This also works well with the addition of sautéed, finely chopped spring onion greens. In akki rotti (hand-patted rice-flour roti made in different parts of Karnataka), you can substitute chopped dill with chopped spring onion. Or, use up a whole bunch of chopped spring onions along with crumbled paneer as a filling in parathas.
There are three main parts to a spring onion. The greens, the bulb and the root. The bulb part is the underdeveloped onion and it is either white or pink, depending on the variety. After rinsing off the mud from the bulbs, this can be used in different dishes. The most common use would be as a substitute for onions. If you are using the entire spring onion, then give the white parts a few more minutes of cooking time as the greens cook very quickly.
Here’s a fun kitchen-gardening experiment to try at home. Chop off the greens for use in cooking, leaving about 1-2 inches attached to the bulb and root. Place these in a glass of water, changing the water every day, and soon you will see new shoots growing out. This will be good enough for you to snip and use as a garnish over salads and soups. You can also stick them in a pot filled with a mix of garden soil, compost and coco peat to grow a new batch of spring onions.
If you happen to grow spring onions, you will notice the prettiest white blossoms with black onion seeds hidden inside them. In season, you will also find these attached to the greens sold in markets. The flowers have a unique punchy flavour that works to jazz up salads and salad dressings.
Still looking for a method to save spring onions in the fridge for longer? Trim off the roots along with the white bulb portion. Chop the bunches into two-three parts lengthwise. Wrap each part in paper napkins and keep in a resealable bag.
SPRING ONION ‘AKKI ROTTI’
2 tsp oil
2 cups spring onion greens, finely chopped
2-3 green chillies, sliced
2 tbsp peanuts, crushed
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp fresh coconut, grated
1 cup rice flour
2-3 tsp oil for cooking
Heat 2 tsp oil in a pan and sauté spring onion greens until wilted. Stir in green chillies and peanuts. Add one cup water to this along with salt and coconut. Bring to a boil. Empty the cup of rice flour in the water. Turn off flame, cover and keep aside to steam for 10 minutes. Using a wooden ladle, incorporate all the flour into the liquid to make a dough. Remove on to a flat surface and knead to form a smooth dough.
Divide the dough into four portions. Between two plastic sheets or baking paper, roll out into a thick roti. Cook on both sides on a hot pan using a few drops of oil until golden spots appear. Serve with coconut chutney or podi.
SPRING ONION AND POTATO SALAD
250g potatoes (4 small)
1 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced (optional)
1 cup spring onion greens, finely chopped
1/4 tsp salt
A pinch of chilli flakes
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp wholegrain mustard
Pressure cook or boil the potatoes. Peel and cut into 1-inch size chunks. Over low heat, sauté the garlic in oil in a pan. Add celery and sauté for 2-3 minutes.
Toss in the chopped spring onion greens and stir on medium flame for 3-4 minutes or until wilted. Add the potatoes, salt and chilli flakes and toss well.
Remove into a bowl. Add lemon juice and wholegrain mustard and toss well to combine.
Serve warm or cold.
Double Tested is a fortnightly column on vegetarian cooking, highlighting seasonal ingredients. Nandita Iyer is the author of The Everyday Healthy Vegetarian.