Pan-roasted Italian Onions with San Daniele Ham and Shaved Pecorino
I first tasted this at one of my favourite London restaurants, Le Caprice, and loved it so much I asked for the recipe, which the chefs Mark Hix and Tim Hughes very kindly gave me. It is really one of the nicest first courses I have ever had. San Daniele is available from specialist food shops but if you can't get hold of it use thinly sliced Parma ham. And the same applies to the sheep's cheese Pecorino, which can be replaced by Parmigiano Reggiano.
This recipe is from Delia's Winter Collection. Serves 4 as a starter
Begin by heating the olive oil in a thick-based saucepan, stir in the onions or shallots, cover and cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes. After that add the brown sugar, thyme leaves, the salt and pepper and 2 tablespoons water. Cover the pan and cook slowly over a low heat – stirring the onions from time to time to prevent them sticking to the base of the pan – for about 30-35 minutes or until the liquid caramelises slightly and the onions are soft, with a little colour.
After that, add the balsamic vinegar to the pan, stir well then remove it straight away from the heat, and allow the onions to cool (if you want to prepare this part in advance you can store them at this stage in an airtight jar in the fridge) Just before you are ready to serve, pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4, 350°F (180°C) and place the onions in a shallow, lidded casserole for 15 minutes.
After that arrange them on a plate with a little of the balsamic dressing spooned over. Lay the ham over the onions and use a potato peeler to shave the Pecorino over it. Now spoon a little more of the dressing around the plate and sprinkle some crushed black pepper over the cheese. Serve with ciabatta and some good butter.