Slow down and smell the onions

I recall a puffy column filler in a Sunday newspaper magazine in which they ask random celebrity a series of questions. One week a comedienne, who’s name escapes me, responded something like this: “greatest lesson in life…..always caramelise your onions.”

I thought this was brilliant. Perhaps it was a coincidence that I was having a food affair with Pissaladiere at the time of reading, but it was the broader philosophical message wrapped up in a jokey punchline that captured my attention.

The greatest ingredient in every dish and the most valuable thing that money or effort can’t buy is Time. Too often we skip the step of roasting the spices, we avoid charring the skin of capsicum and eggplant before roasting, we rush proving the dough, we don’t marinade for long enough and we revert to technology to pressure cook and freeze our food instead of slowly imbuing flavour and preserving in intensely rich vinegars or smoke or oils.

Yet, when we slow down and take our time to follow the extra steps, the results are astoundingly different. It is probably drawing a long bow to connect slow cooking to a guiding principle of life, but I am accustomed to such leaps.

I am also aware that something has to give when you choose to spend more time on the simple things in life, but isn’t that the point? What is important to you? Where do you want to spend your time?

We are not perfect and still wrestle with balance. Yet, we know where we would like to be. Taking that extra minute to throw a ball with our dog, just sitting in the garden and watching the insects work, walking in the bush, caramelising those onions….



This North African/Middle Eastern breakfast dish can really be consumed all day. It can be modified to hero capsicum, eggplant or even potatoes. This recipe is borrowed from the master of this cuisine – Yotam Ottolenghi’s : Jersualem.…serves 4.


  • a glug of olive oil
  • 2 tbs harissa paste
  • 2 tsp tomato paste
  • a few capsicum, cut into long slices
  • a few garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • about 600-800g tomatoes (tinned or fresh, chopped roughly)
  • 4 eggs
  • thick yoghurt to serve

Step 1:Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat and add everything up to and including the cumin, as well as a pinch of salt. Cook for 8 min.

Step 2: When the capsicum has softened add the tomatoes, bring to a gentle simmer and cook for another 10 min or so, until you have a thick sauce

Step 3: Make 4 wells in the sauce. Break the eggs and pour into each well. Simmer gently for another 8-10min until egg whites cooked* but ideally yolks are runny.

*You might need to place a lid on top or put the pan under the grill to finish the eggs off.

Serve with good bread and yoghurt