Red Onion and Tomato Focaccia

Red Onion and Tomato Focaccia

This simple bread recipe is great on its own, or served with cured meats and cheeses.

400g strong white bread flour
7g packet of dry yeast
300ml tepid water (this helps to activate the yeast)
1 red onion cut into chunks
1 punnet of cherry tomatoes
Good quality extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of salt

Starting this dough the day before allows for a really good prove and helps to make a nice puffy baked bread.
For the dough, combine the yeast and the tepid water. Set aside for 10 mins. The yeast will start to activate as a foam appears on the surface.
Add the water and yeast mix to the flour in a mixer with a dough hook attachment.
Add a pinch of salt and 1 tbsp olive oil. Turn on mixer, allowing to mix for 10 mins.

If you don't have a mixer, combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix by hand. Once the dough comes together move to a work surface and kneed by hand for 10 mins, dust the work surface with a little flour to stop sticking, as this is a wetter dough. This kneading process is very important to activate the gluten in the flour that will result in a springy chewy texture in the final baked bread.

Place the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Leave in a cool place to prove overnight. The dough will double in size and develop a nice fermented aroma
In a small bowl combine onion chunks and rosemary and lightly dress with some olive oil. This will stop them from drying out when the bread bakes and helps the flavour transfer to the baking bread.
Take a deep sided baking tray (approximately 24cm x 34cm) and coat with a thin layer of olive oil using some paper towel. This will prevent the dough from sticking.
Scoop the dough from the bowl into the tray and stretch it gently to the edges.
Take 1/2 cup olive oil and pour it over the surface of the dough. Using the tips of your fingers push down to the tray base all over the surface of the dough.
Top the bread by pushing the chunks of onion and tomato into the bread to the base. The bread will bake around these but they will also stick out of the surface.
Take a damp tea towel and cover the tray and leave it to prove at room temperature for a further one hour.
Once proved sprinkle the bread with some flakey salt and bake at 220c for 25 minutes or until golden brown.
Remove from the oven and allow the bread to cool before removing it from the tray.
Slice and enjoy.

New Health Report Shows Onions Are A Nutritional Powerhouse

A new health report, covering the last 40 years of scientific research into onions, shows this humble pantry staple is also a nutritional powerhouse delivering a long list of health benefits. 

The Australian Onions 2019 Health Report highlights onions contribute to improved gut health, greater immunity, improved mood, heart health, diabetes management, bone health and even a reduced risk of cancer. 

This impressive list of health benefits is mainly attributed to the unique bundle of nutrients such as antioxidants, fructans (a prebiotic fibre), folate and vitamin C found in onions. 

The authors of the new research report, Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian Lisa Yates and Accredited Practising Dietitian Teri Lichtenstein, said onions are often overlooked as a contributor to the recommended five serves of vegetables a day, yet they can make an enormous contribution to our daily diet in terms of both taste and nutrition. 

Report author Lisa Yates said one of the most interesting findings was that onions are one of the highest sources of polyphenol antioxidants, particularly quercetin, for Australian adults. 

"Quercetin has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects which may help prevent the effects of ageing and chronic disease, has positive effects for heart health and diabetes, and also contributes to a healthier gut microbiome," Ms Yates said. 

"In addition to being rich in quercetin, this particular antioxidant is also more easily absorbed by the body when sourced from onions, compared with other common food sources or supplements." 

Key findings from the report include: 

Gut health: Onions contain gut-loving fructans, a prebiotic fibre and fermentable carbohydrate that is resistant to digestion. Fructans feed the gut microbiome and promote the growth of healthy bacteria
Immunity and good mood: The unique combination of vitamin C and folate in onions helps keep the immune system fighting fit, supports brain function and reduces fatigue when eaten as part of a healthy diet
Weight: Onions are ideal for weight management, being only 106kJ per 75g serve or ½ an onion
Heart health: Onions are a heart healthy food with research showing they may improve cholesterol and blood pressure
Diabetes: Research has shown that, for people living with diabetes, consuming 100g of sliced onion significantly reduced blood glucose levels four hours after eating
Bone health: New research shows that onions may help older women protect their bones 
Cancer risk: Emerging research shows people who eat more onions generally have reduced cancer risk compared to low or no onion eaters. The reason why is still being investigated, but it is thought to be due to inducing liver detoxification and inducing cancer cell death

With only seven per cent of Australian adults and five per cent of children meeting the recommended daily intake for vegetables, Ms Yates recommends Australian families include onions in their diet on a daily basis as a nutritionally superior way to help meet their vegetable target. 

"Given these multiple health benefits, onions are an obvious choice to help bolster your daily veggie intake. Just half an onion counts as a one of your daily serves of vegetables," Ms Yates said. 

"Onions are also great value and versatile. With three varieties to choose from (brown, red and white), and the myriad of ways they can be cooked, there really is an onion to suit all your everyday dishes and dietary preferences," Yates added. 

To get the most out of your onions nutritionally, Lisa Yates' top five tips are: 
Avoid peeling too many layers off your onions as the antioxidant quercetin levels are higher in the outer layers
Don't cut and store onions, cook and enjoy them soon after chopping
Avoid soaking onions but if you do add the liquids to cooking and consume as well
Use cooking methods with quick cooking times, such as stir fry, microwave and steam, and also enjoy them raw
Try fermenting onions with other vegetables

A summary of this new research report can be found on the new Australian Onions website along with recipes, tips and tricks for enjoying onions daily, as well as suggestions to reduce the tears when chopping onion. 

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