onion pandade: is this the ultimate comfort food? [5 ingredients]

onion pandade-5 onion pandade-3

Spring has definitely sprung in the city of Sydney. As I write this I can see the new bright green leaves on the plane tree outside my window bursting with fresh growth. I can imagine that the leaves in the Northern Hemisphere are starting to think about turning brown. So we’re at one of those rare times of the year where everyone can appreciate a little comfort food.

I’m super excited about todays recipe. It’s one of those things that is slightly unusual but makes perfect sense. One of those things that when you taste it, you can’t believe that is isn’t a mainstream comfort classic. One of those things that should be in the family recipe hall of fame, up there with lasagne, bangers and mash, or a roast chook (chicken) with all the trimmings. One of those things that you wish you’d thought of yourself.

We’re talking about a savoury bread pudding. Flavoured with golden brown onions and the fragrance of thyme. With the bread providing the perfect contrast of textures: a soft, stock-soaked, silky base teamed with a super crunchy cheesy topping. We’re talking something so delicious that my Irishman declared it to be the best thing he’s eaten in months. And that’s not saying that there wasn’t some stiff competition.

But the best thing is that it’s super simple to make. If you’d rather watch than read, have a look at the little video I’ve prepared.

onion pandade HD from jules clancy on vimeo.

onion pandade-2

[5 ingredients]
onion pandade

serves 4

Inspired by Judy Rodgers in the wonderful Zuni Cafe cookbook.

Judy has three different takes on this pandade: a tomato version, one with chard (silverbeet) and another more unusual one with sorrel. While all three sounded lovely, the minimalist in me couldn’t help but strip it back to the bare essentials of onion, bread and cheese.

I also change the cooking time quite a bit. Judy goes for a slow oven for a few hours. I decided to risk speeding things up with a hot oven and was very happy with the results.

It’s one of those things that’s equally good hot from the oven, cooled to room temperature, or even reheated the next day. You won’t have any problems getting rid of any leftovers.

This is a brilliant way to use up stale bread, but fresh can be used as well. Just make sure it’s a hearty rustic loaf, preferably sourdough – not something white and insipid.

I used a vintage cheddar as my cheese but anything that makes good cheese on toast would work. Next time I think I’ll use parmesan because I tend to have it in the house more often than not.

This makes a wonderful vegetarian main course with a green salad on the side. But I think it would also be a warming accompaniment to a roast chicken or even some roast beef.

4 large brown onions (approx 1kg / 2lb)
1/2 bunch thyme, leaves picked
1/2 medium loaf rustic bread (approx 250g / 1/2lb), torn in to chunks
150g (5oz) cheese, grated or crumbled
3 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock

1. Preheat oven to 200C (400F).

2. Cut onion in half lengthwise. Peel, then slice into half moons about 5mm (1/4in) thick.

3. Heat 4 – 5 tablespoons olive oil in a large frying pan. Cook onion stirring occasionally until soft and golden brown. No need to caramelise. Stir in the thyme.

4. In a medium heatproof dish layer about a third of the onions. Sprinkle over some of the bread and cheese. Repeat until all the ingredients have been used. You want to be able to see a little of each on the top.

5. Bring stock to a simmer. Pour over the onion dish. Season.

6. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove cover and bake for another 20 – 30 minutes or until the top is golden and crunchy and the stock has been absorbed by the bread.

onion pandade-4


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  • Bread pudding is so amazing. Caramelised onions are so amazing. What do you get when you put them together? MINDBLOWING AWESOMENESS. Seriously, this is such a perfect dish.

  • Like french onion soup, but entirely less fussy. Sounds good to me. It’s stuffing-like quality would be delicious with roast chook. Simple pleasures, right?

  • This looks delicious!

    I assume you sprinkle in the thyme with the bread and cheese? (And how much dried thyme would you use if fresh is not available?)

  • wei-wei
    I couldn’t have put it better myself!

    that’s it – I meant to mention french onion soup but got side tracked. And you’re really on the money with the stuffing – like quality. I was thinking it would be a great christmas dish.

    thanks jennifer
    I stirred the thyme in with the onion but just realised I didn’t mention that in the video – thanks for picking it up. I haven’t really worked with dried thyme but I’d guess a few teaspoons would be a good place to start.

  • YUM! it’s steadily become fall here in madison, wi usa, and i think this dish is just the comfort food i need to prepare for the cooler days ahead. thank you!

  • I may try adding egg – for a strata-like vegetarian maindish. Sounds great – I think the secret will be to splurgh on a really nice bread.

  • Just curious about the pronunciation and spelling of the name of the dish – As far as I know it’s actually a panade (no middle “d”). I checked the Zuni cookbook and it’s spelled that way there, too.

    I’m wondering if it’s one of those terms expressed differently depending on which continent we’re on.

    Sounds gorgeous, by-the-way … anything in the bread pudding category gets my vote.

  • Hi, how would you do a spinach version of this? I’m just soaking up your minimal recipes by the way. They are excellent and thank you so much. Merenia (Adelaide)

  • This looks like a winner. I sent it to everyone, I actually send so many of your recipes around, people are expecting them now.

  • Another winner, I think.

    I love your 5-ingredient recipes. I’ve made quite a few now and they always turn out exactly as they should, and always taste better than I think just 5 ingredients have any right to :-)

  • Ooh, this looks delish. I want to try it with some goat cheese for tartness to balance the sweetness of the onions. Or olives….so many ideas!

  • This looks fantastic- searching for some sooky and financially sound food to fuel ourselves after a move from Sydney to London- think this, with a some sharp dressed greens on the side is dinner tonight!

  • I made this last night. I LOVED IT!! Thank you so much for sharing this recipe.
    I was so easy and fun to make. :)

  • I am trying this today! I added in some garlic and swapped a little of the broth for some beer…can’t wait to taste it tonight! Thanks for all of your great recipes and inspiration!

  • this looks absolutely divine! i’ve never tried a savory bread pudding before and i must give this a go.

    thank u for sharing this recipe.

  • This looks positively wonderful. I’ve eaten at Zuni and had her famous roast chicken on bread salad / base (delicious) but I’ve never attempted to make it. Your savory comfort version of the bread pudding looks so fantastic (and easy) I want to make it right this minute!

  • This does sound like the ultimate in comfort food! I think onions are highly underrated and can’t wait to try this dish for myself! Thanks for sharing!

  • I know this breaks the five ingredient rule but added about 3 cups of diced butternut squash to the whole thing and it was divine. And since I was inspired by your recent “eat more veggies” post I thought it might be legit:)! thanks for a great, a much simplified recipe.

  • I don’t think my bread was ‘rustic’ enough, but despite it being on the soft and gooey side, this was absolutely delicious! I love onions and I love bread. What could be better? I’m thinking of using this as a stuffing recipe now. Mmm onion stuffing. Thanks for the great recipe!

  • Was looking for comfort foods with onions to post along side my Vidalia Onion jingle entry. This looks delicious and easy to make – a keeper!
    Many thanks, Jules!
    Netty for Sweet Vidalia Onions

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