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But WHY stick onions with cloves!? (lighthearted)

(27 Posts)
giulia Sat 02-Apr-22 11:15:27

My mother always admired a famous chef called Philip Harben(?) - not sure of exact name anymore. She said she liked him because he didn't just tell you WHAT to do but also WHY? When motives are explained, they are so much easier to remember.

My question would have been "Why, when we are making a broth or certain other meat dishes, do they tell us to stick cloves into an onion? Is it just for tidyness - not to have cloves floating around our dish - or is there some miraculous alchemy that occurs when we stick our cloves into the onion?

I've always obediently followed instructions but have always wondered if it is important to do so or not?

Is this a stupid question?

Pantglas2 Sat 02-Apr-22 11:20:38

I think you’re right actually giulia - fishing around the end product for a stray clove would make me awfully vexed! Also the piercing of the onion releases more flavour possibly?

I’m another who learns better if you tell me why when you’re showing me how!

Witzend Sat 02-Apr-22 11:20:49

I’ve never heard of sticking cloves in an onion - except for bread sauce, which I never make anyway.
TBH the only way I like cloves is when they’re stuck into an orange for Ch******s.
Otherwise you can keep them!

Lexisgranny Sat 02-Apr-22 11:23:28

Possibly to infuse the onion into the stew. This has always been a must in our family for making bread sauce, but haven’t heard of it for anything else.

(As an aside, I do think over the last few years, cloves have become more crumbly, and the ends break off during the “stabbing”. Now use a skewer to make satisfyingly straight rows in which to insert the clove)

Kim19 Sat 02-Apr-22 11:26:45

Yes, the simplicity of removing the cloves which remain stuck in the onion is most helpful as opposed to the awful sensation of crunching into one. I seem to remember PH always used the same number to foolproof this.

merlotgran Sat 02-Apr-22 11:27:19

A couple of cloves in an apple pie brings back some lovely childhood memories of Sunday lunch listening to Family Favourites on the radio while whisking the cream.

My other Sunday job was ‘drying up’ and ‘putting away.’ 😕

henetha Sat 02-Apr-22 11:28:06

I've never stuck a clove into an onion. Shan't start now, I don't think. Cloves always remind me of the dentist, for some reason which I can't remember.

Witzend Sat 02-Apr-22 11:33:37

Lexisgranny

Possibly to infuse the onion into the stew. This has always been a must in our family for making bread sauce, but haven’t heard of it for anything else.

(As an aside, I do think over the last few years, cloves have become more crumbly, and the ends break off during the “stabbing”. Now use a skewer to make satisfyingly straight rows in which to insert the clove)

I use a cocktail stick for inserting cloves into oranges for the C-word purpose mentioned above.
But I was doing it for years the hard way, before it finally dawned on me!

Dinahmo Sat 02-Apr-22 11:41:07

Philip Harben was the first TV chef. One of his first tv series was on learning to cook with Marguerite Patten. He is also credited with the first "tv moment" when he cracked an egg that was so bad he and the crew ran out of the studio laughing. He also used to smoke whilst cooking.

He also ran the Isobar restaurant in the Isokon Building in Hampstead. This was a block of flats built in the 30's as an experiment in communal living. Originally there was a communal kitchen but this was converted into a restaurant in 1937.

My DH met him when he was a photographer's assistant, working in a specialist food photographer's studio in the mid 60s.

Dinahmo Sat 02-Apr-22 11:42:50

henetha

I've never stuck a clove into an onion. Shan't start now, I don't think. Cloves always remind me of the dentist, for some reason which I can't remember.

You use clove oil if you have a toothache, or you could stick a clove next to the bad tooth and chomp it to keep it in place. It does as I recently found when having difficulty finding an emergency dentist.

henetha Sat 02-Apr-22 11:47:27

Yes! You've jogged my memory. Mum used to keep clove oil
and use it if I had toothache...
Thanks Dinahmo. It's all come back to me now. smile

Daisend1 Sat 02-Apr-22 11:48:55

Merlotgran
Happy days sunday lunch listening to family favourites.
Downside envy we had custard with our apple pie couldn't afford cream.

Jane43 Sat 02-Apr-22 11:50:00

My Mum used to make her own bread sauce and always put in an onion with cloves stuck in. I never asked her why but it tasted delicious.

Jaxjacky Sat 02-Apr-22 12:21:10

Cloves are yuk, when I stud a ham I use black peppercorns for the visual aspect.

Yammy Sat 02-Apr-22 12:24:43

henetha

I've never stuck a clove into an onion. Shan't start now, I don't think. Cloves always remind me of the dentist, for some reason which I can't remember.

I think they used to rub your gums with oil of cloves when you had a toothache.
I use them in onion in bread sauce and one in apple sauce which I fish out.
My mum also had the Philip Harben Cookery book. I remember it being used to try and make trout which dad caught and mum and I detested taste better, it still tasted of the beck bottom all soily.

paddyann54 Sat 02-Apr-22 12:47:36

Its called an onion clout pronounced cloot and its in some of the oldest cookery books I have I think it orininates in French cuisine .So not an invention of Philip Harben ,I only use cloves sparingly but you'd be surprised at the difference just one makes to a Cullen Skink.

AreWeThereYet Sat 02-Apr-22 15:24:48

The only use I have for cloves is grated in banana bread - they contain eugenol, which is the chemical that gives ripe bananas their flavour, so they enhance the ripe banana flavour. And studding oranges.

There is a website called Serious Eats which does exactly what you suggest - tell you why things are needed in recipes and how they work.

Redhead56 Sat 02-Apr-22 15:31:23

It’s to flavour the dish but keep them in place there is nothing worse than getting a clove stuck in your tooth. But on the other hand cloves are good for toothache.

giulia Sat 02-Apr-22 15:53:35

The onion stuck with cloves is part of the ingredients for my basic vegetable broth, also useful for risottos and in a lot of meat dishes.

paddyann54 Sat 02-Apr-22 16:36:44

For the perfect Bechamel sauce you're supposed to stud the onion with cloves and put it in the milk for the sauce while its heating ,or so I was told at cookery college.

Grannynannywanny Sat 02-Apr-22 19:49:10

My only use of cloves is in a hot whiskey with the cloves studded into a wedge of lemon. Purely medicinal of course when I have a heavy cold! A glass of hot lemonade and a measure of whiskey with lemon and cloves. Great for a night cap to sooth a cough.

A popular drink in country pubs in Ireland on chilly days. Commonly known as “a hot one”

AreWeThereYet Sat 02-Apr-22 20:10:30

I know this is a light hearted thread but you've made me interested in cloves now. I went to Serious Eats to see what they had to say about cloves and as paddyann54 said it was originally french

It's a French technique called an onion clou ("nailed onion"), in which a halved onion is studded with eight to twelve cloves and then added to a broth or braise.

Sadly they also showed a picture and recipe of Lamb Biryani (simply because it has cloves in) which I absolutely love and am now desperately craving. But I've already had dinner so I probably wouldn't eat much of it now.

Callistemon21 Sat 02-Apr-22 20:58:39

Just because!!
It's absolutely necessary when making bread sauce!
It adds that flavour, that je ne sais quoi.

However, my Mum used to put cloves into apple pie and I didn't like finding out I was chewing one

Witzend I have three jars of cloves because I was going to make pomanders with the DGC one Christmas but never did.

paddyann54 Sat 02-Apr-22 21:05:02

Thats what we would call a Toddy,no cloves though and plenty of Honey .A cold isn't essential ,its great to warm you up on a cold day.Might be the answer to the energy crisis ,sad day when Whisky is cheaper than heating

Sago Sat 02-Apr-22 22:04:17

Cloves are perfect for sticking in!
I use them in ham, bread sauce and one or two other dishes.
If I don’t stick them in the onion I have little muslin bags.