These onions – sweet inside, charred at the edges and swimming in a tart pomegranate syrup – started their life at Testi, a north London Turkish restaurant that we love, where a similar dish is made by charring onions next to lamb on the grill, then tossing them in şalgam, a juice made from the sour-salty brine of fermented purple carrots and turnips, and finally sweetening them with pomegranate molasses. The bitter-sweet onions are served alongside the meat, cutting through its fattiness like a sharp knife.
Our onions are made with reduced pomegranate juice instead of molasses and şalgam. They would obviously sit well alongside grilled meats, but we find them totally delicious also in a vegetarian context, with or without the goat’s cheese, which is optional. They will go really well with hummus, for example (like our hummus with lemon, fried garlic and chilli), an aubergine salad (see aubergine with herbs and crispy garlic) and some bread.
Serves 4 as a starter or part of a mezze spread
500g golf-ball-sized red onions (about 12), peeled, then halved lengthways
75ml olive oil
400ml pomegranate juice (100% pure)
10g chives, finely chopped
70g young and creamy rindless goat’s cheese, broken into 2cm pieces (optional)
2⁄3 tsp Urfa chilli flakes (or another variety of chilli flake if you can’t get them)
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C fan.
2. Heat a large non-stick frying pan on a high heat until very hot. Toss the onions with 2 tablespoons of oil and ¼ teaspoon of salt and place them, cut side down and spread apart, in the hot pan. Place a saucepan on top to weigh the onions down and create an even char, then turn the heat down to medium-high and cook, undisturbed, for about 6 minutes, or until the cut sides are deeply charred. Transfer the onions to a parchment-lined baking tray, charred side up, and bake for about 20 minutes, or until softened. If your onions are larger than golf-ball size, this may take longer. Set aside to cool.
3. Meanwhile, put the pomegranate juice into a medium saucepan on a medium-high heat. Bring to the boil, then simmer for about 12 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced to about 70ml and is the consistency of a loose maple syrup. Set aside to cool; it will thicken as it sits.
4. Combine the chives with the remaining 45ml of oil and a good pinch of salt, and set aside.
5. Pour the pomegranate syrup on to a large platter with a lip and swirl it around to cover most of the plate. Use your hands to loosely separate the onions into individual petals, then place them haphazardly over the syrup. Dot over the goat’s cheese, if using, spoon over the chive oil, and finish with the Urfa chilli flakes.