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Sunday, 8 January 2012

Sweet and Sour Onions

This recipe comes from a fantastic book called ‘Jewish Traditions Cookbook’ by Marlena Spieler. While it may not have the beautiful prose and history of Claudia Roden’s book (officially one of the best cookbooks ever) it is concise with pictures on ever page, and recipes from all over the world. Marlena writes that this recipe originates from Sicily, and spread to Italy, Greece, Turkey and France when the Spanish took over Sicily and the Jews had to flee. I really do find it incredibly interesting how recipes and flavour combinations have travelled through the world as a result of Jewish history. Claudia herself has a fantastic story about Tunisian Jewish flavours linking back to Portugal and Livorno in Italy, by way of pirates, of course.

As this dish is best served at room temperature, it makes for an incredibly useful side dish – although I reckon it is probably even better when eaten simply with crusty bread and cheese, with little regard for table manners. Also apologies for some of the quantities given, I scaled up the recipe due to the fact that the little onions I found (Sainsburys shallots) come in 400g packs. It makes a fairly decent amount, one large panful. When peeling the onions, various sources recommend blanching them in a similar manner to tomatoes to get the skins off easily, but I just peeled them the regular way and it didn’t seem like so much hassle.

800g small onions or shallots, peeled but whole
80ml or so wine vinegar (I used cider vinegar as I didn’t have any)
70ml or so olive oil
60g caster sugar (this is less than the recipe suggested, but you can add a little more if you have a sweeter tooth, for me though it was plenty.
5 tbsp tomato puree
2 pinches each of cinnamon and allspice (I didn’t have any allspice)
2 bay leaves
4 parsley sprigs (I didn’t have any fresh parsley so used some dried instead)
100g (ish) raisins or sultanas
salt and pepper

It really is this easy…
Put all of the ingredients in a saucepan with 500ml water. Bring to the boil and simmer uncovered for 45 mins or so, until the onions are soft and the liquid has thickened and reduced considerably. Remove the bay leaves and parsley sprigs, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

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