For those of us accustomed to finding raw spring onions harsh and astringent in a green salad (and discarding them upon discovery), it might be a surprise to find that these alliums can also make a gentle, soft and warming side. When braised, as in this recipe, their inner cores become tender and sweet and resemble cooked leeks or Spanish calçots. White fish, chicken and lamb are particularly big fans.
You’ll get the best results from generously bulbed and thick-stemmed onions, especially the purple-tinged ones if you can find them. A mass of thin salad onions is okay too, though. Whichever you use, be sure to spoon the buttery, anise-infused sauce over the top when serving.
- Yield: 6 Servings
- 600 g large-bulbed spring onions, preferably a mix of red and white
- 3 garlic cloves, skin on
- 1 lemon, zest peeled off in long strips
- 10 stems tarragon
- 50 g butter, sliced
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 75 ml Pernod, or white wine or vermouth
- Sea salt
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/Fan 180°C/Gas 6. Trim the spring onions to fit the length of a cast-iron skillet or other ovenproof dish, ideally keeping them around 20 cm long. Put the onions in the dish, no more than 2 layers deep.
- Press the garlic cloves with the back of a heavy knife to flatten them just a little. Add these to the cooking dish. Tuck the lemon zest and tarragon in between the onions, reserving the flesh of the lemon for another recipe. Put the butter on and around the onions, scatter the fennel seeds over the top and pour in the Pernod. Top up with enough boiling water so that the liquid reaches halfway up the onions.
- Take a piece of greaseproof paper or baking parchment that’s marginally bigger than the oven dish. Crumple it up, run it under the tap to wet it, then unwrap it and place it over the onions, tucking the edge in like a blanket. Bake undisturbed for 35 minutes, then remove the paper, gently turn the onions and cook for 10–15 minutes more, or until they are completely tender, sweet, succulent and just a little browned. Season with a good pinch or two of salt. Pick out the straggly tarragon sprigs and serve the onions with the braising juices spooned over the top.
- These are fine kept at a low temperature for 20 minutes, or reheated later on if that suits the timing of your meal better.