If you see French sweet onions (Roscoffs, ideally) in the shops or online, snap them up. They’re naturally sugary and need only a little heat to make them agreeable to eat. That said, here their cut faces are given more than a little, as they’re left to blacken fully in a hot pan. During that time, the rest of the onion softens just enough and then, when it is pushed apart, you’re left with the prettiest of charred, tender, sweet petals, which cup cooling cubes of cucumber and a nutty, sharp dressing. The whole thing is reminiscent of lip-puckering pomegranate molasses-dressed onions at a Turkish restaurant.
There’s a little crunch, making them a joy both texturally and aesthetically, and they’re particularly enjoyable with ox heart, faggots, calves’ liver, red meat and generally anything that’s also been charred. Also, what a pleasure it is to leave something to burn, knowing that is the aim from the outset!
I should note that arranging them on a platter as per the picture is pleasing. But it will be quicker to serve the petals from a communal bowl, and let people spoon up the cucumber and dressing themselves.
- Yield: 6 Servings
- 2 tablespoons sunflower or vegetable oil
- 6 sweet French onions, unpeeled and halved from root to tip
- 5 tablespoons cold-pressed rapeseed oil
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 1 teaspoon golden caster sugar
- ½ cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely diced
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Place a heavy-bottomed frying pan over a high heat and add the sunflower oil. Put the onion halves in the pan cut-side down, pushing them over the oil, and cook for 8–10 minutes, or until thoroughly blackened. Press down on each onion occasionally and don’t panic the idea really is for the cut sides to char. Just make sure your extractor fan is on full blast. Once the onions are well blackened, turn them over to sit on the skin side for 5 minutes, during which time the onions will soften, then remove the pan from the heat.
- While the onions are charring, make a dressing in a bowl by whisking the rapeseed oil, sherry vinegar, sugar and a good pinch of salt and black pepper until emulsified. Add 1 tablespoon tepid water, whisk again, then stir the diced cucumber through the dressing.
- When the onions are just cool enough to touch, remove and discard the skins. Separate the petals and serve immediately, spooning the dressing and cucumber into the onion petals.