Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes for quick-pickled onions | Vegetables (2024)

Yotam Ottolenghi recipes

Transform your onions with a quick bath in something sour

Yotam Ottolenghi

Sat 3 Jun 2017 09.00 BST

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It’s a great luxury to be able to make things because we want to, rather than because we need to. And if, like me, you love the intense taste and particular texture of pickles and ferments in all their guises, from kimchi and sauerkraut to gherkins and piccalilli, there’s no limit to what you can do with a spare onion, cucumber or cabbage.

While most pickles and ferments need (quite of bit of) time, the best tool in my sharp-salty-and-crunchy arsenal actually requires only half an hour (and up to a day) to get going. I’m talking about quick-pickled onions, which, with the help of vinegar or citrus juice, a little sugar, some salt and a whole range of potential aromatics, offer a marvellously effortless way to inject all kinds of dishes with an oniony freshness that transforms them.

The magic is that the onions soften, sweeten and, for an extra visual ta-da!, turn bright pink. The differences between today’s recipes are an indication of the versatility of quick-pickled onions. You’re now set to get yourself out of many pickles when next you ponder how to spruce up a cheese sandwich or what to pile on top of fried fish.

Roast sweet potatoes with pickled onions, coriander and goat’s cheese

This works well as a part of a meze-style spread of salads, or as a side for fish or chicken. The pickled onions keep in the fridge for a good week, so it’s worth making double to ensure you have plenty left over: a spoonful is a welcome addition to all sorts of salads or piled into a cheese sandwich. Serves four as a side dish.

3 limes, the zest of 2 finely grated, the third shaved into 4-5 wide strips of skin (avoiding the white pith)
3 tbsp white-wine vinegar
½ small red onion, peeled and cut into 3mm-thick slices
2½ tsp caster sugar
Salt and black pepper
5-6 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into roughly 5cm x 3cm chunks
90ml olive oil
½ tsp ground allspice
20g coriander leaves
80g soft mild rindless goat’s cheese, broken into rough 2cm pieces
40g roasted salted almonds, coarsely chopped

Put the strips of lime skin in a medium bowl with the vinegar, onion, half a teaspoon of sugar and a quarter-teaspoon of salt. Massage the onions for a minute, until the liquid turns pink, then leave to pickle for at least two hours: the longer you leave them, the brighter and pinker they become.

Heat the oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7. In a large bowl, combine the sweet potatoes with three tablespoons of oil, the allspice, the remaining two teaspoons of sugar, half a teaspoon of salt and plenty of pepper. Transfer to a large, 40cm x 30cm oven tray lined with baking paper, and make sure the sweet potato chunks are spaced apart. Roast for 20 minutes, until crisp and golden-brown, then toss in any oil left on the tray and leave to cool.

While the sweet potatoes are cooking, blitz the coriander, grated lime zest, the remaining three tablespoons of oil and an eighth of a teaspoon of salt to a smooth, bright green salsa. I use a spice grinder to do this (don’t use a food processor – the quantities involved are too small); if you don’t have one, very finely chop the coriander and mix the salsa by hand.

Once the sweet potatoes have cooled, arrange them on a platter and dot evenly with the pieces of cheese. Drain the pickled onions, discarding the lime peel, and scatter on top. Finish with a drizzle of salsa and a sprinkle of almonds.

Trout tartare with burnt butter and pistachios

As with any tartare, the raw ingredients need to be as fresh as fresh can be. I use slivered pistachios, because of their elegant long shape and their vibrant green, but roughly chopped pistachio kernels will work fine, if need be. This starter is as easy to make as it is impressive to serve. Serves four.

1 shallot, peeled and cut into very thin (ie, 1-2mm) pinwheels
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons (2 tsp), plus 40ml lemon juice
½ tsp caster sugar
Flaked sea salt and black pepper
4 skinless and boneless trout fillets, cut into 2cm pieces
1 tsp olive oil
25g unsalted butter
½ tsp cumin seeds
20g slivered pistachios (or roughly chopped pistachios), lightly toasted
5g tarragon leaves, finely chopped

Put the shallot rings in a small bowl with two tablespoons of lemon juice, the sugar, half a teaspoon of salt and a generous grind of pepper, then massage the sugar and salt into the onions and set aside.

Put the trout in a second small bowl with the oil, lemon zest, the remaining lemon juice, a teaspoon and a half of salt and a good grind of pepper. Stir and leave to marinate for 30 minutes – don’t leave it any longer, or the fish will “overcook”.

Just before serving, put the butter and cumin in a small pan on a medium heat. Melt the butter gently for about five minutes, swirling the pan from time to time, until it begins to foam, turn brown and smell nutty and caramelised.

Divide the trout between four plates and top with the drained shallots (discard any liquid). Scatter the pistachios and tarragon over the top, then drizzle with the cumin seed butter. Finish with a sprinkling of sea salt and serve.

Buckwheat and ricotta hotcakes with preserved lemon salsa

I prefer to use buckwheat groats for this batter, rather than buckwheat flour: they have a more intense flavour, as well as a more interesting texture. Pickle the onions the night before serving, if you can: their flavour and colour will both get more vibrant with time. If you want, top with a fried egg, though if you do so, you won’t need the extra ricotta to serve. Serves four.

For the hotcakes
150g raw buckwheat groats, soaked in plenty of cold water for 3-4 hours (any less, and they won’t soften enough, longer and they will disintegrate)
150ml whole milk
20g parmesan, finely grated
50g basil leaves
30g dill
2 eggs, whites and yolks separated
Salt and black pepper

140g ricotta (or just 60g if serving with fried eggs: see introduction)
40g unsalted butter, for frying
For the pickled onion salsa
60ml white-wine vinegar
2 tsp sumac
¾ tsp caster sugar
Finely shaved peel of 1 lime
1 garlic clove, roughly bashed with the flat of a knife but left unpeeled
½ red onion, peeled and cut into 2- to 3mm-thick slices
1½ tbsp olive oil, plus extra to serve
1-2 small preserved lemons, flesh cut off and discarded, skin chopped into 0.5cm dice
10g coriander leaves, chopped

Start with the salsa. Combine the vinegar, sumac, sugar, lime peel, garlic and onion in a medium bowl with half a teaspoon of salt, then leave to pickle for at least three hours (and preferably overnight).

To make the hotcake batter, put the buckwheat groats, milk, parmesan, basil, dill and egg yolks in a food processor with half a teaspoon of salt. Whizz on high speed until you have a uniform batter, then tip into a large bowl, stir in 60g ricotta and set to one side. Don’t worry if the batter discolours after a few minutes: it will brighten up again once fried.

Whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks, then, using a spatula, gradually and gently fold them into the batter: you want to keep as much air in the mixture as possible, so take care not to overwork it.

Drain the pickled onions, discarding the lime peel and garlic, and put them in a medium bowl with the oil, preserved lemon, coriander and a generous grind of pepper. Stir to combine and set aside.

Melt 10g butter in a large, nonstick frying pan on a medium-high heat. You’ll need about three tablespoons of batter per pancake, and you’ll need to cook them in batches of two or three at a time, spaced well apart. Once the pancakes are in the pan, fry them for about four minutes, turning halfway, until golden on both sides, then transfer to a plate lined with kitchen towel to drain. Keep warm while you repeat with the remaining batter, adding more butter as and when you need it. (If you plan to top your hotcakes with fried eggs, make these once all the batter is cooked.)

Serve two or three warm pancakes a portion with the salsa and remaining ricotta (if you’re not adding an egg) alongside. Add a final drizzle of olive oil and a generous grind of pepper, and serve hot.

• Yotam Ottolenghi is chef/patron of Ottolenghi and Nopi in London.


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Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes for quick-pickled onions | Vegetables (2024)


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