Pomegranate roasted baby onions with butter bean salad and tahini-chilli yogurt

16 Jan

Pomegranate roasted baby onions with butter bean salad and tahini-chilli yogurt
Onions from an onion

I went to a school which was populated with provably about 80 per centGujarati children (I come from a Gujarati background) at a guess. When my boy and I go to playgroup he is an, ‘ethnic minority’ by being in a broader group called ‘Asian’.

So when I was at school I was not (by other kids) differentiated by the colour of my skin, but my caste. My classroom was made up of surnames such as Patel, Mistry, Thakrar or Shah. All Gujarati of course. We all knew we belonged to different castes and we knew that we spoke in different accents, our mothers cooked different tasting foods or simply varieties and some of us would be vegetarian and others not. Mild teasing was not uncommon, ‘your surname is Tailor you can make my clothes when I grow up’. I think I could pick up on caste sometimes by physical appearance.

The caste system used to separate people vocationally, but no longer does. Well, not the people I know anyway. It created networks of people and they married within their caste, but that doesn’t happen any more either. Idiosyncrasies of castes are now diluted with western accents, mixed marriages and just general evolution of culture. My 23 month will probably never know much about the caste system and I’m sure his friends will be much more international than mine were at his tender age. London offers that diversity doesn’t it.

I am from the Lohana caste. Commercial people. Ironically I read economics at university, but really that nothing to do with caste. Coincidence. Lohana folk are said to fond of onions, and that’s why I often got called one whilst growing up. But I was proud, I love a good onion.

Sweet and juicy with a sour tang. That’s my salad. I’ve smothered pomegranate molasses over the onions and roasted them slowly so that they are sweet and sour and moist and slippery. I adore that smell. They work well with deep butter beans and my nutty and slightly spiced dressing. Go on, be an onion.

Ingredients to serve 4

20 baby onions, peeled and halved
4 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1-2 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 tsp sugar
A few handfuls of rocket leaves
2 tins of butter beans
2 tsp sumac powder
15g flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
15g garlic chives, finely chopped
1/2 tbsp lemon juice

3/4 cup plain yoghurt
4 tbsp tahini paste
1 tsp red chilli flakes


1. Coat the onions with the pomegranate molasses, sugar and a generous sprinkle of salt.
2. Lay the onions on some baking paper, drizzle them with oil and place them in the oven and roast them at 150 degrees for approximately 30minutes.
3. In a separate bowl, mix together the butter beans, sumac, lemon juice, parsley, salt to taste and garlic chives.
4. To make the dressing, simply whip the yoghurt, tahini and chilli together.
5. Serve the salad on some rocket leaves with some lovely warm bread.

18 Responses to “Pomegranate roasted baby onions with butter bean salad and tahini-chilli yogurt”

  1. Vanesther January 16, 2014 at 10:15 am #

    What a delicious sounding and looking dish, Deena. Roast onions are wonderful and I bet the pomengranate molasses gives them a real burst of zingy flavour. And I found the insight into your childhood really interesting. Where did you grow up? I went to primary school in Newcastle where I was always a bit of an outsider because I’m from Chinese descent, and then when I moved to London (Hackney) for secondary, it was brilliant to move into an absolute melting pot of different cultures!

    • Deena Kakaya January 16, 2014 at 10:26 am #

      Hi Vanesther, thanks so much for the lovely comment, I appreciate it. The onions are sweet and sour, they smell so good!

      I grew up in Leicester, which has a huge Gujarati population, which is why my patents settled there when they arrived in the country. My folks are from kenya and Uganda, then when evicted by idi Amin they went to India. I guess moving to a Gujarati community in a new country gave then comfort, they had some frightening experiences during eviction.

      For me though, the melting pot is my comfort, it’s what I know and love xx

  2. Dipti January 16, 2014 at 11:45 am #

    Hi Deena, as a fellow lohani, I have to agree with you about the onions! Lol! We also love our yoghurt but can’t say I’m a fan of that..love butter beans though! 🙂

    • Deena Kakaya January 16, 2014 at 4:18 pm #

      Hi Dipti, great to hear from you. Ha ha, a Lohana too and an onion lover; that’s great! I hope you will enjoy this recipe then! Do you like tahini? If so the dressing will work so well xx

  3. Joanne January 16, 2014 at 12:03 pm #

    One of my coworkers is Gujarati! He’s a Patel. No idea what that means, and I doubt neither will his son since they are planning on staying in the US. I adore onions and pomegranate, so I can see myself loving this salad!

    • Deena Kakaya January 16, 2014 at 4:23 pm #

      Hi Joanne! Patel folk come in big teams;) I’m glad you like this recipe, it’s sweet and sour and smells fab! X

  4. Elaine @ foodbod January 16, 2014 at 12:20 pm #

    So interesting to read about your background and childhood, thank you for sharing it x

    • Deena Kakaya January 16, 2014 at 4:24 pm #

      Thanks so much Elaine, so kind of you x

  5. kellie@foodtoglow January 16, 2014 at 2:17 pm #

    Lovely to hear about your background, Deena. I really love visiting London and experiencing its brilliant multi-cultural vibe – restaurants, accents, clothing, smells (Brick Lane in the morning – mmm), music and more. It wouldn’t be half as vibrant and exciting without the influence of immigrant populations. Our diets certainly wouldn’t be very interesting, that’s for sure. Lovely flavour-packed recipe, as always. Love all the ingredients.

    • Deena Kakaya January 16, 2014 at 7:10 pm #

      Hello Kellie, thank you for your comment! Next time you are in vibrant and eclectic london I would love to eat with you on Brick lane, I adore the place. We are so lucky to live in times where all varieties of food are so accessible xx

  6. Deb January 16, 2014 at 7:06 pm #

    I marvelous post Denna! From learning about your family history to the fantastic recipe!

    • Deena Kakaya January 16, 2014 at 7:07 pm #

      Hello Deb, how are you? Thank you so much…this one smells as good as it tastes x

  7. Katie @ Whole Nourishment January 17, 2014 at 10:56 am #

    Loved hearing about your background and reflections, thanks for giving us a glimpse of your story! Love all the flavors in this recipe too. Have recently been roasting lots of brussel sprouts with pomegranate molasses. 😉

    • Deena Kakaya January 17, 2014 at 10:58 am #

      Hi Katie, it’s lovely to hear from you. I’m so glad you enjoyed this post, it’s funny how food so often anchors is to memories.

      Oh, what a lovely way to treat Brussels sprouts…yum xx

  8. Karen Burns Booth January 17, 2014 at 12:42 pm #

    An absolute GEM of a recipe and I am always on the look out for new ideas with pomegranates too! Karen

    • Deena Kakaya January 17, 2014 at 12:47 pm #

      Thanks so much Karen, for your generous words and taking the time to leave a comment, I really appreciate it. I hope you’ll try this one out xx

  9. Sally - My Custard Pie January 18, 2014 at 4:45 am #

    This recipe really appeals to me. I think I must have Lohana tendencies because I adore onions! I’m so glad that the caste system is truly crumbling. Anything that discriminates against people in such a biased and derisory way is so damaging.

    • Deena Kakaya January 18, 2014 at 8:12 am #

      Wonderful to hear from you Sally, thank you so much for your comment. It’s great to hear that adore onions, I hope you’ll try this recipe out!

      I agree that once upon a time the caste system would have given another reason for discrimination and was likely to be damaging, such a denying lower caste people more esteemed jobs. I’ve never heard or witnessed anything of that nature, so for me, in a way, it’s a little sad that the sense of community that comes with the caste thing is not present in my life anymore.

      My boy won’t know a life where Navratri celebrations involve going to a Lohana community venue and hearing banter in a dialect that he hears from his grandparents. My parents speak to my Son largely in English. My boy won’t really see faces so similar to his and names like his, because his parents are from different backgrounds. But, we try and give him that sense of community with his international friends and with idiosyncrasies from his British born, Hindu mum and dad. Xx

Let me know what you think about this recipe

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