And so consider this old recipe for eggs with onions, soganli yumurta. It was a dish traditionally served to the sultan on the fifteenth day of Ramadan, to break the fast; if the chef’s efforts pleased the sultan, he could be promoted to head of the pantry. The recipe itself is pure simplicity, and would delight supporters of the Slow Food movement; it is also truly sophisticated. Half a dozen sweet onions are sliced finely, salted, and then gently melted with butter in a shallow pan over a very low heat for three hours. Into this rich, creamy paste, the cook puts a splash of vinegar, a couple of spoonfuls of sugar, a generous pinch of allspice, and lets it all mix in well. He makes little pockets in the mix with the back of a wooden spoon and breaks a half dozen eggs into them, covering the pan to cook very gently for another ten minutes, now and again spooning the juice over the eggs. Soganli yumurta is served with black pepper and cinnamon sprinkled on top. You don’t need three hours, one will do; but then you will never be head of the pantry at Topkapi Palace.
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