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Photography By : Katie Wilson - Portrait by Issy Croker
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Syrian onion bread with roast bone marrow and parsley salad

Dishes Created By

This is a delicious Syrian riff on the one dish that does not change on the menu at St. John. You will need teaspoons or long thin implements to scrape your marrow out of the bone.

  • St John Restaurant
  • Serves Four


For the bread

  • 525g self-raising flour
  • 25g sea salt
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • 275ml buttermilk
  • 250ml water
  • olive oil

For the onion and spice topping

  • 50g chopped onions
  • 1 tsp fresh mint, chopped
  • 1 tsp coriander, ground
  • 1 tsp cumin, ground
  • ½ tsp chilli flakes

For the bones and parsley salad

  • 16 pieces veal shin bone, cut to 10cm lengths (You may have to pre-order these from your friendly butcher. Never be afraid to give your butcher a ring! Tell him that you want these bones for marrow.)
  • A healthy bunch of flat-leaf parsley, picked from its stems
  • 2 shallots, peeled and very thinly sliced
  • 1 modest handful of capers (extra-fine if possible)

For the salad dressing and spiced salt

  • juice of 1 lemon
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • a pinch of sea salt
  • a pinch of black pepper
  • 1 tbsp coarse sea salt
  • 1 tsp sumac

Cooking Instructions

  1. This bread is extremely forgiving, needing no proving at all. This means that it is best straight out of the oven, but it heats up well too if you prefer to make it earlier in the day.
  2. To make the bread, sift all the dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl. Create a well in the centre, pour in the buttermilk and water and mix together. Knead the dough until you get a bouncy, smooth, elastic texture.
  3. Divide the dough into two pieces, then roll them into balls on a floured surface and flatten them both into discs. Transfer on to an oiled oven tray, with some space between them, then brush them with more olive oil.
  4. Mix all the ingredients for the topping together and then sprinkle them over the dough. Bake in a very hot oven at 210C/415F/gas 7 for 10 minutes, until the bread is golden in places and the onions have wilted into the spice mixture.
  5. For the marrow, place the bones in an ovenproof frying pan and place in a hot oven, hole-side down. The roasting process should take about 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the bone. You are looking for the marrow to be loose and giving, but not melting away, which it will do if left too long. (Traditionally the ends would be covered to prevent any seepage, but I like the colouring and crispness at the end.)
  6. Meanwhile, lightly chop your parsley, just enough to discipline it, then mix it with the shallots and capers and, at the last moment, pour over the dressing.
  7. Serve the bones on a dish next to a pile of the bread, a pile of parsley salad and a mix of the salt and sumac.
  8. A last-minute seasoning, especially in the case of coarse sea salt, gives texture and uplift at the moment of eating. My approach is to scrape the marrow from the bone on to the toast and season with coarse sea salt. Then put a pinch of parsley salad on top of this and eat. Of course, once you have your pile of bones, salad, bread and spiced salt, it is Liberty Hall.

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