I’ve been making red wine and red onion marmalade for years – it’s a deceptively simple sauce that’s ideal for steak, sausages, halloumi or an indulgent burger.

The only word of caution with this one is to keep a watchful eye on the pot once you add the brown sugar toward the end.

About 11 years ago, I was making this onion marmalade in my flat in Abu Dhabi. The cooker was brand new and everything seemed to get very hot very fast for the first few weeks – I christened the oven with a chocolate cake that I accidentally cremated in about 15 minutes. My then-boyfriend-now-husband still reminds of me of the expletive-laden text I sent him when he sent me a friendly message asking me how the new cooker was going.

When I attempted the red wine and red onion marmalade on the stove for the first time, I added the sugar and I swear I looked away for just a moment. When I turned back to the hob, the pot was filled with a smelly, smoking, blackened mess – basically a burnt hunk of onion toffee that took forever to scrub off.

To add insult to injury, the onion marmalade toffee debacle was a waste of red wine – in the UAE, alcohol is not cheap and not easy to pick up in your nearest friendly offy. The UAE laws on expat infidels buying booze have recently been relaxed but when I lived out there, you were meant to obtain a licence to buy alcohol. This came with the government-mandated quantities you were allowed to buy, based on your salary. Naturally, I decided this was a load of codswallop and did what many an expat did out there – a booze run to one of the less-regulated emirates every few months to stock up so there was always a bottle of wine in the house for parties, general quaffing, birthday presents and, yes, to waste in a burnt onion marmalade.

Red wine and red onion marmalade


One large red onion, finely chopped

30g salted butter

1 garlic clove

2 teaspoons ground ginger

2/3 cup red wine

1/2 cup soft brown sugar


  1. Melt the butter and add the red onion, garlic and ginger. Cook until the onion is soft.
  2. Pour the red wine over and bring to the boil on a high heat.
  3. Add the brown sugar, reduce the heat, and stir constantly – do not look away! As soon as the sauce thickens and caramelises, the glossy, deep red-purple concoction is ready to serve.

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