8 June 2014

Shallots ~ I have no idea what 30.8% of the population are up to!

I recently learned that 56% of UK households don’t buy shallots (and have read elsewhere that 13.2 per cent of British households do buy shallots so I’ve no idea what 30.8% are up to!) and apparently many of these people have no idea why they would ever buy shallots over onions.

The reason I am aware of these statistics is that a couple of weeks ago I was invited to sample some British shallots  and to write about them.  I said “yes” and then felt a bit nervous as I was told that the “growers would be informed”. I had visions of our little barn home being inundated!  However not to worry I received an entirely reasonably sized box of shallots in lovely condition.









It seems to me that many people don’t know their shallot from their small onion!  One obvious difference is that shallots grow in clusters of two or more bulbs which are attached at the root end like this ...






More importantly there is a subtle but delicious taste difference; shallots are less harsh than their cousins and slightly sweeter which attribute one might as well make the most of.  I had a play ... and this is what I came up with.

Caramelised Shallot Tarte Tatin

If you are familiar with Sudden Lunch! you will know that I generally just cook interestingly delicious things for myself; my real man is a bit of a wuss when it comes to food so I always make him something manly!  So this is what I made for me – you can make larger tatins!

enough peeled and halved shallots to cover the bottom of a shallow ovenproof dish 
(*** see below for a handy tip about peeling shallots!)
a little olive oil and a little butter
salt and pepper
a spoonful or two of balsamic vinegar
puff pastry
grated mature cheddar

~   Heat together the butter and oil and gently brown the halved shallots.
~   If they are not quite tender once they are browned to your liking put a lid on the pan and continue to cook gently till they are.
~   Add a splash of balsamic vinegar and continue to cook, without the lid, till a glaze has formed on the shallots.
~   Preheat the oven to 400ºF/200ºC/180C fan/gas 6.
~   Arrange the cooked shallots in your chosen ovenproof dish bearing in mind that when you turn the tatin out the bottom of the shallots will be on the top.
~   Roll out the puff pastry a little on the thin side and sprinkle with grated Cheddar.  Fold the pastry in half to enclose the cheese, roll out to its original thickness and cut a piece the slightly larger than the size and exactly shape of your dish.
~   Cover the shallots with the pastry tucking it in around the edges.
~   Bake till the pastry is risen and crisp.
~   Cool for a few minutes then turn out carefully.


I served this with a dollop of Boursin mixed with a little cream.  It was very good indeed, the shallots were tender, sweet 'n' sour which was great with the creamy Boursin (and the glass or red wine which I naturally drank with it).

Incidentally I had too much puff pastry so cheesed the lot as above, cut into pieces and baked them too.



Whilst the oven was on I also roasted a few more of the shallots to make ...

Roasted Shallot Vinaigrette

4 peeled shallots
180 ml olive oil
 2 tbsp sherry vinegar (or balsamic)
salt & pepper

~   Preheat oven to 400ºF/200ºC/180C fan/gas 6.
~   Put shallots in an ovenproof dish together with the oil, cover with foil and roast till completely tender – about 30 minutes.
~   Purée the shallots in the food processor or liquidizer and then blend in the
vinegar and the shallot flavoured oil from the roasting dish.
~   Taste and season.

This is not just good on salads, particularly cheese salads, but is great drizzled over grilled steak.

Roasted Shallot Risotto with Blue Cheese (and a glass of red) –for 2

It is more usual to use white wine in risotto but a) I only had red, b) I think it goes better with the finished dish and c) it is often said that adding chilled wine to risotto “shocks” the rice and my white is normally chilled (or already drunk as in this case).
1 shallot finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
200g carnaroli or arborio rice
a small glass of wine (I only had red but white would be fine!)
about 1 ltr vegetable stock – not too salty
8 tender roasted shallots (see above) – mashed up a bit
a knob of butter
75g blue cheese – I used, as I often do, St. Agur
~   Have the stock ready at a slow boil.
~   Soften the chopped shallot in the oil in a large saucepan.
~   Add the rice and toss together to coat the grains with the oil.
~   Add the wine and cook over medium heat, stirring till it has evaporated.
~   Start adding the stock a ladle-full at a time, continuously stirring till almost all the stock has been absorbed.
~   When this happens add more stock and carry on with this palaver till the rice is starting to soften. Keep adding stock, stirring and tasting till it is just how you like it (you are supposed to like it when it is tender with just a hint of bite in a gloopy sauce!)
~   Add the roasted shallots, the butter and the cheese stir enthusiastically.
~   Taste and season – I recommend lots of black pepper.



You will see I have drizzled this with a little balsamic glaze – lovely combo!

More ideas ...

~   In South East Asia shallots (and thinly sliced garlic) are traditionally deep fried and used as a garnish.  Slice very thinly and uniformly and fry in 2 or 3cm of oil at 325° to a light golden colour. This should take about five minutes so reduce the heat a little if it going too fast.  Drain well on paper towel, cool completely and use to sprinkle on dishes, South East Asian or otherwise!
~   Add whole shallots to roasting potatoes.
~   Shallots roasted this way are also good mixed into mayonnaise or even better ...
~   Roasted Shallot & Blue Cheese Dip – stir together180ml each of mayonnaise and sour cream plus 180g crumbled blue cheese till smooth then stir in roasted shallots. Taste and season and chill till needed.
~   Shallot Confit – very finely chop 500g peeled shallots and cook them in 100ml of olive oil till very, very soft (about 30 minutes) and then continue to cook over low heat stirring frequently till dark gold, another 15 minutes.  Season.  Pour off (and set aside any excess oil in the pan – add to salad dressings, drizzle onto soups etc.) and allow the shallots to cool.  Store in the fridge for up to a week and use to add to sauces, top burgers or add to cheese sarnies.
~   Visit UK Shallots for more ideas.

*** An easy way to peel shallots if you are definitely intending to cook them is to cover them will boiling water, put on a lid and leave for 5 or so minutes. The skin will now peel off easily and as a bonus your eyes won’t water. (If you would like more quality tips like this please click here for a FREE copy of "219 Cooking Tips and Techniques you might find useful".)

2 Other Points ...

See here for an earlier post on shallots inspired by my darling coming over all romantic! 

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