“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” ― Julia Child

Thursday, January 13, 2011

That's Shallot

I realize that my buddies Stateside will be scratching their heads over the title of this post, but that's because the pronunciation of 'shallot' in the U.S. of A. rhymes with 'ballot', whereas the UK types pronounce it to rhyme with, er, what does it rhyme with? AH! I have it... 'gavotte', a word seldom used except by Carly Simon in "You're So Vain"...

You had one eye in the mirror as you watched yourself gavotte...

So does that title make sense now?  OK then, we shall proceed.

These, of course, are...

What exactly are shallots and what does one do with them?

The humble shallot, also called "multiplier onion", is a variety of the onion, Allium cepa L. var. aggregatum. Formerly classified as the species A. ascalonicum, a name now considered a synonym of the correct name. To confuse matters further, in Australia, the term "shallot" can also refer to scallions, while the term eschalot is used to refer to the shallot described in this post. The term "shallot" is further used for the French grey challot or griselle, Allium oschaninii, which has been considered to be the "true shallot" by many. It is a species that grows wild from Central to Southwest Asia.

Or, put simply, it's a kind of onion. Duh.

However, they are usually smaller and sweeter with a more subtle flavour than a regular onion.

Put simply, you can use shallots wherever you would normally use onions if you are going for a milder, sweeter flavour in your cooking. Here, though, are a couple of recipes that feature the beautiful shallot.

As an appetizer try Balsamic Shallots...

350 g shallots, peeled
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp red wine, dry
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp thyme leaves
 pinch salt


Heat oil and fry shallots for about 3 minutes. Stir in the sugar and stir-fry until the shallots are caramelized.

Pour in the red wine and stir. Add thyme and salt and simmer covered for about 6 minutes. Add vinegar and cook for about 2 minutes until syrupy. Stir frequently.

Remove from the heat and allow to set for about 1 hour.

For a main dish, how about a Five Onion Tart?


100 g butter
600 g shallots,halved
4 large red onions, cut into wedges
6  leeks, trimmed and thickly sliced
4 clove(s) garlic, crushed
 sprig(s) fresh thyme, leaves removed from all but 2 to be reserved for garnish
200 ml white wine
200 ml vegetable stock
1 ½ tbsp sugar
500 g puff pastry, pre-made
400 g cream cheese
1 medium egg, beaten, for glaze
  chives, for decoration


This makes 2 tarts, each serving 4 persons. It may be used for 2 meals for 4 if so wished.

There are two options to prepare the pastry cases; the first is freeform, roughly shaping the pastry by hand and the second is to use pie or flan dishes.

To make the filling:
Melt the butter in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add the shallots and red onions and cook for 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the leeks, garlic and thyme and cook for a further 6-8 minutes, until softened. Add the wine and bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute. Add the stock and sugar and simmer rapidly for 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are tender and the liquid almost evaporated. Season and pour into a large bowl to cool.

Preheat the oven to gas mark 7, 220°C, 425°F.

Divide the pastry and roll out one half to a thin circle (to fit the tin, if using). Transfer to a baking sheet. Repeat for the other half.

Season the cream cheese and divide equally. Spread half around the centre of each tart, leaving a margin of 2½ inches, 6cm of the freeform base, or to the edges of the base if using a tin.

Divide the filling between the tarts, covering the cream cheese. Brush the bare pastry with egg wash and fold up around the filling, covering some of it. Repeat for the second tart and, if not required for immediate use, wrap in cling film and freeze for up to a month.

Bake the tart for 20-25 minutes or until the pastry has risen and is deep golden in colour and is piping hot. Scatter with thyme and a few strands of chives.

Cut into quarters to serve.

To cook the frozen tart, defrost in the refrigerator overnight then bake as above.

OK folks, what's the next food item on our menu?

Sure, it's a fish. But what kind of fish?


  1. Well, I thought Trout, then went to Mullet but have gone back to Trout...Steve

  2. Oh Yeah, the 5 Onion Tart sounds yummy..Steve

  3. Carol went straight to the Mackerel mate...


Come on and chew the fat!


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