I am so pleased that we have Church Farm shallots available for the boxes now. I am quite a new comer to this member of the onion family; I was always put off by their small size and peeling onions is really not one of my favourite things. In the past, I have just bashed them up to add to stews; some shallots have a really robust flavour and form great partnerships with red meats such as beef and venison.
Shallots are sometimes confused with onions, thought to be younger versions of the big bulbs so readily available in the supermarkets. Pink shallots tend to be milder in flavour and larger in size, and have amazing names such as ‘banana shallot’, whereas the round brown bulbs with their multitude of papery skin layers tend to be a lot smaller and stronger, with a greyer tinge to their skin. Don’t let this put you off though, grey food can taste delicious!
Our shallots look like mini onion sets in some cases; this is really part of the joy of organic farming. In all the portions I have prepared for boxes, I don’t think I had one shallot that looked the same. Some were big, some small, some wiggly in shape. All grown with love and care and not one damn chemical amongst the lot. Fantastic.
Recently, I have been using shallots in salad dressings, and this was very much what I wanted to try with our Church Farm shallots. Shallots are far more pleasant to eat raw than onions, and they can be sliced so thinly, maintaining a lovely crispness and adding a sweet depth of flavour to a dressing. One of the more famous ways to eat raw shallot is with a freshly shucked oyster kept on ice. I love these. Known as sauce mignonette, the variation that I am most familiar with is made with diced shallot, sherry vinegar, white vinegar, crushed pepper, and a little salt and sugar. Simply dump a spoonful onto your oyster, and knock the whole thing back. Delicious.
Sadly, I cannot afford oysters, so I decided to make a healthy Asian dish using my shallots. I really enjoy stir fries at the best of times, and this one has a lovely kick and is full of green things for texture and taste.
- Bunch of green beans
- Bunch of radishes sliced (or, use your black radish that you may have gotten in your box!)
- Red chilli, thinly sliced
- 1-2 garlic cloves thinly sliced
- 3 -5 shallots thinly sliced (according to how big they are)
- Good splash of rice wine
- Juice of half a lime
- Bunch of coriander
Heat some groundnut oil, and stir fry your beans and garlic over a high heat for 3 minutes. Add the radishes and chilli and cook for another minute. Mix the shallots with the rice wine in a bowl and season well with salt and pepper, add to the stir fry and stir for around a minute. Squeeze over the lime and add the coriander. Serve with noodles. You can add chicken or beef to this recipe if you like, or keep it veggie. It all works!
When you get your shallots, keep them dry and cool in the cupboard, and they will last for several weeks.