Suppression

Shallots

Category: Food

Type

Voluntary

Introduction and description

 

 

The shallot is a type of onion, specifically a botanical variety of the species Allium cepa.  The shallot was formerly classified as a separate species, A. ascalonicum, but now it is simply grouped within the onion family.

But this seems a shame, - to class it as 'just another onion' -  because shallots are the princesses of the onion family and in culinary use shallots have very different properties from the onion, being used whole not chopped and imparting a truly unctious sweet taste to soups and stews. 

In autumn as the mists are forming, the golden leaves dropping gently to the ground, the smell of wood smoke drifting hazily around the garden as bonfires are lit and wood burning stoves started, the squashes and shallots are gathered in.  A dish of roasted squash in olive oil, with whole shallots is one of the most delicious and warming foods you can have as your lunch.  All sorts of unusual things can be added to this staple roasted vegetable dish, even unripe pears [at the start of cooking], prunes [at the last minute], cheese and nuts. 

The French have made shallot growing an art form.  Their shallots are beautiful, long tapered and sometimes pink, with a translucent flesh that is almost ethereal in its beauty.   

Cultivation

 

Allium cepa ascalonicum is a bulb growing to 0.3 m (1ft). It is hardy to zone (UK) 5 and is not frost tender. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees and insects.  Its USDA hardiness zone : 4-8

Shallots like light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefer well-drained soil. They do not grow well on heavy clays.  Shallots grow best where the pH is in the range 6 to 7, but they will tolerate a pH in the range 4.5 to 8.3.

They prefer a sunny site and will not thrive in the shade. They also prefer moist soil and in very hot conditions may need to be watered in order to prevent them from ‘bolting’ – running to seed.  Shallots will bolt whenever the plant is stressed by lack of water or nutrients, as such they need to be tended well.

roasted shallots with spices

Whereas onions need plenty of well rotted manure or compost, shallots will tolerate slightly less rich soil, but they become tastier and plumper if the soil is rich with minerals.   The manure or compost needs to be added to the soil in the autumn so that the worms will take it in to the ground and produce a good rich loam.  The soil is then ready for the planting of seeds or bulbs in the spring.  In Northern areas, shallot corms have to be used, as the growing season is often not long enough for a seed to grow. 

Like all alliums, shallots can suffer from fungal diseases.  My father used to put soot from the chimney [when sweeps were common] around the plants [just a sprinkling] and I assume the slightly acid nature of the soot helped to keep fungus away.  Failing this he used to put ash round them – again not too much – which had the added advantage that wood ash from a bonfire is very rich in minerals.

 

Gather them in  Autumn when the green leaves have withered and the tops are dry. 

Lay them flat to dry completely on a stone topped table, for example, or wooden door, or  raised netting - anything that keeps them away from the damp soil and lets the air flow round them, or that can hold the heat, so that no sudden unexpected frosts damage them.  When they are fully dry they can be brought in and store well in cool dark conditions where the frost cannot reach them.  They must not get warm, otherwise they will start to grow.  My father used to store them in a shed next to our house - where we kept the bicycles!

Medicinal value

 

Shallots have some unusual and extensive medicinal properties, but rather than list them here, we have added an observation from Dr Duke that lists all these properties.  By doing this it has enabled us to also cross link to the diseases and health problems that shallots help with.

Nutrients

The following table comes from the USDA nutrients database.

Full Report (All Nutrients):  11677, Shallots, raw:  Food Group: Vegetables and Vegetable Products:  Scientific Name:  Allium ascalonicum

Nutrient

Unit

Value per 100g

Water

g

79.80

Energy

kcal

72

Energy

kJ

301

Protein

g

2.50

Total lipid (fat)

g

0.10

Ash

g

0.80

Carbohydrate, by difference

g

16.80

Fiber, total dietary

g

3.2

Sugars, total

g

7.87

MINERALS

 

 

Calcium, Ca

mg

37

Iron, Fe

mg

1.20

Magnesium, Mg

mg

21

Phosphorus, P

mg

60

Potassium, K

mg

334

Sodium, Na

mg

12

Zinc, Zn

mg

0.40

Copper, Cu

mg

0.088

Manganese, Mn

mg

0.292

Selenium, Se

µg

1.2

VITAMINS

 

 

Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid

mg

8.0

Thiamin

mg

0.060

Riboflavin

mg

0.020

Niacin

mg

0.200

Pantothenic acid

mg

0.290

Vitamin B-6

mg

0.345

Folate, total

µg

34

Folic acid

µg

0

Folate, food

µg

34

Folate, DFE

µg

34

Choline, total

mg

11.3

Vitamin B-12

µg

0.00

Vitamin A, RAE

µg

0

Retinol

µg

0

Carotene, beta

µg

3

Carotene, alpha

µg

0

Cryptoxanthin, beta

µg

0

Vitamin A, IU

IU

4

Lycopene

µg

0

Lutein + zeaxanthin

µg

8

Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)

mg

0.04

Vitamin D (D2 + D3)

µg

0.0

Vitamin D

IU

0

Vitamin K (phylloquinone)

µg

0.8

FATTY ACIDS

 

 

Fatty acids, total saturated

g

0.017

Fatty acids, total monounsaturated

g

0.014

Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated

g

0.039

AMINO ACIDS

 

 

Tryptophan

g

0.028

Threonine

g

0.098

Isoleucine

g

0.106

Leucine

g

0.149

Lysine

g

0.125

Methionine

g

0.027

Phenylalanine

g

0.081

Tyrosine

g

0.072

Valine

g

0.110

Arginine

g

0.181

Histidine

g

0.043

Alanine

g

0.113

Aspartic acid

g

0.231

Glutamic acid

g

0.517

Glycine

g

0.124

Proline

g

0.165

Serine

g

0.113

 

Method

 

One way of preserving shallots is to pickle them. 

Traditionally, they should be peeled and added to malt vinegar to which spices [optional] and brown sugar, molasses or honey have been added. 

They are not cooked, but left raw and pickled in the vinegar. 

I had/have a sad little brother who suffered appallingly from ezcema as a child.  The ezcema appeared shortly after his diptheria vaccination.  Whatever was in the vaccine made him allergic to certain things and he seemed to prefer anything acid or lemony.  His favourite drink was lime juice [at three years old].  His favourite mid afternoon snack was a pickled onion in a cream horn [jam and all] and I do not joke.  It seemed to help.  Still with us, still suffering.

Pickled onions

Ingredients

500g small shallots

50g salt

500ml malt vinegar

200g clear honey

 

Method

Place the onions in a large heatproof bowl and pour over boiling water to cover. Leave to cool. Once cool, trim roots and tops and peel. Sprinkle the salt over the peeled onions, stir and leave overnight.

Next day rinse the onions well and dry with kitchen towel. Place the vinegar and honey into a large pan and gently heat just to dissolve the honey into the vinegar, but do not boil.

Pack the onions into clean, sterilized jars. Pour over the hot vinegar mixture to fill the jars, and check there are no air pockets. Seal the jars and leave to cool.

The onions will be ready to eat after about 1 month or better if kept for 2. Once opened store in the fridge.

 

 

 

Pickled onions go well with pork pies and cheese for those unable to take to the idea of pickle onions in a cream horn.

 

Shallots go very well with game of all sorts, from pigeon to venison to wild boar. 

The traditional way is to add them whole into a slow cooked stew, made with stock,  crushed juniper berries and a fruit based sauce [cranberry, rowanberry etc] to taste. 

Here is an alternative method.  The venison must be very good meat for this to work.

 

 

Jamie Oliver's venison and shallot stir fry

Ingredients

1 small handful fresh thyme , leaves picked

5 dried juniper berries

sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

extra virgin olive oil

800 g quality venison loin , trimmed

4 shallots , peeled and sliced

1 clove garlic , peeled and finely sliced

1 glass red wine

200 g fresh blueberries

2 large knobs butter

 

Bash up the thyme and juniper berries in a pestle and mortar with a really good pinch of salt and pepper.

Add olive oil.
Pat the venison dry with some kitchen paper, and rub the oil mixture all over it. Sear the meat in a hot pan on all sides – roughly 6 minutes for medium rare, 7-8 minutes for medium

Remove it from the pan when it’s cooked to your liking and allow it to rest on a plate covered with a bowl.
Reduce the heat under the pan and add a good lug of oil. Add the shallots and the garlic and fry until translucent and tender. Turn up the heat, add the wine, and let it reduce by half.
Add the blueberries and simmer slowly for 4 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat, add the butter, and jiggle and shake the pan around so the sauce goes slightly opaque and shiny. Season to taste.
Slice the venison into 2cm/¾ inch slices and serve with steamed purple sprouting broccoli or some other good greens. Add the meat’s resting juices to the sauce and spoon over the venison.
Absolutely fantastic.

 Shallots can also be roasted with chicken.  In the picture above the chicken has been simply salted and red peppers and yellow peppers roasted alongside the shallots, all in the same pan.   And below we have one of the recipes for roasted vegetables

 Delia Smith's Winter roasted vegetables

Ingredients

12 shallots, peeled

350g (12oz) peeled and de-seeded butternut squash

350g (12oz) peeled sweet potato

350g (12oz) peeled swede

350g (12oz) peeled celeriac

1 tablespoon freshly chopped mixed herbs (rosemary and thyme, for example)

2 large cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and freshly milled black pepper

 

Method

1  Cut the vegetables into large, chunky pieces (no smaller than 4cm/ 1 1/2 inches) - leaving the celeriac until last, as it may discolour if left for too long - place in a large bowl, then add the herbs, garlic, olive oil and lots of seasoning and just use your hands to mix them.

2 Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 7, 425F (220C).

3 Spread the vegetables out on the baking tray and cook in the oven on a high shelf for 30-40 minutes, until they’re tender and turning brown at the edges.

 

 

 Another suggestion - just shallots and slices of potato roasted in butter and oil

 Versatile, delicious and healthy, what more could you ask!

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