We're immature onions and our grown-ups are always telling us to behave, to get serious, as if their way of doing things is the only way. Does that happen to you? We may not be fully grown but we're smart. We know what's what and we can do just as good a job in food as any grown-up onion. Let me tell you more about us because people get really confused about just what we are.
Because we don't look or smell like an onion, people don't realise that we can be used in place of onions when that stronger taste is not necessary. Several fresh shallots, sliced all the way from our white tube to our lovely green stem-like leaves, add flavour galore to a salad.
The Japanese use a similar onion called a bunching onion or Welsh onion which can also be called shallots. Just to confuse you, the French eschallot with its cluster of small bulbs is also referred to as a shallot. In the USA we are known as scallions as well as bunching, green and spring onions. The truth is we're a type of onion which has been harvested when immature and our bulbs have yet to develop. We have a long, white, slender tube-like bottom about 1-2cm in diameter topped by long, slender, green, tube-like leaves approximately 30-35cm long. We can be used from tip to toe to make your dishes delicious.
Shallots are available all year round.
In Australia we're not sold by variety.
Essentially we're onions harvested when very young. We prefer a cool climate with a deep fertile soil to ensure a good quality crop. We can take up to 6 months from planting to being mature enough to harvest.
We can be used in salads and as a flavouring when we're about 6mm in diameter. Our stems are pulled from the ground by hand and our outer skin is peeled off and our roots trimmed before packaging for market.
We can also be harvested when we're mature and our bulb has formed. We're left in the ground until our leaves have almost dried off. Like onions, we can be extracted from the ground by a large harvester.
Select those of us which are medium-sized with fresh looking green leaves that don't droop too much.
Refrigerate us unwashed, stored in a plastic bag or wrap in plastic.
We have been used throughout China and Asia for thousands of years and it's believed that we originated in the Far East.
Although we're often called the aristocrats of the onion family, we're not usually served on our own as a vegetable. We're added to other foods for a more subtle onion flavour or used as a garnish.
Strip away our outside leaves and chop off our root. Our green leaf tops are not as strong in flavour as our white base. If we're dipped whole in hot water for 20 seconds and drained our taste will not be as strong.
Finely chop and add to salads, vegetables, scrambled eggs, fried rice, fish, meat, chicken, stir-fries, sauces and even butter for a more savoury tasting spread.
Why not check out some of these shallot ideas:
Peel outside leaves and remove roots from 2-3 shallots. Cut into 5-8cm lengths. Make fine cuts 1cm long at both ends. Drop into iced water for 30 minutes or more and watch the ends curl. Use as a garnish for cheese or fruit platters or salads.
Shallot and Parsley Butter
Drop 4 shallots into boiling water for 20 seconds. Cool, peel and chop. Mix into 1/2 cup soft butter with some cracked pepper and 1 tablespoon chopped parsley. Shape into a roll and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill. Cut into slices and serve on barbecued chops, steak or chicken, add to cooked peas, beans or carrots or spread on toast, top with grated cheese and grill until golden. Three ideas in one recipe!
Shallot and Pecan Dip
Peel and finely slice 2-3 shallots. Peel, remove seeds and finely chop one Lebanese cucumber. Add to 1 cup sour cream, 1/2 cup chopped pecans, 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, 1 minced clove of garlic and a dash of Tabasco. Serve with carrot and celery sticks.