Whats Cooking? - Shallots
We don't think of shallots as a great British vegetable, but they are. There is nothing quite like this vegetable for adding a uniquely delicate, sweet, piquant flavour. With their superior taste, shallots transform everyday meals into something extra special. They have a classy air, giving the impression that you have gone the extra mile, when actually it's easier to fine chop a shallot than an onion, because the layers are thinner to start with.
Echalions - also known as 'banana shallots' - are taking Britain's kitchens by storm. This versatile British vegetable is a cross between an onion and a shallot and is the largest in the shallot family. Echalions, identified by their long, torpedo shape, have become the darling of professional kitchens all over the country due to the ease of preparation and now the secret is out and echalions have found their way onto our supermarket shelves.
Echalion is the result of a subtle mixture of the intrinsic qualities of the onion and the shallot and are easier to peel than a traditional shallot. These large, oval bulbs have amber-coloured skin that can be peeled back to reveal juicy, white meat that combines the ease of an onion with the sweet, subtle flavour of a shallot.
Top Michelin-starred chef Tom Aikens explains: "The versatile Echalion can add a subtle hint of flavour or be the main ingredient for any recipe calling for shallots. They are perfect for braising with meats, roasting with vegetables or with soups. Finely chop and add to broths and sauces, or sauté with mushrooms".
British grown echalions are available from September to Mid-May. They are grown in the Eastern counties of Britain (Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Suffolk and Norfolk) where the sandy soil and warmer temperatures provide the ideal growing environment. They should be stored in a cool, dark, airy place for about two weeks.
And what better way to enjoy get all the nutrition from these shallots tasty, than with Lisa's Cottage Pie:-
Preparation time: 20 mins
Cooking time: 1 hour
- 4 potatoes (approx. 900g) cut into quarters
- 500g (1lb) lean minced beef
- 2 enchalion shallots, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp. tomato puree
- 3 tbsp. tomato ketchup
- 2 tsp. worcestershire sauce
- 2 tbsp. sunflower oil
- 30g slightly salted butter
- sea salt
- white pepper
- black pepper
- garlic granules
- Preheat the oven to 375°f, gas mark 5, 190°C (170 °C fan assisted)
- Put the potatoes in a large saucepan of lightly salted water and bring to the boil
- Reduce the heat slightly and simmer for 15-20 minutes until soft
- Drain through a colander, then mash through a potato ricer directly back into the saucepan
- Season the poatoes lightly with sea salt and white pepper, then mash in the butter over a gentle heat for 1 minute, then set aside
- Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan, add the shallots and cook gently until translucent for 5 minutes until soft
- Gradually add the minced beef, over a medium heat, breaking up with a wooden spoon, for 5 minutes until browned
- Add the tomato puree, tomato ketchup, worcestershire sauce and season with garlic granules, sea salt and black pepper to taste
- Continue to cook over a low light for 10 minutes
- Spoon the beef mixture into a 2 litre baking dish and carefully spoon the mash over the top, spreading over the surface of the filling
- Using a fork create a pattern over the top of the potato
- Bake in the preheated over for 30 minutes, until heated through and the crust is golden
Lisa Tip This combination of rich meat and creamy mash is a timeless classic, you can always add diced carrots and peas to the beef mixture if you wanted to add some vegetables.
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