IN THE SPOTLIGHT…All About the forgotten flavours (Onions and Shallots)

IN THE SPOTLIGHT…All About the forgotten flavours (Onions and Shallots)

All About the forgotten flavours at the end of the list…this month we are talking onions (and a shallot!)

                I couldn’t imagine trying to live without onions – they add so much flavour, bulk out so many meals, help stretch my budget and are just such great all rounders (unless they grow into a different shape!) with some varieties storing right through to the next fresh onion crop.  The end of our list has three hidden gems for you to try … two of them are in this month’s Onion Quartet so no more excuses, grow some wonderful and sadly overlooked onion deliciousness!  


Tosca: and straight away this is not a round globe shaped choice, perhaps that is why you are put off BUT this long golden-brown skinned onion is simply brilliant: it will keep you in onions right through the winter until your next crop is due; it is fabulous in the kitchen (the shape means lots of onion rings close to the same size and it is easy to cut them!); the flavour is great too.  Try and make sure you have space for this one.

Walla Walla: named after the county in Washington, the original seeds made its way there from Corsica (with the help of a French man so the story goes), and with careful selection the lovely Walla Walla grew a reputation as sweet as this onion.  Some say this is sweet enough to eat like an apple… I find it sweet enough but retaining an onion zing that adds zest to any dish you add it to.    It does make a great cheese and onion sandwich and is very popular in our salads – the flavour enhances rather than overwhelms the other ingredients.  It is less aromatic than other onions and as a result will not prompt your eyes to tears as easily!  A winner which ever way you look at it.

Zebrune: yes this is the odd one out, not an onion but related, a cousin as it were.  They differ in some basic ways. Unlike regular onions, which grow as single bulbs, shallots grow in clusters, like garlic does.  They are a bit sweeter than regular onions, and their flavour is more subtle.   That more subtle flavour is why they are beloved of chefs.  Subtle does not mean less flavour, in fact if you are substituting with shallots the general rule is to use half the amount of shallot as you would onion – in practice there is a bit of trial and error until you find your own preferred flavour balance.  For slow roasting or braises then shallots win hands down in our home – particularly when home grown and not paying inflated supermarket prices for the subtle onion cousin!