My secret ingredient

Updated on 31 January 2011 | 0 Comments

Tom Aikens, the youngest ever recipient of two Michelin stars, reveals the secret ingredient of a professional chef's kitchen.

Tom Aikens, the youngest ever recipient of two Michelin stars, reveals the secret ingredient of a professional chef’s kitchen.

Echalions - also known as ‘banana shallots’ - are taking Britain’s kitchens by storm.

This versatile British vegetable, which is a cross between an onion and a shallot, has become the darling of professional kitchens all over the country because it is so easy to prepare.

And now the secret is out and echalions have found their way onto our supermarket shelves.

Why? Because echalion, also known as a 'banana shallot', is the result of a subtle mixture of the intrinsic qualities of the onion and the shallot. From each one, the Echalion has retained only best qualities.

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.

The versatile Echalion can thus 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.

For example, I use it in my recipe for pan-fried sea bass. The sauce is made up of echalions, cream and herbs - perfect for a dinner party or a romantic dinner for two.

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 conditions.

Tom Aikens' top tips for buying, storing and using echalions

- Choose echalions with a good firm bulb, with clean-looking skins

- Store in a cool dry place

- To peel, simply score the skin and simply strip it off lengthways

- Cut the lengthways and fry the pieces in hot oil to give beautiful crispy ‘leaves’ for decorating a dish

- Use instead of onions in casseroles to provide added texture.

Also worth your attention:

Recipe by Tom Aikens: Pan fried sea bass with a herby butter sauce

History of Shallots


Be the first to comment

Do you want to comment on this article? You need to be signed in for this feature

Copyright © All rights reserved.