Try shallots for superior flavour

CHRIS FORTUNE
Last updated 12:48 10/02/2011
Shallots
Marlborough shallots: They have a mild taste that combines the flavour of a sweet onion with a touch of garlic.

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When I find something I like it is not hard to smile. Often it is the little things that do the trick, and so being invited to attend an open day at Phoenix Garlic and Shallots here in Marlborough it was easy to find the time.

I thought I had a pinch of passion for Marlborough, but Phoenix had buckets of it. They have been involved in the garlic and shallot industry for more than 30 years and are the first to admit that it takes a strong vision and good values to become an industry leader

One of the shyer Marlborough products must be the shallot. It belongs to the lily family and is native to the Middle East and Mediterranean regions and was originally called allium ascalonicum. This was after Ascalon, an ancient Palestinian city. The plants were brought back to Europe by the Crusaders returning from the Middle East. They are now grown in France, the Netherlands, the United States, Britain, China, Indonesia, Thailand, Korea, and, of course, right here in Marlborough.

With thousands of years of history they have been pushed aside by the mighty jumbo onion which, while it is large and easy to peel, does not have the flavour or taste of its more handsomely dressed cousin, the shallot.

Cooks love shallots because they have a mild taste that combines the flavour of a sweet onion with a touch of garlic. They can be used in many dishes similar to ones in which garlic and onions are used, but have a more subtle humble taste (I try to avoid the word gourmet, as it sounds expensive).

The little bit of extra time spent peeling shallots is well worth it, or try my favourite way, roast them whole in their skins with a little bit of thyme and bay leaves until they are soft and juicy in the centre and people can peel their own.

MARLBOROUGH BRUSCHETTA

Very Italian, yet very much Marlborough, brushing the toasted bread with garlic oil prior to topping with bruschetta makes the difference between ordinary and passionate.

12 roma (plum) tomatoes, chopped

1 Tbsp minced garlic (chopped finely)

2 Tbsp minced shallots (chopped finely)

1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

1 tsp fresh lemon juice

Marlborough salt to taste

freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/3 cup Marlborough extra virgin olive oil

Garlic oil for brushing

3 cloves garlic, cut into slivers

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

1 loaf crusty bread cut into 1/2 inch slices

In a large bowl, toss together the roma tomatoes, minced garlic, shallots, basil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and 1/3 cup olive oil.

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Place the slivered garlic and 1/4 cup olive oil in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Slowly cook and stir for 2-3 minutes. Discard garlic.

Toast the bread slices, and brush with the olive oil heated with garlic. Top slices with the roma tomato mixture. Season and enjoy.

- The Marlborough Express

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