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When is a shallot not a shallot? When it's a banana shallot!

Tom Aikens reveals the secret ingredient of the professional’s kitchen

Banana shallotsEchalions - also known as ‘banana shallots’ - are taking Britain’s kitchens by storm. This versatile vegetable, which is a cross between an onion and a shallot, has seen 35% growth year on year.

The British grown vegetable 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.

Top Michelin-starred chef Tom Aikens, chef/patron of Restaurant Tom Aikens in London explains: “Echalion, also known as Banana Shallot, are easier to peel than a traditional shallot. Echalion 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 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”, says Tom.

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.

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

British Echalions are available as part of the premium ranges from Asda, Morrison’s, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose and other independent outlets.

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