Our kitchen garden cook makes the most of shallots, which are a good source of vitamin C during the chilly winter months.

This delicious little tart can either be a starter or could be served just as comfortably as part of a cheeseboard.

Tunworth cheese, caramelised-shallot and oat tarts

Ingredients

  • 250g roughly chopped Tunworth cheese
  • Rocket leaves and walnuts to serve

For the shallots

  • 8 shallots
  • 45ml syrupy balsamic vinegar
  • 2tbspn chopped parsley

For the tart cases

  • 75g oats
  • 50g walnuts
  • 75g wholemeal spelt flour
  • 75g melted butter

Method

Peel the shallots and cut into thin rings, then, in a heavy-based saucepan, cook them over a low heat with a good splash of olive oil.

I don’t usually suggest using a greaseproof paper cartouche over onions because it seems such a faff, but, in this case, it really does add extra sweetness and prevents them from burning. Simply cut a circle of paper, scrunch it up, run it under a cold tap and then place it over the onions in the pan. Sprinkle with water as the paper dries out.

After 10 minutes, add the balsamic. The onions will take about 20 minutes to collapse completely, then you can remove them from the heat, sprinkle them with parsley and seasoning and set them aside.

Preheat your oven to 180˚C/350˚F/gas mark 4. Blitz the oats to a flour in a food processor, then repeat with the walnuts. Whisk together the oat and walnut flours with the spelt flour to combine them.

Add seasoning and the melted butter, mixing well to bring together.

Press the mixture into the bases and up the sides of four loose-bottomed, non-stick, small tart tins and bake for about 8–10 minutes.

Leave to cool for at least 10 minutes, then add a spoonful of shallots to the centre of each tart base and top with the chopped cheese. Bake for a further 10 minutes or until the cheese has melted and is looking puffy.

Serve immediately with lightly dressed rocket leaves and chopped walnuts on the side.


More ways with shallots

shallotsA side of potatoes and shallots

Take equal amounts of peeled shallots and potatoes. Leave the shallots whole and cut the potatoes to roughly the same size. Toss everything in olive oil and seasoning. Roast the shallots in a hot oven for 20 minutes before adding the potatoes to the baking tray. Cook for a further 30–40 minutes or until cooked and crispy-edged. Serve with almost anything.

Roast chicken-and-shallot tray bake

Peel 10 shallots and halve vertically. Toss them in a generous splash of olive oil to coat and arrange in an ovenproof dish. Add 4 skin-on, part-boned chicken breasts. Pour in hot chicken stock to reach 1cm up the side and roast in a moderately hot oven for 35–40 minutes or until the chicken juices run clear and the shallots are tender. Season well and stir in 100g of chopped green olives. Serve immediately.

Asian prawn salad with shallot dressing

For the dressing, this is enough for about 4 servings: 2tbspn rice-wine vinegar, 1tbspn fish sauce, 1tbspn sesame oil, 2tbspn light olive oil and 1 diced shallot. Place the ingredients in a jam jar with a lid, shake vigorously and allow to infuse for half an hour. Cut long, thin slices of cucumber using a vegetable peeler, roll them up and arrange on a serving plate. Scatter over cooked prawns, diced chilli, ribbons of carrot, bean sprouts and fresh coriander or Thai basil. Drizzle the dressing over the salad, toss well and serve.