baked maple and balsamic shallots
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Balsamic, maple syrup and rosemary added to whole roasted small onions or shallots – that’s elevating the humble onions to divine heights of taste!
When I was a student (in a galaxy far, far away, billions light years ago) I sustained mainly on onions. And beer, but that’s not something to be proud of. Onions though, together with cabbage, are famously the source of Vitamin C for the deprived, oppressed and malnourished. Being a skint student behind the Iron Curtain, I certainly qualified as all three.
Onions ward off scurvy, help control blood sugar and are rich in nutrients; more importantly for me back then they also proved to be a fantastic hangover cure. But as I often mentioned before, a fried onions sandwich should be on everyone’s food bucket list together with puffer fish or huitlacoche.
Humble onion is the start to many a fine dish: it’s in soffritto which leads to exquisite risottos, it sits underneath sublime roast game birds; you cannot do without crispy onions sprinkled over stir fries; and caramelised onion slices are far more important than aged Gruyere in a classic French onion soup. Fried onions with a steak? Absolutely, or at least onion rings. Bangers and mash? Oh yeah, but only with onion gravy.
The only problem is the smell: however you go about it, onions smell very strong. They smell when raw and sliced, sitting around in the kitchen – I’ve learned the hard way to prep my onions at the very last moment. There’s no mistaking the onions frying – though at that stage many will say it’s the loveliest fragrance in the world, up there with grilling bacon. And they stick around long after the meal, like a guest who outstays their welcome. In the days of open plan kitchens (me too), the living area might be mistaken for a hot dog stand a long, long time after the washing up is done.
And that is where this dish is a winner – no odour, you see. Roasted onions, especially smothered with maple syrup, brushed with balsamic vinegar and tickled with rosemary sprigs, tend to behave themselves better than their fried mates. They are still a fantastic companion to roast meats or even a cheese board but you don’t have to wash all your soft furnishings post-dinner.
You can use shallots or small onions, just adjust the baking time if they are bigger. Either way, a treat – a treat without the pong.
baked maple and balsamic shallotsServings: 2-4Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
- 12 shallots
- salt and black pepper
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- 2 sprigs of rosemary
- 2 tbsp. maple syrup
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/200F/gas 4. Trim the top and bottom of each shallot with a sharp knife and peel all the outer layers. Place them in a bowl, season with salt and pepper, add the olive oil and balsamic vinegar and rub it into the onions with your fingers.
2. Arrange them in a small ovenproof dish so they fit in snugly; pour over the remaining oil and vinegar left in the bowl. Cut the rosemary sprigs into 4-5 pieces each and tuck them in between the shallots. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 1 hour, turning them over carefully halfway through.
3. Remove the dish from the oven and spoon the maple syrup over the shallots; return to the oven uncovered for 10 minutes.
4. Serve straight away as a side to meat or fish, or at room temperature as a relish.