As we’re all navigating a strange new reality within lockdown restrictions across the world, home cooking has become the centre of joy and recreation for many households. With limited outings to the shops, we’re all making the most of simple pantry ingredients plus whatever we have stocked in our fridges.
Dutoit Agri has approached me to create a shallot recipe a few days before our President’s first announcements of social distancing in South Africa, and we’ve decided to continue with this project as it can be a source of inspiration to many of us. Using a few economical pantry staples, you can whip up an easy dough for making flatbreads, even giving the kids a wonderful way to keep their (washed) hands busy. Shallots have a fantastic shelf life of 1-2 months, a long seasonality timeline (January – August), and they are so very versatile to use in an array of recipes. With a sweeter, milder taste than onions, they are also much more popular with kids. From using them raw in dressings and salads, to roasting them for a deeper flavour, they are an all-round winner in my pantry.
Shallots are members of the allium family, closely related to onions, garlic, and chives. Their bulbs grow in clusters, similar to cloves of garlic. The biggest distinction between shallots and other onions, besides their milder flavor, is their cellular structure: shallots break down much more easily when cooked, allowing for a softer level of caramelization, or a more subtle touch when creating a foundation in sauces etc.
Here’s my recipe for roasted, caramelized shallots – a fantastic topping for easy homemade flatbreads, but also a great side dish, or an addition on burgers etc. While I like my flatbread simply topped with feta, roasted shallots, thyme and olive oil, my daughter preferred to make hers more like a pizza, using pommodoro sauce, mozzarella and roasted shallots. Both were delicious! I topped mine with a swirl of good quality balsamic vinegar afterwards – just heavenly. It’s a meatless meal, economical, fun and full of flavour. Other toppings could be diced ham, fried bits of bacon, shaved courgettes, sliced brie or camembert, sliced figs etc. If you don’t have any of these, a drizzle of olive oil and some dried herbs plus a generous pinch of salt could also make a simple feast.
Before you start, remember to wash your hands (and the hands of your little helpers) properly, and to clean your work surfaces where you’ll be kneading the dough. Get ready, it’s a lot of fun!
For the roasted shallots:
- 1 kg shallots, peeled and quartered lengthways (look out for Dutoit Agri shallots)
- 45 ml olive oil
- 15 ml red wine vinegar (or sherry vinegar)
- 30 ml honey, slightly warmed (pop it in the microwave for 15 seconds)
- salt, to taste
Preheat your oven to 220 C. Arrange the shallot quarters in a roasting tray, then drizzle all over with the olive oil, vinegar and honey. Season with salt, then roast for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, stir, then return for 10 more minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
For the flatbreads: (serves 4)
- 2 cups stone ground white bread flour (or use regular cake flour if it’s all you have)
- 10 ml (2 teaspoons) instant yeast
- 5 ml (1 teaspoon) sugar
- 2,5 ml (1/2 teaspoon) salt
- 180 ml lukewarm water
- 15 ml olive oil
Place the flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl and stir. Add the water and oil and stir until it becomes sticky. Turn out on a clean surface, then knead to a soft, pliable dough. This is a great activity to get the kids (or a co-isolation housemate) involved! Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover to rise in a warm place for 30-40 minutes.
In the meantime, heat your oven to 230 C. Divide the puffy dough into 4. On a floured surface, roll out each of the four pieces into a freeform shape – basically oval works great. Transfer to a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper. Top with your favourite toppings (see below), then bake at 230 C for 8-10 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven, transfer to a wooden board or a plate, slice and serve immediately.
Possible toppings for assembling your flatbreads:
- pommodoro (tomato) sauce, grated mozzarella and roasted shallots – great for kids
- olive oil, feta, roasted shallots, thyme (fresh or dried), black pepper (add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar after baking)
- grated cheddar, fried bacon bits, roasted shallots – great for kids
- anchovies, capers, garlic, roasted shallots (top with fresh rocket leaves after baking)
- basil pesto, sliced baby tomatoes, roasted shallots
Thank you DuToit Agri for the inspiration.