Shallots, spring onions, scallions and now, ‘green onions’. The word ‘shallot’ in a recipe always presents a dilemma. If the recipe book is written by an Australian, you can be fairly sure that what is meant by a shallot is a long green onion, rather like an overgrown chive. However, in an attempt to resolve an already confused situation, some Australian recipe books have begun referring to these as ‘green onions’.
A true shallot looks very much like a large clove of garlic. Also known here as a French shallot, its skin has a pinkish tinge, whereas garlic has white skin. There are also brown shallots, with brown skin. If you are reading a French recipe book and you have a choice, buy the French shallots. They are available here, but only at the better fruit and vegetable outlets. If you can’t buy French shallots, use small brown pickling onions as a substitute. Some Australian writers, such as Stephanie Alexander, have bitten the bullet and are calling a shallot a shallot.
In America, a shallot is a true French shallot. What we know as ‘shallots’ are called ‘scallions’. I do not know how this confusion arose, but I do wish somebody would fix it. That, of course, would mean re-educating every little fruit and vegie seller in Australia. Perhaps if the big supermarkets began a campaign, something might happen, but if there is no money in it for them, I can’t see it happening.
In this recipe book I have tried to be consistent and use the term ‘green onion’.
It’s a little like power plugs and sockets, except Mum would never have appreciated the comparison…