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Baked onions and crispy shallots

Miso potatoes for web

Onions are arguably the stars of the kitchen. They are cheap, readily available and crucial for laying the foundations of so many dishes, across countless cooking cultures.

Few good dishes I cook start without an onion, and I love how they can be taken to both ends of the flavour spectrum, from bracingly pickled to sweetly slow-cooked, almost caramel in texture.

That onions are essential to so much cooking is no secret, yet – save for the occasional onion soup à la Julia Child, the odd tart, perhaps a chutney or a pickled onion as a sidekick for other things – rarely do they take the limelight.

So, this week, I decided to put onions well and truly centre stage with two of my favourite allium preparations: butter-basted roast onions with the warm, gentle notes of bay and star anise, and failsafe crispy shallots (which also work with onions), which make everything you eat better.

Duration
40-45 mins
Difficulty
Easy
Serves
8
Miso potatoes for web

Ingredients

For the baked onions

  • 60g unsalted butter or olive oil
  • 4 star anise
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 10 medium onions
  • Salt and pepper

For the crispy shallots

  • 6 banana shallots
  • Rapeseed or other flavourless oil
  • Sprinkle of sea salt
  1. Before you start

    Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas 4. Put the butter into a pan with the star anise and bay and allow it to melt. Put to one side while you get on with everything else.

  2. For the baked onions

    Peel the onions and cut the bottoms so they sit flat, keeping the pointed tops intact. Put them on a baking tray cut-side down. Evenly pour over the scented butter and then sprinkle with salt and pepper.

  3. Put in the hot oven to bake for 35-40 minutes. Check and baste halfway through, then continue to cook until soft and almost buttery. Remove from the oven and alow them to cool slightly before serving.

  4. For the Shallots

    Slice the shallots as thin as you can – if you have one, you can use a mandolin to get them really wafer thin and this will make sure they cook evenly). Fill a saucepan with 2-3cm of room-temperature rapeseed oil and heat the oil.

  5. Once hot, add the shallots. Watch the bubbles. First you’ll see small bubbles, then more rapid ones as the water from the shallots evaporates off. Cook on a high heat. When the bubbles subside, it means the moisture has cooked off the shallots – and they should look golden brown.

  6. To store

    Transfer the cooked shallots to a paper towel-lined surface to cool completely. Store any leftovers in a jar (not in the fridge) and use over a couple of days.

Additional information

Storage

Store
Store any leftovers in a jar (not in the fridge) and use over a couple of days.

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