Shallots are small, golden-brown members of the onion family. They have a finer flavour than most other onions and the main bulb may be made up of several smaller ones. Pink shallots have a stronger flavour than brown shallots and are popular in French cuisine. Grey shallots are similar to pink shallots but have a very fine, mild flavour, so can be eaten raw as well as in cooked dishes. Banana shallots are the largest variety and have a long, torpedo shape and mild flavour. Red Thai shallots are widely used in Thai and South-East Asian cooking.
Shallots are available all year but the UK season runs only from December to March.
If stored in a cool, dark, airy place, small, brown shallots will keep for up to a couple of months. Banana shallots will only keep for about two weeks.
Peel and chop shallots finely and use in dressings and sauces, or roast whole, with or without their skins. Note that as shallots contain much less water than onions, they cannot be cooked as long without burning.