Tuesday, 28 November 2006


It's International Onion Day!

The fourth Monday of every November is a traditional folk festival celebrating the onion: Zibelemärit.

Switzerland’s capital, Bern, is the site of this massive market where between 50-70 tons of onions are sold every year from over 300 onion stalls. Another 400 stalls sell desserts as well as garlic and other Allium family members: chives, leeks and shallots.

Stalls are stocked with hot Zibelechueche (onion pie) and bowls of Zibelesuppe (onion soup) because the day wouldn’t be complete without indulging in at least some onion flavoured fare.

In conjunction with the annual onion market, Swiss food blogger Zorra has announced Monday 27 and Tuesday 28 as international onion days and invited all of us to post an onion recipe.

So, in honour of the onion, said to be the world’s most used vegetable, I cooked a two course Allium bonanza:
- Golden French Shallot Velouté
- Leek, Shallot and Gruyère Tart

I had to use Gruyère – a salute to our hostess and host country.

Perhaps my onions realised the respect I was paying to them, because none of the tear inducing sulphenic acids made it to my eyes (actually, the sulphenic acids react with the moisture in your eyes to create sulphuric acid and that’s what makes your eyes sting). Lucky, because I was cutting up an awful lot.

French Shallot Velouté
Vegetarian adaptation of recipe by Matthew Kemp (Restaurant Balzac), as printed in Gourmet Traveller November 2006. Serves 4 as an entrée.
25g butter
250g golden shallots, finely sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 large sprig of thyme
300ml vegetable stock
250ml (1 cup) low fat milk
1. Heat butter in a heavy-based saucepan over medium heat until foaming. Add shallot, garlic, thyme and a pinch of sea salt. Reduce heat to low and cook, without colouring, for 20 minutes or until softened.
2. Add stock and bring to the boil. Add milk and return to the boil.
3. Remove from heat and process in a blender until smooth.
4. Strain through a fine sieve and season to taste with sea salt and freshly milled black pepper. Serve.

The original soup recipe is made with chicken stock and is served with blanched yabby tails, skewered on a rosemary twig and pan-fried until golden. The soup is then scattered with the olive oil used to cook the shellfish.

Leek, Shallot and Gruyère Tart
Recipe from Gourmet Traveller ‘Tarts’. Serves 6 as entrée or 4 as a light main.

3 small leeks
40g unsalted butter, chopped
200g shallots, thinly sliced
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon thyme sprigs
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
375g block of puff pastry, thawed in fridge
60g gruyère, grated
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten lightly
1. Trim leeks to 12cm long pieces, then halve lengthways. Place pieces in a covered steamer over a saucepan of simmering water and steam for 10-15 minutes or until very soft. Drain well on paper towels, cut side down. Cool then halve lengthways.
2. Melt butter in a frying pan and add shallots, onion, half the thyme and salt and cook over a low-medium heat for 5 minutes. Add red wine vinegar and stir occasionally over low heat for a further 15 minutes or until onion is very soft. Cool.
3. Preheat oven to 230’C.
4. Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface until 2-3mm thick then trim to a 21x36 rectangle. Using a sharp knife, cut two 2cm strips from the long sides of the rectangle and set aside.
5. Place pastry rectangle on greased oven tray and, leaving a 2cm border on each side, top with onion mixture, ¾ of the cheese and half the remaining thyme. Place leeks widthways across the pastry over the onion mixture. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and thyme.
6. Brush the border with egg and place the reserved pastry strips along the long edges of the border. Brush with egg wash and bake for 15 minutes or until pastry is golden.
7. Stand tart 5 minutes before cutting and serving.

The tart was tasty, but steaming the leeks meant they had a very green flavour. Although it won’t look as pretty, next time I might fry the leeks up too.

It seems that shallots and thyme featured in both recipes and that both recipes came from a Gourmet Traveller magazine or book.

After eating all these onions, I can smell onion seeping through my pores and on my hands. I once heard this is what happens when you eat too much garlic, but I’d never experienced it myself. I now know what it’s like to reek of onion instead.

It was worth it though.

So get to Zorra’s blog 1x umrühren bitte (aka Kochtopf) to read the onion recipe recap.

Happy Onion Day, and don’t cry too much.



  1. Anna your two dishes look so delicous! How did you know that I love Gruyère? :-)
    Thank you for participating!

  2. everything looks amazing anna! the lengthwise placement of the leeks is very dramatic. i want them both, soup & tart!

  3. the tart and the veloute look awesome!

  4. Oh no, I missed the international onion day, and I love onions! Your Leek, Shallot and Gruyère Tart looks wonderful, Anna!

  5. Oh, i totally missed onion day. I love leeks and both dish looks absolutely incredible.

  6. Your dishes are making me hungry and I just had breakfast. The soup looks so velvety and rich! You can't go wrong with cheese and onion for the tart.

  7. Had always been wanting to cook some leeks and this was a great first dish for me to try... so yummy!

    I added a bit of white sauce on top to make it extra creamy. Thanks again Anna!


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