Our first dish 2005 Caramelised shallot tart ~ blue cheese ~ 5jjj ham by Paul Ainsworth

Paul Ainsworth

Paul Ainsworth

4th January 2014
Paul Ainsworth

Our first dish 2005 Caramelised shallot tart ~ blue cheese ~ 5jjj ham by Paul Ainsworth

Our first dish 2005 Caramelised shallot tart ~ blue cheese ~ 5jjj ham by Paul Ainsworth (photography by David Griffen)


  • Serves 4
  • Ingredients
  • 9 medium banana shallots
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • Fine salt
  • 2 tbsp beef fat
  • 100g white chicken stock
  • 40g Iberico ham sliced 1/2mm thin
  • 2 large portobello mushrooms
  • 500g all butter puff pastry rolled to 3mm thick and cut just larger than the blini pans
  • Pedro reduction
  • 500ml pedro ximenez
  • 10g dark brown sugar
  • Sherry vinegar to taste
  • 100g Roquefort blue cheese
  • Lemon yogurt (combine ingredients to taste)
  • 100g thick yogurt
  • ½ lemon juice and zest
  • Fine salt
  • Shallot flour
  • 50g self-raising flour
  • Pinch salt
  • Large pinch mild curry powder
  • Shallot pickle
  • 25g white wine vinegar
  • 25g caster sugar
  • 175g water
  • 12g extra virgin olive oil
  • Fine salt
  • Balsamic caramel
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 45g salted nutter
  • 15g balsamic
  • 10 turns white pepper
  • Pinch sea salt
  • Salad side
  • 2 heads red endive
  • 1 head baby gem lettuce
  • 1 small speckled endive


Shallots for tart
Peel and cut eight of the shallots into 1.5 inch high rounds. Sprinkle liberally with fine salt, cover and leave for 24hr to penetrate.
Shallot ring deep fry
With the remaining shallot, peel and slice into 2mm thin rounds. Separate the small rings from the medium to large rings. Soak the medium to large onion rings in milk for 24hr, then drain and coat in the shallot flour. Shake off the excess flour and deep fry at 190c until golden. Season with fine salt as soon as they come out of the fryer. Spread the deep fried onion rings onto a tray lined with kitchen paper without overlapping them, and place in a warm place to dry for a few hours. Cool to room temp once crisp.
Pickled shallot rings
Boil all of the pickle ingredients together and check for seasoning. Pour over the small shallot rings and cover with cling-film Leave for 24 hours.
Balsamic caramel
Heat the sugar over a medium heat until amber. Then whisk in the butter and finally the balsamic. Season to taste. Set the mixture to one side until it’s cool. This can be refrigerated for a day then brought back to room temperature.
Pedro reduction
Place the pedro ximenez and sugar into a pan and reduce until sticky. Refresh with a splash of sherry vinegar, check the seasoning and the consistency on a plate. It should hold its shape but still flow. Place in a squeezy bottle for later.
Portobello mushrooms
Marinade the mushrooms with crushed thyme and rosemary for 24 hours. Light the Big Green Egg or alternative BBQ starting with the coal. Put wood chippings of your choice in for a cold smoke. Then place the mushrooms into the Big Green Egg and smoke for five minutes. Turn over the mushrooms and check it isn’t hot. Smoke for a further three minutes or more if necessary until a deep smoky smell comes from the mushrooms. Trim off the bottom and sides to neaten. Keep in a cool place until required. Have 2mm thin lozenge slices of mushrooms – you’ll need six per portion. Dress with vinaigrette and season at the last second.
Salad leaves
Choose the best quality leaves and cut the baby gem lettuce leaves into halves. Wash in ice water then cut both ends of the endives leaves into large diamonds and soak in ice water until the leaves curl. Drain all the leaves and store in the fridge covered with a damp cloth.
Building the tart
Heat a pan large enough to fit all the salted onion rounds and heat the beef fat until just starting to smoke. Then carefully place the onion rounds into the pan to colour the face of the shallot. Turn them once until they are golden both sides and add a few sprigs of crushed thyme and rosemary and the garlic cloves lightly crushed. Add the chicken stock and braise at 180c until nearly soft. Make sure to check the onions every 5 min. Remove the onions from the pan and put to one side. Then prepare each individual blini pan with one teaspoon of the balsamic caramel, sprinkle with thyme leaves and neatly place the shallot rounds presentation side down in each pan until they fit snuggly. Place the puff pastry over each pan and tuck around the shallots. Then bake at 205c for 18-22 min until the pastry is golden and the shallots have caramelised.
Turn the tarts out onto a tray. Place a little of the caramel into the center of each plate just to hold the tart steady. Next, carefully slot the mushrooms slices in between the shallots on the outside of the tart so the mushrooms meets in the middle. Place chunks of the Roquefort and slices of the Iberico ham in between the mushrooms. Lastly, place five or six deep fried shallot rings and three nasturtium leaves on top of each tart.
Side salad
Place the lemon yogurt into a squeezy bottle and make a dome in the middle of four small side dishes, dress the baby gem leaves with vinaigrette and seasoning and blow torch till nicely charred, dress the endives and pickled shallot rings with vinaigrette, seasoning and chives, place all the leaves pointing out of the side dishes for height.

In these challenging times…

The Staff Canteen team are taking a different approach to keeping our website independent and delivering content free from commercial influence. Our Editorial team have a critical role to play in informing and supporting our audience in a balanced way. We would never put up a paywall and restrict access – The Staff Canteen is open to all and we want to keep bringing you the content you want; more from younger chefs, more on mental health, more tips and industry knowledge, more recipes and more videos. We need your support right now, more than ever, to keep The Staff Canteen active. Without your financial contributions this would not be possible.

Over the last 12 years, The Staff Canteen has built what has become the go-to platform for chefs and hospitality professionals. As members and visitors, your daily support has made The Staff Canteen what it is today. Our features and videos from the world’s biggest name chefs are something we are proud of. We have over 500,000 followers across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and other social channels, each connecting with chefs across the world. Our editorial and social media team are creating and delivering engaging content every day, to support you and the whole sector - we want to do more for you.

A single coffee is more than £2, a beer is £4.50 and a large glass of wine can be £6 or more.

Support The Staff Canteen from as little as £1 today. Thank you.