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Just in time…I’ve got some shallots in the ground.  Don’t know why it’s taken so long to get round to doing it this year.  According to the books, shallots should be planted before mid-March, to give them long enough to grow before harvesting in mid-summer.  Saying that, one year, when I got my allotment at the end of April, the shallots were planted in early May and still did OK.  Anyway, it must be getting late in the shallot planting season, because there wasn’t much left in the way of shallot sets at the garden centre.  I got a bag each of the two varieties left, and planted them as soon as I got home.  One of them, ‘Golden gourmet’, I’ve grown before and it has always been good, the new one for this year is a banana shallot.  Banana shallots are longer and thinner than the ‘standard’ ones, and have a milder flavour.  And, as they are the shallot of choice for celebrity chefs, I figured they must be good.  Trendy shallots, what next?

One of the reasons for being so late in planting shallots is probably that I’ve been in the kitchen, experimenting with recipes for shallot jam.  A few weeks ago, I saw shallot jam on a cafe menu and wanted to try making it at home.  This is the recipe I settled on, it takes the best bits from some of the others that I found, puts them all together and produces a tasty and not too sweet jam to serve with cheese.

Shallot jam

2 tablespoons olive oil

125g of peeled shallots

1 clove of garlic, crushed

3 sprigs of thyme, leaves only

30g soft light brown sugar

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

a good pinch of sea salt

a squeeze of lemon juice

Heat the oil in a small saucepan.  Slice the shallots in half lengthways, then slice thinly (or to the thickness you prefer).  Add the sliced shallots to the warm oil and cook over a low to medium heat for about 10-15 minutes.  You want to soften, but not brown them, so keep the heat gentle and stir from time to time.

Take the pan off the heat and add the sugar and the vinegar.  Stir well, then return to the heat and bring to a gentle simmer.  Cook the mixture until it thickens to the consistency of a good jam.  The mixture will be a lovely rich brown colour.  Season with salt, and stir in a squeeze of lemon juice.