There must be an allium that would suit pretty much everyone’s garden. Everyone likes at least one allium really, don’t they?
If flowers are your thing, then there are the ornamentals with showy purple globes in early summer…
Or, for the kitchen, you could grow the herbs, with tasty leaves and edible blooms…
And they’re some of the best additions to a vegetable patch – easy to grow, lots of flavour.
Over the years, I’ve planted a whole range of alliums in the garden here. There’s Allium cristophii, A. sphaerocephalon, A. neopolitanum and other ornamental alliums, all doing a grand job of attracting bees with their nectar-rich flowers. In pots and in the ground, I’m growing chives and garlic chives for leafy flavour from spring onwards (and these too have flowers that attract insects into the garden). And then there is plenty of garlic and lots of shallots in the veg patch.
Way back in the early days of The Garden Deli, getting on for two years ago now, I wrote about shallots. It was a late spring planting – late as usual in this garden. Despite the shortened growing season, the shallots produced a fine summer harvest. This year I’m venturing out into new territory with shallots, and planting them in autumn. I’ve not grown shallots over winter before – the garlic always gets planted in autumn, and I grew some Japanese onions one year at the allotment, but never shallots. It wasn’t really planned that way – I bought them because they were on the rack right next to the garlic at the garden centre. But, it’s always good to try something new, isn’t it? I’ve planted some in pots on the patio to see how they do. They were planted in October and now have a few first leaves looking healthy and green. The rest, planted into a raised bed in November, aren’t showing any signs of growth. But I’m hoping that underground they’re getting established and producing strong roots. Then, come the warm days of spring, there will be no stopping them.
While these shallots are growing, there’s a seed tray full of this summer’s harvest waiting to be used. Prompted by this December’s Cheese, Please! challenge over at Fromage Homage – a cheesy festive nibble was called for. That would, of course, be a festive nibble involving cheese… as opposed to a festive nibble that is low quality and cheap. So, shallots and that most festive of cheeses, Stilton, are paired to make a luxurious dip. Perfect for parties, lunches or a tasty, rich snack to keep in the fridge just in case hunger strikes at some point between all the Christmas eating.
The dip goes very well with carrot and celery sticks if you’re looking for a healthy treat, but is just as good with breadsticks or tortilla chips… we’ve tried them all, just to be sure.
Shallot & Stilton dip
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
4 shallots, peeled, halved and finely sliced
few drops balsamic vinegar
pinch of sugar
½ cup soured cream
½ cup Greek yoghurt
75g Stilton, crumbled into small pieces
pinch of celery salt
freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oil in a small saucepan over a medium to high heat. When the oil is good and hot, add the sliced shallots, balsamic vinegar and sugar. Stir and leave to cook, stirring again once in a while, for 5 minutes or so – until the shallots are starting to brown. Remove from the heat, tip the cooked shallots onto a plate and leave to cool.
Meantime, mix the soured cream, Greek yoghurt and Stilton in a bowl. Season to taste with celery salt (or fine sea salt if you prefer), and black pepper. Stir in the cooled shallots, keeping back about a teaspoonful to sprinkle artistically on the top of the dip when you serve it. Serve immediately (garnished with those extra shallots), or keep the dip in the fridge until you need it.