Wednesday 10 April 2019

Roast shallot and sherry jam

This is deceptive stuff. It tastes like hours slaved but you could knock it up while you stand wowing guests with wine and wit. It works well with cold meats and cheese. It will last for weeks in the fridge. I often use it to make a starter bruschetta of toasted walnut bread with goats cheese.

If you're a stranger to sherry, I'd suggest you stay away from the sweet. The dry, nutty, toasty flavours of Manzanilla or Amontillado are what I use. Decent sherry is about £15 a bottle. We only need a third or so here. Anything will work, even the almost full bottle of Cockburn's that sat in your cupboard for years, next to the unopened jar of 'relish' gifted to you anonymously at that work's secret Santa. The sherry is a key flavour component here though.

Roast shallot and sherry jam. Makes one pot of indeterminate size.

My thumb
Backlit for drama
Generously butter a medium sized baking tray. Lightly sprinkle this with salt and sugar. Slice in half about 14 good sized echalion shallots - the long ones, also known as banana shallots. Now, what do I mean by 'good sized'? Bigger than my thumb but smaller than a pencil case. There's an obvious flaw here, of course, in that your thumb maybe bigger or smaller than mine... so here's a picture for comparison. Worst comes to the worst, you could pop round to mine to check before you go shopping.

If you can, avoid the pre-packaged bags because they contain all sizes. Some supermarkets have the shallots loose so you can pick similarly sized. Obviously a variety in size will roast differently and we're after consistency here.

That proclivity of supermarkets to bundle together wildly varying fruit and veg is most annoying. This is entirely for their convenience not ours. When I'm roasting, especially beetroot, I don't want a bunch that consist of four marbles and a football. I tend to, ahem, construct my own bunch in the shop.

Anyway, shop rebellion or none, place the shallots unpeeled, on the buttery tray and bake at 160°C for about 40 minutes. Do check though. You want the shallots to be soft and squishy but with a deeply caramelised cut surface. Remember to scrape up sticky bits off the tray too. It's all about flavour. Anything dark is fine so long as it's shiny. Avoid black and crusty though, that's a burn too far. Allow to cool.

At this stage you could just serve the roast shallots with roast beef or lamb. Or chop them up and reduce with some stock and redcurrant jelly to make a decent gravy for sausages.

Doesn't that look tasty. The very essence of savoury.

Scrape out the soft, golden insides onto a board and chop roughly. I use a little hand blender to make this even faster. Taste.

Pile the chopped roasted shallots in a small pan and heat through, stirring to ensure nothing sticks. Add a little more butter maybe or some nutty rapeseed or olive oil if that's your thing. Cook over a medium heat, until you have a deep golden or brown colour (maybe ten minutes). Now add about 200ml of sherry and 'deglaze' the pan. Bring to the boil and reduce the liquid until you have a gooey, sticky mess with a very pleasing shine. Don't let this catch. Taste. Is that what you were expecting? It might need more sugar. It will need salt and pepper. If you used a sweet sherry it could probably benefit from a little lemon juice to balance. I like to finish with a good glug (sorry, can't be more precise) of a decent balsamic vinegar but that's up to you.

Served on walnut bread toast with goats cheese, cheese mousse and a salad of walnuts and balsamic.

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