Produce report: August 8
The season will be over soon so it’s time to stock up with shallots. While you’re there, grab some garlic, shallots’ more assertive relative from Marlborough. Both are good buying this week. Shallots are great in casseroles and slow cookers, Jan Bilton explains, because unlike onions, they don’t require the initial saute to rid them of any raw flavour.
Onions, garlic and shallots all belong to the allium family which also includes leeks, chives and spring onions. However both garlic and shallots differ in that they grow in clusters. Shallots are also sweeter and more delicate than the others and are particularly favoured in French and Asian cuisines. The only downside, smaller ones can be a bit fiddly to peel which makes the larger torpedo-shaped banana types, in store now, a welcome boon. And a word of caution: be careful when you are following some Australian recipes which often refer to spring onions as shallots.
A wonderful flavour booster to add to meals, both shallots and garlic make great quick pickles, taking the sharpness out of the garlic and adding a sweet note. See Laurie Black’s recipe for grilled fish, pickled garlic and mustard slaw. The garlic is stirred through the slaw for added interest.
Blanch 4 garlic cloves with skin on in boiling water for 30 seconds then remove to iced water to cool for 1 minute. Peel garlic and slice lengthwise. Place in a small bowl. Dissolve 1 teaspoon salt and another teaspoon of sugar in ¼ cup white wine vinegar. Bring just to the boil then pour over garlic. Cool.
Jan Bilton adds cumin seeds and peppercorns to her pickled garlic and pops it into sterilised jars to be added to everything from charcuerie platters to pizzas and grills. And Kyle Street pickles shallots to serve with braised beef cheeks and celeriac remoulade.
Cooked slowly in a bath of olive oil, garlic also makes great confit. It can be used to flavour up any plain vegetable dish, added to vinaigrette or spread on toast. It will keep, chilled, for at least a couple of weeks as long as the garlic is submerged. Try roughly mashing a half cup of confit garlic and add with hot milk and butter to mashed potatoes. Luxurious and addictive.
Here’s how to confit garlic: Peel the cloves from 2 heads (or more) of garlic. Place the cloves in a small saucepan and pour in enough olive oil to cover them, ½ to ¾ cup for 2 heads. Over medium heat bring the oil to just a hint of a simmer, then reduce the heat to as low as it can go. You want to poach the garlic, not simmer it. Cook for about 45 minutes, until the garlic is soft and tender, but not falling apart. Transfer the garlic with a slotted spoon to a clean jar and pour the oil in to cover the cloves. Cool the mixture to room temperature. Cover the jar tightly and keep refrigerated for several weeks, or freeze for several months. (Keep the cloves covered in oil and be careful about using a clean spoon to dip into the jar). As a variation, add rosemary and/or thyme to the saucepan along with the garlic to cook.
Back to the supermarket: Other good fruit and veg buys this week include all kumara, carrots, cabbage, silverbeet and kale. Fruit buys include the winter staples – navel oranges, mandarins, bananas and avocados. To perk up the diet, look for imported mangoes. Choose green ones (instead of the harder to find green papaya) and make Nadia Lim’s refreshing Thai pickled green mango salad (pictured above) which also uses most of the vege mentioned in this week’s report. It serves 4 as a side dish.