In Italy this is a famous and excellent way of using their syrupy fragrant balsamic vinegar. It makes a lovely first course, either on its own or served with slices of mozzarella or soft goat’s cheese. Have warmed ciabatta bread on the side.
Top, tail and peel the shallots. Put the olive oil into a heavy sauté pan over a low heat, add the shallots and stir to coat with the oil. Then cover the pan with a lid or foil and cook very gently for about an hour, stirring now and then, until the shallots are almost soft right through. Add the balsamic vinegar, cover the pan again and cook gently for another half an hour or so, until the shallots are completely tender. Finally stir in the caster sugar, a sprinkling of sea salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Cook in the uncovered pan, still over the lowest possible heat, for 12-15 minutes, stirring until the shallots are a rich, glossy brown. Then turn the shallots and juices into a bowl to cool. Before serving, chop the parsley roughly and mix it into the shallots. Spoon out either on to individual plates or into a shallow serving dish.
© 1997 Josceline Dimbleby. All rights reserved.