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Peel shallots, keeping the root end whole.
Dissolve salt in enough water to cover the shallots, and pour over, weighing them down with a plate. Leave for 24 hours.
Tie lemon zest, cardamom, cinnamon and chillies in a square of muslin.
Put vinegar and sugar in a large saucepan. Add the spice bag and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve sugar.
Boil for 10 minutes and skim. Add remaining spices.
Drain shallots and add to the boiling syrup.
Reduce heat and simmer gently for 15 minutes.
Take off heat, cool, cover and leave overnight.
Next day, bring slowly to the boil and simmer gently for 15 minutes.
Cool and leave overnight as before.
On the third day, bring slowly to the boil again and simmer gently, until shallots turn a clear golden brown.
Bottle in hot, sterilised jars and seal while hot. Store in a cool, dark place.