Showing posts from January, 2021

Winter Pickles

I'm not a big fan of vegetables pickled in vinegar. The taste is far too sharp for me. When I've tried to pickle onions, beetroot or cucumbers at home, my pickle-loving family complain they're too acid for them, too, so I'm guessing that the commercial products they're used to are preserved some other way, using sweetened vinegar for flavour only. What I have found I like - love, even - are vegetables preserved in brine, with just a little vinegar to give them a lift. I first came across this method of preserving veg as a student, in a book of mezze cookery by Rosamond Man. She recommends pickling small turnips, layered between beetroot slices, in a mixture of brine and vinegar with celery leaves, garlic and dates as flavourings. It makes for a spectacular splash of colour on a winter table, and the unusual flavourings bring out something very special in turnips. You can preserve any vegetables in this manner. If you only want a mild flavour, you can "quick pic

Amari - the dark and mysterious side of Italian drinking

I wrote a piece in October about digestifs: the strong, often sweet drinks some countries produce for after-dinner drinking¹. Brandies and liqueurs are very well known, but it's worth exploring the Italian amari further, as they're so much less well-known. Until the last ten years or so, very few amari have been known outside Italy at all, but north American mixologists, ever on the look-out for an interesting edge, have started to use them more and more in bespoke cocktails. The word amaro means bitter, and that's exactly what these drinks are. Be under no illusion: they are drinks for grown-ups. The level of bitterness will vary from one brand to the next, but they all carry that same trait. Originally, these drinks were herbal tinctures, tonics created by apothecaries and herbalists, but as access to medicine improved, people continued to drink them for their enjoyable flavours and reputed ability to settle the stomach after a decent meal. So there we have their principa

Adding Umami (gifted)

I am pleased to be a brand ambassador for Geo Watkins sauces. I've been using their Anchovy Sauce since the days when it was called Anchovy Essence, and the Mushroom Ketchup for almost as long. When the opportunity came along, I jumped at it, because I really enjoy using their products. Full disclosure here: Geo Watkins have gifted me several bottles of each sauce, but my enthusiasm for them came first. Both mushrooms and anchovies are high in umami - that mysterious savoury experience that makes so many things taste better. Other things that are high in umami are parmesan, veal stock (when made from real veal bones), miso and yeast. It's not surprising that chefs have been using these things for centuries to enhance their dishes. The labelling on the Geo Watkins sauces pays tribute to their origin in the reign of William IV. That doesn't mean, of course, that they're only useful for traditional dishes. A few months ago I tried a little experiment with modern, Japanese-