Cook with Jamie: Don’t be scared, a lug of vinegar will give your cooking some attitude!
22:31 GMT, 9 March 2012
Jamie says having good vinegars in your cupboard is just as important as having a selection of spices, fresh herbs and quality oils
There’s one simple reason I’m writing this story: to recalibrate your respect for humble vinegar. It’s one of the oldest ingredients in the world, and if you take food seriously you’ll already know that having a selection of good vinegars in your cupboard is just as important as having a selection of spices, fresh herbs and quality oils.
But, although we produce outrageously good cider and malt examples in Britain, vinegar is often looked upon as a cheap condiment to be shaken over fish and chips, and not much more.
People tiptoe around vinegar like it’s the wild animal of the kitchen, but that is totally unfair because that bold, brash acidity is a key element in so many things we love, from chutneys to salsas, salad dressings and even ketchups.
I want to get you cooking confidently with vinegar, and looking at it as more of an ingredient than a condiment.
The quantity of vinegar I’m going to ask you to use in some of these recipes might seem excessive – especially if you’re used to only using a few splashes on your chips – but have faith, because that vinegar is going to help you create food with attitude, and its loud acidity will be dialled down to a mellow hum over time in the pan or the oven.
Basically, cooking does to vinegar what age does to wine: mellows it and helps all the dish’s flavours layer up in really interesting ways.
Hopefully, after you’ve had a chance to try some of my recipes here, you’ll have a unique perspective on flavours you like, to the point where a swig or sploosh in your hot or cold cooking can add another dimension, confidence and attitude. Just a few swigs added to a salad dressing, or a lug of cider vinegar in onion gravy with Cumberland sausages… yeah, baby!
JAMIE'S TOP TIPS
Making my own vinegar has been one of the coolest things I’ve done in ten years, and it’s beyond easy. Buy a simple crock with a little tap and let it sit there and be a home for all those dregs of red and white wine you never manage to finish. I always have a selection of the following in my kitchen: a nice British cider vinegar like Aspall, malt (you can’t beat Sarson’s), red and white wine vinegars, a good sherry vinegar and a decent, sticky balsamic such as Belazu.
MAKE YOUR OWN FLAVOURED VINEGAR
I recommend you give these a try. Save any old bottles or jars, and sterilise them before use. Push your chosen flavourings into the bottles, top up with vinegar (I like to use white wine vinegar so you can see what’s in there) then leave to infuse. Some of my favourites are raspberry vinegar (pile the bottle high with berries), chilli vinegar (use a mix of fresh red, green and yellow chillies) and meadow vinegar (sprigs of fine herbs and delicate flowers such as tarragon, dill, lavender, rose petals and pansies).
INSTANT PICKLED ONIONS
2tbsp sea salt500ml (18fl oz) red wine vinegar a bunch of fresh thyme500ml (18fl oz) white wine vinegar 4 fresh bay leaves 6 medium red onions, peeled6 medium white onions, peeled
Get 2 pans and add 1 tablespoon of salt to each. Add the red wine vinegar and thyme to one pan and the white wine vinegar and bay leaves to the other. Keeping the colours separate, slice the onions with a food processor, or finely with a knife. Place both pans over a high heat and bring to a boil. Place the red onions in the pan with red wine vinegar and the white onions in the other. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 2-3 minutes, pushing the onions down with a wooden spoon to stop them rising to the surface. As soon as the onions have softened, use a slotted spoon to place them in sterilised jars. Ladle over the vinegar, then close the lids and leave to cool. They can be eaten straight away, but if you leave them for at least 2 weeks they’ll taste amazing.
CHICKEN LIVER CROSTINI
1 oak leaf lettuce1 soft round lettuce 1 large white or yellow chicory1 small bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsleyRaspberry vinegar (see recipe above) Extra-virgin olive oil 2 knobs of unsalted butter2 garlic cloves, finely slicedA few sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves picked1 onion, finely chopped500g (1lb 2oz) free-range chicken livers1 whole nutmeg3tbsp red wine or flavoured vinegar12 slices of ciabatta or sourdough, toasted
Pick the salad and parsley leaves, wash and spin-dry, then set aside. For the dressing, pour 1 part raspberry vinegar (adding any fruit from the bottle) and 3 parts extra-virgin olive oil into a jar with a pinch of salt and pepper. Melt a knob of butter in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the garlic and thyme and fry for 2-3 minutes or till the garlic starts to colour. Reduce the heat, add the onion and cook for 15 minutes, until sticky. Spoon into a bowl, wipe the pan with kitchen paper, then place back over a high heat. Season the livers with a pinch of sea salt, black pepper and a few gratings of nutmeg. Add a little oil and half the remaining butter to the hot pan. Add the livers, making sure the pan isn’t overcrowded, and cook for 2 minutes, so they are still pink in the middle. Return the onions to the pan, add the red wine or flavoured vinegar and sizzle until the liquid has partly evaporated. Take off the heat, add the rest of the butter and shake together. Shake the jar of dressing and dress the salad. Pile it up on a serving platter. Spoon the livers onto the toasts and place them round the edge.
FLAVOURED VINEGAR FOR PARIS-STYLE POTATOES
Pour this into a water spritzer and spritz over anything that sizzles, like grilled lamb chops or roast chicken, or anything cooked on the barbecue.
2 fresh bay leaves1 fresh red chilli, roughly chopped1 garlic clove, lightly crushed A few sprigs of fresh mintA few black peppercorns50-100ml (2-3fl oz) white wine vinegar
1kg (2lb 4oz) red-skinned potatoesOlive oil1 onion 3 rashers of quality smoked streaky baconA few sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves picked
To make the vinegar, add all the dry ingredients to the bottle of a water spritzer and top up with the white wine vinegar. The longer you leave it to infuse, the more potent it becomes. Preheat your oven to 190C/gas 5 and bring a pan of salted water to the boil. Cut the potatoes into 2cm (in) cubes and parboil for 3-4 minutes. Drain in a colander and let steam-dry, then transfer to a roasting tray. While they’re still hot, drizzle with olive oil, then toss with seasoning and a spritz of the flavoured vinegar. Chop the onion and bacon into similar-sized pieces, add to the tray with the rosemary and toss. Roast for 20 minutes. Jiggle the tray and spritz a few more times. Return to the oven for a further 25 minutes, or until the potatoes are golden and crisp. Just before serving, spritz them again with a light coating of vinegar – it will stick easily and the potatoes will instantly suck it up.
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