Sharp & sweet (+recipes)

By Grant Allen

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Vinegars are the new foodie trend. By Grant Allen.

A well-stocked pantry should contain a variety of different types of vinegars. Photo / Janna Dixon
A well-stocked pantry should contain a variety of different types of vinegars. Photo / Janna Dixon

When Rachael Speedy showed me her new foodies vinegar range at the Auckland Food Show, I got to thinking about this common kitchen condiment. She thinks vinegars are about to become a new "foodie" trend.

We're all familiar with the ubiquitous malt vinegar, a staple in Kiwi kitchens for years. We have used it for pickling and preserving and making mint sauce for the lamb roast (just add chopped fresh mint leaves and sugar and a bit of boiling water and leave to infuse).

We used it for good old condensed milk mayonnaise (a can of sweetened condensed milk, the same of vinegar, a teaspoon of mustard powder and a teaspoon of salt. Whisk together). I can feel the gourmands shuddering at the thought of this peculiar mix, however it reminds me of childhood ham salad picnics with crunchy iceburg lettuce, boiled eggs, spring onions, home-grown tomatoes and bottled beetroot and I confess, I still like it.

My pantry now contains, malt, white, red and rice wine vinegars, balsamic, cider, sherry, tarragon and raspberry vinegars, plus various specialty fruit-flavoured types and I use them all in different ways.

Vinegar adds the balancing sharp notes to any sweet/sour sauce. Use it in vinaigrettes, marinades, pickles and emulsion sauces such as mayonnaise, hollandaise or bearnaise. It acts as a preservative and makes an excellent cleaning product.

If nothing else, vinegar should be applauded for its versatility.

Herb and fruit vinegars

Use this method to make your own vinegars with berries, strawberries, blackcurrants, rosemary, thyme, tarragon, basil, mint and also citrus peel and garlic.

The fruit flavoured ones can become the basis of cool summer drinks - add ice, sugar syrup and top up with soda water.

Raspberry vinegar

Start with 200g of fresh raspberries, gently crushed in a preserving jar.

1 Cover with 450ml of white wine vinegar.

2 Cover and leave for 3 days on a warm, sunny windowsill.

3 Strain through a muslin-lined sieve, allow to drip without pressing down.

4 Return the liquid to the rinsed-out jar.

5 Add another 200g of fresh crushed raspberries and repeat the process.

6 Bottle, seal and store in a dark cool place

Balsamic Strawberries

The acidic properties of vinegar offer unexpected combinations. Try this recipe with this season's New Zealand strawberries, just coming into shops now.

1 Sprinkle cut strawberries with raw sugar and balsamic vinegar.

2 Leave for at least an hour.

3 Before serving grind a small amount of fresh black pepper over the dish.

Classic vinaigrette

The classic proportions of a vinaigrette are:

3 parts oil to one part vinegar
Salt and pepper
Maybe a grain mustard
Maybe a teaspoon of sugar to taste

You can individualise your mix by using different oils, different vinegars, replacing the vinegar with citrus juice or adding crushed garlic and chopped herbs. Experiment and come up with a formula to put Paul Newman out of business!

* Grant Allen has been a professional cook for 30 years. He works as a caterer in Auckland. Check out his Facebook page here.

- Herald on Sunday

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