Nici Wickes: Food that ages well

By Nici Wickes

Cakes are often better the older they get. Photo / Babiche Martens
Cakes are often better the older they get. Photo / Babiche Martens

We all know that cheese improves with age. Likewise most braised stews, curries and soups are best eaten the day after cooking, but what other foods get better with age?

I was surprised when I interviewed Amber Rose, the wonderful baker and author of one of my favourite books published this year, Love, Bake, Nourish, when she pointed out that cakes are often better the older they get, and she wasn't just talking about fruit cakes either.

"Cakes, believe it or not, mature . . . sure a sponge cake is best eaten on the day but others are better on day two or three after baking. It's then that the baking takes on character, the flavours settle in together and develop, and if you're using fresh fruit, it has had time to moisten the cake. When you bake using nut flours, fresh is not always best."

Good to know.

You may think too that salads are best eaten fresh, yet the woman who taught me on a hot summer's day in the Tuscany how to make the famous Italian salad panzanella recommended making it a day ahead so that the luscious juice from the sun-ripened tomatoes and olive oil and vinegars get the chance to "get to know each other very well".

There are countless other examples of the passing of time improving the depth of flavour, quality and integrity of food - aged red meat, vintage vinegars, wizened summer stone fruit, matured, nearly-sprouting potatoes for roasting . . . the list goes on.

So, as in life, it's a good idea to embrace the ageing process if you want to see some foods reach their full potential.


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