Kitchen tips #15 - The best balsamic

Tuesday, March 04, 2008
Onions, anchovies, peppers - all the elements of Worcestershire sauce are fermented individually for a year before being blended to make the store cupboard staple that is the answer to anything in the kitchen that needs a bit of je ne sais quoi. Or it was, before balsamic syrup came along.

I had my balsamic revolution at Claridges where we used Olive Tree Company balsamic in glass bottles. Very expensive, but the best things always are. In these days where friends and family put unwanted gifts on eBay I find food gifts (if you can’t eat it, drink it or soak in it, you’re not getting it) are the way forward, and there can be no better way to give a friend a mini revolution in their life than giving them a bottle of real balsamic.

Move along malt vinegar, balsamic syrup is great with chips. Leave the vinaigrette in the fridge, just drizzle balsamic syrup over your salad (it takes buffalo mozzarella and plum tomatoes on the vine into a whole new league). Fat free sauce? Drizzle your salmon with balsamic. And the gravy to go with your Sunday roast - it’s OK, but it’s missing a certain something…. Squeeze in a little balsamic syrup, and it‘s the best gravy they‘ll ever be served.

It’s not to be confused with cheap thin balsamic vinegar. This is a gloopy, sweet-sour confection - a good claret to cheap vin de table. I did see a chef’s cheat recently (it seems to be the latest celebrity chef thing) which involved cheap thin balsamic and cornflour. I didn’t read any further. Others take normal thin balsamic and boil it till it’s reduced. It may look the same, but there is no match in taste. There are some things that are just wrong.

If you don’t shop at Selfridges food hall, Fortnum and Masons, or in a Stow on the Wold deli all places where I‘ve found the Olive Tree Company version, you can also <have to> find the Merchant Gourmet version in Waitrose and the rest of the big four, normally on the specialist ingredients shelf. But for the most exquisite flavours you have to turn to the Womersley range of flavoured balsamics made with white balsamic.

1 comment

Chef Jeena said...

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Jeena x