Friday, 24 May 2013

Taste Bud Time Travels

Photo: aussiegall / everystockphoto
I've always been fascinated by history, in fact I preferred factual books to fiction when I was at school, which probably explains why I did better at my History O Level exam than I did in English Literature.
My love for the past and how it has shaped the modern world is still strong. Food throughout history is a particularly enthralling subject.

You could say that my kitchen has become a little time travel machine or maybe even the Tardis. I may not be like Doctor Who saving worlds across the universe but I have been making some new discoveries through culinary activities.

Just over a year ago I met Alan Coxon at a food and craft festival in Woburn. Some of you may remember him as the television chef who had his own show 'Coxon's Kitchen College', he also appeared on Great Food Live on UKTV Food. Alan is the food archaeologist, so for him food history is his passion. Alan Coxon is a mine of information when it comes to food, he loves facts, details. Mention an ingredient or a recipe and he will tell you where it comes from, the history and any weird and wonderful fact you care to imagine.

Photo: © childsdesign

Alan's passion led him to create three vinegars based upon and inspired by ancient recipes. He took cues from three very different cultures – Medieval, Roman and Ancient Greek. From these, Ale-Gar, Roman Vinaigre and Ancient Greek Vinaigre were born. It wasn't a simple process or quick development to make them. From start to finish it has taken Alan 10 years to perfect the recipes as well as the bottles.

So back to my time travelling. I have been using these vinegars with abandon in my cooking. Although they are vinegars, they are not sharp and mouth puckeringly sour, so don't think of them as a malt vinegar that you splash on your fish and chips. The flavours are complex, yet subtle and soft and much more like a fine wine, in that respect.

I have used the vinegars in all manner of ways from dressings to marinade, in sauces, casseroles, stir-fries, even in sweet dishes, they really are that versatile. The Ale-Gar is based on a 15th century recipe, the vinegar being created from chocolate stout malt which has a unique flavour with a slight taste of cinnamon. I've used this in just about everything! Simmer a quantity until it has reduced to a syrupy consistency and you have a wonderful drizzle for duck.

The Roman Vinaigre is made from quality wine and distinctly herbal in character. I noticed the chamomile flavour first which is quite unusual but quickly grew on me. Try it drizzled over fresh sliced peaches with prosciutto, it is wonderful.

The Ancient Greek Vinaigre is also wine based, bitter-sweet and fresh. There is a hint of coriander which I found makes it ideal to use in Asian recipes, particularly oriental stir-fries.

These vinegars are a truly wonderful addition to the kitchen, not only do they taste good they look good too in handsome bottles. They are very nearly ousting the balsamic and rice vinegar in the cupboard, not to mention the Worcester sauce.

You can buy online from foodbyalancoxon.com


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