Friday, 14 October 2011

unusual things to do with usual food

Occasionally, I like to seek suggestions from friends as to what to talk about on The Friday Delicious. This generally happens when I am a) hungover b) overworked or c) did I say hungover? This week, my friend Danielle, a gal about town who loves to eat out, but is only just getting around to discovering cooking, told me about (in her mind) a strange combination she had been told to try- caramelised balsamic vinegar and vanilla ice cream. It's true, it's great! So this week is dedicated to unusual food combinations that work.

Balsamic vinegar

Balsamic vinegar is one of those magical ingredients you should always have in your cupboard. It's great on salads and gives great depth of flavour to marinades, too. Made from a concoction of cooked down (usually Trebbiano) grapes, rather than vinegar, it has a rich, tangy, sweet flavour. Oddly, it does an amazing thing when paired with strawberries - the flavours become more zingy and delicious than the two taste separately. Macerate strawberries in balsamic vinegar by chopping the strawberries into pieces, drizzling with the vinegar, a sprinkle of raw sugar and chopped mint and allow to sit for an hour. And don't forget  to try caramelised balsamic on vanilla ice cream... it's a bit like treacle.

Star Anise

While start anise is often thought of as an Asian ingredient, it has the property of being able to intensify the flavour of meat, something Fat Duck chef slash science boffin Heston Blumenthal widely attests to.  When braising or stewing meat, use a combination of lightly caramelised onions and star anise as the base and be prepared for rave reviews. Great for Bolognaise or stews. Read more about it here.


I was once cooking spaghetti Bolognaise at home with a friend. When I went to put in a teaspoon of sugar into the sauce, he freaked out, thinking I had mistook the sugar for the salt. Fair point, but I did do it on purpose. Sugar and tomatoes are best friends - in fact, sugar brings out and balances the flavour and acidity of tomato, so next time you're making a tomato-based sauce, sprinkle a little sugar and be amazed at the difference.