Thursday, 19 April 2012

Producer recommendation & recipes: Womersley Vinegar

Womersley Foods make a range of fruit and/or spice infused vinegars and jellies. My local branch Booths stocks a couple of the jellies and a couple of the vinegars: the one I have tried and now use a great deal is a vinegar infused with lemon, basil, bay and juniper.
Womersley Vinegar Recipes

Lemon, Basil, Bay, Juniper Vinegar

The sweetness of this vinegar, and the lemon and juniper in it, make it an ideal companion to gin, whether as a dash in a simple gin and tonic or in a cocktail.

Womersley Gin & Tonic

Fill a tall thin glass with ice cubes, add gin and tonic of your preferred brands (but Millers gin and Fevertree Tonic cannot be bettered) and in your preferred ratio, then add a few shakes of Womersley Lemon, Basil, Bay, Juniper Vinegar and stir well. (You need to stir well, as otherwise the vinegar just sinks to the bottom.)

Aperol Martini

Aperol is an Italian aperitif, lower in alcohol than most vermouths or its stable mate Campari. It is bitter-sweet and like Campari has a slightly alarming fluorescent colour, though Aperol is orange, while Campari is red. The flavour is pretty unique, so I can't recommend an alternative.

To make an Aperol Martini:
1 part Aperol
3 parts gin
½ part Pommeau de Normande (a blend of Calvados and apple juice)
½ part Womersley Lemon, Basil, Bay, Juniper vinegar
Squeeze of lemon juice to taste

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Do not under any circumstances stint on the ice: it’s there to chill the other ingredients, not dilute it.
Add the other ingredients and shake vigorously.
Serve in a Martini glass.

As with drinks, so in cooking, bear in mind the lemon element of this Womersley vinegar first and foremost, and consider using it where you might use lemon juice, though bear in mind that it’s sweeter than lemon juice. Like lemon juice, the flavour dissipates with cooking, so it is usually used best as more of a seasoning. Here is one dish that was particularly successful for me:

Tagliatelle with potted shrimps, wild garlic, bonito flakes, capers and Womersley Lemon, Basil, Bay, Juniper Vinegar

Potted shrimps are produced mainly in the north west of England, in the great bays and estuaries. Each bay/estuary has a slightly different breed of shrimp, so Southport shrimps are different to Morecambe Bay shrimps, which are ever so slightly different to Solway shrimps. Potting the shrimps is historically a method of preserving them, by mixing them with a spiced butter, typically involving mace and white pepper. The great John Tovey, former chef and owner of Miller Howe in Windermere always used to put a generous slug of gin into his homemade potted shrimps, which neatly links this recipe to those preceding!
To my mind, the best potted shrimps are available from Ray Edmondson of Yorkshire Street in Morecambe (32a Yorkshire Street, Morecambe, LA3 1QE, tel. 01524 412828), though others will work well for this recipe. I believe Ray Edmondson will supply by post, though Baxter's (the royal warrant holders for potted shrimps) are nearly as good, and easier to source.
Bonito flakes are a Japanese product, available in many oriental supermarkets: they are shavings of dried bonito, a sort of tuna fish. They look like wood shavings, smell a bit fishy, and have an interesting savoury, gently fishy flavour. I use them in this recipe to enhance the taste of sea.

Ingredients for one (generous) main course or two starter portions:
½ small onion, finely chopped
1 pot of potted shrimps
A handful of wild garlic leaves
2 dessert spoons bonito flakes
A generous tablespoon of capers
100g butter
Blade mace
Two tablespoons of Womersley Lemon, Basil, Bay, Juniper vinegar
Tagliatelle (the first time I made this, I used some fabulous wild garlic pasta from The Parkers Arms, Newton-in-Bowland, but the commercial pasta I used for this photograph worked very well too)

Put some salted water on to boil in a large pot.

In a medium-sized saucepan, gently melt the butter with the mace in it, to infuse the flavour and add the chopped onion to soften.
Wash the wild garlic; reserve a couple of neat leaves for decoration. Roll the rest of the wild garlic leaves up like a cigar and slice them finely across, so you end up with shredded leaves (a chiffonade in culinary terms).

When the water is boiling, add the tagliatelle and cook it according to the directions on the packet.

Two minutes before the pasta is ready, remove the mace (this is not entirely necessary, but the first time I made this, I didn’t, and the blade mace felt a bit like prawn shells in the mouth!) and add the capers, half of the bonito flakes and the potted shrimps. You are not actually cooking anything now, as everything is already cooked, just warming them through. When the pasta is cooked, add it to the saucepan with the butter, add a couple of tablespoons of the cooking water and mix thoroughly. Just before serving, stir in the second half of the bonito flakes and the lemon, basil, bay, juniper vinegar.
If you really want to, you can grate some Parmesan over, but most Italians would deprecate the use of cheese with fish, and I think the bonito flakes add the umami hit that Parmesan provides.

1 comment:

Rupert Parsons said...

How wonderful to see such enthusiasm for our vinegars. Thank you and do let us know if you come up with any more great ideas like these.