The Christmas issue

Our December issue is out now, featuring Paul Carmichael's recipes for a Caribbean Christmas, silly season cocktails and more.

Subscribe to Gourmet

Subscribe to Australian Gourmet Traveller before 28th December, 2016 for your chance to win a share of $50,000!

Gourmet digital

Subscribe to Gourmet Traveller for your iPad or Android tablet.

Chilled recipes for summer

When the mercury is rising, step away from the oven. These recipes are either raw, chilled or frozen and will cool you down in a snap.

Shark Bay Wild Scampi Caviar

Bright blue scampi roe is popping up on menus across Australia. Here's why it's so special.

Mango recipes

Nothing says summer like mangoes. Go beyond the criss-cross cuts - bake a mango-filled meringue loaf with lime mascarpone, start off the day with a sweet coconut quinoa pudding with sticky mango, or toss it through a spicy warm weather Thai salad.

Decadent chocolate dessert recipes for Christmas

13 of our most decadent chocolate recipes to indulge guests with this Christmas.

What the GT team is cooking on Christmas Day

We don't do things by halves in the Gourmet office. These are the recipes we'll be cooking on the big day.

Sydney's best dishes 2016

For our 50th anniversary issue in 2016, we scoured Australia asking two questions: What dishes are making waves right now? What flavours will take us into the next half-century? Sydney provided 16 answers.

Summer feta recipes

Whether in a fresh salad or seasonal seafood dish, feta's creamy tang can be used to add interest to a variety of summer dishes.

Paul Carmichael's great cake

"Great cake, also known in Barbados as black cake or rum cake, is a variation of British Christmas cake that's smashed with rum and falernum syrup," says Momofuku Seiobo chef Paul Carmichael. "This festive cake varies from household to household but they all have two things in common: tons of dried fruit and rum. It's a cake that should be started at least a month out so the fruit can marinate in the booze. Start this recipe up to five weeks ahead to macerate the fruit and baste the cake."

The acid test

Vinegar. It gets some bad press, particularly in association with the inglorious end of the wine spectrum. But its acidity is often a neglected component in cooking. In the right quantity, it can sharpen and highlight flavours, and refreshes the palate when you're eating earthy, fatty or rich food - an important part of creating balance in a meal is to complement fats with a contrast.

A salad, for example, with a light coating of vinaigrette can provide such a contrast. When well balanced, the olive oil, salt and vinegar become harmonious and dance in the mouth, whereas oil and salt by themselves would be relatively bland.

A touch of vinegar added to a rich dish adds a welcome piquancy. Eggplant braised in olive oil and spices, for instance, is lifted by a dash of vinegar added at the end of cooking. Flavours sharpen and come alive. It's worth keeping in mind when you think a dish is missing something: instead of reaching for the salt, add a few drops of vinegar to give another dimension.

Of course, the quality of the vinegar is critical. Industrial white vinegar adds nothing to a dish other than acid (I find it very good for cleaning my floor). It wasn't so long ago that a typical Australian household only knew white or malt (made from beer) vinegar. Today we have an amazing range of vinegars: Sherry, balsamic, apple cider, malt and Champagne, plus Asian versions such as coconut, sake and rice, just for starters.

Verjuice, made from the pressing of unripe grapes, is sour but not as acidic as vinegar. It makes a milder alternative in a salad dressing, and is good for deglazing the pan after cooking meat. Verjuice gives a lovely flavour and piquancy without being overpowering.

Vinegar is made from fermented alcohol, usually wine (the word, in fact, comes from the French "vin aigre", meaning sour wine), or other liquid containing sugars or starches such as fruit or rice. The liquid is exposed to oxygen, allowing the growth of aerobic bacteria, typically Acetobacter aceti. Often a live vinegar culture, or "mother", is used to start the process.

I know of a winemaker who makes his own vinegar. He simply adds wine to an oak barrel that originally had a vinegar mother added; now the natural bacteria present in the wood start the process. Once the wine has turned to vinegar, it is aged in bottles, which increases the complexity and softens and deepens the flavour.

Perhaps the most complex vinegar is balsamic, a traditional, artisan-made vinegar in its authentic form. True balsamic comes from the town of Modena and is made from the must of trebbiano and lambrusco grapes. The must is simmered until it reaches a certain concentration before being strained and aged in a series of barrels of decreasing size, usually for 12 to 25 years, though sometimes for many more decades. As it ages, the vinegar becomes dark, syrupy and intensely flavoured, with a delicate balance of sweetness and light acidity. Use it to marinate fresh strawberries or drizzle it over grilled meats. It also works used judiciously in salad dressings.

Pedro Ximénez vinegar has a distinctive sweetness from the Pedro Ximénez grapes, which are pressed when very ripe. This also works well drizzled over grilled meats.

When it comes to meat, vinegar goes particularly well with pork. Try ribs cooked slowly with malt or red wine vinegar, along with spices and tinned tomatoes.

I'm often asked if there's a correct proportion of oil and vinegar in a salad dressing. This depends on people's taste, of course, and the strength and flavour of the vinegar, but a good rule of thumb is around a quarter to a third of vinegar to olive oil.

It is important to note that wine and vinegar do not like each other. Any acid will clash with wine, which is something to consider when serving food that should complement wine. It's one instance when it's best to keep the level of vinegar to a minimum.

So while you may think of vinegar simply as a component to a salad dressing, it is in fact very versatile, enlivening many a dish. Tonight I'm cooking a lovely Abruzzese recipe of pork braised with fennel, chilli, wine and tomato where a touch of red wine vinegar at the end of the cooking time gives the whole dish a beautiful lift and sharpens the flavours. Give it a try. Enjoy.

Newsletter

Sign up to receive the latest food, travel and dining news direct from Gourmet Traveller headquarters.

Latest news
Explainer: wild scampi caviar
30.11.2016
GT's Christmas hamper
29.11.2016
David Thompson's favourite hot sauce
28.11.2016
Our 2016 Christmas issue is out now
28.11.2016
Bruce Pascoe’s crowd-funded Indigenous agriculture project
27.11.2016
Where to start with French beef cuts
18.11.2016
GT
Signature Collection

Find out more about the Gourmet Traveller Signature Collection by Robert Gordon Australia, including where to buy it in store and online.

Read More
The GT x STILY
Christmas Boutique is now open

The smallgoods, homewares, art and more from the pages of GT are now all under one roof, ready to take their place under the tree.

Read More
Gourmet TV

Check out our YouTube channel for our latest cover recipes, chef cooking demos, interviews and more.

Watch Now

You might also like...

Blame the flame

Chef Lennox Hastie worked the coals at Spain’s famed Etxebar...

Prepared chestnuts

A fresh chestnut is a hard nut to crack, so we’re lucky, the...

Home-dried herbs

I’ve got a surplus of herbs in the garden; how do I get the ...

How to carve a jack-o'-lantern

We ask three American chefs to share their pumpkin carving s...

How to grow chillies

This is the time of year for vegetables that like it hot and...

How to grow garlic

Garlic has a long growing time, but low maintenance and fres...

How to grow broccoli

Broccoli is the most prolific member of the brassica family ...

How to pickle fruit and vegetables

I’m keen to get in on this pickling thing. Where’s a good pl...

How to plant broad beans

Plant broad beans now, when the weather is cool, and they’ll...

How to cook wagyu

I’ve been noticing restaurant-grade wagyu in good butcher’s ...

Classic Sunday roast ideas

What’s the key to nailing a really good classic Sunday roast...

Quick meals with chilli bean paste

This handy Chinese condiment is a sure-fire speedy way of ad...

What is Buddha’s hand?

This freakishly shaped fruit, aka fingered citron, hails fro...

Best meat for big parties

What can you suggest that’s low maintenance and high impact ...

How to grow your own strawberries

A real ace of the garden, strawberries may require attention...

get the latest news

Sign up to receive the latest food, travel and dining news direct from Gourmet Traveller headquarters.

×