It’s been a while. But I’m BACK. And I am bringing sexy back. To vinegar. I mean, truly, what better way to BOOM back into the bloggersphere than by talking about VINEGAR. Yes. VINEGAR. I am here to tantalise you and titillate you with VINEGAR. But in a smooth and subtle way, not like a clubber in Ibiza wearing a pair of shorts that could technically be referred to as “underpants”, showing butt cleavage sexy, but more like, oooooh, vinegar, show a little bit of ankle sexy.
Vinegar. I opened up an email inviting me and a child (my child, obvs, not some rando) along to a cookery event with BBC radio presenter Nick Coffer and Sarson’s cookery school. I (with effort) raised my chin(s) at a jaunty angle and had a think.
Chips, right? We would be making chips? And by “making”, opening a packet of frozen ones and putting them in the oven and then dousing them in vinegar? Would this take four hours? Amazing. Maybe 30 mins, and the other 3 1/2 hours grilling him for celebrity gossip from his radio show and general celebrity lifestyle and finding out the dirt on who is the biggest cowbag in celeb land? Amazing. I’m in.
No. Apparently not, came the reply. We were going to be using vinegar with things OTHER than on chips.
What, like, wedges? No, apparently not, came the reply.
What was this? Witchcraft? Vinegar on something other than chips? Was this a joke? Was me being the butt of this humiliating
“WAAAA! YOU’VE BEEN PUNKED!” going to be filmed and go viral on You Tube (fame at last!). Or was it indeed, going to be sorcery…(get it? Sauce-er-y. Ba doom dosh! Thank you! Thank you! I’m here all night! You guys are beautiful!)
On arrival we were given a warm welcome, chefs hats, and the opportunity to take a heavily filtered promotional selfie from a very high angle to kick the day off and get Twitters nose twitching. Eh voila!
Sarson’s had invited us along to go through the magical and mysterious door to Narnia that is opening a bottle of their vinegar. Admit it, I bet you are sceptical. Because, look, it’s vinegar, right? It’s been around for ages and hundreds of years. Since before man walked on the moon and when Cher looked totally natural. Wrong. SHAME ON YOU for thinking that bottle of Sarson’s is a one trick pony! Don’t pigeon hole your vinegar! For the love of condiments don’t! Foody Daddy Blogger Nick (who isn’t a one trick pony, did you note before he also has his own radio show AND several books to his name) explained that for him Sarson’s will always be a heritage brand and he’s right – it’s cosy, comforting and a staple in our cupboards. It’s Saturday evenings from the early 1980′s watching the Brookside omnibus with chips from the chippy van drowning in vinegar. It’s your posh aunt in 1992 using it to whip up a dressing for the salad which will accompany her Waitrose ready made lasagne and make you feel in awe (and a bit poor). But, hey, I’m like you. I hold my hands up. I labelled vinegar. And that label was
“STOP THE MUSIC! Right. Who invited vinegar to the party?”.
If the kitchen cupboard was High School then vinegar was the kid no one really noticed, skulking quietly about the corridors, in between the ever popular Tomato Ketchup (heeeey, dude!) and the acquired taste, a bit weird but cool Marmite (far out, man!). And yeah, that was just me, labelling my vinegar. Judging it. Not letting it be itself and explore it’s endless possibilities. I was keeping my vinegar down. Worse of all? I didn’t even see that I was doing anything wrong.
How wrong I was.
It’s time to let vinegar live!
It turns out vinegar has a lot more to offer than lacing a heavily loaded calorific carbohydrate. I literally had no idea you could use vinegar for so much stuff. One woman told me you can use it to clean your washing machine. But I don’t think Sarsons promote that. What they do promote is you putting it in your puddings. I KNOW. Have you EVER HEARD SUCH A THING? Vinegar is so sour and a pavolva so sweet but apparently the vinegar is key in making the egg go firm and WHO THE HECK KNEW? I didn’t. And I’m serious, I mean is there anything vinegar can’t do? Can it fight crime? Probably. It certainly fights food crime, like when the egg in the meringue gets all defiant and stroppy and tries to ruin the Pavlova base by going floppy (think of when you try to pick up a tantrumming child but it just goes all limp and you are rendered powerless – that’s the egg, right there). Send in the vinegar and watch that egg do as it is chuffing well told. STAND UP EGG! DO YOUR JOB! PAVLOVA NEEDS PEAKS! WITH GOO INSIDE!
Sarson’s vinegar has (almost) zero calories in it per spoonful (size dependent, but you know, are you going to drink the stuff neat? I advise against it. It stings). This, plus the fact that the absolute best thing about making your own puds is that they don’t contain any fat/sugar/salt or calories AT ALL! The reason? Because they are home made they don’t have packaging with BIG RED CIRCLES telling you about the BAD BITS. You know, labelling which makes you think how you should just not bother eating said desert but just pick it up and slap it straight on your thighs instead. And everything has to be labelled these days. It’s like, the law or something. So, no labels = no calories. Vinegar = hardly any calories. Which means you should always make your own puddings from scratch and USE VINEGAR (where appropriate, obvs).
And did you know that when you make a pavlova meringue and you are pouring the sugar in to the egg white mix (once it is firm and spikey and like a film scene with Bruce Willis racing across it in a moon buggy trying to save humanity. Or looking like Jedwards hair) you must do it slooooowwwwly, and in tablespoon size dollops, so that it all mixes in really well because other wise it burns in the oven and everything is ruined. By following this simple rule you wont end up crying into your ruined crappy desert at 6.55pm, drinking wine straight from the bottle, your head in the pre heated oven because the dinner guests are due to arrive in 5 minutes.
Nick, guided by the firm hand of VINEGAR also made me into a savage butcher. Of chickens. Think, Bear Grylls but in a chintzy floral skirt and a pinny with “Sarson’s” on it. I had to hack through chicken wings and bone and ligaments because
a) he told me to and
b) I couldn’t loose face in front of him. I was all like, chicken schmicken. I eat raw chicken for breakfast! I break their bones with my TEETH. Yadda yadda yadda. And also Ed was doing this face at the raw meatiness of it all
So I had to buck up something from Team Smith. The chickens were going to be rubbed with the marinade, made from, yes VINEGAR. The vinegar in a marinade makes the meat all tender and lush, and by putting your vinegar in your marinade you can marinade your meat for as little as 5 minutes. So, when you are an incredibly busy person like me (a last minute Mary obsessively watching episode after episode of The Office US), this is perfect as it can be all bish bash bosh and BOOM! What? This old thing? Oh this is just something I whipped up and let marinade over night (BIG FAT LIE! I WAS GETTING A SICK PACK OF A SIX PACK FROM LAUGHING SO HARD AT THE TELLY BOX).
Nick was like some crazy renegade, all wild and free! A loose cannon. He was whooshing about the room, encouraging us novices to all adopt his approach.
“Don’t bother measuring your vinegar precisely! Just, go for it!”
(But…aren’t there rules?)
“Just throw in whatever else you fancy! Whatever you have to hand around your kitchen!” he declared!
“Pineapple juice! Lemon juice! Anything!”
(what about the rules? I have a recipe…it’s laminated…)
“Anything that squirts or pours!”.
(but the rules…)
No rules! With vinegar there ARE NO RULES.
LET US LIVE IN A LAWLESS VINEGAR LAND! DON’T LET YOUR CHILDREN LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES! And that was pretty much the summary of the day. Step beyond your childhood and preconceptions of what that little bottle of Sarson’s can do and STOP JUDGING THE QUIET ONES!
Below are some of the recipes from the day. I can’t tell you how they all tasted, because Ed threw a sick brick and we had to evacuate the session, lest he collapse face first in my raw pavlova mix, which, comedically would have been hilarious but also very sad. I worked really hard on that pavlova. Yes, Ed was a victim of a slam dunk, double blow assault on his health; first by the evils of pepper (eyeball attack) and then his genetic make-up – being pale, ginger, prone to headaches and unable to cope in a debilitating heat wave (20 degrees).
It really was such a shame to leave. I was gutted. Everyone was so lovely, and I had the cooking station right next to our celebrity chef (BOOM YA!). And also I had prepped some truly AWESOME one liner material bits to throw into the mix (that was my first one. You get that for free) every now and then to the applause and adoration I would inevitably get. Such as, now, let me see…
“I can BARLEY contain my excitement today!” (BOOM!)
And “Ooooh this pavlova simply MALT’s in my mouth!” (STING!)
And as we sadly said our premature goodbyes, and we were gathering up our stuff and I had bags under one arm and a floppy, flailing child under the other it took every ounce of me not to throw them all aside (child too) and leave with a jazz handed TAAA DAAAA of
“What a PALVLAVA!”
This post was sponsored by Sarsons Vinegar and Sarson’s cookery school who were kind enough to invite us along to learn about cooking with vinegar. Obviously, the ramblings are all my own opinions. Below are some of the recipes Ed and I used to create our masterpieces on the day, including photos of what they should look like. Note, none of these photos are of our finished results. Don’t be daft.
Large baking tray
4 fresh egg whites
220g caster sugar
2 tsp cornflour
2 tsp Sarson’s vinegar Topping/filling
300ml double cream
2 tbsp. icing sugar
Method Pop on some righteous mellow, pudding making tunes – maybe some Chvrches or Haim. Or if you are feeling pumped, maybe some Queen.
Preheat oven to 150c/130c fan/gas 2
Line a baking tray with parchment paper
Whisk the egg whites with a hand mixer until they form stiff peaks
Slowly, whilst whisking, add in the sugar, around one third at a time until the meringue looks glossy
Sift in the corn flour and add the vinegar – fold in with a metal spoon
Scoop the whisked meringue onto the lined baking tray and with the back of the metal spoon make a dip in the centre
Bake for 1 hour 15 mins
Open oven door, turn off the heat and let the meringue cool completely inside the oven Meanwhile, wash and chop strawbs.
Whisk the double cream and icing sugar until just thickened
Carefully transfer (CAREFULLY!) the meringue from the baking tray onto a large plate Spread over the whipped cream and top with the fruit.
EH VOILA YOU PAVLOVA DUDES! EH VOILA!
BBQ marinade with a KICK
You’ll need a REALLY BIG BOWL
2 tbsp Sarson’s vinegar
2 tsbp tomato puree
2 tbsp runny honey
4 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp French mustard
A twist of sea salt and black pepper
800g chicken wings, tips removed, cut into two
Put some awesome funky BBQ tunes on. Maybe some Santana. Or if you are feeling mellow, some John Denver.
Mix together the vinegar, tommy puree, honey, soy sauce and French mustard
Pour over the chicken wings ad leave to marinate for up to 24 hours (or five minutes if you are lazy and or rushed like me)
Preheat the oven to 220c/200c fan/gas 7
Line a baking tray with foil
Tip the chicken wings into the tray, along with the marinade using a wooden disposable cocktail stick to shove them out and avoid extra washing up
Bake for twenty minutes then flip the wings over with a pair of tongues and bake for a further 10 minutes. Serve asap!