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Sherry Marsala Vermouth

Asked by milkbackwards. Answered on 23rd August 2013

Full question

Hello Nigella Team! Nigella recommends dry marsala as a substitute for red wine in her book Kitchen. Several recipes use amontillado sherry. In Nigellissima, red vermouth is often used. Are any of these interchangeable? I have a tiny kitchen, what would you recommend if I could only buy one? Thanks!

Our answer

Amontillado sherry, dry marsala and red vermouth are all fortified wines. Fortified wines have a higher alcohol content than regular wine and so will keep for a much longer period that a regular wine. This makes them very handy fpr cooking, as an open bottle can keep for several months, providing it is kept tightly sealed and in cool, dry, dark conditions. A splosh of fortified wine can add depth of flavour to a dish or a sauce.

Your choice of fortified wine will, to an extent, depend on what you prefer yourself. Sherries tend to have a slightly yeasty, toasty note to them which can come through in some dishes and may mean that sherry is not the first choice if you have limited space. Red vermouth is also "aromatised" so has been infused with herbs and spices which can affect the flavour. We would err on the side of having dry marsala as it is probably the most neutral in flavour and hence the most versatile choice. It has a slightly caramel note to it that will match many sauces. Dry (secco) marsala is not as easy to find as sweet (dolce) but it is worth seeking it out. Sweet marsala is often used in desserts but you could use the dry marsala plus a little extra sugar.

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