I always used to think of myself as, if not exactly anti-vinegar, then certainly vinegar-avoidant: so many foods have been ruined for me by its wincingly sharp assault. But in later years, I have grown to find it essential in cooking, and part of this late-flowering belief stems from the important discovery that all vinegars are most decidedly not created equal. My kitchen surfaces are happily cluttered now with, to take a random example, a Cabernet Sauvignon vinegar, a Moscatel vinegar, a Pedro Ximenez Vinegar, a fig balsamic, white balsamic, Japanese brown rice vinegar, a raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar and the remnants of a bottle of rhubarb vinegar. It’s not surprising, then, that I was drawn to this book. But I have to say that you don’t need such a greedy stash of vinegars to make glorious use of it: the recipes in here aren’t ones that depend on your having an exotic supply; there are always more day to day substitutions offered.
But what the emphasis on vinegar as an ingredient really does here is point up the importance of balance in cooking, and this is amply illustrated in such recipes as the Clam and Chorizo Stew (with a splash of sherry vinegar), Pot-Roast Loin of Pork with Fig and Walnut Stuffing (which is partly braised in sherry vinegar), Braised Pig’s Cheeks with Cherry Vinegar and Liquorice (which I am particularly drawn to and plan to make, even though I will probably have to use a mixture of fig balsamic and cab sav vinegar instead) and Chocolate Salted Caramel Meringues (a splash of white wine vinegar). I have my eye on so many of the recipes in this book, but the one I just had to share with you is for the Baked Apples with Balsamic. Serve with cream for complete happiness.
The Vinegar Cupboard by Angela Clutton is published by Bloomsbury Absolute, £26
Photography © Polly Webster