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Cooking with alcohol

Paul Brooke-Taylor, executive head chef, Highclere Castle, Berkshire (www.
We at Highclere use a lot of wine in cooking. For 30 litres of finished jus made from 100 litres of stock, we use two bottles of Port and two bottles of Madeira - both fortified wines so no bitter taste. When we use red or white wines we always reduce first. We never put raw wines into sauce as it goes bitter and vinegary. The most-used wine at Highclere is Madeira. It's great with beef, venison and chicken and can be used raw or none-reduced. We also use Chardonnay to cook our poached pears with a little bit of saffron - stunning!

Matt Green Armytage, head chef at The Crooked Well, Camberwell (
The main reason I use an alcoholic beverage in a recipe is to impart deepened flavour. Alcohol causes many foods to release flavours that cannot be experienced without the alcohol interaction. I find its addition is particularly successful with stocks and sauces and braised meats. Contrary to popular belief, flaming an alcoholic substance is not themost effective way to reduce the alcohol content. Simmering is in fact far more effective, but you'll need time - it takes about three hours to cook off all of the alcohol. I use this technique when making a reduction to add to a gravy or sauce, or perhaps when I’m conjuring up some kind of sweet or savoury relish.

Scott Ferguson, catering development manager, Wadworth (
Tips for cooking with beer:
  • Beer has wonderful tenderising properties, making it an excellent choice for marinading meat.

  • Beer is a traditional addition to beef stews and pies. A full-bodied beer such as Wadworth's 6X will add layers of deep, rich fl avour to a meaty stew.

  • Beer makes a wonderfully light batter coating for fried food. The yeast in beer acts as a mild leavening agent, causing the batter to puff up, as well as adding a delicious, distinctive flavour.

  • The barley, hops, and/or malt flavour imparted by the addition of beer to foods will naturally depend on the amount and strength of the beer. Dark beers, such as stout, have a much stronger flavour than a light ale. A good recipe using beer will have a distinctively light, not dominating flavour in the finished dish.

  • Simon Haigh, head chef at the awardwinning Mallory Court Hotel, Royal Leamington Spa, Warwickshire (
  • When using sweet and fortifi ed wines like Madeira always deglaze with sherry vinegar to balance out the sweetness.

  • When making crab sauces I usually use Gewürztraminer to givemore depth to the sauce.

  • Verjusmakes great sorbets or granite.

  • Add raw red wine to summer fruit coulis for a deeper flavour but be careful, it will ferment after a while!

  • Michael Harrison, head chef at Evans & Peel Detective Agency, a "mysterious speakeasy bar and restaurant" situated on Earl's Court Road, London (www.evans
    Cooking with spirits adds a whole new dimension to food. Instead of using cooking wines for an analogue wine taste in a dish you can use delicious spirits with complex flavour profiles to accentuate or contrast existing fl avours. Great tasting spirits can even become the focal point of the dish. Depending on the flavour required I could use a neat spirit, reduce it for concentrated flavour, flame it to remove the bite, atomise it over dishes as a garnish or atomise it onto a hot surface to create vapours. Some can be substituted for acids in dressings or sauces. Infusing alcohols with certain flavours is quick and easy. Using these in cooking can add a more subtle taste than using the fresh ingredient or it can add this fl avour to the long fifi nish provided by using a neat spirit. It's not all Pimm's and lemonade though. Strong spirits can be difficult to handle. Good quality products can be expensive, driving up GP and development costs. They also have different properties to the liquids more commonly used in the kitchen. They are diffifi cult to freeze, they can split sauces, discolour ingredients and change in flavour and density in a short time, potentially ruining a dish. However with modernmolecular cooking techniques and chemical stabilisation, it is a little easier. On the plus side they have an incredibly long shelf life.

    Ben Ebbrell, head chef at SORTED Food - the world’s largest YouTube cooking brand
    Don't try to re-invent the wheel. Some flavours and combinations are just meant to be and they work for a reason. Instead of challenging yourself to come up with the next best cocktail combo, simply use the knowledge that somebody else has already perfected and change tact. For example, make yourself a Mojito and then use it as a marinade for chicken, or infuse a tomato soup with the same flavours you'd associate in a Bloody Mary, or how about a simple and refreshing dessert concocted fromingredients commonly found in a Cosmopolitan.

    Marc Robertson, chef at the Dakota Hotel, Edinburgh, which was voted 'Scottish Hotel of the Year' (www. dakotahotels.
    The herrings in the recipe below work very well due to the simplicity of the dish. The flavours are clean, subtle and fresh with a hint of the sherry at the end which is not dissimilar to that of caramel.

    Article taken from August 2013 issue of Stir it up magazine. Get your copy here

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