Moi? Hanging out with Heston? Well, not quite but I was there, at a sherry and food pairing evening along with fellow London bloggers. We gathered at Shoreditch House for the event, the point being to show off the results of Heston’s recent experiments – analysing the flavour compounds in sherry.
We got the low down on how his team have isolated a particular set of compounds, known as diketopiperazines (my spell checker wants to change that to crazinesses, how brilliant?), which accentuate the flavours of umami-rich foods. We learn how the research has provided insights into existing flavour pairings – apparently it’s all about the volatiles (aromas) and non-volatiles (tastes), which are joined up by that miraculous neurological mass, the brain – resulting in the overall experience of flavour.
The sherry and food pairings are made on the basis of molecular structure, resulting in new and exciting combinations. I must say, the evening completely changed my view of sherry. I actually enjoyed every glass (and there were quite a few) – the once-a-year tipple of choice for the over 80’s no longer. Sherry has come out of the closet.
First up, Manzanilla paired with crab and paprika on toasted country bread. I was very pleased with myself for detecting a green apple aroma in the sherry and then reading it in the tasting notes. I think I may even have made a ridiculous squealing noise due to sheer astonishment at my inexperienced yet triumphant sherry sniffing nostrils.
Next it was posh cheese on toast (Gruyère and cloves), Heston’s take on cheese fondue. Just a tad classier than the 1970’s cheesy dipping sauce. This was paired with a Fino – peachy, floral and woody. Apparently, it is those crazinesses enhancing the impact of the cheesy flavour and a bit of oh-so-simple molecule matching between sherry and clove, that makes the combo such a knock out.
To follow the cheesy-clovey-Finoey goodness, Amontillado paired with pata negra ham, peaches, rocket, Marcona almonds and balsamic vinegar…
Heston mentioned in his introduction that some ham is actually cured with peach kernels – who knew? They were already partners in crime. The tasting notes remind me that the Amontillado was woody and spicy and the pairing with the ham and balsamic was delish – really stunning actually.
The smoked mackerel rilettes you see below were served with an Oloroso (smoky and deeply fruity). The sherry “balances the smoky flavour of the fish and [has] enough acidity to cope with the oily texture”. I can confirm that this is definitely the case. This was actually one of my favourite pairings – that was, until….
Scotch eggs! – amazing. They were made from the juiciest caramelised pork – the case for a dainty quails egg – cooked so the white was perfectly set while the yolk remained gooey and soft. How the hell did they do that? So impressive I ate two, even though I was feeling fairly over-indulged. The eggs were served with a pale cream sherry – intense, meaty and smoky.
Alas, at this point I had to leave, duties called from elsewhere but I am reliably informed that the next two courses were Eccles cakes with Stilton and sherry butter (gutted I missed that) and miniature sherry trifles – paired with a cream sherry and ‘PX’ (Pedro Ximinex), respectively. You can see both of these for yourselves here and here, along with more pictures of the evening.
So I’m sitting on the bus home and thinking ‘how much sherry did I drink tonight?’ – ‘how flipping fascinating is molecular gastronomy?’ ‘how much do I need to visit The Fat Duck?’ – but in the end, I just kept coming back to those ridiculously perfect scotch eggs…