Sherry & Food Pairing with Heston Blumenthal

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…

Category: Food Events 13 comments »

13 Responses to “Sherry & Food Pairing with Heston Blumenthal”

  1. Ben

    Oh wow, that looks like fun times. I’d love to go to a gathering like that :)

  2. Christie@fig&cherry

    My, my, you are making a splash in London Town missy! Rubbing shoulders with celebrities and the like… well done!

    Those scotch eggs do sound amazing, shame you missed the cheese. I often drink sherry with cheese, it’s a lovely combination. (I’m a big sherry fan).

    Christie@fig&cherrys last blog post..Smoked salmon crepe ’sushi’

  3. Y

    Lucky you! Looks like it was an awesome night. How much sherry DID you drink!? :D

    Ys last blog post..She exhales. Fallen Chocolate Souffle Cake.

  4. Nicisme

    What fun, you get invited to all the right places Helen!

    Nicismes last blog post..Jammin’ with British Scones and Clotted Cream!

  5. JennDZ_The LeftoverQueen

    You and your pairings! Wow Helen, I am glad you are bringing all of these awesome stories to us! :)

    JennDZ_The LeftoverQueens last blog post..Recipe: Eggplant Involtini

  6. maryann

    Interesting post! :)

    maryanns last blog post..Orecchiette con Cime di Rapa

  7. Potato Chef

    You have the best pictures on your site. Do you take the pictures yourself or are they “stock” photos?

    The scotch eggs are what caught my attention. YUM YUM!

    Potato Chefs last blog post..Cheesy Garlic Potatoes Recipe

  8. Helen

    Ben – yes it was wonderful, I think perhaps I had a little too much fun?!
    Christie – already a sherry appreciator? you are like, sooo ahead of me….
    Y – I actually can’t remember, which probably says it all really.
    Nicisme – Yes, someone is making a mistake somewhere along the line ;)
    Jenn- and I am glad you enjoy reading them
    Maryann – thanks!
    potato chef – all the pictures on the site are my own, unless stated otherwise directly underneath the photo. Yes, those scotch eggs were amazing!

  9. Lizzie

    I’m SO JEALOUS! Sounds like you had an awesome night – great post!

    Lizzies last blog post..British Food Fortnight

  10. Trig

    I would have loved to have been there. I’ve got quite into sherry since I’ve been here in Spain and I enjoyed the pairing of a 2004 Pedro Ximénez with my dessert course at Mugaritz this summer. I really must visit The Fat Duck when I’m back in the UK. Maybe we can pay a visit together. Great post! Trig.

    Trigs last blog post..Experiencing El Bulli

  11. Bellini Valli

    What a fabulous event. How I would have loved to be there myself. We do have Heston on our Food Network here in Canada too:D

    Bellini Vallis last blog post..Pumpkin Wild Rice Soup with No Croutons Required

  12. Angela

    What an amazing evening! Heston has managed the unthinkable… making Scotch Eggs appealing enough to have me consider eating them! I’d have loved tasting the sherries, too. I’ve only ever had the English sort, so delving into the Spanish would have been fun!

  13. Nate

    Wow, sherry’s not just for dessert any more.

    So, would you call this molecular gastronomy?


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