GASTRONOMY

Sherry Under The Microscope

Heston Blumenthal
In a world first, culinary alchemist Heston Blumenthal has put sherry under the microscope to fin it contains flavor-enhancing properties – and has unveiled a brand new, scientific, but unconventional way of food and wine pairing, with some surprising results.

Heston, in conjunction with scientist ProfessorDon Mottram of Reading University, has discovered a group of compounds known as diketopiperazines (DKPs) in Sherry. These are particularly associated with the dry styles of Sherry, and it is thought they can actually accentuate the taste and flavour of certain ‘umami-rich’ foods such as meat, fish, cheese and shiitake mushrooms (umami is the fi fth tast- ing sense beyond sweet, sour, bitter, and salty).

Heston enthuses: “Here we have scientific evidence to suggest what foodies across the globe have always known: that Sherry is a perfect wine to accompany food.And quite simply, Sherry gives these kinds of foods an extra dimension of pleasure.” The UK’s number one chef has also turned traditional food pairing completely on its head. Heston explains: “At the moment it is done purely by assessing the wine’s aroma (volatile compounds) then marrying it with similar or contrasting foods. But by examining Sherry on a scientific level to reveal its ‘non-volatile’ [taste] components (unique to Sherry), we’ve thrown up a host of great pairings, some of them surprising.”

In his signature style of extraordinary food-making, Heston teams caramelised pork and eggs with Pale Cream Sherry, and conjures up some exquisite little quail Scotch eggs. He’s put Amontillado with peaches for a symphony in taste, and gives a totally contemporary wist to cheese fondue, matching gruyère and cloves with Fino. And for Cream Sherry he has Eccles cakes with Stilton and Sherry butter.

Interestingly, Heston’s new science proves that, intuitively, chefs have been using these kind of pairings through history. Chinese rice wine (very similar in make-up to Sherry) has traditionally been used in cooking – and Sherry with consommé is a classic. It also shows why we love some of our great British favourites. Trifl e for instance, scientifi cally matches perfectly with a PX Sherry.

Heston also debunks the myth that Sherry is only a ‘Christmas’ drink. His new science totally de-seasonalises it, and he’s developed a brand new range of gorgeous, but simple to prepare dishes that can be enjoyed at home – all year round. Heston’s ongoing odyssey with the wine has seen him lead the “tenstartapas” band of Michelin-winning Sherry chefs and judge the annual Copa Jerez international Sherry chef competition. He even travelled

Flavour is made of aroma and taste (volatiles and non-volatiles respectively). They are two separate things, but the brain joins them up. To illustrate, if you eat a piece of chocolate and hold your nostrils, you will taste the sweetness of the chocolate, but won’t detect the chocolate flavour. When you open your nostrils the flavour will come through because all the flavour is created in the head: ‘taste in the mouth – aroma in the head’. You don’t get any flavour, any aroma in the mouth at all. It’s just salt and sweet and sour and bitter and umami.

Volatiles are all the aroma elements, eg: when something smells of roses’, whereas umami and DKPs are non-volatiles – giving taste which is unique.

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Aksel Ritenis

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