Often I ponder to myself: ‘How can I put more ‘Oooh’ in umami?’
That’s the kind of guy I am, you see. A ponderer of life’s culinary mysteries: a never ending quest for flavour enhancement. Sometimes it’s exhausting, but most of the time it’s pure pleasure, stumbling through Flavour Town and coming across a previously unknown ingredient that takes taste tantalisation to orbit-touching levels.
And this week, this quest has brought me to Italy’s Modena. Or, if you prefer, M-OH!-DENA!!
Modena: the source of Due Vittorie, Italy’s most popular balsamic vinegar – that syrupy, sweet, unctuous, super-delicious, flavour boosting, taste intensifying condiment/ingredient that re-brands Umami as OOOOHmami! Yes, I know that you know what I did there.
Previously unavailable in the UK, Due Vittorie is now being sold through Ocado – and it’s sensational: liquid gold. A teaspoon or two are all you need to dress a salad or take roasted vegetables and grilled meats to another level. Sprinkle a few drops on strawberries to boost the natural sweetness of the fruit. And use it in soups, stews and sauces to intensify the flavours, as I’ve done here with this fantastic roasted garlic, tomato and balsamic vinegar sauce for pasta or chicken.
The balsamic is made from cooked grape must matured by a long and slow vinegarisation process: natural fermentation followed by progressive concentration by aging in a series of casks made from different types of wood.
The result is a flavour that is both sweet and sour, with a complex, acidic aroma.
This recipe is perfect for freezing in batches, but I’ve used it in a midweek meal to accompany crispy-skin pan-fried chicken breast and green salad.
Makes enough sauce for 4 people
1 ½ head garlic
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 large red onion, finely chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp Due Vittorie Oro Balsamic Vinegar
½ tsp hot sauce (optional)
2 tbsp dried Italian herbs (oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary)
400g can chopped tomatoes, with juice
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4. Slice the tops off the garlic bulbs to expose the flesh. Lay the bulbs on a sheet of tin foil and drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil and a pinch of salt. Warp tightly in the foil and cook in the oven for 1 hour, or until the garlic flesh is very soft and you can squeeze the flesh out of the skins like puree.
2. Add 2 tbsp olive oil to a large frying pan and gently cook the onion and chilli for 10-12 mins until very soft.
3. Add the tomato puree and stir through.
4. Add the chopped tomatoes and their juice and a cup of water. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a very gentle simmer. Add the herbs and stir through.Cook for 45 mins.
5. Remove the garlic from the oven and, taking care not to burn yourself, take a sheet of kitchen towel and squeeze the soft garlic flesh into the tomato sauce. Continue to cook for a further 30 mins.
6. Remove from the heat and add the balsamic vinegar and stir through. Allow to cool. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days or the freezer for 3 months. When ready to use, re-heat/de-frost and re-heat and use to dress pasta, chicken or pork – as I’ve done here with this pan-fried chicken breast, served with green salad and Parmesan new potatoes.
• Due Vittorie Oro Balsamic Vinegar of Modena IGP is priced at £9.99. Use it as an everyday Italian condiment and ingredient.
• Due Vittorie 12 Year Old ‘Tradizionale’ Balsamic Vinegar Affinato DOP (100ml). In the traditional bulb bottle within a presentation box it is priced at £49.99.
Disclaimer: I have not been paid for this review but were sent the products to test. I only feature products in the Recipe Shed that I am happy to wholeheartedly recommend to my readers. No duds make the cut.