Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Sherry, Cider, and Thai Chili: Sweeteners in savoury food

I have given my friends a lesson on sweeteners in sauces, marinades, and stews. A good tomato sauce will turn into a great tomato sauce by the right balance of the tartness of the tomatoes, the salt from ingredients as sausages, anchovis, and olives, and - sugar. And add sugar in your Bacalao, made from salted, dried codfish, onions, tomatoes, and a lot of olive oil.

But sweeteners are so much more than just sugar. The purest sweetener I know is a good maple syrup. It has a wonderful light sweetness and leaves no bitter after-taste.

I also love the fruity sweeteness of liqueurs like Cointreau and thai chili. Thai chili mixed with creamcheese, topped with smoked salmon and chives wrapped in a hot wheat tortilla is a great snack. Thai chili is not hot at all, you can safely make it more spicy by adding a few dried chilliflakes to get more kick, or you can leave it as it is. Orange liqueurs as Grand Marnier or Cointreau gives an intence fruit flavour in a sauce served with roast duck.

Fresh fruits often have the combination of sweetness and light tartness. A classic recipe is the way the 17th century cook Robert Mays prepared his salmon with bloodoranges, red wine, salmon and nutmeg. Another great cook, my friend Dagfinn Skoglund, added mango, to my amazement, to his tuna paté - but believe me, it works! I make stuffing for poultry as duck or chicken from apples, onion, sweet Scandinavian cider, streaky bacon, stale bread and sage. Apple cider is also great in gravy for a pork chop, with salt, pepper and cream.

Some fortified wines add a tart and even smoky flavour to their sweetness. The marsala wine has a distinct smokyness and a good sherry adds acidity. These are often good in rich cream sauces and stews with beef, onion and mushrooms. If you want to get more acidity you can substitute the fortified wines with red wine - but then you have to balance it with sugar or other sweeteners.

So sweeteners creates a whole world of possibilities in your cooking. Here are some recipes from

Blue Cheese and Walnut Salad with Maple Dressing

Duck l'Orange

Loin of Pork with Baked Apples and Cider Gravy

Veal Scaloppine with Mushrooms, Marsala and Thyme


Hans said...

I love honey myself. Unfortunately, I find it difficult to find really good honey, as this is one of the things it always pays off to spend time looking for home made stuff.

Where can I get good honey in Norway?

Tor Johnsen said...

Well, you can get honey in every nice grocery shop. Actually some of the best places to get a larger variety of honey is the turkish shop at Grünerløkka or Tøyen. There is actually a very good on at the Byporten just by the Central Station. Good Luck

Hans said...

You mean Vatan?

Tor Johnsen said...

Vatan is great, another one is Sultan. These turkish shops have a great variety of products, and different kinds of honey are among them.