Can I have that with salt and vinegar please? Vinegar: the building stone of British culinary tradition. The transparent liquid making the otherwise bland chips a gourmet experience. But did you know that it has an Italian, more sophisticated, cousin?
Okay, so I realise that we are students, and that as students we should have no form of luxury in our lives. It is a well-known fact that student cupboards consist of pasta and sauce, frozen chips and peas, and the occasional box of cereal. And I am not here to ruin that.
However, I’m here to introduce you to what can only be described as liquid gold: Balsamic Vinegar. Balsamic Vinegar can only be produced in Italy, more specifically in the regions of Modena and Reggio. The syrup-like vinegar, usually drizzled on top of salads or red meat, have some of the characteristics of wine and whiskey. White sweet grapes are aged and reduced, before boiled down to a sweet syrup. This must is then fermented on casks, in a slow ageing process (minimum 12 years).
As a friend rightfully put it: there is a bourgeoisie in balsamic vinegar. The difference between the cheap supermarket ones and the more expensive Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale is remarkable. The cheap supermarket alternative might not even be real balsamic vinegar, just white vinegar with added, colouring, flavour and thickeners. When buying balsamic, you want to look for a sign saying Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena/Reggio Emilia (Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena/Reggio Emilia). It should be 12, 18 or 25+ years old, with some of the older ones costing almost £300 a bottle.
Roasted Tomatoes with Balsamic Vinegar
Roasting tomatoes (or any vegetables for that matter) with balsamic vinegar brings out the flavour of both the vinegar and the tomatoes. This results in a simple, but delicious dish that can be used as a pasta sauce, served alongside a risotto or meat, or just enjoyed on its own.
1 pack of cherry or plum tomatoes (250g)
Cut your tomatoes in half. Drizzle with plenty of olive oil and about 3 tbsp. of balsamic vinegar. Season with a few pinches of thyme, sage, salt and pepper. Roast in the oven at 200 degrees for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
If you’ve ever felt the need to make your toasties posh, here is how. Serve with the roasted tomatoes, or some bacon and a green salad, and depending on what you are serving the toasties with, alter the cheese to suit the palette. Though regular cheddar would work just fine.
Two slices of bread (I prefer freshly made from the bakery)
Salt and pepper
Cheese of your choice
Heat olive oil and balsamic vinegar in a pan. Fry your bread until lightly toasted on both sides. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, before adding the cheese on top. Roast in the oven until the cheese is melted, or alternatively layer the cheese between the bread and cook in a toastie-maker.