Standing in a bar in San Sebastián, mid-morning. An elderly woman comes in, puts down her shopping and orders a small glass of sherry and a pintxo or two, which she sips at leisure, then she picks up her shopping and leaves. I have never punctuated a shopping trip with 10 minutes on a bar stool, but scuttling between the fishmonger, grocer and butcher I often think about that woman and that quietly civilised little scene.
The bottle of sherry in my kitchen is different to the one my family had. For a start it is kept in the fridge and is a long way from the liquid treacle my parents drank. It is often the answer to what to have before dinner. Sherry, a chilled manzanilla, is often my choice while I’m perusing a restaurant menu. And yes, I have been known to have the occasional glass of fino after a day’s work, but most of the sherry in my house is used in the kitchen: a glass to deglaze a pan in which I have cooked a piece of calf’s liver; a long, slow braise with meat on the bone; a splash of oloroso in a lemon syllabub. Only the other night I poured a little into the pan in which I had just cooked a pair of pork chops, scraping at the sticky remains on the pan and making an impromptu hazelnut-hued sauce while the chops rested.
Where sherry wins is with its subtlety, less obvious than marsala, and its affinity to work with fish and vegetables, too. A glass in a dish of baked field mushrooms is a very good thing. A glass upended into a casserole of caramelised onions and simmered until it evaporates will do wonders for a dish of braised Cumberland sausages, allowing the sweet meat juices to come to the fore.
Oloroso syllabub with blood orange
I like to finish the syllabub with strips of candied peel dipped in dark chocolate. You can buy these ready-made. They are sometimes sold as “orangettes”, but they are easy enough to make yourself. I use whole pieces of orange peel (Italian grocer’s often have them), because they are softer and juicer than the pre-chopped sort. Take great care when whipping the cream, sherry and juice together.
blood orange 1, small
lemon 1, small
oloroso sherry 75ml
caster sugar 75g
double cream 300ml
For the chocolate dipped peel:
dark chocolate 50g
candied orange peel 75g
blood oranges 2, to finish
Finely grate the zest of the blood orange and the lemon into a mixing bowl. If you are using a food mixer then use the mixer bowl. Squeeze the fruits’ juices into the bowl, pour in the sherry and stir in the sugar. Mix until the sugar has dissolved then set aside for a good two hours or even overnight.
Make the chocolate dipped peel. Melt the chocolate in a small bowl over a pan of simmering water, removing it from the heat as soon as the chocolate is liquid. Cut the candied peel into short pieces, about 1cm thick and the length of a matchstick. Dip each piece of peel into the chocolate, place on a piece of baking parchment and leave in a cool place until the chocolate has set.
Pour the double cream into the juice then slowly whip until the syllabub starts to thicken. It is best to whip slowly, watching the consistency of the syllabub constantly. As it starts to thicken, the cream will feel heavy on the whisk and you should stop as soon as the syllabub is thick enough to sit in soft, gentle waves. If you whisk until it stands in peaks you have gone too far.
Keep chilled in the refrigerator.
Remove the peel from the blood oranges with a very sharp knife, taking off every shred of white pith. Slice the fruit thinly. To serve, spoon the chilled syllabub into bowls, then add the slices of blood orange and the chocolate dipped candied peel.
Pork with sherry and beans
I asked the butcher for four thick steaks cut from the leg for this. Other cuts will do, but the important point is that there is a bone to enrich the meat as it cooks.
onions 4, small
olive oil 3 tbsp
pork steaks 4 x 350g, thick and on the bone
oloroso sherry 300ml
chicken stock 1 litre
rosemary 4 sprigs
judion beans 1 x 400g jar
blanched almonds 50g
garlic 3 cloves
olive oil 2 tbsp
parsley 6 tbsp, chopped
Peel the onions and cut them in half. Warm the olive oil in a large casserole, then add the onions and cook over a moderate heat until their cut sides are deep golden brown. Remove the onions and set aside.
Season the pork with salt and pepper then brown on all sides in the oil left in the onion pan. Take your time and brown the meat evenly. Take the pork out of the pan. Pour the sherry into the pan, scrape at the stickings and stir them into the sherry. Let the liquid reduce by half.
Return the pork and onions to the pan, then add the stock and bring to the boil. Add the rosemary, cover with a lid and leave over a low heat for 90 minutes. Drain the judion beans and rinse, then add to the casserole. Remove the lid and simmer for a further 30 minutes.
Chop the almonds finely and toast them in a dry, shallow pan then add the chopped garlic and olive oil. When the garlic is golden, finely grate the lemon, add to the finely chopped parsley with the garlic and transfer to a bowl. Scatter over the pork and serve.
Email Nigel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @NigelSlater