Saturday, 16 February 2008

The myth about 'cooking wine'

One of the things we're never short of in this household is leftover wine. Not because we're a couple of old soaks or, as the Government would have it, pernicious 'middle class wine drinkers' but because when I'm not writing about frugal cooking I'm writing about wine.

This puts me, I know, in an enviably better position to reach for a bottle mid-recipe than most households, but - more importantly - reach for a drinkable bottle. There's a general idea that you can chuck in any old wine but it isn't so. On the 'rubbish in, rubbish out' principle if you add a wine that's been open for a fortnight and tastes like vinegar your dish will end up tasting of vinegar too.

That doesn't mean you have to buy special 'cooking wine' - indeed I'd strongly advise you not to. It's the lowest of the low in the wine world. But you do need something that's fresh and clean and which you'd be prepared to drink yourself. And for certain recipes - a coq au vin or a daube for example - it pays to add something a touch more characterful.

A good trick if you're cooking the dish for a long time is to add a final dash of fresh wine five minutes before the end to lift the winey flavour. At least that's my excuse . . .

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