Angela Clutton is a food writer, food historian and professional cook. She has written on food and drink for publications including the Daily Telegraph, the Independent and Country Life; commercial clients include brands such as Doves Farm, Lurpak and latterly Good Food Wines; Angela also writes regularly for Borough Market as well as being their recipe developer, demonstration cook and hosts the hugely popular Borough Market Cookbook Club. Broadcast work includes the recent Channel 5 ‘Inside…’ series.
Her debut book The Vinegar Cupboard (published in March 2019) won the Jane Grigson Trust Award, and in 2020 has won the Guild of Food Writers First Book Award as well as the Specialist/Single Subject Award and also the Fortnum & Mason Debut Cookery Book Award.
Reading this was the catalyst for the team at GFW to get Angela involved with our vinegar journey and we're delighted to post the second in the series of blogs, this one concerning using vinegars with fish...
Think fish and vinegar and it won’t be long before thoughts turn to putting malt vinegar on fish and chips. Rightly so, too. There’s a very good reason that’s an iconic and enduring match-up. And the reasons why tell us much about how vinegar can also be used to enhance other fish dishes.
The vinegar cuts through the fattiness of the fish batter (and the fried chips) to pep things up and bring some flavour contrast. Not too dissimilar to the classic Japanese dish of nanbanzuke, where pieces of fish - perhaps salmon or cod - are deep-fried and then marinated in a mix of rice vinegar, soy and mirin. Dashi or a little chilli optional. The point is that the vinegar sauce cuts through, soaks into the fish and turns each deep-fried piece into the lightest bite - especially good when served with quick-picked julienned vegetables.
That idea of using vinegar’s acidity to tenderise fish resonates with using it as you might acidic lime juice in a ceviche. Switch the juice for a vinegar and you similarly ‘cook’ the flesh, protecting the flavour of the fish more than cooking over heat does, and giving a lightness of texture. Plus (as with the battered fish) the added ‘bite’ of the vinegar is welcome. Be careful to not use too heavy a vinegar doing this - light fish needs a light vinegar. Perhaps a champagne vinegar for a fillet of any white fish, whereas an oily fish such as mackerel could take a red wine vinegar or even a light sherry vinegar.
Vinegars play a starring role, too, for sauces that can take simply-cooked steamed or roast fish to the next flavour level. Chinese black vinegar with some grated fresh ginger is great with sea bass or prawns. Or for a butter sauce such as hollandaise the addition of a little vinegar will both cut through the sauce’s richness and bring sauce and fish together in perfectly balanced flavour harmony.
It’s that idea of vinegar as flavour harmoniser that is so important when it comes to fish. From adding when making a base for a fish stew, using in a seafood salad, or as a finishing touch garnish - vinegar can lift the flavour of fish like little else.
If you've enjoyed reading this insight into the world of vinegar, look out for further blogs in the series from Angela.
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