I love cooking with sherry – the rich, raisiny stuff, not your gran’s Bristol Cream – and keep a bottle of Pedro Ximinez by the stove, adding a slosh to braises, sautés, or anywhere a drop of wine would be welcome. It goes really well in a beef stew, giving it a sweet, light note that blends well with orange peel and cinnamon, a nice change from the heavy peals of red wine, rosemary and juniper that dominate winter food.
It sits very happily with cheese, and I imagine a splash would be welcome in a fondue, or a plain old cheese sauce, taking the place of beer in a rarebit; it has a smooth roundness that gives body and depth to other ingredients, without the need to cook out the tannins or acid you get with wine, which makes it particularly useful in quick sautés and sauces. This body and quick cooking makes it an especially good partner for offal; sherry can oppose and sweeten the metallic tones of liver and kidneys, which red wine would have bullyingly sided with.
SPICED CHICKEN LIVERS
This method, of quick searing and a brief simmer, is a very good way to cook offal generally – it keeps it moist and pink, and allows you to introduce a variety of other flavours. Just change up the herbs and spices, and maybe add a dash of cream at the end, for different dishes.
For 2, with salad, or more with rice or whatever
400g of chicken livers, washed and trimmed
1 small onion, sliced
a good pinch each of red pepper flakes, urfa flakes, sumac, dried mint, and dried thyme
a slosh of PX
3 tbspn of pomegranate ketchup, or two of a good tomato ketchup and one of pomegranate molasses
a handful of chopped flatleaf parsley
salt & pepper
Cook the onion to a slow sweetness in a little oil, then add the herbs and spices and cook for a minute. Set aside.
Whack the heat right up, add some more oil, and when it’s smoking hot, sear the livers, in batches if necessary, for a few minutes each side, until nicely browned. Season them with salt as you go.
Return all the livers to the pan, if you cooked them in batches, then add the sherry, letting it bubble away as you scrape all the crusty bits from the pan into it. Add the ketchup/molasses and a splash of water and simmer for two minutes or until the livers feel nicely giving. They should be blushing pink inside. Chuck in the parsley and some pepper and stir. Not a particularly pretty dish, but a deeply satisfying one.