The Art of Blending
In the late 18th century French nobleman Marquis d’Albignic, impoverished by the French Revolution and exiled in London, supported himself by making the rounds of grand dinner parties mixing salad dressings. D’Albignic became an object of infatuation travelling by carriage with a servant carrying a mahogany case containing his repertoire of oils, vinegars, soy and ketchup, caviar, truffles and meat extracts, and egg yolks for mayonnaise. During the height of his popularity D’Albignic manufactured his cases, fitted out with selected ingredients, and eventually returned to France with an amassed fortune of over eighty thousand francs.
The standard proportions for vinaigrette are three parts oil to one part vinegar, however, some oils and vinegars are more suitable than others for use as dressings.
Suitable oils include olive oil, sunflower oil (light and nutty), pumpkin seed oil (moody and dark), avocado oil (aromatic and rich in flavour), walnut oil (can be refrigerated), and pine seed oil (made from pine nuts and extremely expensive). Buy the best oil you can afford and ensure your oils have a fresh fruity aroma.
Suitable vinegars are balsamic, wine vinegars – red wine, white wine, rose and champagne, herb and fruit flavoured vinegars. The best wine vinegars have a level of six percent acetic acid, the acid that produces the strength of the sharpness and bite, with a buttery and savoury winey aroma formed by the by-products of yeast fermentation.
Fruit vinegars may simply be ordinary vinegars flavoured by contact with fresh fruit or made by fermenting fruit wines. Popular fruit-flavored vinegars include those infused with whole raspberries, blueberries, or figs. Herb flavoured vinegars are best made with “woody” herbs, such as rosemary, thyme or tarragon and can be easily produced at home by infusing fresh or good quality dried herbs to pre-purchased vinegars. Let’s face it there is some truly ghastly vinegar on the market – if it doesn’t taste good on its own don’t even consider using it in a dressing!
The Art of Blending:
Taste is the most important factor when selecting oil and vinegar to blend for a dressing. Not only are the blend components important but also the marriage between the items selected for the delivery of the dressing.
- Raspberry Vinegar and Olive Oil with a touch of honey is fabulous on Spinach or Watercress leaves alongside Chicken.
- White Wine Vinegar and Walnut Oil with the addition of currants lifts a dish Caramelized Leeks and enhances the flavour of a nutty flavoured Lambs Lettuce.
- Robust Cabernet Sauvignon Vinegar and Herb Flavoured Vinegars blend well with Olive Oil and adds a further depth of flavour to Char-grilled Vegetables.
- Delicate Champagne Vinegar and Olive Oil is sublime with creamy Clevedon Oysters.
- Avocado Oil and White Wine Vinegar with the addition of citrus juice adds complexity to dishes containing Pork and Seafood.
- Balsamic Vinegar adds to the “moodiness” of Pumpkin Seed Oil – try this combination with Potatoes and Rocket.
- Fig Vinegar and Olive Oil over Blue Cheese, Watercress and Pear Salad.
- Sunflower Oil with White Wine Vinegar and Lime Juice over char-grilled Tuna.