Essentials 1 – vermouth and port

So many recipes call for red or white wine, but opening a whole bottle for a gravy or sauce is madness as you may not want to finish the rest of the bottle.

Since I cooked a Jamie Oliver recipe for baked fennel that suggested dry white vermouth as an alternative to white wine, I’ve kept a bottle for when I need only a small amount of white wine. It’s a great alternative that works in just about any recipe that doesn’t rely on the wine as the primary flavour.

I also keep a bottle of ruby port open for adding to gravies, sauces and casseroles. It’s not as direct a substitute for red wine as vermouth is for white wine – it’s sweet, so has a very different basic character – but think of how many times the word ‘port’ has got your mouth watering on a restaurant menu.

Port is bubbling away in a casserole as I write this.

Not only are vermouth and port longer-lived than wine, they’re also very much cheaper, so I feel much more like adding them to everyday cooking. Everybody wins!

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