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Vinaigre – Sweet Taste of
It isn’t often I can say that there is a new food
that is truly interesting and inspiring. There you go: the first
sentence and I have already lied to you – these are not new but
hundreds or even
thousands of years old, and there’s not one of them but three.
Its Alan Coxon’s range of historic Vinegars. They cover
centuries of culinary development and knowledge. Ancient Greek
period Vinaigre and Mediaeval English Ale-Gar. (There are spice rubs
same periods soon to follow.)
Let’s start with the packaging. It’s impressive to look
Greek style glass amphora or flasks which not only have immense shelf
Mum, that’s pretty!”) but also have a “feel” that gives the prospective
purchaser the expectation of a quality item, and they won’t be
I asked Alan who was responsible for the design of the
bottles. “I myself designed the bottles as I wanted something that
looked old but yet modern, a contradiction in terms. When I looked
readymade bottles with a hint of historical relevance I felt they were
archetypal, and I didn't want something that looked too Asterix or
therefore drew a picture of what I wanted, obtained a glass blower to
"Look” and re-mortgaged the house!”
“I had my bottle made into a mould at a cost of
then had to order a million bottles to once again keep the cost down
for the shopper. The original cost of the bottle to me was £21.00
distribution costs, stores mark up etc, etc.). Needless to say, I have
fight against the odds and now sell the product direct from my website
£5.99 + p&p.”
How did you start to compile the recipes? Did it just
lot of reading to discover threads and themes, or are there still
ancient recipes out there?
“I started getting into food history about 15 years ago
whilst I was doing some research for a TV show, something just came
over me. There is not one definitive book that gives you the answers,
if there was it
may have made life so much easier; having said that I would still have
out a challenge somewhere along the line. The beauty about research is
you learn so many more things as you go. There are no definitive
many of the recipes you do find are in story form so it’s like putting
together or solving a crime that took place centuries ago.”
Alan Coxon is selling his Ancient Greek Vinaigre to
Athenians! Now that’s success and appreciation from people who would
know what to look for. There’s lots of interest in Japan and some of
celebrated chefs in Europe have praised this range as being not only
deserving of a place in any modern kitchen.
James Martin, TV celebrity chef of Ready Steady Cook
says: "Absolutely fantastic product, I'd like to sell the boxed set at
Winchester Deli.” Gennaro Contaldo - La Passione Restaurant - is
enthusiastic: "I think that Alan Coxon's historic range tastes sublime.
The quality and flavour of the Ale-Gar is outstanding, I use it in my
Guinea Fowl dish instead of Balsamic now. The Roman is great in my
salads as a
dressing, and the Greek I use in Marinades. Alan is truly a great chef,
now he has some great products that I will continue to use."
I had expected three bottles of balsamic-ish / wine-ish
sorts of vinegars but these are very different. Each one is
distinctive. They are not much like the articles that you would have
already tried. There’s a host of flavoured vinegars out there but none
such complex characteristics or depth.
Alan Coxon’s "Ale-Gar" is produced from an
original recipe once brewed in Mediaeval England. It’s hop-based rather
than wine-based, with tones of warming spices. It’s memories of smoky
firesides in winter, and rich foods.
Ale-Gar is the colour of a favourite Irish stout and
the three, the one which most readily replaces ordinary balsamic. It
does have a very particular flavour that enhances red meat so well. We
this straight from the bottle on both bread and a grilled steak. It’s
an instant and
very up-market change from any Worcestershire sauce-based condiment.
Alan suggests that this would be great added to beef
such as a bolognaise sauce, beef and venison casseroles; drizzled over
oysters; reduced and drizzled over strawberries, ice cream or with
cheese. It is also great when used in marinades or simply used as a
for crusty bread instead of a Balsamic.
Cinnamon is the predominant spice, but with hints of
chamomile that gives a good balance of flavour. It has the most
wonderful rich scent and a slight sweetness of honey. This would be a
for roast pork or used to dress chopped red onion as a relish with an
The Roman Vinaigre is recommended as an addition to
dressings; as a dip for crusty bread with a dash of olive oil; added to
hot butter or egg-based sauces or as a marinade for pork or poultry.
Ancient Greek Vinaigre
This was the biggest surprise of the three. It’s light
floral with a clean acidity but also a sweet aftertaste. It’s exotic
and very different. This spoke to me of rosewater-laced salads from
mixed a little of this with crème fraiche to make a dressing for
beetroot to go with other North African mezze and it was amazing, being
both sweet and sour.
Alan says, “This Vinaigre lends itself well to replace
wine vinegar in oriental stir-fries and soups, marinades, sweet and
dishes, salad dressings and hot and cold sauces. It’s fruity, fresh and
fragrant – naturally befitting any Greek Goddess.” Well, nice of you to
say so, Alan! I’m not Greek but I did find this one particularly
Alan has said “I like to think of myself as an Indiana
of the food world, dressed in a leather hat (of which I have two!) and
Indiana Jones-style whip, or in my case a whisk!” ....It quite sets the
female heart beating! But all joking aside, these vinegars revisit
culinary traditions and allow us to replicate for ourselves the
flavours that truly add “a taste of the past for the kitchens of the
All three vinegars in Alan Coxon's Historic range
should be available at all quality food outlets. Ask the store manager
if you can't find them. They will also be available at www.alancoxon.com from 1st May.