So much more than a pre-dinner tipple, sherry adds depth and subtle flavour to dishes both savoury and sweet
Standing in a bar in San Sebastián, mid-morning. An elderly woman comes in, puts down her shopping and orders a small glass of sherry and a pintxo or two, which she sips at leisure, then she picks up her shopping and leaves. I have never punctuated a shopping trip with 10 minutes on a bar stool, but scuttling between the fishmonger, grocer and butcher I often think about that woman and that quietly civilised little scene.
The bottle of sherry in my kitchen is different to the one my family had. For a start it is kept in the fridge and is a long way from the liquid treacle my parents drank. It is often the answer to what to have before dinner. Sherry, a chilled manzanilla, is often my choice while I’m perusing a restaurant menu. And yes, I have been known to have the occasional glass of fino after a day’s work, but most of the sherry in my house is used in the kitchen: a glass to deglaze a pan in which I have cooked a piece of calf’s liver; a long, slow braise with meat on the bone; a splash of oloroso in a lemon syllabub. Only the other night I poured a little into the pan in which I had just cooked a pair of pork chops, scraping at the sticky remains on the pan and making an impromptu hazelnut-hued sauce while the chops rested.