Fri 31 Oct 2014

Food Without Fuss: TV Dinners


For most people, Christmas is a time for putting their best feet forward. Frankly, for me these days, it’s a time for putting them up.

Janet Wynne Evans

Janet Wynne Evans

It’s nothing to do with the extra pressures of our busiest time at The Society. My professional Christmas rush reaches a frenzied peak in July and August, just as creative thinking about idyllic summer days is required come February. Nor is it entirely brought on by my serial failure over the years to Do Christmas properly: loyal readers of Food for Thought in SocietyNews may recall the albatross sold to me as a capon, the ‘simple but luxurious’ spaghetti that congealed during a fruitless search for a truffle-shaver, the mallards with freezer-burn and the over-the-hill grand cru Chablis that time forgot.

I believe the New Indolence to be the inevitable consequence of the many years of quality festive time off that I have spent on motorways. With family at opposite ends of the country and a house too small to play at home, we used to dream of spending Christmas in our jim-jams, eating curry if we liked, and watching abysmal television. Once hot comfort food and a good chill became an option, I perversely went all conventional for a time and rushed about with the best of them (see above paragraph), but I’m better now, thanks.

One of the benefits of having the time to watch television, of the instructive, rather than abysmal sort, is a raft of culinary inspiration which may be enjoyed passively rather than reactively. However, now and again, something looks so delicious that it turns my recliner into an ejector seat. Below, I present – with the blessing, I trust, of their creators, who certainly have mine – three of my all-time favourites, to enjoy with any number of our Winter Wine Without Fuss bottles. They are among the best ways I know to warm up a braw, bricht, moonlicht nicht, whether or not Santa is expected, and I can’t improve on them.

Lazy, or what? But Christmas is coming, and I think I may, finally, have cracked it.

Janet Wynne Evans

Despite my advancing years, I don’t yet drool in front of the box but this dish (click here to view the recipe in full), presented during a delightful retrospective of Delia Through The Decades brought me very close. First aired on BBC2, this series now seems to live almost en permanence on the Food Network, the broadcasting embodiment of the theory that you can’t have too much of a good thing. That’s how I feel about this recipe too.

I did happen to have two magnificent rare-breed doorstops and a handful of serious fungi, including a couple of ceps, but this recipe makes stars of the most prosaic chops and so-so cultivated mushrooms. Wine-wise, it’s a very forgiving recipe for any number of the reds, and richer whites currently being offered to Wine Without Fuss subscribers. Especially good matches are Undurraga Candelabro Reserva Carmenère-Malbec-Carignan 2012 or Temporada Chardonnay 2013 in Buyers’ Everyday Wines, Domaine d’Arjolle Cabernet-Merlot 2012 and Château Marie du Fou in the Premium line-up, and from the classic French selection, the ample Castelmaure Grande Cuvée and JM Brocard’s Chablis Sainte-Claire, which has the body and fruit for the pork, the acidity for the cream and an affinity with wild mushrooms too.

Marlow-on-Thames has always been close to my heart for it was here that the scales fell from my eyes when I saw that the exasperating bloke who had dragged me into a gloomy tavern for chicken-in-a-basket was actually a bit of all right. It took us five years to tie the knot but I would surely have proposed to him on the spot if Marlow had been blessed at that time with Tom Kerridge’s Michelin-garlanded pub the Hand and Flowers. We are still trying to book a table there so Tom’s BBC series and book Proper Pub Food is the next best thing. This inspired way with a whole celeriac root (click here to view the recipe) is a veggie delight, either on its own or as a striking side dish for plain meat or fish.

The trick with root vegetables is to accommodate their inherent sweetness. Here, the thyme gives the celeriac a savoury edge and the constant basting with butter demands a certain discipline in the glass. On test, Grant Burge Benchmark Shiraz 2013 was a star perfomer in all our recipes, but especially this one. Temporada Chardonnay 2013 coped well too. In the Premium cases, Momo Vendimia Seleccionada has both the required sweetness and backbone, while Domaine du Tariquet, Gros-Manseng Chardonnay 2013 resonates perfectly.

Now, about that curry I mentioned earlier. Who could resist The Incredible Spice Men, my culinary TV highlight of 2013? Certainly not the ladies of a Suffolk branch of the Women’s Institute, whom these two charmers somewhat recklessly wooed with Victoria sponge laced with cardamom and fennel. Leith-born Tony Singh, turban on top, tartan (and doubtless commando) below, came up with this glorious subcontinental confit (click here to see the recipe), which he prepared under the benevolent, matinee-idol beam of his oppo, Cyrus Todiwala (London via Bombay). Not too hot to handle, crisp on the outside and unctuous within, it requires a good few ingredients, as do all genuine Indian recipes, but you’ll have most to hand and the initial cooking is hands-free. Go out and do work of national importance, in the expectation of wonderful aromas when you return.

Chilli is used here just for the marinade, which is removed before cooking the chicken, so what you are left with is a pleasant buzz, underpinned by the sweeter hum of cinnamon. Good Wine Without Fuss options from the Buyers’ Everyday bottles would include Villiera Chenin Blanc and, at the risk of repeating myself, the truly versatile Grant Burge Benchmark Shiraz. In the Premium selection, the obvious choice is the spice-friendly blend behind Villiera Jasmine Fragrant White and the touch of sweetness in Pitchfork Cabernet-Merlot works very well too. As the name implies, the French Classics collection is not an obvious expenditionary force to the subcontinent, but that patrician Menetou Salon in the white and mixed cases may surprise you if you go easy on the optional dusting powder. Otherwise, I’d opt for a gutsy Alsace gewurztraminer or a bold Kiwi sauvignon blanc.

Voted Best Wine Club by both The Independent and Which? magazine, Wine Without Fuss offers regular selections of delicious wines with the minimum of fuss. Why not join the growing band of members who let their Society take the strain, and are regularly glad they do?

Categories : Wine Without Fuss


  1. Laurence Measey says:

    Are there embargoes on publishing the recipe? I would like to try my hand at making two of these dishes – they might live up to you mouthwatering writing style.

    • Janet Wynne Evans says:

      Not at all, Mr Measey. If you let your mouse hover over the titles, the recipes will appear as if by magic. We have also put some links in place to make them easier to find. Happy cooking!

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