Grapevine Archive for Wine and food

These recipes, while hopefully of use and interest to all, were written with the latest selections of our just-revamped Wine Without Fuss subscription scheme particularly in mind.

Friendly, flexible and commitment-free, Wine Without Fuss is now better than ever, with a wider range of options than ever before. If you have trouble selecting from our huge range of amazing wines, this service makes the decision easy, with five plans to suit every taste and budget. And you can cancel, change or skip an order at any time. What’s not to love?!

Why not join the growing band of members who let their Society take the strain, and are regularly glad they do?

I rail at the Met Office’s statistical announcement that autumn’s arrival is at the beginning of September. I just cannot to let summer go so easily and I will only give up my dreams of a last burst or glorious sunshine when the trees are throwing off their leaves, the scent of many bonfires fills the chilly air and my fragrant other half is pointing me towards the shed and the rake therein.

As such, I have still been looking at recipes that will satisfy with a lightness of touch without sacrificing generosity of flavour when the leaves turn and fall, those bonfires stink up the washing and the central heating gets switched on.

Cobnuts is not a watered down exclamation of disappointment at the disappearance of summer but rather a suggestion that you try the humble nut of the same name, aka the filbert, a cultivated form of the hazelnut that come into season around August and go on giving until October, though a well stored nut can last beyond Christmas.

They can be eaten young and deliciously creamy straight from the tree while still in their green papery husk, or later when the shell hardens and the depth of flavour is nuttier they are just as delicious. A light roasting out of the shells will deepen that nuttiness even further. However you serve them they are a homegrown treat.

Two and a half million squirrels can’t be wrong!

Steve Farrow

Recipe 1:
Endive, Bacon, Apple and Cobnut Salad with a Blue Cheese Vinaigrette.

I use cobnuts in a recipe that amalgamates their qualities with the deep bass notes of a good blue cheese and the harvest of an orchard in the form of apples or pears. It is a staple of ours at home because it always satisfies and I’ve been asked for the recipe by friends many times.

If you are not a fan of cobnuts/hazelnuts, pecans or walnuts are lovely in this recipe too!

(Serves four as with crusty bread, as a starter. Double the quantities for a main course serving).

• 4 endives (though 4 gem luttuces will do at a pinch)
• 8 rashers of streaky bacon, smoked or not is up to you.
• 1 large eating apple or a pear, peeled and diced
• 100g shelled, roasted cobnuts (or hazelnuts), chopped but not finely
• 100g good quality blue cheese (Roquefort or Stilton are both terrific) cut into chunks
• 4 tablespoons rapeseed or vegetable oil
• 3 tablespoons cider (or white wine) vinegar
• 1 tablespoon chopped chives
• salt and pepper

Cut the rashers of bacon into lardons and fry until coloured them remove from the pan, retaining the fat. Drain the lardons on kitchen paper. Strip the leaves of the endives from the root, leaving the leaves whole, and put into a bowl. Add the chopped apple or pear, chopped nuts, bacon and seasoning, and toss.

In a small saucepan warm the oil and vinegar together. Add the bacon fat left over from frying the lardons. Add the blue cheese chunks and cook very gently until the cheese has melted. Give the mixture a whisk and pour over the endive in the bowl. Add the chopped chives. Toss everything thoroughly to coat with the vinaigrette and serve with crusty bread.

Wine matches: Try this partnered with generosity and freshness of the Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc, Saint-Cosme 2014 (French Classics), fragrant, lightly spicy but fresh wines like Villiera Estate Jasmine Fragrant White, Stellenbosch 2017 (Discovery) and Seméli Mantinia Nassiakos 2016 (Lighter Wines, or available online for £9.95).

Other delicious options include fruity little numbers like the Vermentino Sicilia, Mandrarossa 2016 (Wine Rack Essentials or £6.50), Viña Istria Malvazija 2016 (Discovery or £7.50), Edelzwicker Special Cuvée, Jacques Cattin 2016 (Lighter Wines or £8.50), or classic Marlborough sauvignon tropicality with cut of the Three Terraces Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (Worldwide Wonders or £9.25).

Recipe 2: Gravadlax
Another lovely dish that is equally good at any time of the year is home-made cured salmon, rather like the Scandinavian gravadlax that is so easily bought in the supermarkets now. Historically made to preserve fish through the winter it is easily and deliciously accomplished at home, without any need to bury it as the Norse did as a preservation method. I certainly don’t inter ours in a section of the lawn.

• 2 sides of carefully pin-boned salmon (your fishmonger will do this for you), about 1 kilo each, skin on. You can use smaller cuts of salmon and adjust the cure mixture that follows accordingly.
• 150g sea salt
• 150g caster sugar
• 75ml vodka (or for a hint of juniper use gin)
• 200g fresh dill, finely chopped (150g for the cure, 50g for a garnish)

First, make the cure by mixing the salt, sugar and peppercorns. Stir in the vodka or gin and the chopped dill and mix well to evenly distribute. Lay out a double layer of cling film, enough to double wrap the sides of salmon, and lay one of the fillets on the film skin-side down.

Spread the salt, sugar, dill and vodka/gin mixture evenly over the salmon you have laid on the cling film. Top with the other fillet, flesh-side down, so that they form a sandwich with the mixture as the filling. Wrap everything tightly in the cling film and put it into ceramic or glass dish only just large that the fish makes a snug fit. Put a flat board, a chopping board is ideal, on top of the cling-film parcel and add some weights like cans of food or kitchen weights.

Put the dish into the fridge for at least 24 hours, though longer (up to 48 hours) will give a deeper, firmer cure. Remember to turn the fish parcel every 12 hours or so and make sure to drain off any liquid that pools the dish.

When you are ready, unwrap the fish, brush off the cure and give the sides a rinse under cold running water to remove the last of it. Pat them dry with kitchen paper. Finely chop the extra dill and sprinkle evenly over the salmon.

If you can resist it, the fish will keep in a fridge for up to a week if wrapped in more cling film. Eat it very thinly sliced with brown bread (rye bread is best) and butter and plenty of lemon juice and some ground black pepper. Mustard and dill sauce is also traditional and can be bought or made for it. I like a horseradish and crème fraiche mix myself but it isn’t everyones cup of tea. Some raosted beetroot too is a favourite of mine but is a Marmite ingredient, I know, so ignore that as you wish.

Wine matches: the salmon is wonderful partnered with Château Martinon, Entre-Deux-Mers 2016 (Lighter Wines) or the zest of Val de Loire Sauvignon Blanc, Famille Bougrier 2016 (Wine Rack Essentials or available online for £6.50), or Rompeolas Godello, Galicia 2016 (Wine Rack Essentials or £8.50).

The vibrancy of the Madfish Great Southern Riesling 2016 (Discovery or £8.95) and the classic The Society’s Exhibition Alsace Riesling 2015 (French Classics or £13.50) will stand shoulder to shoulder with the dish too; as will the classic seafood accompanying facets of Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine sur Lie, Comte Leloup du Château de Chasseloir, Cuvée des Ceps Centenaires 2013 (Worldwide Wonders or £9.50) to cut the fattiness of the fish.

Categories : Wine Without Fuss
Comments (2)
Mon 03 Jul 2017

Food Without Fuss: Currant Affairs

Posted by: | Comments (1)

This year the crop of cherries from my small tree went for a Burton thanks to spring frosts and a variety of feathered fiends.

In particular, our local wood pigeons have had a right old go at the foliage which is now so shredded that it looks like an innocent bystander at the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. So I needed to look elsewhere for our homegrown treasure.

What I found is certainly homegrown – just not at our home.

A friend feels that they will have a glut of blackcurrants this year and by handing over of a bottle of The Society’s delicious Falanghina to sweeten the deal I have managed to secure some of that harvest.

My plan for these gorgeously purple beads is to use their piquant sharpness and fruitiness to make a sauce for strong, dark game, such as a seared slab of venison, or some plump pigeon breasts. The idea of the pigeon breasts came to me as I looked out at our lacerated cherry tree and saw one of the fat flying f-f-fellers proudly posing at the scene of the crime. Gratifyingly it seemed to gulp as it blinked back in the face of my steely glare. I think my gaze is pretty steely, though my missus tells me it’s more Paddington-like. Good enough!

Steve Farrow

THE RECIPES

Venison Steaks (or Pigeon Breasts) with Blackcurrant Sauce

Venison Steak with Blackcurrant Sauce

Ingredients:
For four people you will need:
• Four venison steaks (100 -150g each and fairly thick cut is best whatever size you use) or similarly sized portions of loin fillet, or eight pigeon breasts if making a main course.
• 100ml of good brown chicken stock or a light beef stock
• 150ml of a ripe red wine
• A small handful of fresh or frozen blackcurrants
• 2 tablespoons of a high-fruit-content blackcurrant jam or conserve (like St. Dalfour)
• A couple of good knobs of very cold butter
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper

On the hob, heat a skillet or heavy based frying pan until smoking hot, rub the fillet or breasts with a little olive oil and season well.

Sear the fillets for about four minutes a side until caramelised on the outside but still rare inside, or the pigeon breasts for just a couple of minutes or so per side. You really don’t want to have either meat well-done.

Remove them from the pan and set aside to rest. Pour the red wine into the hot pan and reduce by two thirds, scraping to incorporate any of the caramelised bits.

Pour in the stock and reduce it all by half again.

Spoon in the blackcurrant jam/conserve and stir to incorporate.

Add the fresh or frozen blackcurrants and bubble for a few minutes until hot again.

Pour any juices that have come from the resting meat back into the sauce.

Finally, drop in the cold butter, whisking or stirring quickly over the heat so that it thickens the sauce and adds a gloss.

Put the meat on to warm plates, spoon over the sauce and serve.

Wine Matches:
The Concha y Toro Corte Ignacio Casablanca Merlot 2014 (Worldwide Wonders plan) is an ideal match with its blackcurranty fruit, structure and ripeness. Look too to the spicy Saint-Maurice Côtes-du-Rhône Villages, Domaine de l’Echevin 2013 (French Classics), the darkly fruity Biga de Luberri Crianza, Rioja 2014, the brambly Pisano Progreso Tannat 2015 (Lighter Wines or available for £7.95) or the ample, dark-fruited De Morgenzon DMZ Syrah, Stellenbosch 2013 (Discovery or available for £8.50).

Mushroom Pithiviers
My second recipe, pastry parcels golden and puffed from the oven and filled with a creamy mushroom mixture, might not seem that summery but I made these pithiviers recently and they were light but deeply savoury so I thought I’d share them. I use ready rolled all-butter puff pastry for this but by all means make it yourself if you have the time and the inclination.

Mushroom Pithiviers

Ingredients:
For two main-course sized pastries you will need:
• 120 g of shitake mushrooms cut into bitesize pieces
• 150g Portobello mushrooms also in bitesize pieces
• 10g dried porcini mushrooms soaked until soft and finely chopped (retain the soaking liquor)
• 1 finely chopped shallot
• 1 clove of garlic crushed or finely chopped
• 4 tablespoons of Mascarpone cheese
• A handful of chopped parsley
• A pinch of dried thyme or a teaspoon of fresh
• A large knob of butter
• 1 tablespoon of olive oil
• 1 beaten egg
• 1 beaten egg yolk
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 300g of puff pastry

Melt butter in a sauté pan on a medium-high heat. Once it’s sizzling throw in the fresh mushrooms and diced porcini and sauté until the mushrooms are soft and any liquid has evaporated.

Lower the heat and add the chopped shallot and garlic and cook gently for another few minutes until softened. Remove from the heat.

Pour the mushroom mixture into a bowl and add a tablespoonful of the reserved porcini soaking liquor and the Mascarpone cheese while the mushrooms are still warm. Stir until it is well incorporated, making a creamy sauce. Leave it to cool a little.

Add the chopped parsley and stir it through, then taste and season appropriately.

Put the bowl in the fridge for an hour to chill.

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C fan/200°C/gas 6.

On a floured surface roll out the pastry to the thickness of a pound coin, and cut two 14 centimetre discs and two 18cm discs.

Remove the mushroom mixture from the fridge. It should have set quite stiff. Divide the mixture between two teacups or two small pudding moulds and then turn them out on to the centre of each of the 12cm discs. You should have a border around each pile to brush with beaten egg.

Place the larger (15cm) discs over each mound of mushrooms, cupping your hands and using the edge of them to push down on the egg-washed edges to seal, squeezing any air out as you go.

Trim neatly round the parcels and use the tines of a fork to press down the edges to make a pattern.

Put the parcels back in the fridge for half an hour to chill, then remove and using the point of a blunt knife make a spiral pattern from the centre of the domes to the patterned edge without cutting through. Poke a small hole in the top so that steam can escape while they bake.

Brush each pithivier with the beaten egg yolk and chill again for half an hour.

Bake the pithiviers on a baking sheet for 25-30 minutes or until puffed and deeply golden-brown.

Use leftover puff pastry to make cheese straws, and if all this messing about with pastry discs is just a pain in the pithivier by all means make turnovers or pasties instead!

Wine Matches:
Delicious with the Terra Rossa, Vina Laguna 2015 (Discovery or available for £7.50), Salice Salentino Riserva, Vallone 2013 (Discovery or available for £7.95), Finca Antigua Crianza Tempranillo 2013 (Wine Rack Essentials or available for £8.50), Domaine Montangeron, Fleurie 2015 (French Classics or available for £10.50), or Three Terraces Marlborough Pinot Noir 2015 (Worldwide Wonders or available for £12.50). Indeed, there is hardly a red in any of the Wine Without Fuss selections that won’t work with this dish!

If you fancy a white, try it with the soft, fruity Côtes-du-Rhône Secret de Famille Blanc, Paul Jaboulet Aîné 2015 (Worldwide Wonders or available for £8.50) or the full-bodied Móri Ezerjó, Kamocsay 2015 (Discovery) from Hungary.

Categories : Wine Without Fuss
Comments (1)

Buckle up, sherry lovers – the next fortnight is Sherry Festival 2017, a two-week celebration of this beloved fortified wine from the Spanish city of Jerez de la Frontera.

Sherry festival

If you’ve yet to discover how much more sherry has to offer than the sickly sweet stuff your gran used to drink, we have some handy beginners’ guides to sherry here and here, but this year we want to shift the focus to sherry’s fantastically food-friendly qualities.

What about pouring a healthy splash of this flavoursome fortified creation into a tasty recipe or two?

We’ve done plenty of that over the years, so here’s ten of our favourite sherry recipes:

1. Artichokes and potatoes with oloroso sherry

Next time you have steak, this is a lip-smacking, flavour-packed side dish to try, and comes from chef-owners and husband and wife team Sam and Sam Clark of the Moro restaurant in London. What to drink with it? Another glass of the oloroso sherry used in the recipe, of course!

1 Artichokes and potatoes

2. Heston Blumenthal’s potted Stilton

This surprisingly easy but impressive dinner party starter is rich, indulgent and perfectly illustrates how well sweet pedro ximénez sherry goes with salty blue cheese. If you’re looking for more ideas from Heston, try his masterful sherry and food matching book, The Perfect Marriage.

Heston potted stilton

3. Fillet of cod with chorizo

A classic Gordon Ramsay recipe that’s packed with Spanish flavour. We recommend using a fino sherry with this one, and The Society’s Fino is an ideal example. Serve with a glass of rosé.

Cod and chorizo

4. Braised pig cheeks with oloroso sherry

Looking to wow your guests with a popular tapas dish or two? This succulent, herby recipe is a classic choice and comes from the tapas experts at Drake’s Tabanco restaurant in London.

braised pig cheek

 
5. Tagliatelle Alfredo

A simple take on the classic pasta dish, combining tried-and-true flavours of ham, mushrooms and cream. The generous glugging of dry sherry in this recipe adds an added dimension of flavour that makes this one of our favourite comfort food recipes.

Tagliatelle Alfredo

6. Grilled wild Atlantic salmon marinated in citrus, coriander & cumin

Fresh herbs, Seville orange and a rich, medium sherry like amontillado or oloroso unite in perfect harmony to bring out the best in a juicy fillet of Atlantic salmon. This is a delicious summer recipe and especially good to eat al fresco in the garden after a long day at the office.

Grilled atlantic salmon

7. Pantry peppers

Hidden away in the archives of our blog is a textbook tasty recipe from Janet Wynne Evans, who spent many a year creating much-loved recipes for our Wine Without Fuss cases until she retired earlier this year. These deceptively simple rice, black pudding, dry sherry and pesto stuffed peppers are an Iberian delight and work brilliantly as a hearty starter or can be served as a main course with crusty bread and a salad.

Stuffed peppers

8. Bob Andrew’s Seville duck

Bob Andrew is a chef at Riverford Organic Farmers and this sweet and smoky duck and baked rice dish has an authentic Andalusian vibe. A refreshing alternative to paella or risotto, and the fino sherry in the recipe gives an extra Spanish kick.

Seville duck

9. Steamy Oriental aubergines

A quick but tasty mid-week supper with a light dressing which marries the aromatic flavours of soy sauce, dry sherry, ginger, sesame and honey. Another fabulous creation from Janet Wynne Evans.

Oriental aubergines

10. Chicken and morels in a creamy sherry sauce

Finally, our most recent sherry recipe, courtesy of our new Wine Without Fuss recipe guru Steve Farrow. The appeal of this dish doesn’t need much explanation: a French classic combining tender chicken, earthy mushroom and a rich, creamy sauce using manzanilla or fino.

Chicken in morel cream and sherry sauce

If you’ve been inspired to knock up a mouthwatering meal using a splash or two of sherry, view our full range of sherries here, or pop into the Showroom during the Sherry Festival from 5th to 17th June as we’ll have plenty of bottles open for you to try.

Categories : Fortified, Sherry, Spain
Comments (0)

Once upon a time, we would have dismissed the idea of pairing spicy food with wine and suggested members opt for a beer or soft drink instead…

…but as David Williams says in his article for Societynews (‘What doesn’t grow together might just go together’), part of the fun of wine is to experiment and find out which foods work well with our latest wine of choice.

Share the passion!
If you find yourself a sure-fire winner, do let us and fellow members know by posting a picture of your winning combo on social media and using the hashtag #wines4spice

Wine writer David Williams believes there's fun to be had 'from the deliciously creative chaos of the contemporary global food scene.'

Wine writer David Williams believes there’s fun to be had ‘from the deliciously creative chaos of the contemporary global food scene.’

As a nation we are notorious for pinching and then adapting other people’s cuisines to call our own and at the moment, our desire for the increasingly eclectic seems to know no bounds. Often these cuisines are from non-wine-producing nations, making the old adage of ‘what grows together, goes together’ a bit redundant. More often than not, what tickles our tastebuds in terms of sensory hits, also spell death to happy wine matches.

So what should we do?

David’s article gives some great pointers for wines that should work with our penchant for global fusion cooking and we’ve put together some suggestions in the Exploration pages of the website too, including a special mixed case.

So, whether you’re a fan of the subtle yet assertive flavours of Japanese sushi, fiery and fermented Korean kimchi, the sweet and sour zing of South East Asian cooking, or the intense vibrancy of Peruvian ceviche; if the perfumed spice of Eastern Mediterranean cooking is on the menu or if you are just pimping up some traditional ‘fast food’, you could do worse than equip yourself with our mixed 12-bottle Spice Box case of wines which should have something for everyone.

Because we want people to explore and enjoy, the case has a special price too – £95 instead of £106.80 – a saving of £11.80.

Korean kimchi - a bridge too far for wine? Not at all, we say! Look to Alsace...

Korean kimchi – a bridge too far for wine? Not at all, we say! Look to Alsace…

Finding the perfect partner
When I asked our buyers for wine suggestions to go with the weird and wonderful-sounding dishes that David name-checked in his article, I wasn’t at all surprised to hear some conflicting views on the subject.

Food and wine-matching is guaranteed to get a few people hot under the collar around here and when it concerns the cuisines in David’s article (and nations which don’t produce wine), you have to rip up the rule book and start riffing on the key ingredients in the dishes and flavours in the wine instead.

As everyone knows, ultimately, what works well is a matter of personal taste, but some common ground was reached and we came up with some additional thoughts on the subject to those espoused by David Williams, which I thought members might be interested to hear.

Adding in my own personal preferences (how dare I?!), we did eventually decide amicably upon the suggestions printed in the News, and the broader selection of wines now appearing in the Exploration pages of the website.

Phew! Who would have thought it could be so difficult?

Oh, and If you don’t have access to a tasty takeaway to get hold of such exotic dishes, by the way, we have corralled a couple of recipes together to recreate your own Friday-night favourites at home.

Here are some of our buyers’ thoughts on the subject of finding the perfect bottle:

Marcel Orford-Williams

Marcel Orford-Williams‘In my opinion, the rule of thumb when it comes to pairing wines with these kinds of cuisines is that you’re best off opting for wines that are not too subtle and certainly not too mature either. With my last Thai take-away we had the Coffeles’ Soave which was thoroughly delicious.

I was once taken to a sushi place in Reims and we were served rosé Champagne from a number of different Champagne houses (I think someone was trying to make a point!), I seem to remember Roederer Champagne Rosé with a piece of Kobé beef was utterly sensational.

‘People talk of riesling working well with these kinds of dishes – they can, but don’t waste too grand a bottle, its delicate subtlety would be lost, in my view. Simple wines work best and something like Louis Guntrum’s Dry Riesling 2015 would be smashing with sushi.

Gewurztraminer is the other go-to grape when it comes to curry (its name actually means ‘spice’), but again, don’t go too grand and go for dryer styles – Trimbach, Beyer or Hugel would be my choice, or even an edelzwicker (Alsace blend) like our Society’s Vin d’Alsace, perhaps. I have very fond memories of a post-tasting dinner in a Bradford curry house with our Alsace winemakers, where we managed to get through practically an entire case of gewurztraminer between us!’

‘Don’t forget to think pink when it comes to eclectic cooking! These wines are incredibly versatile and cope really well with spice.

Pierre Mansour

Pierre Mansour‘For Eastern Mediterranean food, obviously we have a some lovely Lebanese wines that would be a perfect match, but I also would opt for rich Spanish Rioja like Castillo de Viñas, or something based on the monastrell grape such as our Society’s Southern Spanish Red.’

Joanna Locke MW

Joanna Locke MWWhen it comes to pairing wines with sushi I can’t help but feel those whites with the freshness of the nearby sea work bestalvarinho or Vinho Verde from Portugal’s Atlantic coast, or traditional French seafood partners, Muscadet or Picpoul de Pinet.

‘I remember a conversation with Luis Pato, pioneering winemaker of Bairrada wines, when he told me about the culinary and historical connections between Japan and Portugal and how Portuguese wines are becoming increasingly popular because of their ability to pair with global cuisines. “Thai food requires wines that are fruity and lowish in alcohol, and the Japanese are very enthusiastic about our wines. There are a lot of similarities in our cuisine. Both nations eat a lot of fish and pork and though both use spices, the cuisine is essentially quite simple.”

Read more about his thoughts on the subject in our interview with Luis on our website

‘It makes perfect sense and provides some kind of explanation as to why Portuguese whites seem to work with spicy, global cooking. The reds, on the other hand are equally versatile, I think, with riper Dão vintages an excellent choice for Eastern Mediterranean dishes and both reds and whites adaptable to dress up or down for posh fast food!

Another spice tamer, particularly if coconut milk is involved, is chenin blanc. Even quite delicate-seeming wines like the Demi-Sec from Domaine Francis Mabille can hold their own surprisingly well against a bit of chilli. And the Cape’s chenins or chenin-based blends with a bit more oomph to them, can work with Asian spicing or even Caribbean cooking.

Fish and citrus is nothing new for us but in the currently fashionable Peruvian ceviche genre with its blistering lime tang calls for an Aussie dry riesling or Greek assyrtiko

Fish and citrus is not new for us but in the currently fashionable Peruvian ceviche genre, with its blistering lime tang, an Aussie dry riesling or Greek assyrtiko are called for

Sarah Knowles MW

Sarah Knowles MWFusion cooking and global cuisine was big down under long before it hit our restaurants and the up-front zesty, ripe-fruit flavours you get from Aussie dry riesling chime beautifully with sweet-sour and hot nature of many of these dishes.

Full-throttle spicy shiraz, or a GSM blend is a no-brainer for Eastern Mediterranean cooking. But I also like the soft, fruity flavours of Pedroncelli’s Friends Red Sonoma County, which would be a good standby for this style of cooking as well as posh fast food.’

We hope that you have fun finding your own perfect pairings – don’t forget to share! #wines4spice

Joanna Goodman
Communications Editor

Visit our Exploration wines page

Snap up ‘The Spice Box’ Case for £95 (instead of £106.80)

Read David Williams’ article for Societynews

Categories : Miscellaneous
Comments (0)

With English Wine Week beginning on 27th May, Steve Farrow gets us in the mood with some food and wine ideas to try out…

English wines and winemaking have come a long way just in the 25 years that I have known and tasted them. With increased investment in vineyards and wineries, more experienced winemakers and even, it must be said, better temperatures for grape growing, English wine has now firmly earned its place on the world wine map.

Ridgeview in Sussex, the source of our Exhibition English Sparkling Wine

Ridgeview in Sussex, the source of our Exhibition English Sparkling Wine

In terms of grapes, we’re now masters of the mostly Germanic varieties we first started growing in the 1950s, including müller-thurgau, huxelrebe, reichensteiner, scheurebe, seyval blanc and madeleine angevin. But English soils often have similarities to those across the Channel in Champagne, and we’re beginning to triumph with the famous bubbly’s preferred grapes of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier too.

So it seems fitting for me to begin my food and wine matching suggestions with our fine English fizz.

English sparkling wine
Our bubbly is made in the same way as Champagne and is an excellent food match. What with? Well, the short answer is seafood.

English sparkling wine’s zesty, lively character cuts through the crunchy batter and flaky fish of a traditional fish and chips, the acidity and zingy bubbles are like drizzling lemon juice over smoked, oily fish like salmon or trout, and the fruit and bite will be a winning partner for a crab or lobster salad.

Fish and chips

One dish that I can personally vouch for is (although perhaps old-fashioned these days) is a glass of our very own Exhibition English Sparkling Wine (£21 per bottle) with herring roes on toast. The gentle bready character of the wine melded with the hot, buttered toast, while the citrus cut of the acidity lifted every mouthful of the soft, floured and fried roes with their dusting of sea salt and white pepper.

Bacchus
Beyond the bubblies, bacchus is probably the darling of the English wine scene. A cross between müller-thurgau and a sylvaner-riesling cross, it shares aroma and flavour characteristics with sauvignon blanc, and often shares food matches with this grape too.

This fragrant, acidic style is a match for many cheeses – think the fresh sharpness of goat’s cheese, crumbly Lancashire and Wensleydale, as well as saltier cheeses like sheep’s milk Berkeswell or Manchego.

Cheese

The grassy, nettley, elderflower character is a summer food dream, from a herby pea risotto to a seared salmon fillet with green veg like asparagus, mangetout or runner beans.

Smoked salmon with a cucumber salad or gravadlax with a sweet, sharp mustard sauce will also cut the… well, mustard.

Try:
Chapel Down Bacchus 2015 (£11.50) from Kent
Camel Valley Bacchus 2015 (£13.75) from Cornwall

Aromatic English blends
Many English whites are a skilful mix of some of the Germanic grapes I mentioned in the intro, and these gently floral and fruity wines make for excellent summer drinking, especially with light, aromatic foods. Try them with fragrant Eastern Asian dishes like Thai, Szechuan, Vietnamese – perhaps a sea bass fillet steamed with ginger, lemongrass, basil and garlic, or a good old Chinese takeaway.

thai ingredients

Try:
Three Choirs Payford Bridge 2016 (£8.50) from Gloucestershire.

Pinot Blanc
Alsace fans will be pleased to learn the great waves English winemakers are making with pinot blanc, creating crisp, fresh, non-aromatic but vivacious wines that match a range of seafood (see the suggestions for the bubbly above) and also the same cheeses mentioned in my bacchus recommendations.

The fruit and freshness can also cut through the richness of quiche Lorraine, mac and cheese or a fondue.

Quiche

Try:
Stopham Estate Pinot Blanc 2015 (£12.95) from Sussex.

Rosé
Last but by no means least, our Three Choirs Rosé (£8.25) is a crisp, red-fruited winner that will happily stand with a roast chicken or pork dinner, a bowl of pasta in any tomato-based sauce and simply grilled lamb served juicily pink and scattered with rosemary. Rather like a light red, this rosé is also lovely with salmon steaks fresh from the pan or grill, and a couple of thick slices of ham, whether with chips or a major salad, will offer a melodic duet indeed!

As English Wine Week unfolds, I do hope you can give our homegrown wines a chance to shine with some of your spring dinner delights, or even just to sip as a palate awakener or to accompany the view as you look at your handiwork in a sun-blessed garden. They are just so fresh, vibrant and delicious – they really do deserve your attention.

Categories : England
Comments (2)
Wed 03 May 2017

Food Without Fuss: Recipes For Spring

Posted by: | Comments (0)

These recipes, while hopefully of use and interest to all, were written with the latest selections of our just-revamped Wine Without Fuss subscription scheme particularly in mind.

Friendly, flexible and commitment-free, Wine Without Fuss is now better than ever, with a wider range of options than ever before. If you have trouble selecting from our huge range of amazing wines, this service makes the decision easy, with five plans to suit every taste and budget. And you can cancel, change or skip an order at any time. What’s not to love?!

Why not join the growing band of members who let their Society take the strain, and are regularly glad they do?

Wine Without Fuss

I have decided that spring is my favourite season of the year. You may think that this is a strangely overdue epiphany for someone who has enjoyed more than 50 summers but there it is.

The other day, after many, many years of thinking that summer was without question my favourite season, I finally gave in to what had spent such a long time creeping up on me.

What finally clinched it was twofold. Firstly, while hunching against a particularly knife-like blast from (and up) the nether regions as I strolled across our goods-in yard here at Stevenage, I was enveloped in the scent of blossom from the trees and bushes that have been planted around our HQ. The bosky, almondy scent was an absolute delight and I found myself taking an almost involuntary moment to inhale deep breaths of it. The sun was shining, many a bird was chirruping and I just stopped in my tracks to enjoy it.

The second incident was the arrival of our supermarket delivery driver a few days ago. It was not he who induced the moment, lovely chap though he is, but rather the arrival in our crates of some fairly early Suffolk asparagus and a bag of one of my favourite things, Jersey Royal potatoes. The knowledge that they should, and would, be savoured for their recently picked depth of flavour and sweetness meant I knew that I had to include them in some small way in this blog. Both are very available and very delicious and, while they might share the billing with the chicken with morels recipe below, they really help lift the dish with their own characters.

Lamb gets a look in too because it is spring! ‘Nuff said. The recipe I give here, culled from Raymond Blanc’s Foolproof French Cookery, published by the BBC in 2002, is an oft-repeated pleasure in our house, tweaked for our pleasure and flexible and forgiving enough to accommodate variations on the ingredients as I do here.

The second recipe is another French classic, from the Jura region in the east which abuts Switzerland. A silky sauce of spring-fresh morel mushrooms and fino or manzanilla sherry (which is a good-value alternative to the delicious but considerably more expensive Vin Jaune wine indigenous to the Jura region) coating tender chicken.

Finally, a delicious pork fillet recipe. Apples and pork may not be a spring thing but I hope cider can be forgiven!

Steve Farrow

THE RECIPES

Chicken and Morels in a Sherry and Cream Sauce
Serves 2

Ingredients
• 2 chicken breasts or suprémes, skinned and slightly flattened out, and seasoned with salt and pepper
• 25g unsalted butter
• 250ml Vin Jaune, or dry sherry like fino or manzanilla (or a Jura savagnin, or oaky white wine such as Rioja Blanco if you prefer)
• 250ml double cream
• 100g fresh morel mushrooms or 30g dried morels (or use dried porcini which have a stronger flavour)
• 100g button mushrooms, halved, or chestnut mushrooms sliced

Cream sauce

If using dried morels, soak them in boiling water for half an hour, then drain and reserve the soaking liquid. If using the fresh morels, give them a brush and a shake to ensure that the crinkles, nooks and crannies are free of grit and any creepy crawlies. If the morels are pretty large cut them in half length-ways.

Put a large frying pan over a moderate flame and add the butter and let it froth before laying the chicken breasts in the pan. Sauté over a moderately high heat until they are a deep golden brown and turn over to repeat. This should take about 6 minutes, 3 on each side.

Remove from the pan, leaving the butter, which should be a nutty golden brown, before throwing in the mushrooms, and sautéing for minutes. Pour in the sherry (or wine) and bring up to a boil to evaporate away the alcohol, and then lower the heat and reduce the liquid by about two thirds. Pour in the double cream and bring back to the boil and reduce until the sauce is well combined and reduced to a coating consistency (i.e. the sauce will cling to the back of a spoon).

At this point taste the sauce for seasoning. If using the dried mushrooms you can decide if the sauce is strong enough for your taste and if not you can add some or all of the reserved soaking liquor, suitably strained through some muslin or a sheet of kitchen roll to remove any grit, and reduce a little more to account for the liquor being added. Put the chicken breasts back in to the sauce with any juices they have exuded, and simmer gently until the chicken is cooked through, about 7 or 8 minutes.

In France the dish is often served with boiled rice. In the spirit of the season I suggest boiled or steamed Jersey Royal potatoes and asparagus.

Wine matches: serve this with a glass or two of white Rioja like the Bodegas Murua Blanco, Rioja 2014 (part of the Wine Without Fuss Worldwide Wonders case), or Laudun Côtes-du-Rhone Villages Blanc, Château Courac 2015 (French Classics case, and available for £9.50) or a lovely Bulgarian white, the Cuvée Bella Rada, Borovitza 2015 (Discovery case).

Braise of Lamb Neck Fillets with Broad Beans, Bacon and Garlic Sausage

I am very fond of Raymond Blanc and his food. A self-taught chef of immense talent and influence who clearly loves to eat and to cook for those who want to eat. Here I reproduce one of his lamb recipes, tweaked slightly to provide a lighter touch for spring, using broad beans rather than butter beans. These really lift the dish and make it especially attractive as a spring plateful.

Braised lamb

Ingredients
• 4 x 300g lamb neck fillets, trimmed of sinew and some fat
• 25g unsalted butter
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 5 ripe tomatoes, cut into quarters and then in half
• 6 peeled, whole garlic cloves
• 1 bouquet garni
• 750ml water
• 250g broad beans squeezed out of their skins
• 100g fresh or frozen garden peas
• 100g smoked streaky bacon cut into lardons or strips
• 200g garlic sausage, skinned and sliced or chopped
• Salt and pepper
• Chopped fresh parsley to garnish

Preheat the oven to 110C/225F/Gas Mark 1/4

Season the lamb fillets on each side with a little salt and pepper. Place a large frying pan over a medium heat and heat the butter and olive oil until the butter begins to foam. Sear the lamb fillets until a deep golden brown, turning regularly to get an even colouring. This should take about 8-10 minutes. Then transfer the meat to a large casserole dish.

Spoon out the fat from the frying pan and, still over the heat, deglaze the pan with 100ml of the water, scraping up any bits and to amalgamate the juices and water. Pour over the lamb in the casserole.

Add the cut tomatoes, garlic, water and bouquet garni to the casserole, season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer on the stove. Once it comes to a simmer cover and put into the pre-heated oven for 1 hour.

After 1 hour, take the casserole out of the oven. The broad beans need not be added until later. As well as fresh beans, add the bacon and chopped garlic sausage, cover the casserole and return it to the oven for a further 1 hour. The skinned broad beans and the peas need not be added until there is only ten minutes left to warm them through but also to preserve their wonderful green colour. The broad beans can also be scattered into the bowl at the very last minute.

After the second hour of cooking is up test the lamb with a fork. If it is not yet tender enough for your taste cook for a further 15 minutes or so and check again.

Once ready serve from the casserole and scatter over the chopped parsley.

Wine matches: The broth from this dish, made without stock, is very savoury and flavoursome but not heavy and a similar red will work well. The Society’s Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2014 (part of our Wine Rack Essentials case, or available to order for £7.50) would be an excellent match, as would young, fruity claret, the cherry-fruited ‘Dirt Track’ Cinsault by Duncan Savage, Swartland 2016 (also in Wine Rack Essentials, and available for £7.50). The Chinon ‘Le Paradis’ 2015 (part of our Lighter Wines case and available for £8.95) will also match their cabernet franc fragrance and fruit with the balanced flavours of this lamb.

Pork Fillet with Black Pudding, Apple and Rosemary Stuffing

Serves 4 generously!

Ingredients
• 3 pork tenderloins (each about 350g), trimmed of sinew and excess fat
• 100g black pudding, skinned and chopped
• 1 small eating apple peeled, cored and finely chopped
• 1 apple and 1 onion very roughly chopped (for a bed in a roasting tin)
• 2 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary
• 12 rashers streaky bacon (can be smoked or unsmoked)
• 1 small onion, finely chopped
• A grind of black pepper
• 200ml Madeira
• 50ml double cream
• 100ml pork, chicken or veal stock

Sauté the onions gently in a good knob of butter until soft. Add the chopped apple and the chopped rosemary, mix and continue to cook gently for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the black pepper, mix and take off the heat and allow to cool. I usually transfer it to a bowl to cool it a little quicker. Add the chopped black pudding and mix thoroughly.

Set the oven at 180C fan or Gas Mark 5. Cut the pork tenderloins along their length without cutting all the way through, so that they can be opened out like a book, but not quite flat. Gently stretch the streaky bacon and lay it out on a board so that they touch but don’t overlap.

Lay one of the tenderloins on to the bacon, cut side up. Spoon half the stuffing mix on top of the tenderloin’s cut side (don’t cover it to the edge of the meat and don’t pile it up too high). Shape it with your hand and press it gently so that it holds its shape. Lay the second tenderloin on top, cut side down. Spoon stuffing along the top of this tenderloin and press gently into another low ridge. You may not need all the stuffing and can make small stuffing balls with any remainder if you like. Place the last tenderloin on top, cut side down.
Wrap the bacon around the stacked tenderloins so that they are covered and trim the length of each rasher if necessary so that there is overlap but not lots of overlap. Half an inch or so is enough; otherwise you have a flap of bacon on the ‘joint’ when you carve it.

Put the roughly chopped apple and onion into a roasting pan to make a bed for the ‘joint’. Place the bacon-wrapped tenderloin on top of the chopped apple and onion with the overlapping side of the bacon down so that the overlap is held in place. Cover with a tent of foil and put into the preheated oven for 25 minutes.

After the 25 minutes take the pan out of the oven and remove the foil and then put the pan back into the oven for a further 25 minutes or so, until the bacon colours and crisps a little so that the fat is golden. You don’t want it brittle as it will make it more difficult to carve neatly later.

When the 25 minutes is up and if you are happy with the colour of the bacon take it out of the oven, place the pork ‘joint’ on a carving tray, cover with foil and allow to rest for a further 20-30 minutes or so. If you try to carve it while still piping hot it will fall apart.

While the ‘joint’ is resting, drain the fat and any juices from the roasting pan into a jug. Separate and discard any fat. Pour any remaining juices, the stock and the Madeira into a saucepan, bring to a boil and reduce until the mixture thickens and reduces by about two-thirds. Pour in the cream, bring back to the boil and reduce further to a coating consistency. Strain into a warm jug, cover and keep toasty until ready to carve.

Once rested carve the pork into slices, at least half an inch thick. The slices should be marbled with two layers of stuffing in discs. Any leftover, unsliced ‘joint’ is lovely cold when it can be carved into thinner slices.

Serve with the sauce. I like it with creamy, buttery mash with a dash of white pepper in it, and some buttered tenderstem broccoli. Or try the broccoli with a little pesto stirred through it while hot.

If you like you could serve this very successfully with a cider sauce, made without the cream. Simply make a gravy of the meat juices and the little fat that results from the roasting, whisked with a tablespoon of plain flour until there are no lumps and replacing the Madeira with a similar volume of a very good dry or off-dry cider, like this one!

To be honest, you can use any stuffing of your choice that will hold its shape. I love black pudding however, which makes a wonderful colour contrast between the pale pork and the dark pud. Above all, have fun with it!

Wine matches: This dish offers an indulgent combination of richness and sweetness, and so a wine with similar credentials would work brilliantly. A prime example is the Blind Spot Grenache-Shiraz-Mourvèdre 2015 (Discovery case, or available for £7.95), whose cunning combination of ripe-fruited shiraz and sweet red-berried grenache (plus mourvèdre for structure) sets it apart. For a white option, look to Alsace for inspiration: the Alsace, Cuvée Trimbach 2014 (French Classics case, and available for £9.95) combines the aromatic muscat grape with the freshening influence of sylvaner, and would make an excellent partner.

Categories : Wine Without Fuss
Comments (0)
Wed 04 Jan 2017

Food Without Fuss: In Praise Of The Potato

Posted by: | Comments (2)

These recipes, while hopefully of use and interest to all, was written with the New Year selections of our Wine Without Fuss subscription scheme particularly in mind. 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?

Janet Wynne Evans

Janet Wynne Evans

National Chip Week, which traditionally sizzled into action, when our New Year Wine Without Fuss selections were safely in the rack, was surely a happy light at the end of the grim tunnel of atonement that is January for many of us. If only we could master the art of moderation. On that note, a recipe for recycling them, below, may help debunk the myth that an Extra-Large portion of chip-shop soggies has to be forced down or thrown away.

Of course, there is so much more to potatoes than chips and more varieties than you can shake a stick at. There’s more from me on that story in the February edition of Societynews and if I seem to have taken overly long to harness the humble tatty for the Wine and Dine aspect of a ‘Fuss’ selection, it’s because the choice of spuds before us today is a relatively recent phenomenon.

Regrettably, the vacuum has been filled with doom-laden denunciations from the carbs police, but let’s not confuse potatoes with pappy rolls and blotting-paper bread. Unlike those, potatoes contain a raft of useful vitamins and minerals. They can even take the place of flour in soufflés (see below), which suddenly become a gluten-free option. They are also very versatile as I have found over the years when using up the end of a sack of them that seemed like especially good value at the time – for a family of 20. There is certainly enough scope to cover the dozen intriguing bottles that awaiting the undivided attention of the Wine Without Fuss subscriber.

Once you’ve got the right one, potatoes are, essentially, magnificent shock absorbers, for the butter, milk and spring onions that turn Maris mash into champ, for the vinegar that wakes up a proper, chipped King Edward, for the riot of cream and garlic that transforms layered Désirées into gratin dauphinois and for the mayonnaise, chives and bacon bits that curl around Charlotte and her elegant pals to make a great potato salad.

So, at this grey time of year, I commend to fellow-members the infinite variety of the pomme de terre. Large or small, short or tall, spring or fall, there will, surely, always be a spud you like and always a Fuss-free wine to go with it.

Janet Wynne Evans
Fine Wine Editor

THE RECIPES

Mashed Potatoes with Fresh Truffles

jersey-royals-finalLast year, we celebrated the foodscape of Istria, the small, but gastronomic triangle that hangs between the rest of Croatia and north-eastern Italy. The emphasis was on black truffles, which thrive here. This recipe was given to us by Robert Golic, in-house chef at Agrolaguna, who supply our Vina Laguna Malvazija (sadly currently out of stock), but it also works very well with any fulsome chardonnay.

Try it with Joseph Burrier’s buttery Mâcon-Verzé (French Classic Whites), or if you prefer a red, go for a lightish one: Moselle Pinot Noir ‘Les Hautes Bassières’ (French Classic Reds) will do nicely.

View the recipe here

Born-Again Patatas Fritas

The perfect exit plan for the unwieldy portion of chips served up by the average chippie. With the rising cost of cod, I imagine the aim is to add value. I’m quite staggered when people throw away what they can’t eat, especially when these chips are so good reheated that I’ve even been known to order a ‘large’ to make sure we’re covered for Round Two. Given a Spanish twist as below, or cooked in duck or goose fat with a few sprigs of thyme and a splash of garlic oil , they are just plain delicious.

The secret is good flavourings and fresh cooking-fat at the proper temperature. Having your chips and your fish separately wrapped is wise, and at all costs, decline politely any offers of salt and vinegar at the counter. Once home, apportion your chips for now and later. Let the laters cool completely and freeze. I find that recycled chips are best thawed before reheating, so I allow time for that, but by all means recook them in their frozen state if you like.

Shallow-frying requires relatively little oil – about an inch or so, or barely 100ml for two portions of chips. It should be between 160-175C, or hot enough to make a test chip sizzle as soon as it makes contact. If it’s smoking vigorously, it’s too hot.

Dust the thawed chips in smoked paprika – sweet or hot, as you prefer – and fry in groundnut or sunflower oil to which you have added just a hint of chilli oil, to taste. Once the chips are brown, crisp and clattering in the pan, drain well on kitchen paper. Delicious with grilled chorizos or just dunked into a pot of spicy tomato sauce for that stereophonic patatas bravas vibe.

To drink: Spanish of course! 3C Premium Selection, Cariñena 2013 (Buyers’ Everyday Reds) is perfection, or try The Cup and Rings Mencia (Buyers’ Premium Reds). If you’re serving these without the fiery tomato dip, but with, say a bit of grilled fish, the brisk piquancy of Crego e Monoaguillo Godello-Treixadura (Buyers’ Premium Whites) will offset the smoked paprika and fat.

Ratte and Smoked Salmon Parcels
This recipe is reproduced with the kind permission of La Ratte du Touquet magazine.

An intriguingly spicy little purse of a starter. If your guests express interest in the recipe, I find it’s best not to spoil their appetite by telling them that they’re eating Ratte. And yes, there is a magazine dedicated to this potato variety.

aumoniere-de-ratte-du-touquet-saumon-et-coriandre

Serves four as a starter
• 500g Ratte potatoes (or similar small new variety)
• 6 slices smoked salmon
• 6 sheets filo pastry
• 20g thumb of fresh ginger root
• a small bunch of coriander, leaves only, washed (save the fragrant stems for stocks and sauce)
• olive oil for frying
• a handful of fresh chives, washed and dried
• salt and pepper

Set the oven at 180C/Gas 4. Peel, rinse and chop the potatoes into 1cm cubes. Peel and grate the ginger. Roll up each of the salmon slices and cut into fine strips. Chop the coriander finely.

Blanch the potatoes for a few minutes in a pan of boiling water. Remove with a slotted spoon, drain and dry on kitchen paper. Plunge your chives into the same boiling water, for just one minute. Refresh them under a cold tap and dry well.

Once the steam has stopped rising from the potatoes, heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the potatoes and let them colour and finish cooking. Season with just a little salt and some black pepper. Mix well with the salmon , ginger and coriander.

Brush the filo sheets with oil, one at a time (keep the rest covered with a damp cloth to stop them drying out. Place one-sixth of the potato mixture in the centre of each sheet and draw the pastry into a purse shape, trimming the tops if necessary. Tie each purse with a couple of the chives.

Once all six are assembled, place them on a baking sheet, brush with a little more oil and bake for 8 minutes or so, until golden and fragrant. Serve without delay.

To drink: there’s salt, smoke, spice and greenery to contend with here, so go for a multi-tasking white like Percheron Chenin Blanc-Viognier, Swartland 2016 (Buyers’ Classic Whites). Three Choirs Stone Brook (Buyers’ Everyday Whites) would also rise to the occasion.

Potato & Goat’s Cheese Soufflés
Inspired by a recipe in SAVEURS magazine

Potatoes make healthy and tasty ballast for soufflés. They don’t produce an ethereal and majestically wobbly result, more a solid and comforting deliciousness.

The original recipe specified just enough flour to dust the ramekins to stop the mixture sticking, but using grated Parmesan instead not only adds an extra layer of flavour but makes the soufflés wheat-free. The specified spud is the yellow-fleshed Bintje, a variety rarely seen commercially here, but our more familiar all-rounders Wilja or Maris Piper will do the job perfectly.

souffle

(Photograph courtesy of Saveurs Magazine)
Serves six as a starter, four as a light lunch
• 650g potatoes
• 4 eggs
• 100ml single cream
• 250g soft goat’s milk cheese, strong or mild as you like
• 25g softened butter
• 2-3 tablespoons very finely grated aged pecorino or Parmesan cheese
• Salt and black pepper
• A pinch of ground nutmeg or Cayenne pepper

You’ll need four ramekins, about 10cm across the top and 5cm deep, or six smaller ones measuring about 7cm across but of the same depth.

Peel the potatoes. Rinse them under the tap, pat dry and chop into small pieces. Put them in a pan of cold salted water, turn on the heat and give them 20 minutes from cold.

Grease the ramekins with the butter and veil with the Parmesan, shaking out the excess. Save that and add to the potato mixture. Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas 4. Drain the potatoes for at least 10-15 minutes to let the steam die down completely. Pass the potatoes through a ricer or mash by hand to achieve a thick, but not gloopy puree.

Separate the eggs. To the yolks, add the cream and the cheese and fold into the mashed potato, using a spatula to obtain a smooth puree. Add the black pepper and nutmeg or Cayenne.

Now add a pinch of salt to the egg-whites and beat to a firm peak. Fold them quickly into the potato mixture to retain as much air as possible.

Place the prepared ramekins on a baking sheet and fill almost to the brim with the mixture. Bake for 25-30 minutes, resisting any temptation to open the oven door. If your oven doesn’t have a glass porthole, be guided by the smell.

While the soufflés are cooking, prepare a little salad of interesting greens, dressed with a dash each of hazelnut oil and lemon juice to serve on the side. Remove the soufflés from the oven and serve without delay.

To drink: it may be a bit of a cliché but was there ever such a love affair as the one between goat’s milk cheese and sauvignon blanc? Step forward Touraine Chenonceaux, Domaine de la Renaudie 2014 (French Classic Whites), but if you fancy a red with this, a ripe cabernet franc – Chinon, Domaine de la Semellerie (Buyers’ Premium Reds) – is your man.

Categories : Wine Without Fuss
Comments (2)
Tue 08 Nov 2016

Food Without Fuss: Let it Stew!

Posted by: | Comments (4)

This recipe, while hopefully of use and interest to all, was written with the winter selections of The Society’s Wine Without Fuss subscription scheme particularly in mind. 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?

Find out more about Wine Without Fuss in a short video on our website.

Janet Wynne Evans

Janet Wynne Evans

When icicles begin to show signs of hanging by the wall, make room for them by unhooking your trusty stewpot.

If, as mine are, your wrists are beginning to feel the strain of cast iron, a bit of earthenware makes just as cracking a slow braise – stew, daube, tafelspitz, ragout, ragù or whatever you might wish to call it. This is also a good time of year for owners of electrical slow cookers to justify to sceptical spouses why they are such an essential piece of kit, especially if dust has been gathering on them.

Far be it from me to start lecturing fellow members on the gentle, bubbling art of stewing, merely to issue a gentle, bubbling reminder and introduce a few seasonal bottles that will sit effortlessly alongside. Yes, the formula may be the same from cawl to caldo verde – rhythm section, protein, liquid and flavourings – but it’s all in the layering, from the sizzling alliums that kick off the exercise to the fragrant top notes of specific flavourings.

It’s in the difference between fresh and dried herbs, the latter having, for some reason fallen into undeserved disfavour, the subtle addition of white or cayenne pepper rather than black, perhaps the sneaky inclusion of star anise (without doubt my go-to intriguing spice with baked ham or fish) or clove, the secret to beef, brasato-style. These are what defines the glorious aromas that fill the kitchen, and inspire good wine matches, your reward for a bit of effort and a lot of patience.

stew

Below are three all-time favourite stew recipes, chosen with this Winter Wine Without Fuss selection.

Janet Wynne Evans
Fine Wine Editor

Christmas Eve Pork
This recipe, shared both with colleagues and members in the past with the kind permission of its author Philippa Davenport, first appeared in the Financial Times. The clipping has gone from pristine pink to faded and splashed in equal measure – always a good sign. After three hours in the oven, the pork melts in the mouth and infused with the intriguing darkness of Agen prunes.

agen-prunes

Wine matches: A dryish, slightly tannic red from, say the Loire or Bordeaux is good here. Touraine ‘Jajavanaise’, Domaine Paget 2015 (Buyers’ Premium Reds) and Château Saint-Hilaire, Médoc 2010 (Buyer’s Classic French Reds) are two that occur and anything Iberian is, of course excellent with pork. Having said that, a richer, rounder white will sit very happily with this. Try Delheim Chenin Blanc (Buyers’ Premium Whites) or Gewurztraminer Les Princes Abbés 2013 (£14.50, Buyers’ French Dry Whites).

For 4-5 people, lay 1 kg halved lean-end belly pork rashers (boneless but with rind on) in a single layer in a baking dish. Push 12 prunes into the gaps. Scatter generously with lemon thyme leaves, chopped coriander and parsley. Add some crushed garlic, salt, pepper and a corner of a chicken stock cube, crumbled. Veil the meat with paper-thin slices of onion and pour on 1 tablespoon tarragon vinegar mixed with 300 ml unsweetened grape juice. Cover tightly with oiled greaseproof and foil. Put the dish in the oven and set the timer to switch on to 150C/Gas 3 to bake the pork in time for dinner. It will take three and a half hours but a little longer will not hurt. By then, it will be so tender that, as Philippa writes, ‘even the toothless would rejoice in it.’ Good accompaniments are mashed potatoes, and a salad of peppery leaves.

Spiced aubergine and tomato ragout
I serve this store-cupboard special not only to vegetarian friends, but for my own entire pleasure. The original recipe, with which I’ve taken one or two liberties, was clipped many moons ago from a long-defunct foodie mag, so if its anonymous author is reading this, please get in touch so that I can heap you with praise!

aubergines

Wine matches: Rich, velvety and imbued with Mediterranean warmth, it calls for a similar red, of which there’s an embarrassment of choice in the Winter Wine Without Fuss selections. A few that come to mind are Nero d’Avola Sicilia 2014 (£6.75, Buyers’ Everyday Reds), or, from Buyers’ Premium Reds, Concha y Toro Corte Ignacio Casablanca Merlot 2013 (£8.50) and Señorío de Sarría Crianza, Navarra 2012 (£8.25). Paradoxe Rouge, Domaine de l’Arjolle, Côtes-de-Thongue 2013 (Buyers’ Classic French Reds) is a premium comfort blanket.

For four people, heat a splash of oil in a big frying pan and temper – oil first, spices, then onions in quick succession – a spicy rhythm-section of diced onions (two medium ones are about right), two fat cloves of garlic, crushed, a pinch each of whole cumin and coriander seeds and a teaspoon of dried ginger. It’s punchiest freshly grated from a whole dried root, but powdered is fine.

Once it’s all looking soft and promising, throw in two large aubergines, cut into bite-sized pieces. Mix well and cook for a few minutes before adding half a bottle of fruity red wine, a 440g can of plum tomatoes and a good tablespoon of sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained of the latter and snipped. You might also squeeze in a little tomato puree for good measure. As always with tomatoes, a pinch of sugar is a good idea at this juncture. Now bring it all to the boil, lower the heat and simmer very gently until the aubergine is tender. This might take anything from half an hour to 45 minutes. When it looks to be just about there, throw in a bag of washed spinach leaves and let their vivid green wilt graceully into the sea of red – a matter of moments.

You can serve this as it is with mashed roots, pasta or toasted sourdough bread, rubbed with garlic, or, for a genuine one-pot meal, stir in a can of chick peas, drained and rinsed, for the last five minutes of cooking.

For a festive wow factor, make it in advance, let it cool and pile it into four small soup bowls. I like the traditional French kind, with a pedestal and, inexplicably, a lion’s head on either handle, but anything with a small surface area will do. Cover each with a puff pastry hat, brush with beaten egg and reheat at 190C for about 30 minutes, until the pastry is risen and golden and a ferocious bubbling is apparent below it. Who needs meat?

Moro Fish Tagine with Potatoes, Tomatoes and Olives
Scene of many toothsome Society sherry dinners, Moro, Sam and Sam Clarke’s ground-breaking restaurant, was among the first to put thrilling Spanish and north African ingredients properly on our radar. This recipe is from their first recipe collection, simply called Moro: The Cookbook (Ebury Press, 2001) and it’s Moorish in more ways than one.

Wine matches: A conveniently quick simmer, rather than a stew, it responds to spicy whites such as Schlumberger’s heady Gewurztraminer Les Princes Abbés 2013 (£14.50, Buyers’ French Dry Whites) or even fruity, medium-bodied reds like Esteva Douro (Buyers’ Everyday Reds). Still with Portugal, Casa Ferreirinha Esteva, Douro 2015 (£6.25, Buyers’ Everyday Whites) is another good option, as is Costières de Nîmes, Tradition Blanc, Mas de Bressades 2015 (Buyer’s Premium Whites).

• 4 hake steaks about 250g or fillets of 225g each (you can use any white fish)
• 20 small, waxy new potatoes, peeled (Charlotte, Roseval, Ratte)
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
• 15 cherry tomatoes, halved
• 4 green peppers, grilled until blistered, then skinned, seeded and cut into strips
• a handful of black olives
• 100ml water
• sea salt and black pepper

Charmoula
• 2 garlic cloves
• 1 level teaspoon salt
• 2 teaspoons freshly ground cumin
• juice of 1 lemon
• ½ tablespoon good-quality red-wine vinegar
• 1 teaspoon paprika
• 1 small bunch coriander, roughly chopped
• 1 tablespoon olive oil

First make the charmoula, preferably in a pestle and mortar. Pound the garlic with the salt until a smooth paste is formed, then add the cumin followed by the lemon juice, vinegar, paprika, coriander and olive oil. Rub two-thirds of the charmoula mixture into the fish and stand in the fridge for between 20 minutes and 2 two hours.

Boil the potatoes in salted water for 10-15 minutes until just tender. Drain and halve lengthways.

In a medium saucepan heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over a medium heat and fry the garlic until light brown. Add the tomatoes and toss for 1-2 minutes until they begin to soften. Stir in the peppers and remaining charmoula and check for seasoning.

Spread the potatoes evenly over the base of a 25cm tagine, saucepan or frying pan with a lid. Scatter three-quarters of the pepper and tomato mixture over the potatoes, then place the marinated fish on top. Dab the remaining tomato and pepper mixture on top of each fish, along with the olives.

Add the water, drizzle on the remaining tablespoon of olive oil , put on the lid and steam for 10-15 minutes until the fish is cooked through.

Categories : Wine Without Fuss
Comments (4)
Fri 02 Sep 2016

Food Without Fuss: Rice and Easy

Posted by: | Comments (1)

This recipe, while hopefully of use and interest to all, was written with the autumn selections of The Society’s Wine Without Fuss subscription scheme particularly in mind. 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?

Find out more about Wine Without Fuss in a short video on our website.

Rice and easy

Risotto is stirring, in every sense of the word. And, at my advancing age, there are times when I have to be shaken first, to confront the hob-watching, ladling and wooden-spooning vital to the creamy, nutty, silky-smooth perfection one hopes to achieve. Once you get going of course, helpful adrenalin kicks in. The difficulty is the getting-going.

The other short-grain classic, paella is no pushover either. It’s not about stirring, but catching’, that is to say catching the rice before it catches on the bottom of the pan. Being a bad workman of the worst order, I blame my tools, from the authentically shallow pan to a ferocious hob that doesn’t do ‘gentle’. I have spent many a weary midnight hour scraping burnt residues off both of these and it’s enough to make you leave the remaining half of your hessian sackful of prime calasparra gathering dust at the back of the cupboard. Next to the half-full box of arborio, once hot, and now not, from the Po Valley carb belt.

As far as I know, the first influential mainstream cooker writer to ‘fess up to risotto fatigue in print was – how could it not be? – the eminently practical and consumer-friendly Delia Smith. Rather than pitching a glossy world of elegant worktops, unlimited brio and hand-picked guests who park bums on seats the minute dinner is ready and enthuse obligingly into Camera Four, Delia felt that if you could bake a rice pudding, why on earth could you not apply the same principle to a risotto, and put your feet up while it cooked? Her Oven-Baked Wild Mushroom Risotto, lubricated with Madeira, is one of the stars of her Winter Collection (BBC Books 1995).

This was by no means the first of Delia’s tips on how not to get in a paddy. Her Summer Collection (BBC Books 1993) came up trumps with Pesto Rice Salad, a delicious and effortless buffet bowlful wherein good risotto rice is boiled in a light vegetable stock for 20 minutes and tossed with pesto sauce. Both these recipes can be found on deliaonline.com.

Janet Wynne Evans

Janet Wynne Evans

What Delia did for risotto fatigue, Bob Andrew, chef at Riverford Organic Farmers has done for paella. Many members will already be familiar with Riverford’s thoughtful meat and vegetable box schemes and the innovative recipes that often accompany them.

His Seville Duck is a glorious baked rice dish with an authentic Andalucian vibe, made salty by olives, smoky by chorizo and sweet by the surprise addition of a soupcon of Seville orange marmalade. I’m on record, and a cracked one at that, as recoiling in horror at the vinicidal potential of duck à l’orange, but this works and it’s pretty fabulous even without the duck: swap the chorizo for a good pinch of smoked paprika, it’s a vegetarian feast. Once the ingredients are combined, it goes into the oven for 40 minutes while you have a well-earned 40 winks, or at least a relaxing copita of chilled manzanilla.

It’s neither risotto nor paella but the combination of soft grains and really bold flavours is irresistible. As is the fact that there is no catch, and you won’t go stir-crazy making it.

Janet Wynne Evans
Fine Wine Editor

BOB ANDREW’S SEVILLE DUCK
Recipe by Bob Andrew, chef at Riverford Organic Farmers

Serves two
• 2 duck legs
• salt and black pepper
• 2 tbsp light olive oil
• 1 large onion, finely diced
• 1 celery stalk, finely diced
• 1 cooking chorizo, 100g approx
• 3 tomatoes, roughly chopped
• 2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
• 1 sprig thyme, leaves only
• a pinch of saffron
• 1 bay leaf
• a pinch of cayenne pepper
• 150g calasparra rice
• 125ml fino sherry
• 2 tbsp marmalade
• 30g black olives
• 500ml hot chicken or duck stock
• a handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

• Lightly score the fat on the duck legs. Season with salt and pepper. Put a casserole pan on a medium heat and warm the olive oil. Fry the duck until golden brown on both sides, remove and keep to one side.

• Add the onions and celery to the pan and fry in the duck fat over a gentle heat for ten minutes until soft. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.

• Skin the chorizo and break into 1cm chunks. Fry in the pan for 2-3 minutes. Add tomatoes, garlic, thyme saffron, bay and cayenne. Cook for a further 2 minutes before adding the rice. Turn everything gently to mix. Add the sherry and cook until mostly absorbed.

• Gently stir in the marmalade and olives, Pour in the hot stock and bring to a simmer. Tuck the duck into the rice, skin side up. Pop the lid on and bake in the oven until the rice and duck are tender – about 40 minutes. Check the seasoning and garnish with the parsley.

Wine matches
This is a dish of many possibilities, easily adapted to suit just about any bottle that tickles your fancy in the autumn ‘Fuss’ collection.

Served as it is, it’s perfect with Zorzal Garnacha (£6.50) in the Buyers’ Everyday Reds or our other hispanic hero Koyle Carmenère (£7.95) in Premium Reds. It also works with the resolutely foodie Navajas Blanco Crianca (£7.50) in the Premium Whites selection.

But then again, it could come over all Italian, with pancetta, sun-dried tomatoes and basil, topped with grilled bream fillets (Pieralisi’s £7.95 Verdicchio in Premium Whites), seasonally mushroomy like Delia’s (De Morgenzon Chardonnay, £8.95, in Buyers’ Everyday Whites) or even a bit exotic with coconut milk, lemongrass and coriander (The Winery of Good Hope Chardonnay, £6.75, Buyers’ Everyday Whites).

Categories : Wine Without Fuss
Comments (1)

These recipes, while hopefully of use and interest to all, were written with the summer selections of The Society’s Wine Without Fuss subscription scheme particularly in mind. 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?

Find out more about Wine Without Fuss in a short video on our website.

Janet Wynne Evans

Janet Wynne Evans

Whether it’s holidays, food or wine, finding something that works and resolutely sticking is a natural and understandable policy. Why go trawling the unknown, looking for potentially unpleasant surprises?

A Wine Without Fuss subscription holds no such dangers, of course. This is a corner of the unknown that comes not only with our buying team’s well-documented reputation for unearthing buried treasure, but also with The Society’s guarantee of satisfaction lest any of our selections fail to strike gold.

In fact, it’s about as risk free as any adventure can be, and a new gem could be waiting. Even after over three decades in the wine trade, more than two of them at The Wine Society and at least one on the Wine Without Fuss team, I always find something thought-provoking to inspire me with ideas for the Wine and Dine notes that accompany each case.

Food needn’t fall into a fearful rut either, especially a so-called ‘classic’ dish that, frankly, isn’t. A case in point is lasagne, literally pasta sheets that could be interleaved with anything. However, the word has become synonymous with just one version, properly called lasagne al ragù and stratified with meat and tomato sauce.

The best of these, made luxurious by prime ingredients and long, slow cooking, are delicious and comforting. I won’t dwell on how easy or tempting it is for cynical ready-meal purveyors to gravitate to the lowest common denominators, with worst mince, ketchup and mousetrap. Or, more recently, lest we forget – and we really shouldn’t – secret horse.

The very best lasagne I’ve ever tasted, however, had not a scrap of meat in sight. It came from a smiling Italian stallholder at my farmers’ market and had been lovingly stuffed, in someone’s kitchen, not a factory, with walnuts, spinach and Gorgonzola cheese, spiked with nutmeg. Inexplicably, I’ve never seen it since and enquiries yield no more than a rueful shake of the head. Perhaps it was a leap too far.

So I make it at home, though I still haven’t quite captured it. Perhaps you have to be Italian, just as Yorkshire-born cooks seem to have unique sensors in their fingertips that register when the batter for God’s Own Pudding has reached the perfect consistency and can be poured into sizzling fat.

Lasagne

Nevertheless, this is a good and flexible feast with untold variations, not to mention fridge clearance potential. One of the tastiest came from the last knockings of a somewhat eclectic spending spree in Caseus, Montreuil’s leading fromagerie, and a past-its-best bag of spinach, rocket and watercress salad. I do, however, draw the line at stale nuts, one form of poor stock rotation for which there is only one destination – the food waste bin.

The recipe below is infinitely adaptable with the summer selections.

Janet Wynne Evans
Fine Wine Editor

LASAGNE WITH SPINACH, WALNUTS AND GORGONZOLA
Serves four heartily, or six daintily.

• 550ml full-fat milk
• 2 heaped tablespoon plain flour
• 60g butter, plus a small extra knob to cook the spinach
• A couple of dried bay leaves, or use three fresh ones, torn
• A small onion or banana shallot, peeled and halved
• Two whole cloves
• Half a nutmeg
• 250g ready-washed baby spinach leaves
• 8 – 10 sheets (about 120g) dried lasagne, softened (see cook’s nips below)
• 250g mild, creamy blue cheese, eg dolcelatte or gorgonzola dolce (not
piccante), cut into small cubes
• 60g aged parmesan or pecorino cheese, freshly grated
• 75g shelled walnuts, roughly chopped

Cook’s Nips
• I don’t trust so-called ‘no-cook’ dried pasta sheets so I simmer them for about 5 minutes on the hob in a deep roasting tin, with a good pinch of salt and a dash of oil. I then top up with cold water and leave the sheets submerged until ready to layer. They will stick and tear a bit but are easier to trim and at least I know they’ll be properly cooked.
• Though a mucky bunch of what I call ‘free-range’ spinach is worth fumigating and destemming for its vastly superior taste, this recipe is definitely one for a bag of ready-washed baby leaves. They are more tender, need no trimming, wilt very quickly and need no squeezing dry or chopping.
Allow yourself plenty of time to infuse the milk. It really does make all the difference to the resulting taste and full-fat makes for a much better texture than semi-skimmed. Skimmed is a very bad idea.
• Self-styled lasagne dishes come in different shapes and sizes, so consider volume rather than dimensions. This recipe works for a capacity of about 1.5l. For 4 layers of lasagne and four neat portions, I use a pie dish measuring roughly 20cm x 20cm x 7cm.

Lasagne preparation

First infuse the milk. Set a pan on the stove and pour in the milk. Add the bay leaves. Impale each onion half with a clove and add those too. Grate in a generous amount of nutmeg. Bring the milk to boiling point, then remove it from the heat. Cover and leave for at least one hour. Strain into a jug before adding it to your béchamel.

Next, prepare your spinach, which you can also do well in advance. Put the leaves straight from their bag into a large saucepan with a very small knob of butter. Do not add water. Season well with pepper and more grated nutmeg if you like. Let it collapse on a gentle heat, standing over it and turning it about to stop it sticking. Remove it from the heat, transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Place your chosen dish in a roasting tin or oven tray to contain spillages.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan (a broader base speeds things up). Once it’s melted dip in a pastry brush and grease your dish. Next, add the flour, stir briskly with a wooden spoon to integrate it and cook for a couple of minutes, to get rid of its raw tang, stirring all the while. When the mixture resembles honeycomb, reduce the heat a little and start adding the infused milk. Keep stirring. As it begins to thicken, add more, redoubling your efforts with the spoon to disperse any lumps. Once all the milk is incorporated, reduce the heat again to very low and let the sauce finish thickening, stirring from time to time. It should be really thick and creamy.

Next, add a tablespoonful each of the blue cheese and the Parmesan and stir in the spinach. Taste now, and add a little salt, along with more pepper and nutmeg if you like.

Cover the base of the dish with a lick of the sauce and cover that snugly with a single layer of lasagne, trimming them to fit your dish. Set aside enough of the sauce to cover the final layer of pasta, along with a tablespoon of the Parmesan which will add crunch to the topping. Cover the pasta in the dish with some of the remaining cheeses, a scattering of the walnuts and some more of the sauce, then another layer of lasagne. Continue in this vein, finishing with a layer of pasta. Top that with the reserved sauce and sprinkle with the last of the Parmesan. You can now set the dish aside if you wish, for several hours or even overnight in the fridge.

Bake on the middle shelf of a preheated oven at 180C/Gas 4 for 35 minutes until burnished and just firm.

Serve warm with a sharp green salad.

Wine wisdom
What makes this wine-friendly is the mildness of the cheese. A strong one will murder the dish but if you avoid Stilton, Roquefort and the pillaging Danes, any number of reds and whites will do the job as long as they have the acidity to match that of the cheese, and to balance its richness. A brisk, northern Italian red would be good: Dogliani Clavesana 2015 (£7.50, Buyers’ Everyday Reds), with its sweet dolcetto fruit is well-nigh perfect.

A tangy goat’s milk cheese instead of the blue, with hazelnuts instead of walnuts are a nice combination too. Try that with a sauvignon blanc or similarly aromatic white: Three Terraces Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (Buyers’ Premium Selection – or find the 2015 vintage here for £8.95) is a good option as is the vermentino from Chartreuse de Mougères (£6.25, Buyers’ Everyday Whites).

Add a layer or two of roasted red peppers and sundried tomatoes to your lasagne, with toasted pine nuts and basil instead of walnuts and spinach, and you’ll have the elements of a mondo bizarro sauce – a kind of zingy red pesto. For this, use a young pecorino or grated mozzarella rather than blue cheese. Treat it to a tomato-friendly grape like Puglia’s nero di Troia (Tufarello in the Buyer’s Premium Selection) or Australia’s expression of the Mediterranean triumvirate, Blind Spot Grenache-Shiraz-Mataro 2014 (£7.75, Buyers’ Everyday Reds).

Categories : Wine Without Fuss
Comments (2)