Grapevine Archive for Wine Without Fuss

This recipe, while hopefully of use and interest to all, was written with the latest selections of our much-loved Wine Without Fuss subscription scheme particularly in mind.

Friendly, flexible and commitment-free, Wine Without Fuss is now better than ever, with five plans to suit every taste and budget. And you can cancel, change or skip an order at any time!

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

My significantly better half swears by the 5:2 diet, and to be fair to her it is the one she has stuck to through thick and, ahem, thin. Fundamentally, the diet proposes an element of fasting and the victim – I mean weight watcher – can eat largely what they like for five days out of seven but must stick to no more than 500 calories on each of any two days in the week, ideally not one after the other.

I can’t say that I am a convert for the simple fact that I am, not to put too fine a point on it, a glutton, but even I know that it would be desperately unfair, not to say dastardly, of me to cook myself something sumptuous and hedonistic for supper and sit there scoffing with a glass of wine as she sits across the dining table from me with her evening portion of 300-calorie, low-fat fare and a glass of tap.

Fortunately she has been at the diet long enough that, while we still experiment widely in search of dishes we both find satisfying and interesting but which fall within the calorific strait-jacket of the 5:2, we have now developed a repertoire of recipes which we both enjoy very much and return to regularly.

The recipe I give below is just such a dish. It is a slight adaptation of one by Kate Matharu featured on the Prima magazine website in January 2015, where my obviously svelte and healthy other half tracked it down. It is simplicity itself to put together and well worth the minimal effort. We’ve eaten it more times than you’ve had hot 5:2 dinners. You needn’t have it as it is here in its more saintly form, so accompany it with a bushel of something starchy like rice, cous cous or warm flatbreads of the fluffiest variety.

Steve Farrow

Harissa Lamb Mince (Serves four)

Harissa, for the uninitiated, is something to get initiated into immediately. It is a spicy, probably leaning towards the fiery, paste that glows almost atomically orangey red and is vibrant, fragrant and moreish, not to mention Moorish. A wonderful North African amalgam of peppers, dried red chillies, tomato purée, caraway or fennel seeds, ground cumin and coriander seeds, garlic, salt and olive oil, all ground to a paste (but not in its best form a purée), it will lift almost anything you spread it on or in with its kick and aromatic savour. It is easy to make it yourself but can be just as easily bought in jars and even tubes, though the jars are much better and easily available. If you ever find that you have promised to eat your hat, this is the stuff to spread over it to make it interesting!

Ingredients:
• 250g pack of green beans, sliced into three pieces
• 1 tbsp olive oil
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
• 1 tsp each of cinnamon, allspice, cumin and ground nutmeg
• 400g/14oz lamb mince (you can use any mince you like, including quorn, but lamb is by far and away the best)
• 250g pack cherry tomatoes, halved
• 4 tsp ready-bought harissa (use more if you like it hot)
• Handful of pine nuts, toasted

Add green beans to a pan of boiling, salted water and cook for about 4 mins until just tender. Drain and put to one side.

Heat oil in a frying pan, add onion, season and cook for 1-2 mins until soft, then stir through garlic and dried spices and cook for a further minute. Add mince and stir, and cook for about 6-8 mins until mince is no longer pink and is cooked through.

Stir through the tomatoes and half of the ready-bought harissa, and continue cooking until tomatoes stew down and begin to split. Add the green beans, then taste and season if needed.

Serve in bowls and top with more harissa if you have any, and the pine nuts. I always ensure that I have enough harissa for a good dollop on top of my serving, it’s so good! Serve with crusty bread, rice, cous cous, Lebanese flat breads or toasted pitta… indeed anything else that takes your fancy.

Wine matches:
Wash it down with the deeply fruity and perfectly spicy Billi Billi Grampians Shiraz 2013 (Worldwide Wonders Plan or available online for £9.50) for a lovely marriage.

The Bleasdale HMS Buffalo Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon, Langhorne Creek 2015 (Wine Rack Essentials Plan or £7.25) and Domaine de Gournier Cévennes Rouge 2016 (Discovery Plan or £6.75) also have bags of fruit to swim safely with the spice.

Frappato di Sicilia, Nicosia 2016 (Lighter Wines Plan or £9.50) is a Sicilian charmer with an abundance of freshness and fruit to counter the warmth and fragrance of harissa, as does much Sicilian wine, steeped as it is in the spicing and aromas of the North African influence on the island’s cooking. The naturally juicy berry fruit Corbières, Le Hameau des Ollieux Nature Romanis 2016 (Worldwide Wonders or £10.50) is also perfect for the spice to nuzzle up to.

If you prefer white wines you will find a good and refreshing match for the spice in the Gewurztraminer, Cave de Turckheim 2016 (Worldwide Wonders or £9.50).

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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.

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Mon 03 Jul 2017

Food Without Fuss: Currant Affairs

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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.

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Wed 03 May 2017

Food Without Fuss: Recipes For Spring

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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
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These recipes, while hopefully of use and interest to all, was written with the spring 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

Molecular gastronomy, you’ve had your moment! Dry ice, foams and fizzes, move aside for those useful ingredients that happily absorb any others you may throw at them, depending on which bottle in your recently arrived Wine Without Fuss case you are most impatient to uncork.

I like to call this vehicular gastronomy, and you won’t find a better chassis than a chicken breast or an aubergine.

In the case of the chicken, I’m afraid needs must. Unless you happen to live on an island that time forgot, where chickens do what comes naturally, or you can justify the cost of a bird defined strictly by labyrinthine rules on breed, feed and, probably, what it’s allowed to read, bring on the garlic, pesto and garam masala.

By contrast, the aubergine needs neither towing nor jump-starting. It has a flavour engine of its own, not turbocharged, but definitely ticking over. Its glossy sheen draws me inexorably to those artfully piled ‘obo’s’ (sic) at the greengrocer’s. It matters not whether or not they were ripened by the sultry sun of the Levant: the ones grown in a Benelux hothouse can still do the designer haulage thing very nicely, and I’ll take half a dozen, please.

‘Versatile’ barely conveys its myriad applications. Consider (I can’t) an Indian take-away without a soft and shamelessly oily brinjal bhaji, or a Chinese one minus sea-spiced aubergine. The nearer east has countless variations on the theme, from baba ghanoush to imam bayildi: there are hundreds of recipes in Turkey alone as there are in any book by Yotam Ottolenghi. Moussaka, caponata, pasta alla norma and melanzane alla parmigiano bring us west and north, to the sunny tians of Provence, and an unforgettable dish I once had in Bordeaux – slices of aubergine, simply dusted with seasoned flour and fried, served alongside lamb so tender you could eat it with a spoon, and washed down with good claret.

If this sounds familiar, this is not my first paean to the aubergine. In fact, I said as much to Fuss subscribers many years ago when blogs were back pages that came with case notes. Online, I have space to go to town so in this, my last official Food Without Fuss blog post, after more, after more than a decade at the Wine and Dine coalface, I’m bowing out with a proper tribute.

Aubergines are ubiquitous, inexpensive and – you want more? – ready to do business with whatever you may have in the fridge or store-cupboard.

And I do mean ready. Salting is optional these days, and, as Jamie Oliver says, a microwave will reduce an aubergine to melting tenderness in 8 minutes flat (prick the skin first). I give thanks for this top tip every time I crave a squidgy little boat with a cargo of flavourful toppings that can be quickly flashed under the grill.

aubergines

The recipe challenge for Easter has been whittling the possibilities down to a manageable six of the best, for casual snacking, for serving with the paschal lamb as those Bordelais did, or for inspiration at a time of year when seasonal produce may be a bit betwixt and between. The asparagus may be tardy and the Jersey royals, if the flag of residence is, indeed, up, at their wallet-wrenching dearest. An aubergine will always be there for you. Isn’t it time you loved it back?

Valedictory
It’s time to thank all readers of Food Without Fuss, firstly for reading,and also for the truly invaluable feedback I’ve received over the years, whether a resounding thumbs-up, a frank appraisal in the other direction or an impressive display of vigilance, most notably when I sent my fellow-members out for 800kg of fish for my Languedoc seafood pie. It’s been a blast, and you don’t get many of those with a fan oven!

I’m delivering the honour of writing this blog, and our Wine and Dine notes for ‘Fuss’ subscribers into very safe hands. They are those of my colleague Steve Farrow, The Society’s Database Editor by day, accomplished and adventurous cook at all other times. You’re in for a treat.

Janet Wynne Evans
Fine Wine Editor

DIVINE DIPS

Moutabal
Inspired by Claudia Roden’s carefully curated Mediterranean Cookery (BBC Books, 1987) this fuss-free dip, a variant of Baba Ganoush requires merely that you bake an aubergine until tender and mix the flesh with tahini paste, crushed garlic, lemon juice, a dash of thick yoghurt and seasoning, all to taste. Finish with a little olive oil and some chopped parsley and serve with flatbreads and black olives.

Moutabal

Wine: Like hummous (it must be the palate—coating tahini), this has a rapport with the piquancy of sauvignon. Try Saleta Moscatel-Sauvignon Blanc (Buyers’ Everyday Whites & £6.50) or Kaapzicht Chenin Blanc (Buyers’ Premium Whites & £7.95), accurately described by its producer as ‘chenin blanc for sauvignon lovers’.

Aubergine Caviar
There are countless throwaway recipes for this but the one I never discard belongs to Provence grand master Roger Vergé of Mougins, whose precision is palpable in Les Légumes de Mon Moulin (Flammarion, 1991). Slice your aubergine in half lengthwise and slice through the flesh to about a depth of about 2.5cm, stopping well clear of the skin,, in a diamond pattern. Rub in a lick of olive oil and a pinch of salt and bake, cut side down at 220C/Gas 7 for about 35 minutes, until tender.

Process the scooped flesh until tender, with a couple of peeled and deseeded tomatoes, half a clove of garlic, minced, and either a pinch of cayenne pepper or a few chopped basil leaves. Add a thin, steady stream of olive oil as for mayonnaise. About 150ml should suffice, unless your specimen is a veritable Titan from the Ray Harryhausen school of special effects. The texture should be luxuriously silky. I like to chill this slightly before bringing back to room temperature and serving with flatbreads and plump olives.

Wine: M Vergé is persuaded that the aubergine is a red wine kind of chap, recommending fruity southern Rhônes No shortage of this style in Easter Fuss, and I’d especially recommend Cairanne, Domaine Romain Roche 2014 (French Classic Reds), especially if you’ve gone the cayenne route. However, I love this with a, fragrant but upstanding white like Auzelles, Costers del Segre 2015 (Buyers’ Premium Whites & £9.95).

Aubergines

SMART STARTERS

Simon Hopkinson’s Grilled Pesto Aubergines
The acknowledged Chefs’ Chef and my own personal pin up naturally preroasts his aubergines and makes his own superior pesto. Dare I suggest that this is such a glorious combination that you might get away with the quick Jamie method and a handy jar? I freely admit that I have.

To do it by the book – the seminal Roast Chicken and Other Stories (Ebury Press, 1994, and never, I think out of print since) – prepare and cook your aubergines exactly as above, but for a little less time, say 20-30 minutes. Remove for the oven, spread lavishly with your home-made pesto and grill until golden brown and bubbling. Mop up joyfully with a good baguette.

Wine: White is best here, and by all means play the Italian card with the concentrated, herb-friendly Orvieto Castagnolo (Buyers’ Premium Whites), but another good match is Limoux, Dédicace, Chateau Rives-Blanques 2014 (French Classic Whites & £11.50).

Steamy Oriental Aubergines
This light but natty roadster is fuelled by a five-star dressing comprising a couple of tablespoons each of rice wine (or dry sherry) and soy sauce, a teaspoon each of toasted sesame oil and clear honey, and a thumb of fresh root ginger, finely grated. Whisk all these together and put in a wide frying pan.

Steam two big aubergines, wedged into eighths, over a pan of simmering water for about 15 minutes. Let the steam subside before adding them to the dressing, on a low heat. Braise gently for five minutes or so until the dressing is absorbed. Scatter with toasted sesame seeds. The wedges will cool to a slight stickiness, lovely with chicken, lamb or fish, and equally toothsome in a salad with crunchy leaves or blanched mangetout.

Wine: on the guiding principle of a bit of grapy richness with salt, especially if there’s some honey about, I’d plump for Australia, where they know a thing or two about fusion cuisine, and go for Felix Swan Hill Victoria Chardonnay-Viognier 2016 (Buyers’ Premium Whites & £8.75). If serving with lamb, I’d plump for the sweet fruit of Wakefield Promised Land Shiraz 2015 (Buyers’ Everyday Reds & £7.75).

Aubergines Ibérico
This bold dressing for grilled aubergines kicks off with a good pinch each of cumin and coriander seeds, dry-toasted with a couple of black peppercorns until they are dancing in the pan. If you bought a bag of dried poeja (pennyroyal) while on holiday in Portugal and are wondering what to do with it, now’s your chance! Lovers of smoked paprika or pimientón could add a pinch of that too, sweet or hot as you like.

Transfer this rhythm section to a small saucepan with a tablespoon of top-notch sherry vinegar, a dash of lemon juice and 5 tablespoons of fruity olive oil. You’ll need some coriander or parsley later on, so separate the leaves and pop the stalks into the dressing. Apply heat and as things begin to sizzle, take the pan off the hob and leave the contents to infuse for as long as it takes for the oil to cool.

Strain the dressing over your grilled aubergines while they are still warm and serve at room temperature with country bread and perhaps a platter of Ibérico ham.

Wine: an embarrassment of Iberian and hispanic richesse awaits in the Easter Wine Without Fuss selections. Our appealing Alentejo find Monte da Ravasqueira Tinto 2015 (Buyer’s Premium Reds & £8.95) will do admirably and my favourite white with these bold flavours is the intriguing Boplaas Cape Portugese White Blend (Buyers’ Everyday Whites & £6.95).

SLOW BRAISES

Curry

An Effortless Easter Curry
Aubergine is heavenly curry fodder, whether with lamb, or leftover turkey or, best of all in a vegetarian subzi dish. You can feed four people on one big aubergine, a large onion, thickly sliced, and a fat clove of garlic supplemented with pumpkin, sweet potato, green pepper and okra – about 600g in total, and all cut into generous bite-sized pieces as the aubergine should be.

Starting with the onion, simply brown everything in a bit of groundnut oil, stirring in a good pinch of your favourite spice mix and a crumbled red chilli to taste, remembering that you want to taste the wine too. Add can of light coconut cream and a generous squeeze of tomato puree. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently until the vegetables are tender and the juices thickened. At this stage you might wish to add a few cooked chickpeas for extra crunch, a generous scoop of thick yoghurt and some chopped coriander leaves. Serve with your favourite flatbread or rice.

To make use of that surplus Easter turkey, replace the extra vegetables with 500g cooked meat along with the coconut cream, bring to the boil and bake for 40 minutes or so at 190C/Gas 5, until the turkey is piping hot.

To give it a Greek or middle-eastern vibe, brown 500g generously cubed lamb neck fillet first, before adding your onion, garlic and aubergine. Instead of coconut milk, use stock or wine, and instead of curry spices, try dried oregano, za’atar and sweet, mild spices like ginger, cumin and cinnamon. Bake at 180C/Gas 4 for a couple of hours until tender.

Wine: Step forward multi-tasking Zarcillo Bío-Bío Gewürztraminer 2015 (Buyers’ Everyday Whites & £6.50) but I was also impressed with the spice-busting savvy of Boplaas ‘Tinta Chocolat’ Tinta Barocca (Buyers’ Premium Reds) which put in me in mind of the sweetness and layered spicing of Cape Malay cuisine. If you’re making the Greek or middle-eastern version, try the The Little Prince Cretan Red, Karavitakis 2014 (Buyers’ Premium Reds).

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Tue 08 Nov 2016

Food Without Fuss: Let it Stew!

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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.

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Fri 02 Sep 2016

Food Without Fuss: Rice and Easy

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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).

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Wed 27 Apr 2016

Food Without Fuss: A Languedoc Hotpot

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These recipes, while hopefully of use and interest to all, were written with the spring 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.

This recipe was inspired by poor stock control, although, in fairness, that doesn’t happen often. My very first wine-trade job involved reconciling book balances with bottles, some of which would be missing while others had reproduced, surreptitiously and parthenogenetically. That annoyed me immeasurably and I’m usually pretty attuned to the contents of my own cupboards.

Janet Wynne Evans

Janet Wynne Evans

My downfall is a siege mentality. Unable to procure an ingredient for a recipe I’m impatient to try, and immeasurably annoyed by that too, I tend to lay in vast stocks of it when I do manage to run it to ground.

In this case, the item is rouille, that lovely orange garlic and saffron goo you stir into proper Provençal fish soup. It’s not on most supermarket shelves, so when we offered a Wine Society Christmas gift pack containing a jar both of fish soup and rouille, I snapped up a canny few and stashed them away. I got through most of them, but two escaped my notice. By now, the soup was well out of date, with an irretrievably manky aroma that consigned it to the bin. The rouille, at least, was still a goer, but due for consumption by the end of the month.

Mulling over alternative uses s for my orange treasures, I came up with a sort of mediterranean fish pie, with a splash of pastis instead of vermouth and the usual dollop of cream replaced by the rouille. Buttery pastry or mash on top felt out of kilter in olive oil country, so the pie became a hotpot, topped with thinly sliced potatoes dipped in herby oil, and cooked to brown crispness.

Sort of Morecambe-sur-Med.

This is a recipe that makes satisfying use of everything, from parsley stalks to prawn shells. It’s also versatile.

The fish content should include strong flavours – monkfish, bream, mullet – to stand up to the sauce, but the choice is then yours. In fact the world is, quite literally your oyster, for which the Bassin de Thau near Sète is famous, just as it is for mussels. Use these by all means instead of prawns, just don’t serve the blighters to me. Do make sure, in the case of mussels, that you take the important precaution of steaming them first, just until they open , so that you can discard any wrong ‘uns that don’t. Or buy the labour-saving frozen and already shelled variety and defrost them thoroughly.

The obvious partner for this deeply fishy, garlic and herb-infused feast, with its glints of orange and whisper of aniseed, is a rich Languedoc or Rhône white with just a bit of bite. Marsanne, roussanne, grenache blanc, viognier and rolle (vermentino) are good options, and if there is some fresh but firm picpoul in the mix, so much the better.

A spicy shiraz or Portugese red would not come amiss either.

Janet Wynne Evans
Fine Wine Editor

LANGUEDOC HOTPOT
Serves four

• 800g fish off the bone, skinned and trimmed – a mixture of monkfish, bream, hake and red mullet
• A dozen large prawns, shelled and deveined
• Plain olive oil
• 1 banana shallot, finely diced
• Six anchovies from a jar or tin, rinsed and dried
• Six sun-dried tomatoes in oil, blotted on kitchen paper
• A generous splash of pastis, eg Pernod
• 300ml fish or shellfish stock (see below)
• 2 dried bay leaves
• 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, thyme and dill, leaves only, chopped
• 2 tubs rouille, about 180g altogether
• Some thyme sprigs, leaves removed
• Two large baking potatoes

NB Owing to the difference in surface area between baking dishes of the same volume, I err on the side of caution here and prepare far more spuds than I think I need. I can promise that there will be no leftovers.

If you buy your prawns whole, the heads and shells make good stock. Rinse them well, crush roughly and add to some diced celery, carrot, garlic and onion, browned in olive oil in a smallish, deep saucepan. Add a glass of white wine, the stalks from your parsley, above, a few white peppercorns and a couple of fresh bay leaves and let it all bubble for a few minutes. Cover with 500ml water and simmer for 30 minutes or so. Strain through a sieve lined with kitchen paper. Taste and if you want a stronger flavour return to the hob and reduce, but remember that it will be boiled down and further concentrated in this recipe. On no account bother trying this with mussel shells.

Ask your fishmonger nicely to prepare all your fish for you. All skin, bones, membranes and mucky bits will thus end up in his bin, which is already a lost cause.

Cut the fish into generous chunks and arrange in a baking dish. Wash the deveined prawns in salted water and dry thoroughly. Add them to the fish. Cover and refrigerate.

Peel the potatoes and cut into slices. A mandoline on its normally thickest setting (one up from gratins, two up from crisps) is perfect. Manually, aim for between the thickness of a 10p piece and a £1 coin. As you slice them transfer them to a pan of water and leave to soak for about 20 minutes to remove excess starch. Then rinse thoroughly, shake dry in a colander and finally wrap in a clean tea-towel. Leave for as long as you can.

In a saucepan that will hold the stock, heat some olive oil and when it’s hot, add the shallot. Lower the heat and let it become translucent. Using a pair of kitchen scissors, snip in the anchovies, along with the sun-dried tomatoes. The pieces should be quite small, so that they will melt into the sauce.

Now add the pastis and let it bubble and sizzle, stirring to deglaze the pan. Finally add the stock and herbs, and let it boil down to about half its volume. Take the pan off the heat and let it cool thoroughly. Fish out the bay leaves. Season with black pepper – the anchovies should contribute enough salt.

Once it’s cool, stir in the rouille and once it’s incorporated, add to the fish and coat it all well. You can now cover and refrigerate the dish until ready to cook, but remove it an hour before cooking starts to bring it to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6. Unwrap the potatoes and put in a large bowl with enough olive oil to coat. Strip the leaves of the remaining thyme sprigs and add, along with salt and pepper. Use your hands to ensure every slice is glistening with oil and flecked with herbs and black pepper. Arrange them in one layer on one or two baking sheets. I like to give them a start before adding them to the fish to make sure they cook thoroughly.

Cover loosely with foil, put them in the oven and set a timer for 10 minutes. This should be enough for them to soften without browning, but if not, give them just a few minutes more.

Let them cool just enough to handle, then lay them on top of the fish in overlapping slices, making sure the top of the dish is completely covered. Leave any remaining slices on the baking sheet and return to the oven, along with the fish, but on a lower shelf and without the foil.

Set the timer for 35 minutes, or until the fish is bubbling and the potatoes are browned.

When the hotpot is done, you may find that the potato topping has shrunk a little, leaving the odd gap. This is what your spares are for, so tuck them in as needed before serving.

Serve the hotpot with a simple green vegetable like tenderstem broccoli and hand round any remaining potatoes unless you have shamelessly nibbled them in the kitchen. And why would you not? They are a cook’s perk of the highest order.

Wine matches
Fine matches for this fishy feast include Undurraga Cauquenes Estate Maule Viognier Roussanne-Marsanne 2015 (Buyers’ Everyday Selection, available for sale at £6.95 per bottle), Domaine Magellan Blanc, Hérault 2015 (Buyers’ Premium Selection) or Collioure Blanc Tremadoc, Domaine Madeloc 2015 (Buyers’ French Classics).

Red wine aficionados need not panic – the rich, tomato and herb flavours here are lovely with spicy Med Reds: Australia Felix Swan Hill Victoria Shiraz-Sagrantino 2014 (£7.95, Buyers’ Everyday Selection) will do it as will the pescivore’s friend, Mouchão Dom Rafael, Alentejo 2012 (Buyers’ Premium Reds). Vacqueyras Domaine des Genêts, Delas 2013 (Buyers’ French Classics) is a real treat.

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Thu 21 Apr 2016

Wine Without Fuss: A Wine Buyer’s Best Friend

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Buying wine for The Wine Society is a busy job. There are no wine lists or offers without wines to put in them, so the Buying Team’s year is understandably full of deadlines.

Freddy BulmerSometimes though, an incredible wine will find the buyer when the buyer isn’t even looking for it. This sort of thing happens because each of the wine buyers at The Society are constantly being sent samples from producers.

If you are buying wine for a Rioja offer but the supplier sends you a bottle of their new white wine from another part of Spain too, it’s certainly not going to be purchased for the offer as it might stand out a bit! Nonetheless, the Buying Team will always taste these wines purely out of interest. More often than not, it is deemed that the sample is perhaps not up to scratch or there is nothing that they can do with it at that moment in time.

Every so often though, they will taste a wine that is so good that we simply must buy it!

Our Wine Without Fuss scheme is a fantastic tool for a buyer who has discovered a wine which they feel they simply must buy but don’t have an offering or List in which they can put it. As the buyers each have a number of slots to fill in the Wine Without Fuss cases every other month, it gives them great opportunities to buy wines that they might otherwise have been forced to pass by.

Likewise, every so often the buyer will have tasted something that we hold some stock of and been struck by how well it is drinking at the moment. If this is the case, it is in the best interest of the membership that they are able to try it for themselves!

Tasting room

We hold tastings for each of the six yearly Wine Without Fuss selections, before the cases are finalised and sent out to the members who subscribe. This gives the buyers a chance to taste through all of the wines that they and their colleagues have selected. Only when the buyers are happy with the selection and have made any changes to the wine notes they feel necessary, will the case be given the OK and sent to members.

Buyer Mark Buckenham putting the summer selection through its paces

Buyer Mark Buckenham putting the summer selection through its paces

The most recent tasting was for the selection for summer 2016. Whilst I tasted through the wines with Pierre Mansour, we made the occasional change to a wine note here and there, to ensure that we were happy the notes would be a true reflection of the wines in the bottle.

We both remarked at how good the selection was, even at one point getting confused and saying to one another “…how good these Premium Selection whites are” only to find out we were tasting from the Everyday Selection! A couple of stand-out wines were the Nero di Troia Tufarello Puglia Vigneti Canosini 2015 from the Premium Selection and the incredibly good-value Victory Hotel Australian Chardonnay-Semillon 2015 from the Everyday Selection.

So the nice thing about Wine Without Fuss, it seems, is that it is a scheme which benefits all. The buyers are happy because they can share their latest finds with our membership and our members are happy because they get to discover and enjoy the wines!

Freddy Bulmer
Trainee Buyer

Find out more about Wine Without Fuss here

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