Monthly Archives: July 2011

Sherry… an Unsung Hero

When it comes to food and drink, so far this week has been very Spanish! On Tuesday I paid a visit to Barrica on Goodge Street for some delicious tapas and wine with the Phipps Rioja team. Then, last night, in keeping with the Spanish theme, I arrived home from work to find my mum had cracked open the bottle of sherry I had brought back for her from Spain, my boyfriend was drinking a glass of Reserva Campo Viejo Rioja, and a number of tapas dishes were being prepared in the kitchen.

Never one to pass on great food, despite ‘attempting’ to have a good day after the previous night’s indulgences, I tucked into the following:

– patatas bravas
– bread and olives
– mushrooms with chilli and garlic
– chickpea and chorizo salad

The star of the show by far was the chickpea and chorizo salad (recipe below) which went excellently with the sherry!

‘Sherry?’ I hear you say… isn’t that something we normally associate with Christmas Eve and our old grandmas with their crystal glasses? Well, up until a few weeks ago I did just that! But, after discovering that sherry is a popular tipple to drink alongside tapas dishes, as well as learning that several of the Phipps team are firm sherry fans, I have actually started to look at it in a new light.

Sherry is a fortified wine made near the town of Jerez in Spain from white grapes (thanks Wikipedia!), and lately it has seen a revival; on menus, in the press, and in my wine cellar (well, cupboard!)

The particular sherry we had was this Valdespino Jerez, bought for just 3 or 4 Euros in a Supersol in Southern Spain…

While I’m new to the sherry game, I must say I really enjoyed the crisp, dry finish, and tart citrus flavours of this fino – it cut through the fatty robust flavours of the chorizo dish nicely.

I’m planning on keeping an eye out for sherry in shops and restaurants over the next few weeks and will keep you posted on any note-worthy examples! In the mean time, why not try this quick and easy salad (taken from this excellent tapas book) alongside a nice chilled glass of Tio Pepe?

Catalan Chickpea and chorizo salad – ensalada catalana de garbanzos

Ingredients – serves 4
3tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
200g chorizo
2 bay leaves
2tbsp pine nuts
400g tinned chickpeas, drained
Salt and black pepper
1 small tomato, finely chopped

1. Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the onion, garlic, chorizo, and bay leaves
2. Cook on a low heat for 5 minutes until the onions soften
3. Stir in the pine nuts and chickpeas
4. Heat for a further 5-10 minutes
5. Mash some of the chickpeas with a fork
6. Season with salt and pepper
7. Add the chopped tomatoes and serve with some warm crusty bread


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Comfort food!

As a get well soon present, knowing how much I love good food and drink, my mum bought me a copy of Olly Smith’s ‘Eat and Drink: Good Food That’s Great to Drink’. Packed full of delicious recipes, organised not by course but by flavour, this book is now my go- to guide when I fancy trying something new. Not only does it contain easy to follow recipes and tips of what drinks to pair different flavours with, it will also make you giggle at times!

At the weekend, in need of some comfort food, we had a fish and chip takeaway (naughty!) followed by a home made rice pudding (recipe below), accompanied by Olly’s own hot chocolate sauce; a delightful combination of butter, cocoa powder, golden syrup and milk. It was so tasty; I vowed to try out some more of Olly’s recipes the next day (by which point, I was hoping I’d be well enough to have a glass or two of wine alongside my meal!)…

Rice Pudding- serves 4

100g Arborio rice
50g caster sugar
600ml semi- skimmed milk
100ml double cream
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
½ vanilla pod

1. Heat oven to 140˚ (120˚c for a fan oven)
2. Wash and drain the rice
3. Tip the rice and sugar into a deep baking dish
4. Stir through the milk and cream
5. Sprinkle the nutmeg over the top and scrape out the vanilla from the pod
6. If, like me, you like your rice pudding nice and brown on the top (with a skin- yum!), cook it for 2½ hours or until the pudding wobbles ever so slightly when shaken.

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Competa Vino Seco Moscatel

During some pre- holiday research, I came across the Wine Museum located in Competa. Just 40 minutes by car from where we stay in Puente Don Manuel, in the south of Spain, I couldn’t resist squeezing in a visit while we were there!

Unfortunately, after a mission of a drive up one of Spain’s treacherous winding roads, with my sister complaining of car sickness in the back, we finally arrived to find the restaurant- come- museum closed for the afternoon (we didn’t factor in siesta time!)

It wasn’t a wasted visit, however, since not only did this self- contained little town have stunning views of the surrounding countryside, but we also discovered a couple of shops selling 1 litre bottles of locally produced wine for just €3.50!

We had no idea what we were looking at but were keen to give one a try, so I picked up a white bottle with the word ‘seco’ on the front, meaning ‘dry’ (the first thing I learnt how to ask for in Spanish was ‘una copa de vino blanco seco’- a glass/ cup of dry white wine!)

Once back to our apartment, I put the bottle in the fridge to chill- ready for a pre- dinner drink after we were finished sunning ourselves by the pool…

This wine was deep golden and straw-like in colour with a light sherry scent to it. The first sip filled my mouth with peaches and cream, and the aftertaste was nutty and delightful. My sister and I thoroughly enjoyed it (although at 14% we limited ourselves to one small glass each before dinner).

For me, this wine is a perfect example of a traditional Spanish aperitif, and would be great alongside a variety of tapas dishes.

We also used a couple of splashes to add an extra level of flavour to a sausage pasta we made later in the week- delish!

A bit of post- holiday research informed me that every year, on the 15th August, Competa holds their ‘Noche del Vino’ (Night of the Wine) festival; a day-long wine-filled party involving a demonstration of ‘la pisa de la uva’ (treading on grapes) followed by a delicious lunch of sardines, chorizo, salads, and ‘migas de harina’ (meat, garlic, and fried breadcrumbs). Unfortunately I wont be in Spain to witness what sounds like an amazing day, but I plan on incorporating it into next year’s summer visit to the Costa del Sol!


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Guest post 2- Wedding wine booze cruise, by Angharad

Since returning from my holiday, I haven’t been at all well (even typing is taking all my effort!), so sorry for not filling you all in on the delightful Spanish wine sampled while I was out there. I will catch up soon I promise!

In the meantime, my wonderful friend Angharad, brains behind quirky food, fashion, lifestyle, (and sparkle!) blog Edible Glitter, has recently been on a jaunt to Calais to source some wines for her up-and-coming September wedding. Here she tells of the bargains to be found if you devote some time and effort, and remove any price- based preconceptions you may have, when it comes to choosing the perfect bottle for you…

‘I want to start by explaining that I am not, in any way, a wine buff. I like a glass of wine as much as the next girl, but start asking me about the bouquet and I’m a little bit lost. However, I know that Jenny is refreshingly un-snobby about wine, and so hopefully she won’t mind that this guest post is less a technically sound appreciation and more a wonderful example of how personal taste really does win the day.

Last weekend my fiance Paul and I travelled to Calais to buy wine for our wedding in September. We went with close friends Emily and Dave, who are also Francophiles. We had been told that there was little point in going to Calais as it no longer represents a saving over English supermarkets, but hey – any excuse for a road trip.

After a brief look at a dedicated wine warehouse, we headed to large supermarket Carrefour to see what wine they had on offer (and to load up on food whilst we were at it). As we are wise enough to know that you shouldn’t judge a bottle by its label, we planned our own impromptu tasting. We purchased four different bottles of white (it’s a summer wedding and to keep it simple we aren’t serving red) that looked promising and were roughly in the planned region of €5. Then, for a bit of fun, we picked up the cheapest bottle in the shop (retailing at €1.91) to see how it measured up.

Then commenced possibly the least glamorous wine tasting ever. Armed with plastic cups the boys and I sat in the boot of the car whilst Emily (designated driver) poured out the wines for us to try. It was a blind tasting, so we were told the number of the wine (1-5) and had to provide a mark out of 10. Once the tasting was complete we added up the scores, to give a final mark out of 30. The results were:

Wine Number 1 – 19/30 We felt that this wine was overall quite smooth but with a certain sharpness coming through. It was pleasant, but there was nothing very distinct about it.

Wine Number 2 – 24/30 The first thing we noticed about this wine was its wonderful aroma, and the taste didn’t disappoint. Fruity and summery, it had a taste of melon that made us all keep drinking far more than was necessary for the tasting. Paul’s only concern was that he felt it lacked bite.

Wine Number 3 – 13/30 This wine hit us straight away with an overpowering (and not desperately pleasant) taste of vanilla. However, once the first shock of taste faded it actually turned out to be quite bland. Not a winner.

Wine Number 4 – 14/30 The odd smell of this wine did nothing to entice us, and in fact it turned out to be fairly acidic. It was quite refreshing, but overall didn’t meet with approval.

Wine Number 5 – 15/30 This wine had an appealing smell but we felt it was just too sweet for us.

So what were they? Drum roll please….

1) Augustin Florent Touraine Sauvignon 2010, €2.79
2) AOC Cotes de Duras Blanc, €1.91
3) Domaine des Perruches Vouvray 2010 €5.30
4) Pierre Chainier 1749 Sauvignon Blanc, €4.70
5) Augustin Florent Bourgogne Aligoté, €4.98

Yep, we loved the €1.91 (£1.67) bottle that we’d only included as a joke, followed in second place by the €2.79 bottle. Just goes to show that price and expert recommendation (Carrefour’s experts have selected the Bourgogne Aligoté as one of their favourites) aren’t necessarily all you should go by when making a choice that’s right for you. It also goes to show that, with the journey over to Calais only costing £25 each, a saving can still be made by going there to buy wine in bulk – despite what everyone said to us. Vive la France!’

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