Monthly Archives: October 2011

Autumn Flavours

A week or so ago (my memory is getting worse!), for a mid week supper, I rustled up some quick and easy mushroom tartlets (recipe below). To complement the savoury autumnal flavours, I picked up a bottle of 2009 Chapel Hill Pinot Noir, Dunántúli, Hungary, in my local Waitrose – at just under £6 a bottle it was ideal for a week night!

(excuse the poor picture quality!)

With a silky texture, and spicy (almost sour) cherry flavour, this was one satisfying wine, and for the price, definitely worth a try. Luke certainly enjoyed his glassful, describing it as “wine porn” (you’ve all seen the Marks and Spencers adverts!)

I missed out on this deal but until the 8th November, you can grab a bottle for just £4.97 or a case of 12 for £59.94 at Waitrose Wine Direct, so there is no excuse for not pouring yourself a glass and settling down in front of the fire/ radiator/ TV (it is X Factor season after all) on a chilly evening.

Mushroom Tartlets (adapted from the BBC Good Food website)

Ingredients – makes 4
– 1 block puff-pastry
– Flour, for dusting
– 25g butter
– 400g mushrooms (I used closed cup)
– 20g Parmesan
– 2tbsp crème fraiche
– Handful fresh parsley, chopped
– 1 small garlic clove, crushed
– 1 egg, beaten

1. Roll out the pastry (or buy ready-rolled!) onto a floured surface and cut into 4 circles
2. Place on a lined baking tray and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes or until ready to use
3. Heat oven to 200˚c (180˚c for a fan oven)
4. In a large pan, melt the butter and add the mushrooms. Fry for 5-10 minutes until cooked. Pour off any excess liquid
5. Remove from the heat, season with salt and black pepper and mix with the crème fraiche, Parmesan, parsley and garlic
6. Meanwhile score a 1cm border around the edge of each tart, place some foil in the centre and blind bake for 5 minutes
7. Remove tarts from the oven, spoon the mushroom mixture into the middle and brush the edges with beaten egg
8. Bake for 20 minutes until puffed up and golden
9. Serve with a feta side salad and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar


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Clare Valley Riesling

In the past I was never much of a fan of Riesling (in fairness, I had only tried Jacobs Creek’s offerings), but recently I have sampled some delightfully fruity German wines (reviews to come), and I have really come to enjoy this distinctive grape.

Last Friday, I thought I would treat myself and spend a little extra than I usually would on a bottle of Australian Riesling.

While very different from German Rieslings, the bottle in question, a Tim Adams 2007 from Clare Valley, priced at around £10 in Tesco, was a delight to drink. Dry on the palate with a full body, slightly oily texture and spine-tingling acidity, this aromatic Riesling with citrus lime flavours was a corker!

This is an award-winning wine, and rightfully so considering its versatility. Try it young with a spicy chicken dish, or put it away in the cellar to allow the characteristic petrol-like aromas (sounds horrible I know, but each to their own) of Riesling to develop.

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Gamekeeper’s choice

From rosé, sunshine and barbeques in the last post, to filling roast dinners and winter warming port in this one, I think it is safe to say, the weather has definitely swayed my food and drink choices this month!

In anticipation of the dinner that I was planning to cook last Sunday – duck legs in red wine and cranberry sauce with all the trimmings (roast potatoes, parsnips, carrots, Brussels…) – I bought a bottle of St Hallett Gamekeeper’s Reserve 2009 Barossa Valley, South Australia, from Waitrose in Stratford’s Westfield. As the name suggests, this wine demanded a gamey food pairing. With this in mind, I was pretty disappointed to discover that Waitrose had sold out of duck legs! Chicken legs it was!

A blend of three grape varieties: Shiraz, Grenache and Touriga Nacional, this wine was bursting with ripe raspberry flavours, with a subtle hint of pepper and a fresh finish. This young, unoaked red would have made a nice partnership with the duck, however it went equally well with the chicken given the rich fruity flavours in the cranberry sauce.

For pudding we had a delicious oaty apple crumble. While the red didn’t complement this as well as it did the main, you can get a bottle of Dow’s Reserve Port from Tesco for just £6.49. A small after-dinner glass of that would slip down a treat!

Fancy cooking a simple roast this weekend? Try the following recipes (adapted from the BBC Good Food website)

Chicken legs in red wine and cranberry sauce

Ingredients – serves 4
4 chicken legs
Handful of rosemary sprigs
4-6 garlic cloves
½ tsp five spice powder or 1 tsp five spice paste
4 tsp cranberry sauce
½ bottle red wine

1. Preheat the oven to 190°c (170°c for a fan oven)
2. On a roasting tray lay the chicken legs on a bed of rosemary and garlic
3. Sprinkle/ smear the five spice and salt over the chicken legs
4. Roast in the oven for 40-45 minutes
5. Meanwhile, simmer the cranberry sauce and red wine on a medium heat for 5-10 minutes
6. Once the chicken is nearly cooked, pour the sauce over the chicken and place back into the oven for a further 10-15 minutes
7. Serve with roasted vegetables and green veg (I’m not ashamed to admit that I LOVE brussel sprouts)

Oaty apple crumble

Ingredients – serves 6
3 Bramley apples
3 English eating apples
42g caster/ granulated sugar
80g sultanas
125g butter
50g soft light brown sugar
25g honey
150g oats
150g plain flour
1½ tsp cinnamon
50g flaked almonds

1. Preheat the oven to 180°c (160°c for a fan oven)
2. Cook the apples with the caster/granulated sugar in a saucepan
3. When cooked and starting to turn mushy, add the raisins and tip the mixture into a deep ovenproof dish
4. Melt the butter, brown sugar and honey in a saucepan. Remove from the heat and stir in the flour, oats, almonds and cinnamon
5. Spread the crumble mixture over the apples
6. Bake for 45 minutes until crunchy and golden
7. Serve with a generous dollop of Devonshire clotted ice cream

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The Last of the Sunshine

With the last of the summer sun went the last bottle of rosé from our Tesco case of six; the Roko Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé 2010 from Chile.

While not groundbreaking in terms of flavour and intensity, this crisp light wine, with flavours of raspberry and strawberry on the palate went well with the fading sunshine in my back garden.

At the moment, a case of 6 bottles will set you back £56.94 from Tesco, which I think is a little steep, however you can often pick it up on promotion.

Overall, I was uninspired by the case of rosés – of the 6 I started with, I would probably only buy one or two again (I remember enjoying the Faustino Rivero Rioja Rosado 2009, and the Kumala wasn’t bad).

While unimpressed with the case in general, a mixed case does allow you to try a variety of wines without committing to a case of 6 or 12 of the same ones. Even if you start off liking the wine, by number 10 you might be a bit sick of it!

At the moment, I’ve got my eye on this reasonably priced Autumnal selection from Majestic.

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Tesco Finest Torrontés, Cafayate, Salta, Argentina 2010

On the WSET course a fortnight ago (how time flies!), I was introduced to the Torrontés grape variety. This aromatic grape, widely grown in Cafayate in the Salta region of Argentina, is renowned for its medium bodied, perfumed and fruity wines and it was, up until then, a variety I had not sampled before.

On the course, tasting (and spitting – boo!) the 2010 Terrazas de los Andes Reserva Unoaked Torrontés was a delight. On the nose it was bursting with tropical flavours of lychee, peach and apricot, with honeyed undertones. It didn’t disappoint on the palate either; dry and aromatic with a medium finish, this would have been an excellent match with Thai food! At £13.99 a bottle, this one was a little pricey, however in Tesco at the weekend, I came across a Torrontés reduced from £8.99 to £6.99 in their Finest range – very reasonable I thought.

Again, I was not disappointed by this wine. Packed full of fruity flavours of ripe green grapes and nectarines, this was the perfect sipping wine on a balmy Autumn(!) evening. There was just one flavour I couldn’t quite put my finger on – a slightly perfumed, but not unpleasant chalky scent filled my nostrils every time I gave it a sniff.

Interestingly, today at work I came across a review of this wine in David Williams’ Wines of the Week column in the Observer. While I wouldn’t say the aromas of this wine are as overpowering as he puts across, he did sum it up pretty well for me…

‘There’s always a touch of the Boot’s perfume counter about the white wines made from Argentina’s signature Torrontés grape variety, and this wine is no exception; its musky and scented with floral, talcum-like notes. But it’s also pleasingly grapefruit-zesty on the palate, making it a nice fit with mildly spicy, aromatic southeast Asian food.’

I would definitely recommend Torrontés as a grape choice if you fancy trying something a bit different. Far flung from the full bodied, gooseberry flavours of a Sauvignon Blanc, for me, this variety shares many of its characteristics with the Gewürztraminer grape.

I have to say, its rapidly becoming one of my favourites.

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