Monthly Archives: February 2012

Fronton Thibaut De Plaisance 2008

I was sent a bottle of this wine just before Christmas and have only just managed to taste it.

A blend of 70% Négrette, 25% Syrah, and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, this red from South West France is full of body with peppery, spicy aromas of cloves and nutmeg. With a fruity, long finish, it was delicious alongside Greek lamb skewers.

Greek lamb skewers

Ingredients (serves 4 as a starter or 2 as a main)
500g pack lean lamb leg steak, cut into 1 inch chunks
50ml red wine
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 garlic clove, crushed
Salt and black pepper

Method
1. Put all the ingredients into a bowl, mix and leave to marinate in the fridge for 2 hours or overnight
2. Thread the lamb chunks onto metal skewers and place under a pre-heated grill for 10 minutes, turning once
3. Serve with flatbread and a generous dollop of tzatziki (diced cucumber, yoghurt, crushed garlic, chilli flakes, salt and black pepper)

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Frugal and fancy

Sancerre Feuille de Vigne 2010, available for £54 for a case of 6 (or £48 with the code WS3W7P) from Tesco.com is such great value for money, we decided to crack open a bottle alongside a quick and cheap goat’s cheese salad.

Such a wine might usually deserve a special romantic setting, but this delicious Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley – usually £16 a bottle – is perfect as a midweek treat with a simple supper.

Dry and lean with a refreshing minerality, delicate citrus fruit flavours, and subtle aromas of gooseberry, this white didn’t overwhelm the flavours in the salad like some other Sauvignon Blancs might.

Warm goat’s cheese salad

Ingredients (serves 4)
150g crumbly goat’s cheese
2 large red peppers
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
50g pine nuts
Mixed bag Italian leaves
Cherry tomatoes
1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt and black pepper

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 200°c (or 180°c for a fan oven)
2. Rub the peppers with olive oil and cook in the oven for 20 minutes
3. Remove the peppers from the oven and put them into a plastic bag to sweat for 10 minutes
4. Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp oil in a large pan and cook the onion until soft
5. Add the pine nuts to the pan and cook for a further minute
6. Turn the heat up and deglaze the bottom of the pan with the red wine vinegar, then stir in the mustard
7. Taking care not to burn your fingers, remove the seeds and skin from the peppers and slice into strips
8. Divide the leaves, cherry tomatoes, pepper strips and onion mixture between four plates
9. Season well and crumble over the goats cheese

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V-Day

I’m a bit of a humbug when it comes to Valentine’s Day – I love going out to dinner with Luke, but hate the idea of paying double the amount and sitting amongst other couples in various states of love/lust (for the record, PDAs are not enjoyable for anyone but the two locked in the embrace), all because it is the 14th February. Because of my aversion to such sentiment, I usually cook something tasty on Valentine’s Day or on the weekend it falls closest to.

Below I’ve included a fail-safe meal plan for the evening as well as several suitable drink options.

Canapés and fizz
This is incredibly simple and can be prepared up to an hour in advance and chilled (no longer as the avocado will brown).

Ingredients
8 ready-made blinis (available from Marks & Spencer)
1 avocado
2 tbsp natural yoghurt
Salt and black pepper
½ tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp lemon juice (adds flavour and keeps the avocado fresher for longer)
Cooked king prawns or smoked salmon

Method
1. Peel the avocado and remove the stone
2. In a food processor, blitz the avocado, yoghurt, salt and pepper, chilli flakes and lemon juice
3. Top each blini with 1 tsp of the mixture and either a prawn or sliver of smoked salmon

To drink:
Champagne is the obvious choice here, but for something a little more romantically themed, try Banrock Station’s Shiraz Rosé – easy-going, bright and refreshing, with flavours of strawberry and cherry, this pink fizz will go well as an aperitif or alongside the canapés.

If sparkling rosé isn’t your thing, top a glass of chilled prosecco with a splash of Belvoir Raspberry and Rose Cordial. A blend of raspberries and Turkish rose petal extract, this has just the right amount of sweetness without being cloying.

Steak and chips
This healthy version of a classic gives you the perfect excuse to indulge in dessert and wine!

Ingredients
2 fillet steaks (expensive, but surely your loved one is worth it?)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 medium potatoes, cut into wedges
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
100g mushrooms
100g crème fraiche
Salt and black pepper

Method
1. Plunge the potato wedges into salted boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain and toss in 1 tbsp olive oil, salt and black pepper
2. Heat the oven to 200°c (180°c for a fan oven) and cook the wedges for 25-30 minutes until crispy
3. Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a pan, coat the steak in a little salt and black pepper, then fry for 3 minutes on each side (for medium). Put on a plate and cover with foil. Allow to rest for 5 minutes
4. Deglaze the oil and meat juices with the red wine vinegar in the pan
5. Add the mushrooms and cook for 3-4 minutes
6. Pour the crème fraiche over the mushrooms, cook for a further minute, then serve with the steak, chips and your choice of green vegetable (I generally go for broccoli)

To drink:
With steak, it has to be Malbec and, until 12th March, you can get Alamos Malbec 2010 Catena for £5.99 when you buy two or more bottles from Majestic. The dried fruit characteristics in this wine are perfect alongside steak, and the ripe sweet blackberry flavour balances the creaminess of the sauce perfectly.

Fluffy chocolate mousse
This recipe is adapted from Angela Nilson’s recipe on the BBC Good Food website. Free from egg yolks, butter and cream, it is a lot healthier than traditional chocolate mousse, but tastes incredibly indulgent.

Ingredients
80g dark chocolate
1 tbsp cocoa powder
½ tsp coffee granules
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 egg whites
1 tbsp caster sugar
50g light Greek yoghurt

Method
1. Break the chocolate into equal-sized pieces and put into a large bowl with the cocoa powder, coffee, vanilla extract and 2 tbsp cold water
2. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water) and melt the mixture until thick and smooth, stirring occasionally
3. Add 1 tbsp boiling water, stir and leave to cool slightly
4. Meanwhile, whisk the egg whites to form soft peaks, then whisk in the sugar until glossy
5. Using a metal fork, beat the yoghurt into the chocolate mixture
6. Gently fold one third of the egg whites into the chocolate and yoghurt mixture using a metal tablespoon (do not mix as you’ll beat the air out of the egg whites), then fold the rest of the egg whites in
7. Spoon the mixture into 2 ramekins and chill for at least 2 hours
8. Before serving, decorate with a scattering of orange zest

To drink:
If death by chocolate is your thing, try a glass of Thorntons Chocolate Liqueur over crushed ice. Available from Asda for £12.99 a bottle, it’s a Baileys lover’s dream!

For something less creamy, Chocolate Shop wine (£8.99 from Sainsburys and Co-op) has black cherry and dark chocolate flavours, and makes a rather interesting alternative to a glass of red wine.

If chocolate isn’t your thing but you also want a novel end to your meal, round it off with Croft pink, available for around £10 from Sainsburys, Co-op and Selfridges. With flavours of raspberry and honey, and a delightful soft pink hue, serve this pale port chilled or as a base for a sweet after dinner cocktail.

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Tesco Finest Vinho Verde

Just a quick post (as I’m currently tasting tipples for Valentine’s day – its a hard life) to tell you to dash to Tesco this weekend to pick up a couple of bottles of their Finest Vinho Verde. Down to £5.50 a bottle, this Portuguese white is full of sherbet lemon flavours and crisp deliciousness!

Truly versatile, this Vinho Verde would be a great crowd-pleaser at parties, perfect as an aperitif, or mouthwatering served alongside a tasty warm mackerel salad.

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Pumpkin soup and Pinot Noir

For me this is one of life’s most satisfying combinations. The rustic flavours and hint of spice in pumpkin soup (recipe below) combine perfectly with the earthy aromas of Pinot Noir!

Domaine Drouhin, Cuvée Laurène Pinot Noir 2008 is rich with a hint of sweet plums and red berries. It is a little young and could benefit from some bottle age, but we simply couldn’t resist drinking it now. A delicious treat!

The 2007 vintage is available for £34 from Berry Bros & Rudd, but if you fancy something a little cheaper, try the Palataia Pinot Noir 2010, £8.99 from Marks and Spencer. For such a young wine, it is surprisingly complex and would go excellently with a variety of dishes from roast beef, to mushroom risotto or pumpkin soup. This red wine is actually from Germany which, unbeknown to most, produces excellent quality Pinot Noir (and more than Australia, New Zealand and Chile combined), hence why it performed so well in last year’s International Pinot Noir tasting.

Pumpkin soup
(adapted from Elisabeth Lambert Ortiz’ Caribbean Cooking)

Ingredients (serves 6-8)
50g butter
2 large onions, finely chopped
½ green pepper, sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 medium pumpkin (1kg)
1l chicken stock
Salt and black pepper
Dash hot pepper sauce
Sprinkling ground nutmeg
Crusty bread to serve

Method
1. Heat the butter in a large saucepan and cook the onions and green pepper until soft
2. Unless you plan on making a face from the pumpkin for Halloween, prepare it as you would a melon – cut into segments, scoop the seeds and string out, and dice the segments into cubes
3. Add the pumpkin, garlic and stock to the onions, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 45 minutes
4. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly, then blitz in an electric blender
5. Return to the saucepan, season with salt, black pepper and hot pepper sauce, and heat through thoroughly
6. To serve, sprinkle each bowl with nutmeg and enjoy with chunks of crusty bread

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