Monthly Archives: April 2012

A classic

The title of this post refers to the classic combination of Rioja and lamb which we enjoyed one evening last week (‘on a school night?’ I hear you ask… well, I had just been promoted at work!)

The Rioja in question was Orben 2006 – a rich chocolate and cherry red with medium tannins and a smooth fruity finish. Available for just under £20 from Corks Out, this wine comes in a modern bottle and will make the perfect gift at a dinner party.

Alternatively, treat yourself midweek and enjoy this full-bodied red alongside a delicious and tender lamb dish, such as the one below.

Navarin de Mouton

Ingredients – serves 4

1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
Black pepper
1/2 leg lamb
1 tbsp flour
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 large carrots, sliced
1-2 sticks celery, sliced
1 medium turnip, diced
½ small swede, diced
1 bouquet garni
Pinch sugar
Freshly chopped parsley, to garnish


1. Pre-heat oven to 170°c (150°c for a fan oven)
2. Heat oil in a frying pan on the hob and fry the onion for 5 minutes, until golden
3. Add the carrot, swede, celery, and turnip and fry for a further  5 minutes, until softened
4. Next, add the garlic and flour and fry gently for a further 2 minutes
5. Add the tomatoes, tomato puree, salt, pepper, sugar, and bouquet garni, bring to the boil, adding a little more water if the sauce is too thick, then simmer for 2-3 minutes
6. Place the lamb in a deep roasting/ casserole dish, spoon the sauce and vegetables around the lamb, cover and cook in the oven for 2 hours until the lamb is tender
7. Remove the lamb to a plate when cooked, rest for 10 minutes and then serve in slices with the vegetables, some chopped parsley, mashed potatoes and wilted spinach


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“Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh”

Ok, there are no cockles in this post, and I’m not about to break into song, but in a recent issue of Stylist magazine, there was a recipe for mussels cooked in Guinness which I couldn’t resist (if you missed it, see below – slightly adapted from the original). Alongside the mussels wine expert Jane Parkinson recommended Catena Chardonnay from Waitrose, however we only had a Tesco at our disposal so I picked up a bottle of their Finest Argentinian Chardonnay for just £5.69.

Rich and buttery with tropical fruit flavours, this wine cut through the full flavours of the dish beautifully, brightening up the palate and complementing the slightly garlicky mussels. It also went down a treat with the coddle we had for our main course (Luke’s Irish heritage explains the Dublin-themed meal – and he polished off the remaining Guinness with a smile!)

Mussels cooked in Guinness

Ingredients – serves 2 as a main or 4 as a starter

A knob of butter
1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 rashers smoked bacon, finely chopped
Small bunch fresh thyme leaves, chopped
Small bunch flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
1 bay leaf
Black pepper
1kg mussels
250ml Guinness
Generous dash of double cream


1. Remove the mussels from the fridge and rinse, removing any dirt and stringy beards. Throw away any that don’t close when you tap them sharply with the back of a knife (it means they’re already dead so not particularly fresh!)
2. Melt the butter in a large pan. Add the shallot and bacon and cook over a medium-high heat until the bacon is cooked and the onion softened
3. Add the garlic, half the thyme and parsley, the bay leaf and some salt and pepper, and cook on a lower heat for a further minute
4. Add the mussels and pour in the Guinness
5. Bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer. Place a lid on the pan (or an upturned plate if you don’t have one to fit) to steam open the mussels. This should take just a few minutes
6. Once the mussels are open (throw away any that are still closed as they were probably dead before cooking), remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cream and the rest of the parsley and thyme
7. Serve with a big chunk of crusty bread (and some paté for the members of your dinner party who aren’t big shellfish eaters)

Dublin coddle

Ingredients – serves 4

500g potatoes, peeled and thickly sliced
1 x 300g pack unsmoked bacon, roughly chopped
6 good quality pork sausages
3 large carrots, peeled and sliced
500ml chicken stock
2 medium onions, thickly sliced
Small bunch flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
Black pepper
A knob of butter


1. Preheat the oven to 190°c (170°c for a fan oven)
2. Pierce the sausages and place them under the grill to brown (and remove excess fat). Using a pair of scissors, chop each sausage into three pieces
3. In a saucepan, cook the bacon for 5-6 minutes
4. In a casserole dish, layer the sausages and bacon, potatoes, onion, carrots and seasoning, then pour over the chicken stock
5. Put a lid firmly on the pot and cook the coddle for 2 hours
6. After 2 hours remove the lid and dot butter over the surface. Cook for a further 20-30 minutes without the lid to brown and crisp up the top

Serve with buttered cabbage and more crusty bread (if you have room!)

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A bit of Zing

A flying visit from me today to recommend that you snap up Torre de Azevedo Vinho Verde 2010 from Sainsbury’s for a crisp tangy treat! With a hint of spritz and refreshing flavours of pear drop and lemon, this Portuguese white wine is the perfect pre-dinner party drink. Alternatively, enjoy it alongside light fish dishes such as this zesty haddock from BBC Good Food.

This wine is usually priced at £6.99 but you can often find it on offer for just £5 – bargain!

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Easter treats

I hope you’re prepared to demolish those chocolate eggs tomorrow but before that, if you’re thinking about what to pair with your spring roast lamb, here are some perfect wine options for you to choose from.

Sainsbury’s have some great offers on wine at the moment, with various bottles available as part of their two for £12 promotion. A glass of Montpierre Reserve Sauvignon Blanc would be ideal alongside a delicate fish starter on Easter Sunday. With mellow citrus flavours, a light fresh aroma, and a well-rounded finish, it would also partner well with some of BBC Good Food’s latest spring dishes, such as this melon, prawn and avocado salad followed by a big bowl of creamy pea and watercress pasta.

For a white to accompany the varied flavours of your roast lamb with all the trimmings, try Sainsbury’s Languedoc White Wine. With a rich floral nose and luscious peach and mineral flavours, this creamy white is perfect for a bit of luxury this bank holiday weekend.

If you prefer red wine, Cono Sur Pinot Noir 2011 is available for just £5.49 from Tesco until 30th April.  This well-balanced and food-friendly Chilean Pinot Noir is full of ripe cherries with a spicy kick. If the sun is out, try it lightly chilled alongside your Sunday lunch.

Happy Easter all – I’m off to watch to watch The Boat Race with that chilled Pinot!

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Tapas Españolas

From wintry beef and Pinot Noir last weekend to a taste of Spain this weekend, on Friday evening, as the sun was still shining, Luke and I decided to try the new branch of Iberica at Canary Wharf.

We’re both a bit addicted to Spanish tapas and while the menu at Iberica is a little on the pricey side, every plate we ordered was delicious. The usual suspects (patatas bravas, tortilla, manchego, cured meats and croquetas) didn’t disappoint, but three dishes stood out for us – the chorizo lollipops with pear alioli (pictured below) were juicy and salty with a crisp, light batter on the outside, the grilled prawns with chilli and garlic were plump and perfectly cooked, and the melt-in-the-mouth beef cheek was served generously with a rich Rioja gravy and creamy olive oil mash.

Some of the veggie dishes served to the couple on the table next to ours (a tactical eavesdrop told me that one was the tosta de asparagus) looked pretty tasty, but given Luke’s carnivorous streak, we mostly stuck with meat!

Alongside the tapas, we enjoyed a small aperitif (Spanish beer and fino sherry of course) followed by the Finca Constancia 2009. This wine was luxurious and smooth with vanilla notes typical of the Tempranillo grape. With spicy cherry flavours and the perfect level of acidity to cut through the textures and flavours of the food, this relatively reasonably priced (well at £23.90 it was one of the cheaper options on the menu) was the perfect easy-drinking Spanish red.

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