Category Archives: Matching Wine with Food

Italian supper

If you’ve got lots going on, keep it simple this bank holiday weekend with a tasty Italian classic – spaghetti bolognese. To complement the rich tomato-based flavours in this dish, you need an Italian red with a high level of acidity, and Marks and Spencer’s Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2010 fits the bill perfectly.

Deep inky purple in colour and full of cherry flavours with a spicy edge, this red is the ideal easy-drinking, food-friendly choice. Available for £6.99 from Marks and Spencer, make sure you pick up some olives, mozzarella balls and prosciutto while you’re there!

Spaghetti bolognese

Ingredients – serves 4

750g lean minced beef
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
250g button mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 chicken stock cube
1/2 tsp oregano
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp tomato purée
400g chopped tomatoes
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
Splash of red wine vinegar
Splash of red wine
Black pepper
Small handful torn basil leaves


1. Dry fry the mince in a large frying pan until brown
2. Drain off excess fat, add the onion and celery and cook for 5 minutes
3. Add the garlic, green pepper and mushrooms, and cook for a further 3 minutes
4. Stir in the crumbled stock cube, oregano, tomato purée, vinegar and wine
5. Add the Worcestershire sauce, bay leaf and tomatoes
6. Season with salt and pepper and bring to the boil
7. Turn the heat down, cover, and leave to simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding a little water if needed
8. Stir the basil leaves into the sauce for the last 10 minutes of cooking, and serve with spaghetti, grated Parmesan, and a green salad


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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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Raimat Abadia Rosé 2010

I had meant to include this in my Valentine’s feature but alas, it managed to work its way to the back of the cocktail cabinet only for me to discover hiding behind a bottle of King’s Ginger.

A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo, this vibrant pink rosé from Bodegas Raimat in the Costers del Segre wine region of Spain, is full of ripe strawberry, cherry and raspberry flavours with a crisp acidity.

Enjoy chilled alongside a tasty tuna niçoise for a simple and healthy supper – tuna (fresh or canned), sliced new potatoes, sliced cucumber, sliced hard boiled egg, French beans, cherry tomatoes, lettuce, thin stips of anchovy fillets, and black olives tossed in extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and black pepper.

Raimat Abadia Rosé 2010 is available online for £7.99 from Your Favourite Wines and Donard Wines.

Definitely one to try!

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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 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

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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A Burns night feast

Last week, everyone was talking about Burns night – what to eat, what to drink, and how to celebrate the birthday of Scottish poet, Robert Burns. Not wanting to be left out, despite no significant Scottish link, I decided to host a ‘traditional’ (I use the term loosely) feast for my family at the weekend (as one of my work colleagues said, “nobody wants a weekday whisky hangover”).

We started the evening with a taste test of three Scottish whiskies…

1. Highland Park 12 year old single malt – smoky and powerful with a slightly honeyed aftertaste
2. The Macallan Fine Oak 10 year old – mellow with flavours of rich vanilla and a smooth finish
3. Glenfiddich 12 year old – orange peel and pear flavours with an intense oaky aroma

I’m not a whisky drinker so you will have to excuse my sketchy tasting notes, however I can vouch for the fact that they all make a great whisky mac (1 part whisky, 1 part ginger wine, 4 parts Canadian dry ginger ale).

Following our mini tasting, we all sat down to enjoy baked haggis, neeps and tatties, followed by raspberry cranachan trifle (adapted recipes below – thanks again, BBC Good Food).

Now, I’d never had haggis before so I was a little apprehensive, however this went down a treat. Savoury and delicious, I served it with lashings of onion gravy.

A little tired of whisky cocktails by this point, alongside the haggis we enjoyed a bottle of easy-drinking South African Garden Route Shiraz from Tesco. The sweet black fruit flavours of this wine balanced out the meaty flavours of the haggis perfectly.

Baked haggis

Ingredients (serves 6)
2 x 450g haggis

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C for a fan oven)
2. Remove the outer packaging from the haggis and stab the skin all over with a fork
3. Wrap each haggis separately in foil and bake for 1 hour in the oven
4. Once cooked, slice each haggis open with a knife and spoon the contents alongside neeps, tatties and onion gravy

(I did take a picture of the haggis but it wasn’t very photogenic!)

Neeps and tatties

Ingredients (serves 6)
5 large baking potatoes
Large knob of butter
1 swede
Salt and black pepper

1. Peel the potatoes and cut them into equal sized pieces – roughly 4 pieces per potato
2. In a large saucepan, boil the potatoes until starting to go soft
3. Peel the swede and cut into equal sized pieces – roughly 2cm by 4cm
4. In a separate pan, boil the swede for 50 minutes – 1 hour until soft
5. Meanwhile, tip the potatoes into a roasting dish and coat with butter
6. Bake in the oven for 30-45 minutes until crisp on the outside and soft on the inside
7. Tip the swede into the roasting dish with the potatoes, add some more butter and season with salt and black pepper
8. Roughly mash the swede and potatoes together and serve with a generous spoonful of haggis

Whisky and onion gravy

1 tsp olive oil
1 large brown onion, finely sliced
25ml whisky
500ml good quality beef stock
1 tbsp cornflour
2 tbsp water

1. In a pan heat the olive oil until sizzling, then fry the onion until soft, but not browned
2. Turn the heat up and add a shot of whisky to deglaze the bottom of the pan
3. Once the whisky has burned off (you should no longer smell alcohol), pour over the beef stock
4. To thicken, mix the cornflour and water in a separate cup and gradually add to the pan

Raspberry cranachan trifle

Ingredients (serves 10)
600g frozen raspberries, defrosted
600ml double cream
200g mascarpone
5 tbsp whisky
100g butter
4 tbsp honey
75g caster sugar
150g jumbo oats
75g chopped hazelnuts
60g plain flour

1. Preheat the oven to 180°c (160°c for a fan oven)
2. Melt the butter and honey in a large saucepan, then stir in the sugar, hazelnuts, oats and plain flour until everything is fully coated
3. Spread the mixture out on a lined and greased baking tray, bake for 20 minutes, allow to cool, then crumble into large chunks
4. Whisk the double cream until it forms soft peaks, then fold in the mascarpone and stir in the whisky
5. To assemble, spoon a layer of raspberries into the bottom of a trifle bowl, followed by a layer of cream and a layer of oats
6. Repeat 2-3 times and scatter the remaining oats on top

If you’re not completely full and whiskied-out by this point (well done!), add a shot of Highland Park to your coffee and off to bed with ye!

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If you like Riesling…

Try Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference 2006 Hunter Valley Semillon. Semillon is a grape variety often found in blends (with Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and so on) and unfortunately, it tends to be overlooked on the wine list.

At the weekend I wanted to try something different to go with our fishy dinner of grilled prawns and oven-baked salmon. At £8.99 the Semillon isn’t a cheapy, but it’s definitely worth the price tag! With bracing acidity and pink grapefruit flavours, this Australian stunner is light in body and in alcohol (at 10.5%). It has ripe, tangy citrus flavours and subtle toasty undertones that have developed with bottle age. It instantly reminded me of the Tim Adams Clare Valley Riesling that I reviewed towards the end of last year.

We had baked the salmon in a foil parcel with cherry tomatoes and anchovies (have no fear – they melt down to nothing), and the salty flavours in the fish dish complemented the acidity of the Semillon perfectly.

The label on the bottle recommends that you try this wine with oysters… if only I was brave enough to try oysters!

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Drinks for the big day

Christmas day is growing ever closer (happy Christmas eve eve!) and you should be thinking about chilling those white wines. I’ve already covered aperitifs (Philippe Michel Crémant du Jura Sparkling Chardonnay with orange juice while we open presents? Be rude not to), so it’s about time we got stuck into Christmas dinner…

To accompany your prawn cocktail/ smoked salmon starter

Here you will need a crisp white wine such as Marks & Spencer’s enticing Cuvée Ressac Picpoul de Pinet 2010. I love this grape variety – it’s fresh, versatile and a real crowd-pleaser. For £7.99, it’s pretty good value too!

Tasty with turkey

Red or white? I say both! Pinot Noir and Burgundy would be the obvious choices, but (ever the Spanish wine fan) I recommend you try Rioja with your turkey and all the trimmings.

Gran Reserva Rioja wines are made with the finest grapes, are aged for at least five years, and are ideal for special feasts. Berberana Gran Reserva Rioja D’avalos, made from the Tempranillo grape, is silky and smooth, not too heavy and perfect for serving with turkey. Last time I was in Tesco, I stocked up on this wine as it was half price at £7.59 per bottle.

In terms of white, try an oaked Rioja such as Muga Blanco 2010. The buttery texture is dreamy with roasted vegetables and it makes a refreshing change from Chardonnay. You can usually get your hands on this wine for £8.99 when you buy 2 bottles or more bottles from Majestic, however it looks like they are out of stock! Instead, grab a bottle of Cune Barrel-Fermented Rioja 2009 from Waitrose Wine Direct.

Dessert wine

It has taken me a while to appreciate dessert wines, but in the right context, with a large bowl of pud, Tesco’s Muscat de Beaumes de Venise is full of sweet honey and juicy apricot flavours. Grab a half bottle for just £4.75, chill well and sip alongside chocolatey desserts.

If dessert wines aren’t your thing, serve Harveys Bristol Cream over ice with a slice of orange. The flavours of candied orange, dried fruit and toasted almond in this sherry will go perfectly with a mince pie or bowl of Christmas pud. Harveys is priced at £9.04 and is widely available across the UK.

Cheese board

Cheese and port go hand-in-hand (what’s not to love in that combination?) and Dow’s Master Blend Finest Reserve Port is half price at just £6.29 at Tesco (can you tell I shop in Tesco?!) Although it’s not the ‘finest’ port available, it has rich black fruit flavours on the palate, with a creamy mint chocolate element to it. Ideal with soft mild cheeses or chocolate truffles.

If you prefer a weightier cheese on your plate, try Aldi’s Bushland Premium Estate Barossa Valley Shiraz with a wedge of salty blue. Priced at just £4.99, this red is spicy and easy on the palate.

Any room left?

If so, I salute you! Treat yourself to a measure of Baileys Biscotti. Richer than your average, I doubt you’ll manage more than a thimble-full, but this creamy liqueur is warming with a subtle hint of almond. Baileys Biscotti is available in various supermarkets for £14.95 per bottle.

If you want me, I’ll be lounging on the sofa. Merry Christmas!

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