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Tag Archives: wine matching

  • When wine meets chocolate

    "Its a tough job, but someones got to do it" is the phrase that sprung to mind when I set off on a quest to find out whether wine and chocolate could live together. Easter is looming and that means chocolate, and lots of it, so it seemed the right time to put this to the test.

    Can the two co-exist? I'm delighted to say that the answer is yes, but choose with care. Just like wine there is great chocolate, but there is pretty horrible, gloopy muck, full of greasy cocoa butter, and not much else too - if that's what rocks your boat, I'd stick with a cup of tea to accompany it.

    There is a world of exciting, artisan-crafted chocolate out there - from all over the world. I recently co-hosted a wine and chocolate pairing evening, with Spencer Hyman, who is as passionate about chocolate as I am about wine, and has set up an online subscription business for true choc lovers called Cocoa Runners. He and his team whizz around the world sniffing out the best bean producers and also the best chocolate-makers; his range is vast, encompassing chocolate bars from Brooklyn to Budapest, Cleethorpes to Saigon.

    For wine, it's all about the grape, the soil, and how you make it; with chocolate it's pretty much the same, which is why Great Western Wine have teamed up with Cocoa Runners to stock a wide range of chocolates, matched with specific wines. The chocolate range is broad, ranging from the darkest, most intense and highest cocoa content bars, to fudgy, creamy and unctuous milk varieties.

    So what works? The old adage is that you need to drink something sweeter than the chocolate itself - easily done, but a bit predictable. After an exhaustive and extensive afternoon of wine and chocolate-matching (I did say it was a tough job), here are my recommendations for you to enjoy the ultimate in indulgences - and yes, red wine can work with chocolate, and does so rather nicely, if you pick the right one. So throw your preconceptions aside and try a few of these with your Easter chocolate fest...

    Dark Chocolate

    This has over 70% cocoa solids, with depth and intensity, it's sweet yet has a balancing bitter note - think oozingly rich chocolate fondant. Rich, spicy red wines can work well here, as the balance between the sweetness and the bitter edge in dark chocolate marries well with an intense, voluptuous drink. Chilean Carmenere can be great, Viña Falernia Carmenere Syrah, 2014 (£13.75) was spot on. In this wine, one third of the grapes are left to dry out to a raisin-like state, which means the wine is richer and takes on an 'amarone' type of intensity, with truffly, mocha notes, powerful enough to balance the brooding intensity of dark chocolate.

     

    Milk Chocolate

    The world's favourite style; here, the milk content adds to the sweetness and luxuriously creamy texture. Australian-style Muscats generally work well, but can overpower with their exuberant personalities, but my two favourites in this category are lesser well-known sweeties. First up, a glorious sweet red, somewhere between a dessert wine and port. Bertani Recioto 2012, 50cl (£23.00) from Italy is my go-to choice. Its mix of cinnamon, spice, and candied peel, is silky, sumptuous and utterly indulgent. My other top choice was PX Belle Luna (£8.95) - almost syrupy in texture, sensuous and swooningly enchanting, with its decadent raisin, dried fig and toffee character.

     

    White Chocolate

    People either love or hate white chocolate. Its a mix of mainly cocoa butter, milk and sugar, often flavoured with vanilla. This is where traditional dessert wines work well, with their gentle, honey and caramel edges. Patricius Late Harvest Tokaji 2015, 37.5cl (13.95) from the majestic Tokay region of Hungary is the style to fit the bill here, with its notes of acacia honey, honeysuckle and dried, candied oranges.

    To sum up, wine + chocolate = happiness!

     

     

    By Angela Mount - Bath Life Magazine

  • Cider-Baked Pork Chops with Apple

    Recommended with Bogle Chenin Blanc

    "This is a rich dish that can stand up to a white with a lot of clout. The cider-apple flavours match brilliantly with the baked apple notes of the Chenin whilst the wine's ample acidity cuts through the rich fattiness of the pork. Smashing!" - Patrick, Retail Sales Assistant

    Buy the Bogle Chenin Blanchere

    Cider Pork + Chenin Blanc

  • Wine Meets Spice

    A wine tasting dinner at The Mint Room, Bath

    I’m on a mission to break the myth that you can only drink lager Indian food.  So, with the combined support of Great Western Wine and The Mint Room Bath, we recently hosted a sell-out evening at the award-winning restaurant, showcasing a selection of signature dishes by talented head chef Soyful Alom, from different regions of the vast continent of India.

    Let’s face it, most people just don’t know what wine to choose when eating or cooking Indian food – selecting wine is scary enough, let alone with heat and spice; and the safe default option is always lager.  But wine does work with spice – brilliantly; you just need to have a basic knowledge of what will work.

    It’s all about balance and flavour; pour a glass of fresh orange juice in the morning and it will taste great; brush your teeth and go back to it, and it will suddenly taste like vinegar. Same with white wine and chocolate. It’s worth a try, if you can bear it, just to prove a point.  It’s all about enhancing and marrying levels sweetness, saltiness, sourness.

    There are a couple of very basic rules here – forget acidic, wimpy whites and hard-edged tannic reds, these would be marriages confined to the divorce courts within 24 hours. For any level of spicy food, you need warm, characterful, aromatic whites, with a bit of spice themselves, and reds that are soft, rich, and sweetly spiced. It’s all about matching the levels of intensity of flavours and heat… a bit like boxers in the ring.

    Consider this – Edinburgh and Marrakesh have wildly differing cuisines (haggis meets tagine); cultures are radically different; yet the distance between those two vastly different cities (roughly 2700km), is less than the distance from the Punjab in northern Indian to the tropical climes of Kerala in the south (about 3300km). However, the majority of us don’t realize the vastness of this amazing sub-continent unless we’ve been there, and lump the Indian provinces together into one amorphous mass in our minds.Let’s now take this one step further. The Indian continent is vast, yet there is still a view that, well, curry is curry, which completely belittles the dazzling richness, diversity, heritage and individuality of the various cuisines of this fascinating country.

    One of the great parts of my job is that I get to explore – wine, food, countries – and then try to put all of them together, and try to impart a tiny bit of knowledge and advice along the way.  The provenance and heritage of wine fascinates me, the provenance of food, and style of cuisine does equally.  So my challenge to Chef Soyful Alom, who trained at the Taj in Mumbai, and is a wizard at meddling traditional Indian with a modern twist, was to create a menu, which featured dishes from at least 3 regions of India.  My challenge was to find the best wines to match.

    Malvasia del Salento, Vigne & Vini VarvaglioneFortunately, Great Western Wine have a shedload of wines that fit the bill!  We kicked off the evening, with a selection of delicious canapé morsels - Chettinadu Satay chicken and Aloo Papaadi Chaat, a traditional Indian street food (little puffed up balls of wheat, looking just like cherubic baby pastry cases, with a filling of spiced chickpeas and potatoes, drizzled with a yoghourt and tamarind dressing). There’s sweetness in the peanut sauce and similarly in the tamarind, so we needed an aperitif white, with just enough sweetness and oomph to enhance.  Step up Malvasia del Salento 12 e mezzo 2014; this is a recent find of mine and a firm favourite whenever I’m cooking with spice.  It has a lovely, exotic, floral and peachy aroma, and smells almost sweet – which is just what it should do.  Delicately scented, yet, full of vibrant, musky, honeysuckle, lemon peel and ripe peach flavours, it entices with its scented promise and then gives you a welcome kick with its surprising zesty dryness, and zestiness.

    The Stump Jump, Riesling, d'Arenberg The Mint Room served a platter of Indian delicacies as a starter – their signature Chicken tikka, with a mint sauce; Peshwari lambchops; and Punjabi-spiced swordfish.  Lots of traditional Indian spices in the tikka, and for the northern Indian, Punjabi and Peschwari dishes, warm, woody spices, such as cumin, coriander, cardamom, star anise, cinnamon and cloves prevailed.  Each of these had been marinated and then char-grilled, each infused, with their individual spice mixes and meltingly tender; Peshwari lamb, in its marinade of paprika, ginger and yoghurt was arguably the outstanding one of a very fine trio. What to match?  When you’re dealing with marinaded meats, and fish, chargrilled, with lots of spice, and a bit of heat, head to the safety of the most reliable of grape varieties for spicy food – Riesling.  This amazing grape variety has a calming presence and seems to be able to cope with pretty much anything spicy.  On this occasion, The Stump Jump Riesling, D’Arenberg 2013, was the perfect choice – bright, edgy, with  squeakingly clean, zingy freshness, a tingling fresh lime verve, yet with hints of honeysuckle and ginger – enough oomph and personality to cope with all the spices thrown at it; a deliciously vibrant, and characterful glass, which should be a staple for any spiced-up dish.

    Chef Soyful Alom then transported

    us to the southern, tropical land of Kerala, one of the most beautiful parts of India, a tapestry of wide beaches, lapped by the ocean, with thick forests and verdant hills.  It’s a land of spice, and gorgeousness – fishing is one of the key industries here.  It’s hot, humid and tropical – and it’s yet another part of India, where food is at the centre of their culture.  Here, it’s all about spice, coconut, ginger, turmeric – but especially coconut.

    The second dish we enjoyed was a Seabass Moilee – a simple fillet of flakily soft seabass, perfectly cooked, with crisp, charred skin, served on a bed of spinach, with a Keralan sauce of coconut milk, mustard seeds, curry leaves, and traditional spices.   There is so much richness in this dish, and so many layers of complexity – sweetness, heat, creaminess, spiciness.

    Yealands Estate Pinot GrisWhat to match?  I’ve learnt that anything with coconut milk can kill a lot of wines – it all goes back to that balance I mentioned.  In this case, I needed to balance not only sweetness and heat, but also texture – coconut milk is very creamy, but anything with high acid would just curdle, rather than complement…. So I opted for a white wine, which has a bit of sultry spice itself, and a fuller, fleshier texture. This was one hot and successful date, based on how our guests reacted – Yealands Estate Pinot Gris 2014 hit the mark here - aromatic, exotic, and spicy itself, with enough fleshy, creamy texture to match the dish.  This is a polished, buxom yet elegant white with a dry edge, full of nuances of ginger, apricots and nutmeg, yet with a punchy, refreshing, citrus kick on the end - Big thumbs up for this one from all the guests.  The lesson here is to go for the richer, creamier aromatic whites – Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Viognier.

    For our final course, we moved eastwards to Bengal…the traditional spicing used in Bengali cuisine is relatively simple, yet at the cornerstone of many classic Indian dishes - cumin, onion, mustard seeds, cardamom and fennel.  For this dish, Chef Soyful played on the ‘modern with a twist’ element, serving a grilled breast of Barbary duck, with a smooth, intense, tomato and spiced sauce.  This required a completely different style of wine; my initial thoughts veered towards Pinot Noir, but the intensity of this dish is striking, and we needed something with a bit more ‘oomph’, weight, and richness.

    Bogle Old Vine Zinfandel CaliforniaThe solution? Bogle Old Vines Zinfandel 2013, from California. Bogle, a family-owned winery in Sacramento.  Here they make wines from grapes grown on gnarled old vines, which increases the intensity and concentration of the wines.  Voluptous and velvety are the two first words that come to mind; dark, brooding, suave, and silky are others. This red is crammed with intense blackberry and blueberry fruit, sprinkled with a dusting of dark cocoa, and infused with the warmest, richest of spices, with a hint of ground black pepper.   It’s also very fruity.  This is proof that bold red wines can go with spice, but you have to get the balance right – this one is generous, but oh so soft, rich, and silky, with no harsh edges – no clashes, no vying for supremacy, just a glorious fusion of flavours and tastes.

    So there you have it… wine does meet spice… and can have a fairytale ending.

     By Angela Mount

     

     

     

  • Tried & Tested: Peking duck summer rolls & J.Lohr Wildflower, Valdiguie

    Cravings for a delicious takeaway style treat but want to stay healthy for summer?

    This week I tried and tested a lighter version of the classic Peking duck wraps using plenty of refreshing ingredients, and rice paper over the usual flower coated pancakes; creating more of a summer roll style dish as an alternative.  With the duck being a slightly heavier meat than the chicken you'd usually come across in a summer roll, I thought I'd try a red wine match, as it can never hurt to have a few summer appropriate reds on hand for a change from the white and sparkling we often lean towards in the warmer weather.

    I chose the J.Lohr, Wildflower, Valdiguie, 2014 which, after having been a little chilled in the fridge for just a little before opening, was full of juicy berry flavours (perfect for drinking on its own during the very welcome heatwave we've been having)!

    The wine worked well with elements of the dish, the freshness of the cucumber, spring onion and rice paper wraps, along with the slightly richer element of the duck were nicely balanced by the sweet, fruitiness of the wine.  The hoi sin sauce was a little too thick and sweet for such a light and fruity wine, so I'd perhaps opt for a lighter dressing, keeping the main focus the crunchy and refreshing greens in this light summer snack.

    Food and wine match with J.Lohr wildflower valdiguie

    I went with what I know for this recipe; simple ingredients all thrown together, wrapped up (the tricky bit), and sliced into bite-size pieces.

    To make enough for 2 people as a main, or a few more as party finger food, all you need is: 1/2 peking shredded duck (available in most supermarkets), rice paper, a handful of coriander, 2 spring onions and 1/2 cucumer (sliced to about 10cm in length - just under the length of your rice paper), and Hoisin sauce.  You can make this yourself (see BBC recipe here), but it often comes with the shredded duck.

    The rice paper rolls are the most fiddly but (best to follow individual pack instructions), but as long as you don't over fill your rolls, you can wrap up all of the ingredients quite securely.  Can be served per person as a full roll, but look great sliced up and served as summer garden party miniatures too.

    By Olivia Moore

  • Tried & Tested

    Prawn, broad bean and buttered asparagus risotto with Ken Forrester Reserve Chenin Blanc

     

    Last Saturday I decided to cook a yummy summery dish, and after scouring through lots of recipes, I finally decided on a prawn, broad bean and buttered asparagus risotto with Parmesan and home grown salad leaves – now for me, the wine match was easy and with this slightly rich and flavoursome dish, it had to be the Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc from Ken Forrester.

    The prawns and buttered asparagus really hit the spot alongside the fresh crisp acidity. And the creaminess of the risotto was beautifully complimented by the delicious richness and texture of the Chenin blanc.

     

    Ken Forrester Reserve Chenin Blanc StellenboschRecipe (serves 4)

    2 small shallots, peeled and finely chopped
    250g risotto rice
    1 glass dry white wine
    1 and a half of vegetable stock, kept hot
    asparagus, steamed until just tender, kept warm with knob of butter
    100g blanched broad beans
    200g cooked peeled prawns
    sea salt and freshly ground pepper

     

    Tried & Tested Risotto with Ken Forrester Reserve Chenin Blanc

    Method

    Fry the shallots in butter together until the shallots are cooked and soft but not browned. Add all the rice in one go and stir it around with the other ingredients to toast the grains thoroughly without browning.

    After about 5 minutes of toasting, add the wine, and stir it in for about 2 minutes. Then add the first 3 ladles of hot stock and stir it through.

    Continue to add the stock and stir it in each time the spoon opens up a clear wake behind it during the cooking process.

    After about 15 minutes, which is five minutes from the end of the cooking time, add the broad beans and prawns and continue to cook the risotto. Taste and season with salt and pepper to taste. Once dished up, lay asparagus over risotto and grate parmesan over to your liking.

    Recipe adapted from BBC Food - Original here

    Ken Forrester Reserve Chenin Blanc Stellenbosch 2014 

    Regular Price: £11.25

    Special Price £9.90

    Prices are valid from 03.06.15 to 30.06.15

    Free delivery on orders over £100 | Save 10% on 12 bottles | Save 5% on 6 bottles

  • Tried & Tested: Pork Skewers with 'Ou Kalant' Cabernet Sauvignon

    I tend to hit a creative brick wall when it comes to summer BBQ recipes, and always revert to the old classics. There is no harm in this method to be fair - who can say no to a homemade beef burger or chargrilled corn on the cob every now and again?  I did however, want to broaden my horizons and test out something a little different last night, so I played around with my own recipe - using the grill this time but with a combination I will definitely be trying when the BBQ is fired up and the sun is next out...

    I layered together some pork, beetroot and chorizo skewers - packed with flavour, served on a rocket salad with a MAN Family Wines 'Ou Kalant' Cabernet Sauvignon wine match. The ripe, juicy, fruity flavours of the wine were a great balance for the bitter bed of rocket, and added an element of sweetness to compliment the salty dish.

    Pork, chorizo & beetroot skewers with a Cabernet Sauvignon wine match

    Ingredients (serves 4)

    400g diced pork
    225g diced chorizo
    200g diced beetroot
    8 bamboo skewers
    1 bag rocket
    1 bag mixed salad

     

     

    Method

    Preheat the grill.  Before preparing your dish, soak the bamboo skewers in water for about 15 minutes.  Layer up the beetroot, pork and chorizo along the skewers - this recipe provides enough for two skewers each.  Place under the grill and cook for around 15 minutes, turning every now and again.  Whilst the skewers are cooking, arrange your rocket salad as a bed for the skewers, and when ready, rest them on top, drizzling the beeetroot and chorizo juices around the dish as a dressing.

    I put a very light sprinkling of black pepper over the dish to finish, but very little extra flavour is necessary, as the chorizo and beetroot nicely add to the subtlety of the pork, producing an overall dish full of flavour.

    By Olivia Moore

    Buy the MAN Family Wines 'Ou Kalant' Cabernet Sauvignon for just £7.70 during our South African promotion + 10% off any 12 wines.

     

  • A Simple Guide to Food & Wine Matching

    Solving one of the most frequently asked questions, here’s my guide to some simple suggestions for choosing the right style of wine, for whatever you’re cooking.

    There’s a great deal of nonsense talked about food and wine matching, and I’m probably as guilty as any wine writer.  We shouldn’t get too serious about this, and actually, there is no right or wrong; taste is entirely subjective. However it’s true that some partnerships work better than others – it’s no different from combinations of different foods – roast beef and horseradish, lamb and mint, cheddar and chutney, strawberries and cream.

    It’s the same with wine – a few simple pointers will help bring out the very best in both the dish and the wine. Try a curry with a thin, acidic white, and the wine will taste sour; try it with an aromatic , rich white, or a juicy red, and the entire experience will be more enjoyable, with the wine and the spices, bringing out the overall richness of flavours.

    I’ve put together some simple ideas to reduce the uncertainty of what to select, and to dispel some of the myths – and yes, red wine does go with fish… if you choose the right one.  One of the key things to remember is that it’s usually not the main ingredient that dictates the best wine choice, it’s the sauce or the spices. It’s all about balancing flavours, spice, saltiness, sweetness and heat.

    Fish

    White wine is the obvious choice here, but it’s not so much the fish, it’s how you cook it:

    Seafood, and simply cooked white fish, with maybe lemon and herbs are best with fresh, crisp, unoaked whites – Italian whites, Chablis, Sancerre, zesty Sauvignon and Albarino

    Salmon -  unoaked or lightly oaked chardonnay to go with this richer fish

    Tuna – Dry Rosé is great with tuna ( and also prawns), or chilled, light reds

    Smoked fish Riesling, and aromatic whites

    Thai and Indian fish and seafood – aromatic whites – Riesling, Sauvignon blanc, Viognier and Gewurztraminer

    Fish and chips – Sauvignon Blanc or fizz!

    Poultry

    Once again, match the style of the wine to the richness or spiciness of how the bird is cooked

    Roast chicken – buttery chardonnays, fruity Pinot Noir and Chianti

    Chicken in red wine – Pinot Noir, Cotes du Rhone

    Chicken pie – creamy chardonnay, Gavi, Beaujolais

    Chicken with fruity saucesChenin blanc, Viognier

    Spicy Thai and Indian chicken  - Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Viognier

    Duck  - Pinot Noir or Tuscan reds

    Pheasant and game – Pinot Noir, Burgundy, Chianti, Rhône

    Meat

    Roast beef and steak – good, full bodied reds – Bordeaux, Merlot, Syrah, Malbec

    Roast lamb and lamb chops – Bordeaux and Rioja are classics, but other Spanish reds, and Rhone work well

    Rich lamb or beef stews – Southern French reds, Southern Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and New World Shiraz – big and bold is the key thing

    Roast pork -  Chardonnay and Chenin blanc

    Moroccan tagines – rich, spicy Southern Italian or Spanish reds

    Sausages – Southern French, New World Merlot and Spanish reds

    Gammon, ham ,pate – Beaujolais, Spanish Garnacha, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay

    Asian beef curries and stir friesZinfandel, juicy soft reds, Merlot, Shiraz

    Vegetables

     

    Asparagus – Sauvignon blanc all the way – classic match; or unoaked chardonnay if with hollandaise

    Tomatoes and peppers– southern French or Italian whites

    Otherwise, it depends on how the vegetables are cooked:

    Frittata/omelettes – unoaked Italian whites, and juicy young Italian reds, or Cotes du Rhone

    Quiches and vegetable pies -  fresh unoaked Chardonnay, lively Spanish and Italian whites, Verdejo

    Roasted vegetables – Viognier, Chenin blanc

    Mushroom pasta and risotto – a dream with northern Italian reds

     

    Cheese

    Forget the old adage that  cheese only goes with red wine, play around a bit, and try some of these matches:

    Goats cheese – perfect with fresh Sauvignon blanc styles of wine

    Camembert and brie style – best with creamy Chardonnays, and juicy, unoaked light reds

    Cheddar and hard, mature cheeses – Rhone, Shiraz, Cabernet – good, full on reds

    Blue cheese – best with Port, or perfect with sweet whites, Sauternes and Muscat

    Desserts

    Light, creamy fruit desserts – Asti, sweet sparkling, and sweet Bordeau

    Chocolate, toffee and rich puds – Muscat, liqueur Muscat, sweet Tokay, dessert reds, sweet sherry and Port

    By Angela Mount

  • Tried & Tested: Baked Seabass with Umani Ronchi, Verdicchio

    For a light, refreshing wine like the Umani Ronchi, Verdicchio Classico Superiore, Casal di Serra 2013, I thought I'd try a classic baked sea bass dish.  Generally I tend to feel more comfortable with a simple fillet of fish, with no skin and other bits to deal with, but the selection of enticing flavours in this recipe persuaded me to try cooking the fish whole - mainly so that I actually had somewhere to stuff the stuffing.

    With the juicy plum tomatoes working unsurprisingly brilliantly with the garlic, onion and pine nuts, this soft and slightly dry white wine was a welcome refreshment and great pairing to the dish.  Its fruity aromas weren't overwhelmed by sweetness, making it a very easy drinking wine, and definitely one I can imagine enjoying on a restaurant terrace in a warm, coastal, and picturesque holiday destination... (preferably in Italy!)

    Baked Seabass with Umani Ronchi Verdicchio

    Ingredients (serves 2)

     

    1 small onion, finely chopped
    1 clove garlic, finely chopped
    Salt
    Freshly ground black pepper
    100g pine nuts, crushed
    8 large basil leaves, plus more for garnish
    2 whole sea bass, each weighing approximately
    450g, gutted, scaled and cleaned

    1 tbsp olive oil
    2 plum tomatoes, skinned, deseeded and chopped

    The vinaigrette

    6 tbsp olive oil
    1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
    2 plum tomatoes, skinned, deseeded and chopped
    1 shallot, finely chopped

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Method

    - Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the onion, tomatoes and garlic and cook gently for 5 minutes or until soft. Season, then add the pine nuts and basil and cook for a further 2 minutes

    - Stuff both fish with the mixture, and place each fish on a separate piece of well-greased foil. Wrap into a tight parcel

    - Place on a baking tray in a preheated oven 190ºC, gas mark 5 for 25 minutes or until cooked

    - The vinaigrette: whisk together the olive oil and balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan. Add the tomatoes and shallot, season and gently warm through

    - Check that the fish is cooked; the flesh should be firm and flake easily. Remove from the foil, transfer to an oval plate and spoon the dressing over the top. Garnish with chopped basil leaves

    - I serve mine on a bed of spiralised courgette, but you can serve it with roasted veg, rice, some boiled new potatoes, or anything else you fancy...

    By Olivia Moore

  • Mediterranean Lamb and a nice little Chianti

    Mediterranean lamb and Chianti Classico

    Lamb – you don’t get much more ‘Easter’ than that, do you? But rather than serve with the traditional Sunday roast accompaniments, I find that an old fashioned ratatouille is the perfect match at this time of year. In fact, you can quite happily serve this all through summer – just butterfly a whole leg of lamb and throw it on the barbeque – it’s amazing.

    The Mediterranean flavours of rosemary/garlic-infused lamb work brilliantly with the robust flavours of the chargrilled vegetables, (more) garlic, and fragrant thyme of the ratatouille. The tomatoes are a lovely foil for the rich flavours of the meat, providing an uplifting freshness and zing to the dish.

    What’s great about this is that the roast new potatoes take the same amount of time as the ratatouille, and don’t even need a par-boil, so it really is a no-brainer.

    Wine match

    Castello di Fonterutoli, Chianti ClassicoI chose a Chianti Classico, Castello di Fonterutoli, Chianti Classico 2012 for this dish and it really worked. The juicy acidity, dark and red fruit flavours and smooth tannins created a match made in heaven. Wine Spectator describes the wine as "harmonious and approachable" with a “silky texture" and "fine length” - I'd have to agree.

    Lamb is quite a fatty meat and needs some acidity to cut through, and this really did the job. The herb and spice layers of this Chianti brought out the rosemary, thyme and bay in the dishes, while hints of orange, rhubarb and plum in this red worked well with the fruitiness of the Mediterranean vegetables.

     

    What you’ll need:

    Bottle of Castello di Fonterutoli, Chianti Classico 2012 and a nice glass

    Lamb - Joint of your choice

    Tip - I cooked a 750g boned leg for around 55mins and then let it rest for around 20mins - this achieved a medium rare joint. As it was quite small (enough for 3 to 4) I’d advise using a thermometer to make sure you don’t overcook the lamb – the BBC cooking guide is quite handy too.

    The best results will always be with a larger bone-in joint, especially for a family-sized group. Plus the bone can be used for stock afterwards, making a great curry (recipe to come!).

    Also...

    - garlic and rosemary
    - glass of white wine / same of water
    - salt and pepper

    Potatoes & ratatouille

     

    For the Ratatouille – makes enough for 4

    This is based on Nigel Slater’s recipe, except I chargrilled / griddled the veggies (again, ideal for a summer BBQ)

    - 1 onion, sliced
    - 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
    - 1 aubergine, thickly sliced
    - 1 courgette, thickly sliced
    - 1 red pepper, de-seeded and quartered
    - 3 plum tomatoes, sliced
    - 2 sprigs thyme
    - 1 handful basil leaves

    Potatoes

    - new potatoes
    - garlic – 1 garlic per person, unpeeled
    - fresh bay leaf
    - sprigs rosemary

    Method:

    Put the oven on, pre-heating to 180°C

    Lamb

    Take a sharp knife and make a few incisions into the lamb

    Take a few sprigs of rosemary and a sliced garlic and push these into the holes. Season the lamb all over with plenty of salt and pepper and give it a rub of olive oil.

    Place the lamb into the preheated oven in a high sided roasting tray with a small glass of white wine and a small glass of water poured around the meat. This can be topped up with water from time to time and will form a light jus/gravy at the end.

    When roasted to perfection (see above for cooking times and weights), take out of the oven and allow to rest wrapped in foil on a warmed plate for 20 mins.

    The juices from the pan can be reduced down for a powerful jus/gravy to pour over the meat just before serving.

    Ratatouille 

    While the lamb is in the oven, or just before, sweat the onions in 1 tbsp of olive oil until they are soft, add sliced garlic cloves and, once soft, add to a deep baking dish.

    Griddle the other veg (except tomatoes) until they have grill lines on each side, and layer in the baking dish. Top with the sliced plum tomatoes and season with salt, black pepper and thyme.

    Bake at 180°C for about 45 minutes until soft and tender. Stir gently with a handful of torn basil leaves before serving.

    Potatoes

    You can always do traditional roasties, but as it's spring it’s nice to use some seasonal produce, so I used new potatoes. New potatoes do not need par-boiling so you can throw them into a pan with a tablespoon of hot olive oil whenever you’re ready – just pop them in the oven for 45 mins at 180°C at the same time as the ratatouille. When cooked, squeeze out the cooked garlic from its skin and mix in with the potatoes.

    By Chris Penwarden

  • 5 Auspicious Wines for Chinese New Year

    Follow our quick guide to help you celebrate the Year of the Sheep in style...

    Ridgeview, Grosvenor Cuvée Merret (Blanc de Blancs)

    Sparkling Wines - perfect with dim sum dumplings and fried foods. Cava and English sparkling are ideal: Try Franck Massard Mas Sardana Cava Brut Nature NV for its notes of apple, citrus and almond; made in the same way as a Champagne but with a few local grapes thrown in for good measure. Or maybe something from closer to home, like Ridgeview, Grosvenor Cuvée Merret (Blanc de Blancs) from Sussex – the orchard aromas and hints of freshly baked brioche lift the flavours of crunchy spring rolls and warm steamed buns.

    Ribafreixo, Pato Frio Cashmere Rosé

     

     

    Dry, fruity rosé - particularly good with sweet and sour dishes, but most of all it’s a real ‘all-rounder’. I would opt for something like Ribafreixo, Pato Frio Cashmere Rosé 2013, a Portuguese rosé that’s a little softer and more generous than the delicately structured rosés of Provence. This will go down a treat with a veritable banquet of dishes – from dim sum to unctuous BBQ ribs.

    Trimbach, Gewurztraminer

     

    Fragrant whites – best matched with fragrant, spicy dishes – anything with heaps of ginger, spring onion, white pepper or Szechuan spices. Gewürztraminer, like Trimbach’s 2012, would be high on the list as a classic accompaniment due to its distinctive aromas of rose and lychee. But another interesting twist could be Argentina’s very own Torrontes grape – a milder version of the floral aromas of Gewürz, delivering a bouquet of rose along with notes of Sauvignon grassiness. Also try Viognier – renowned for its hints of ginger and honey - perfect with sticky chicken pieces and noodles.

    El Mago Organic Garnacha

     

    Juicy, low tannin reds – drink with duck-based dishes, especially whole duck or peking style with pancakes. Wines with lower tannins can have a rich sweetness which is brilliant with plum sauce: try Grenache, particularly El Mago Organic Garnacha 2013 - a wine full of sweet fruits and delicious acidity that will coat the duck and heighten its rich, earthy flavours. Pinot Noir is also a great example, but make sure it’s a ‘new world’ version that’ll maximise the ripe fruit flavours – something like Leyda’s Pinot Noir Las Brisas Leyda Valley 2012 would be a top choice.

     

    Marqués de Riscal, Rioja 150th Anniversary Gran Reserva

    Soft, ripe reds – these wines are a go-to for meaty dishes in salty, caramelised soy sauce. The softness and oakiness of a mature Rioja, with its aged characters of bamboo shoots, mushroom and spice, will pair wonderfully with succulent beef, charred peppers and black bean. Feeling celebratory? Why not push the boat out and try the rare Marqués de Riscal, Rioja 150th Anniversary Gran Reserva 2004. Likewise, a smooth, plummy Merlot-based wine would trump anything with too much tannin-heavy Cabernet, despite this grape’s affinity with green peppers. A safer option would be Carménère which shares Cabernet’s distinctive capsicum aromas but has slightly softer tannins.

     

    Whatever you choose, make sure it’s a very happy and prosperous Chinese New Year!

    By Chris Penwarden
     

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