Monthly Archives: October 2017

  • MIDDLE EASTERN MAGIC

    The magic of food is like fashion; ever changing, ever evolving, exploring new territories, and rediscovering old classics. Food goes hand in hand with wine, a symbiotic relationship. It’s no different from how spices, herbs, flavours combine, enhance, fuse, attract, and partner.

    There’s a lot of debate about wine and food pairing – whether it works, whether it’s important, whether we wine people get a bit over - obsessed with the whole subject. But it’s all about playing with flavours, styles, and enhancing the whole experience of enjoying food and drink, in a far more relaxed manner than simply wine tasting.

    I’ve always loved the challenge of matching just the right wine, with the right dish, and it’s only when you try it, that you find out how tastes and flavours can blend or clash so dramatically. Having matched up recipes from pretty much everywhere around the globe, the latest one has been a new one for me, since we are working with Iranian cookery school teacher Simi Rezzai - Ghassemi.

    Unlike the more heated, feisty flavours of Tunisia, Morocco, India and the Far East, there is a wondrous delicacy, subtlety, and sweet gentleness about Iranian food, and Simi’s cooking. Showcasing some classic dishes from her homeland, we’ve already had a little practice session to pair up the wines. I’ve given up protesting that my job is tough, since no one ever believes me, but this was genuinely a fun learning curve for me.

    To tantalise and tempt, here’s a teaser, and some suggestions for those of you who want to explore ideas at home.  The main rule is to keep the wines fragrant, aromatic, juicy, pretty, and evocative, just like the style of the food. Avoid the heaviness of oak in both whites and reds, and as I learnt, gentle, fruity dry roses are also great.

    Having said that Simi put me straight to the challenge, with a traditional broth called ‘Osh’, bursting with the heady fragrances of coriander, chives and parsley. I’ve always struggled with drinking wine with soup, it just doesn’t seem to work. But a punchy, lip-smacking, tangy small glass of Fino or Manzanilla sherry does the trick. The popularity of sherry is running high again, so join the revolution. Try La Guita Manzanilla, from the seaside town of Sanlucar de Barrameda, with its blazingly white houses, cobbled streets and seafront tapas bars, where the seafood is about as fresh as it gets. My idea of heaven. Crisp, tangy, with a nutty, salty bite, and searingly dry, it sends a tingle down the spine with its intensity.

    Another dish that Simi has created is ‘Kookoo’ a type of Iranian frittata, using more herbs, but also turmeric and walnuts, with the addition of punchy, crunchy barbaries, which bring both sweetness and lemony freshness. Wherever I can, I like to bring in wines from the region, and as Lebanon isn’t a million miles away, I’ve paired this with the zesty fresh, yet alluringly exotic Ixsir Altitudes White, a crisp, citrusy, white, from the Sauvignon and Semillon, enhanced by a dollop of perfumed Viognier and Muscat. Similarly any aromatic, fragrant white, with an off-dry edge would work.

    The beauty of Iranian food, like so much in Mediterranean and also Asian cultures, is the aspect of sharing; it’s all about families and friends. Beautifully fragrant rice, delicate saffron and lemon-infused chicken, the most gorgeously pretty of seasonal salads, packed with herbs and embellished with edible flowers, and a little accompaniment of yoghurt with thyme and rose petals. I’ve always loved dry rose wines with Middle Eastern food, in fact with most gently, and more intensely spiced foods. Most dry fruity pinks will work, you need bolder, fleshier New World style for hot dishes, but with the exquisitely tender style of Persian food, lighter, crisp European wines work to.  For this colourful, elegant feast, I’ve picked Chivite Las Fincas 2016, in its stylishly curvy bottle, gossamer pale, and exuding scents and flavours of ripe strawberries and cranberries, fruity, yet characterful, with a lingering citrus finish.

    Red wines also work, but they need to be soft, juicy, and velvety, with a lightness of touch. The softness of Pinot Noir works, as does the juicy style of Garnacha, but again, with the opportunity to staying close to Iranian roots, I’ve gone for a smooth, lighter style of  red from neighbouring Turkey, K of Kapadokia 2012, full of gentle, velvety plum and spice character, with a softness of touch. Turkish wines are getting a lot of attention in the wine world these days, and there are some real gems to be discovered, from one of the countries with the oldest heritage of wine production.

    By Angela Mount

  • Crumbs!

    BE RASHER-NAL!

    This snack by Spuntino founder Russell Norman is so darn moreish it should come with a warning…

    This is a preposterous snack that combines the unholy trinity of fat, salt and sugar in one hit, writes Russell. You really can’t get more sin into such a small package but, likewise, you probably don’t need telling how ridiculously tasty it is.

    Now, with that warning out of the way, it is only fair to further warn you that this recipe uses a blowtorch. I am aware that this is not a standard bit of kitchen kit but they’re not too expensive these days and they’re so handy for a variety of tasks, not least for making that perfect crème brulée.

     

     

     

    Candied bacon

    Makes 12 slices

    Ingrediants

    12 slices smoked streaky bacon

    Maple syrup

    Caster sugar

    Method

    1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.

    2. Lay a sheet of baking paper on a roasting tray and place the streaky bacon in regimented rows next to each other. Cover with another layer of baking paper and place a second roasting tray onto the top to create a press.

    3. Roast for 15 minutes in the oven, then lower the temperature to 150C/300F/gas mark 2,
      remove the upper tray and top layer of baking paper and roast for another 15 minutes.

    4. When the bacon looks evenly brown and crispy, remove from the oven and pat dry with kitchen paper.

    5. Allow the rashers to cool for 10 minutes and then brush them with maple syrup. Leave them to dry for 15-20 minutes. Dust with caster sugar and, using a blowtorch, caramelise the sugar on top. Repeat for the reverse.

    6. Let them cool again and serve the rigid rashers upright in a short glass tumbler.

    Credit: Photography by Jenny Zarins

    A Grape Match!

    Bella Luna Amontillado Sherry £6.95

    This snack must be the ultimate in decadence, but also a real challenge for any wine. With Sherry rapidly becoming the darling of aperitifs, I’ve opted for a bold, tangy, nutty style, which will stand up to the powerful and intensely sweet and salty flavours. Amber in colour, with a rich, toasted walnut flavour and a lingering salty tang, which will cut through, but enhance the medley of tastes in the spuntino.

  • NORTHERN ITALIAN IDYLL

    Italy seduces at every level. The language, the culture, the cuisine, the landscape, the wines. Running over 700km from tip to toe, its multi-faceted, in just about every respect, captivating in its charm and beauty. I’ve been lucky enough to travel the length and breadth of this beautiful country and witness the wide diversity of traditions, food styles, climate, terrains and wines, and it’s one of my favourite places in the world.

    The wines are as diverse as the regions and the climate, from the cool of the northern Alps, to the searing heat of Sicily. Tuscany has long been a favourite holiday haunt, with its magical Castello’s, cypress trees, rolling hills, picture perfect vineyards, and olive groves. Chianti is world famous.

    But so is Barolo. Unlike France, where most people know the difference between Bordeaux and Burgundy, Italy, with more grape varieties than anywhere else in the world, and a plethora of styles confuses. Names are familiar to many, but locations less so.

    So this month I’m exploring the north west of this intriguing country, and putting a little bit of background to some of the most famous wines from the region. Piedmont, is the land of one of the most prized, evocative, expensive products in the world, white truffles, with their intoxicating scent and flavour, addictive to many; it is also famous for game, mist-covered mornings, spectacular autumns, a region boasting some of the most spectacular cuisine in the country. It’s about as far north west as you can get in Italy, nestled in the foothills (Piedmont means ‘foot of mountain’) of the soaring peaks of the French Alps to the west and north, and bordering the Mediterranean coastline of Liguria, the glittering beautiful Italian Riviera.

    Chianti and Barolo are the most famous Italian wines; the former is produced from the sour cherry and lively plum flavoured Sangiovese grape in Tuscany; the latter from the deep, violet and licorice- scented Nebbiolo, which reigns supreme in Piedmont, the home of Barolo. Nebbiolo is a maverick grape, capable of creating some of the most magnificently dark and brooding wines in the world, but also sulkily turning out thin, harsh, fruitless wines in poor vintages if not treated with skilled hands and craftsmanship. Knowing the right producers is crucial.

    Conterno Fantino Barolo Vigna Del Gris 2011 is well worth the investment for a wine of concentrated, unique depth and beauty. The 2011 vintage was a forward wine, and the wines will keep for years, but this shows a perfumed, beguiling elegance, redolent of violets and rich dark fruits, ending with a spicy finish. Silky, sensuous, with endless depth and complexity. An absolute classic.

    For a lighter style Barolo, try renowned producer Ascheri Barolo 2013, softer, bright, again with an intoxicating perfume, and more gentle, but perfectly formed structure.

    But you don’t have to spend a fortune to enjoy the red wines of Piemonte.  Barbera is the other main red grape of the region, softer, more feminine than the more muscular Nebbiolo.  For a great value, everyday drinking red try Amonte Barbera 2015 – bright, and breezy, with lively plum and cherry fruit, it’s a great midweek pasta wine, or great with a late summer weekend platter of prosciutto.

    For a bright, softer, juicier style, Dolcetto is Piemonte’s other red grape variety, cheeky, lively, more modest, and perfect for those who prefer softer, unoaked styles. Conterno Fantino Dolcetto d’Alba Bricco Bastia 2016, is just the ticket, shimmers with bright ruby colour, and seduces with its ripe, juicy, opulent plum and raspberry character, and pure fruit character. Perfect with herb-dusted chicken, and slow roasted pork belly.

    White wines are often overshadowed in this region of red wine kings, with their heady character, but don’t ignore the delightfully elegant, creamy and smooth whites from the region. Ascheri Gavi di Gavi 2016, is squeaky clean, and taut as a finely-tuned violin string.  Oozing style and elegant restraint, it’s a super-cool, nervy dry white from the Cortese grape, produced by Matteo Ascheri, a vinous master craftsman. Creamy, refreshing, and packed with bright lime, grapefruit, pithy lemon and green apple character, it shimmers with zestiness and tang. Polished. Sophisticated. Try this one with all manner of seafood, lemon-infused seabass, and creamy prawn linguine.

    At the other end of the scale, from the Alba area comes the frivolously sweet Asti Spumante, derided over the years, but a much underrated, deliciously frothy, lively fizz. Equally good, Is Moscato d”Asti, in this Case Fontanafredda Moscato D’Asti Moncucco 2016, with its light, fragrant, honeysuckle-infused style – and with only 5.5% alcohol, a great lunchtime or afternoon alfresco drink.

    If you’ve played safe with Italian wines so far, know Barolo and Chianti, but haven’t experimented further, it’s well worth the journey to discover the lesser-known gems.

    By Angela Mount

3 Item(s)