Sunday, 6 June 2010
Saturday, 8 May 2010
In our house, the 2010 asparagus season has already seen griddled asparagus with poached eggs, roasted asparagus with shavings of parmesan and steamed asparagus dipped in a chive aioli but my favourite so far is baked frittata with asparagus, feta and mint. We paired the frittata with a crisp, Verdejo from Rueda in Spain. Indeed, fresh, high-acid, whites are best with most asparagus dishes so think Loire Chenin Blanc, crisp Sauvignon Blanc (Old or New World) and cool climate, unoaked Chardonnay. Here is the recipe for the frittata:
Baked Frittata with Asparagus, Feta and Mint
6 free-range eggs
A large bunch of chunky asparagus, chopped into 2-inch pieces
125g feta cheese, roughly chopped
A good handful of chopped mint
50g hard cheese – I used gruyère
You will also need a 6-inch loose-bottomed cake tin and some foil
Preheat the oven to 160 degrees (Gas Mark 3). Grease the cake tin and wrap a double layer of strong foil around the cake tin. Boil the potatoes until soft and steam the asparagus until tender. Crack the eggs into a bowl, beat with a fork and add the feta cheese and mint. When cooked, add the new potatoes and asparagus. Season well with salt and pepper and mix again. Pour the whole lot into the cake tin and top with the grated hard cheese.
Place the tin on a baking tray and bake in the oven for 40 minutes or until the top is springy to the touch and a skewer, dipped into the middle of the frittata, comes out clean. Leave the frittata to stand for five minutes and then gently push it out of the tin. Serve with a simple green salad and some crusty bread.
Thursday, 29 April 2010
My stash included two goat’s cheeses from Alain Hess’ amazing Fromagerie on Place Carnot in Beaune (see photo of a selection of his cheeses below) and a just-made, fresh goat’s cheese, bought at a fraction of the cost of the other two, from a local fermier, La Chèvrerie des Sources. I stumbled across the latter on the road between Couches and Le Creusot in the Saône-et-Loire whilst whisking my 10-year-old daughter to casualty with a broken finger and couldn’t resist calling in the following day to see what was on offer.
We started our tasting with the round, fermier cheese which was only five days old. Lemony, light and acidic, it was an unusual, refreshing cheeseboard option and would be a great addition to a salad of spring vegetables – broad beans, asparagus and freshly-podded peas. It worked tolerably with the Bouzeron but was far better with the rosé, the fruitiness being a wonderful contrast to the young cheese. Next up was a Vézelay, from the town of the same name in the Yonne. This was obviously older than the first cheese and denser. Smooth and creamy, there was not a hint of citrus yet it, too, preferred the rosé wine. Finally , we tried a lusciously creamy cheese called Le Cosne which disappeared fairly quickly, being my husband’s favourite. It went extremely well with the Bouzeron but the flavour of the rosé was completely lost on it.
Wednesday, 21 April 2010
Bouzeron is located at the northerly edge of the Côte Chalonnaise and is something of an oddity being an AOC solely for white wines from the Aligoté grape, the rest of the region focusing on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Acknowledged as the best area in Burgundy for Aligoté wines, Bouzeron Aligoté has its own AOC – Aligoté from other areas must be labelled Bourgogne Aligoté. Bouzeron Aligoté, as translated from the Fête programme, is ‘a wine of Spring which is fruity, aromatic and minerally on the nose. The palate displays further the roundness and suppleness of the Golden Aligoté’, the last point referring to the name of the vines here – Aligoté Dorée. Clearly the poor relation to Chardonnay in this part of the world, I find Bouzeron Aligoté a great, refreshing (if rather racy at times) wine for summer and it pairs superbly with seafood and soft cheeses (more on that in my next blog post on Burgundy goat’s cheese).
Sunday, April 11th was the occasion of the 11th annual Fête du Bouzeron et du Persillé de Bourgogne (a ham terrine in a white wine jelly made with Bouzeron wine). We turned up at midday, after a visit to the very lively market in nearby Chagny, and the festival was well underway. The attractive programme advertised a ticket for €7 which included six tasting samples (of Jambon Persillé or wine, the choice being from white and red Bourgogne, Bouzeron Aligoté and the sparkling Crémant de Bourgogne). Eschewing the chance to taste more Crémant (I had stocked up on Jean-Claude Breliere’s Crémant earlier in the week in Rully), I plumped for a sample of Jambon Persillé (delicious and stunning with the Aligoté), four Bouzerons (from Domaines de Villaine, Jacquesson, Chanzy, and Delorme) and a white Bourgogne (Clos de la Fortune) also from Domaine Chanzy which I had read about in a recently purchased book: Food-Wine-Burgundy by David Downie (The Terroir Guides). The book also recommends the Bouzeron from my local cave in Mazenay – Marinot-Vernay. I was less taken with their example of Bouzeron although their white Bourgogne is delightful.
All the wines open for tasting at the festival were on sale back at the car park for €7 a bottle but, perhaps unsurprisingly, when I returned to place my order, my top three Bouzerons were already sold out – Domaines Chanzy, de Villaine (co-owners of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti) and Jacquesson. I did, however, stumble across a Chanzy Bouzeron in the Leclerc supermarket in Beaune but next year I shall be sure to be at the festival early so as to secure the best wines. As for the Persillé de Bourgogne, I found a recipe in Elizabeth David’s ‘A book of Mediterranean Food’ (oddly) but as it involves calf’s feet and much soaking of hams, I am researching other recipes and I shall soon be giving it a try.
Sunday, 14 March 2010
For the pâte brisée base:
125g unsalted butter, beaten until creamy
250g plain flour
1 egg yolk
a pinch of salt
For the filling:
1kg onions, thinly sliced
a few leaves of fresh sage, chopped finely
3 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
12 anchovy fillets
a good handful of black olives
Sunday, 28 February 2010
Sunday, 7 February 2010
Thursday, 4 February 2010
(inspired by Jam & Clotted cream’s recipe - http://tinyurl.com/yb9a396)
175g caster sugar
175g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 heaped tbsp marmalade (Seville orange, preferably)
2-3 tbsps orange juice – add as required to make a gooey, not too stiff, mixture.
(this is a light icing – I don’t like it with too much butter and the cake doesn’t need it)
3-5 tbsps of orange juice, as required
zest of an orange
50g butter, softened
Sunday, 31 January 2010
Pedro Ximinez sherry is something I came across when studying for the Diploma in Wines and Spirits (WSET). The exams involve blind tastings so, in an attempt to get to grips with a drink I knew precious little about, extensive tasting evenings were arranged chez nous with two sherry-loving friends.
I don’t have an amazingly sweet tooth and favour cheese at the end of a meal, which is partly why you won’t find many sweet recipes on this blog - something I should address, perhaps? Anyway, a pleasant outcome from all those hard evenings of fortified wine research, if you can call them that, was a new fondness for the sweet, treacle-like sherry, Pedro Ximinez (pronounced himinez), commonly referred to as PX.
This dark, warming, lusciously sweet sherry is great at the end of a meal, poured over vanilla ice cream, but I like to go a step further and steep dried fruits in the sherry. Earlier this week, I chopped dried figs and dates, popped them in a jam jar and covered them with PX. Today, I poured this mixture over rich, Cornish dairy ice cream which we enjoyed for Sunday lunch pudding, with a small glass of chilled PX on the side, naturally. You can use any dried fruits – sultanas, raisins, dried cherries or cranberries and the jar will keep for months, making it an easy last-minute pudding, providing you have ice cream in the freezer. I regularly make some of this nectar for my father-in-law who, rather extravagantly, likes to pour it over his breakfast cereal – a great morning pick-me-up, I imagine!
Other tried and tested food pairings for PX are: strong, salty cheeses, fruit cake, chocolate puddings and pecan pie.
Saturday, 9 January 2010
So, what to do with it? Below is the recipe for the supper we enjoyed on Friday night with a glass of 2007 Collioure rosé from Les Clos de Paulilles, bought at Nicolas. It’s a full-bodied rosé from 50% Grenache and 50% Syrah and it sat perfectly alongside the dish – don’t believe that rosé is only for the summer. The full-bodied examples are great partners for food and I am a keen fan of them all year round. If rosé’s not your bag, a soft, medium-bodied Spanish red from Tempranillo and/or Garnacha is a great accompaniment for this pilaf.
Serves 4 or 2 VERY hungry people (aka the husband and me)
Half a large piccante chorizo, sliced
3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp olive oil
100g white crabmeat
Handful black olives (I used couchillo)
250g basmati rice
20 saffron strands
100ml vegetable stock
1 tbsp chives, chopped
Lemon juice to taste plus more for garnishing
Small vine tomatoes for roasting and garnishing
Cook the rice according to packet instructions. Soak the saffron strands in the warmed vegetable stock and leave to one side.
Roast the tomatoes in a hot oven for 5-10 minutes. At the same time, heat the olive oil, in a frying pan, until sizzling and add the chorizo. Fry for a minute, then add the garlic, paprika and thyme and cook for a further minute, stirring all the time.
Add the cooked rice to the chorizo mixture and stir it in. Pour in the saffron with the vegetable stock and then the crab and olives. Mix well and season with salt and pepper. Finally, add the chopped chives and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Serve with the roasted tomatoes, chives to garnish and slices of lemon.
Wednesday, 6 January 2010
So, my tartiflette recipe is below but, first, a word on what to drink with it. The traditional, and perhaps obvious accompaniment, is a crisp, alpine white wine and we looked no further than that this evening, choosing a 2006 Jacquère, one of several Savoie grape varieties. Others to look out for are Roussette and Altesse. From Burgundy, the lesser know white grape, Aligoté, produces clean, fresh white wines that I would also recommend as a match. If red wine is required, try the light Savoie reds from the Mondeuse grape or even a New World Pinot Noir. An Aussie Pinot from the Yarra Valley went down particularly well on a previous occasion. Otherwise go for, and I have done this on a ski slope, a cold, refreshing lager.
Tartiflette - serves four hungry people who have done lots of exercise or who are sure that they will do shortly afterwards.
750g potatoes, peeled and thickly sliced
1 onion, sliced
8 rashers of smoked, streaky bacon, chopped
300g Reblochon cheese
A 142ml pot of double cream
Pre-heat the oven to 220C, 425F or gas mark 7. Place the sliced potatoes in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Simmer for a further ten minutes and then drain.
At the same time, fry the sliced onion in butter until soft. Then remove and add the bacon bits and fry until crisp.
Cover the bottom of a baking dish with potato slices and scatter half the onion and bacon over the top. Season with salt and then lay strips of the Reblochon cheese over this mixture. Add a further layer of potatoes, the rest of the bacon and onion and a final layer of cheese. Pour the cream over the dish.
Bake in the oven for 20 minutes by which time the top of the dish should be crispy and browned.
Sunday, 3 January 2010
This last week, with its glut of leftovers, has forced me to rummage through and make an inventory of the contents of our freezer and my husband has tasked me with using the meat and fish contained therein before going out to buy any more. I’m afraid he doesn’t escape that lightly from this exercise as I have tasked him with concocting something from the not inconsiderable number of packets of soft fruit he bagged up in the late summer – raspberry and blackberry jam should soon be on the agenda with any luck.
This coming week will see me devising dishes from venison mince, veal steaks and tiger prawns amongst other things although Operation ‘freezer’ commenced on New Year’s Eve, with a pheasant tagine, using pheasant thighs from the secret stash. Last night’s supper, of (defrosted) pan-fried seabass accompanied by a bean stew, was just right for the time of year so I’ve decided to share the recipe. The fennel seeds flavour the dish superbly and complement the seabass, giving the dish a lovely freshness.
We drank a 2008 Sauvignon Blanc from Saint Bris (by Simonnet-Febvre), a little-know French appellation not far from Chablis. It’s a light, crisp wine with typical gooseberry Sauvignon flavours and was ideal with the fish and the tomato-based stew.
I also enjoy preparing a similar sauce, using rosemary and thyme rather than fennel and cumin and a light, red wine in place of white, to go with a heavier fish such as tuna or swordfish.
Pan-fried seabass with a bean and fennel seed stew
2 sea bass fillets
400g tin of mixed beans (e.g. cannellini, black, kidney)
1 red onion, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 tsps fennel seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp dried oregano
4 bay leaves (optional – we have a bay tree in the garden which is very convenient)
400g tin cherry tomatoes
100ml dry white wine
100ml vegetable stock
Fry the onion and garlic gently in olive oil until soft. Bruise the fennel seeds and cumin seeds in a pestle and mortar and add to the onion and garlic, together with the oregano, and fry for a further two minutes to release their flavours. Add the white wine and let the sauce bubble for a minute or so before adding the tomatoes, stock and bay leaves. Let the sauce simmer for 10 minutes and then add the mixed beans.
Pan-fry the sea bass fillets for two-three minutes on each side (start with the skin side). The skin should be crispy. Remove the bay leaves from the bean stew and serve in large pasta bowls, topped by the fish. Garnish with chopped parsley and slices of lemon.