Monday, February 24, 2014

Camembert fondue - the perfect starter


I will be honest...... I never saw the point in Camembert as a cheese until I had it in Normandie.  It really comes into its own when it is served hot, fluid and fragrant.  The flavours explode when it has been baked and served in a pot.
Great for a starter at a dinner party (1 cheese for 4 people) or for an informal lunch.  Just put a cheese into a pot for the oven (as it needs containing as it melts) and bake it at 180 degrees celcius for 20 mins. You can insert some garlic cloves to taste before putting in the oven!
Serve it with chopped up carrots, pieces of crusty bread and anything else you like to dip into melted cheese.
As to a matching wine well frankly we have never found anything better than a bottle of chilled Normandie cider (Brut is best) - but just get the most refined appley cider you can your hands on and serve it in wine glasses.  It will surprise you as to  how well it matches the cheese!
Here are a couple of companies that import it - http://www.drinkswell.co.uk/products/0/Cider/French.html, http://www.applejacktradingcompany.co.uk/ciders.htm
 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Italian wine bargains!!

This is just a quick note for anyone who has wanted to try some expensive italian wines for a bargain price. Piemonte wines (https://piemonte-wines.com/) are doing a ridiculous sale  this month - any wine for £12.  Now normally you might think £12 is a lot of money for a bottle but in this instance it includes all their Barolo wine!
Barolo is probably the noblest and most famous of italian reds, made from the nebbiolo grape.  It is aged for at least three years, dating from January 1, after its harvest. Two of those years must be spent in large 25hl slavonian oak barrels. So as a result it is highly priced and has a reputation for unapproachability in it`s youth ie they are designed to mature and improve after 10-20 years in the bottle.  
Noel and Tricia Desnos have designed a wonderfully informative website with videos from the producers and tasting notes for every wine.  One of their Barolos was for sale last year at £45 a bottle so £12  is an absolute steal, tho` these are for laying down for a few years.
Recent vintages have been good, especially the 2005, of which the Cagliero Ravera 2005 from the Barolo region south of Alba where the soil is very different, will be drinkable fairly soon.  The wines from further east in Serralunga d'Alba have a different terroir and are more muscular and tannic and need much longer in the bottle.

Waterloo - Perfect Beef Wellington and 3 different red wines

Anne has rightly been famous for her Beef Wellington or as the french say with a bit of post Waterloo bitterness "Boeuf en croute", which has become a signature dish in the family, BUT  to our consternation she has improved  on perfection after having read the Guardian article on the perfect Beef Wellington.
http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2011/dec/08/how-to-cook-perfect-beef-wellington
Firstly the beef has to be wonderful and we got fillet from Fawcetts in Ingleby Greenhow (http://www.av-fawcett.co.uk/content/butchers) as his meat is the best we have had anywhere in the world! As you can see Anne cooked it to the point of rarity so it required some decent red wine and given our guests this meant some different wines to cater for taste.  I chose a 2006 Ribera Reserva  from Spain - an oaked Tempranillo it has a lighter blackberry fruitiness with spicy undertones that I got from Laithwaites a couple of years ago on sale.  Then from France a 2005 Gros Caillou from Chateau Le Chabrier south of Bergerac (http://chabrier.jimdo.com/)  which is a fairly classic St-Emilion blend of Merlot, Cab Sav and Cab Franc (but at half the price).  This wine is made by a lovely guy called Pierre Carles whose family also owns property in St-Emilion.  Both wines required decanting as they had thrown some sediment and I washed the bottles out with plain water and poured the wine back in to breathe slowly for a couple of hours.  The Bergerac is like a cru bourgeois  claret in style with perfumed aromatic oak on the nose but deep tangy black fruit lingering forever in the mouth. Both wines were a bit challenging without food but were released with the meat.
The final wine was a sweet fruity Amarone which I just bought from Lidl this week as it was on special offer at £9.99 reduced from an earlier price last year of £20. Much more approachable but quite alcoholic at 16% however lacking the subtleties and complexity of the other two.  Which wine went best with the Duke of Wellington`s beef? Of course by a mile it was the frenchie!!  Waterloo all over again!!
ps you can get the Gros Caillou and other Le Chabrier wines from the French Wine Project (http://thefrenchwineproject.com/bergerac/)