Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Food, Wine and St Valentine in February

Alan Hunter continues his culinary stroll through the seasons.

February is the month for romance and there is nothing more sensual than creating a wine and food experience, filled with passion.

Our fascination with St Valentine legend as the ultimate ‘love story’ has many different origins, one being that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. The Emperor Claudius 11 decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives or lovers, so he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine realising this injustice, defied his Emperor and continued to perform marriage for young lovers in secret. When his actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that Valentine be put to death.
Another story suggests that Valentine was killed for attempting to help Christians to escape the harsh and barbarous Roman prisons.

The most popular legend however is that Valentine, whilst in prison fell in love with the jailor’s daughter who visited him during his confinement. Before his death he wrote a ‘love letter’ to her signed ’from your Valentine’. The expression lives on and makes this romantic, heroic and sympathetic figure one of the most popular Saints in England and France.

I have decided to continue with our wine of the month from January, cuvee ‘Ange’, because the creation of this wine was based on a great love story between the two previous owners of this delightful Domaine.

Alain Quenehen, frustrated with the pressures of working in the fashion business in Paris, had a burning ambition to be a wine producer of note, despite being disabled from birth and confined to a wheelchair he was determined to fulfil this dream. One day, in the course of his work, fate took a hand in the guise of a crossed telephone connection.

Alain experienced an immediate rapport with the person at the other end of the line, Natacha Villiers, and over time they conversed regularly, developing a romantic relationship. They shared many interests, particularly their love of wine and a mutual strong desire to become owners of heir own vineyard. With the backing of 33 of their joint friends they successfully secured the purchase of Chateau Prieure Borde-Rouge in Corbieres and so began a new journey of creation and discovery.

Alain always referred to Natacha as his ‘Angel’ and one of his top creations was named after her, cuvee ‘Ange’. This wine was featured in a prestige wine trade tasting in Brussels in 2001 where 4,000 wines were tasted, 1300 were French and only 18 medals given. Cuvee Ange received the highest award, the Medaille d’Or Concours Mondial. Sadly Alain died in 2005 but his legacy lives on with his vineyard manager, Olivier Fouquet working with the new owners to continue with his passion and style.

Our menus for February are created in a light hearted fashion with St Valentine and romance in mind, matching the best fruits of the Winter season to form the best relationships with each other.

The fist winter cod should appear this month along with mullet, sea bream, Dover sole and skate. Fresh sea food is abundant with scallops and oysters at their best. Fowey mussels from Cornwall are plump and delicious. Feathered game is coming to an end so use them only for stews and casseroles. Duck and venison are good value and a great alternative to the rising price of beef. Winter vegetables as in January have improved colour and taste when completely fresh and lightly touched by frost.

Menus at the Vineyards - Broadwas-on Teme- Worcestershire - WR6 5NZ for Valentines week-end.

Te: 01886 821346. Mob: 07779 990982 for bookings, recipes, tuition or catering in your own home.

Brief Encounter - Canapés with Pink Champagne

Queen of Hearts - wild mushroom linguine crowned with Parmesan shavings and truffle oil

Secret Romance - a tryst of grilled Dover sole fillets with browned butter and capers

Fatal Attraction - slices of venison fillet studded with smoked oysters served with a fino sherry and Armagnac sauce

Maid in Heaven - breast of Gressingham duck chaperoned by celery hearts served with a spiced kumquat and red wine jus

Love Story - darne of fresh salmon resting on a bed of leeks poached in white wine and draped with Montpellier butter

all serve with fresh winter vegetables and celeriac mash


Loving Embrace - compote of rhubarb and bananas

From Here to Eternity - pancakes with fresh lemon sorbet

Ménage a Trois - triple chocolate iced terrine


Lasting Friendship - local cheeses with vintage port

Forever Yours - endless coffee pot with home-made truffles

Wines to complement from the WineHunters list:

Chateau Prieure Borde - Rouge Signature Blanc 2005 - aromas of broom, verbena and fennel
Chateau Belot Viognier St Chinian 2005 - tasting of honey, apricot and peach
Chateau Prieure Borde-Rouge cuvee Ange 2004 Corbieres - red fruit flavours with hints of thyme and spices

Menus designed by Alan Hunter

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