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

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Wine Hunters Recipes for January

Look out for this magazine as it contains some great style events and info, property advice, features and much more. Tell me what you think'.

All recipes are for 6 people with healthy appetites and are created for ‘confident cooks’.

‘It is always important to buy fresh good quality local produce, wherever possible’.

Scallops on Minted Pea Puree with Black Pudding

[Prep and cooking time approximately 30 minutes]

18 medium sized fresh scallops
½ black pudding - preferably from your local butcher
8oz quality frozen peas
Sprig of fresh mint
Sprig of fresh tarragon
Cup of good quality white wine
Olive oil
Tea spoon of sugar
2 oz unsalted butter
Salt mill
Black pepper mill

Pre-cook the peas in a little salted water, sugar and mint - when cooked, refresh thoroughly in running cold water (this retains the colour pigment). When completely cold zap to a puree and refrigerate.

Heat a large sautee pan and add a table spoon of olive oil. Add the butter and then the scallops, cook each side for 2 minutes each, cover and set aside in a warm place.

In a separate pan gently fry the black pudding in olive oil, either side until just cooked through and set aside.

Pour the white wine into the scallop pan with the tarragon and reduce by half and reheat the pea puree in a microwave oven.
Place the scallops in the reduced white wine, turn immediately and remove.
Place quenelles of pea puree in the centre of a warmed serving plate, dress a slice of the black pudding on the side of the puree and rest the scallops on top, serve a little of the white wine jus over and garnish with fresh tarragon and if you wish, a little concentrated balsamic on the plate as decoration only.

Season with a little milled black pepper and present to your guests.

Sauteed Breast of Pheasant on Parsnip Mash with Clementine Sauce

[Prep and cooking time approximately 30 minutes]

6 pheasant breasts [young hen breasts will be more tender]
6 desiree potatoes
2 medium sized parsnips
Enough roasting potatoes [maris piper] for 6
Fresh sprouts, broccoli tops, baby carrots and sugar snap peas for 6
1 large red onion finely chopped
4 oz bacon lardons
Chicken stock
4 clementines peeled and flesh removed from pith - having grated the zest from the skin
Level tablespoon of red currant jelly
½ bottle good red wine
Fresh sage, thyme, rosemary and parsley
Olive oil
1/2lb unsalted butter
Level tablespoon of single cream
Goose or beef fat for roasting potatoes

Steam broccoli tops and cook all other vegetables separately in slightly salted boiling water, until ‘al dente’, refresh under running cold water - This can be done in advance.

Boil maris piper potatoes and mash with the cooked parsnips, adding a little butter and cream to soften, keep warm.

Roast the other potatoes in goose or beef fat with the fresh rosemary until crisp and golden.

Gently sautee the pheasant breasts in a little olive oil and butter, around 3 minutes each side until browned, remove to rest and keep warm.

Add the chopped onion to the pan and soften until translucent, add the Clementine flesh, redcurrant jelly and red wine, reduce by half.
Strain and then pass through a fine sieve, return the liquid to the original pan, add 3/4 pint of chicken stock an simmer until reduced by 1/3rd. The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Return pheasant to this sauce and simmer for around 3 minutes, remove pheasant and season the sauce with a little milled black pepper. Strain once more.

Fry the lardoons in a small amount of olive oil with a little butter and the fresh sage, then add the sprouts, quickly sautee together and serve in a separate dish.

Melt some of the butter with the fresh thyme ready to brush over the served vegetables, these can be reheated first in a microwave oven for 1 - 2 minutes.
[Don’t forget to cover with cling film]

Place the pheasant breast in the centre of the warmed dinner plate on a bed of the parsnip mash and coat with a little of the sauce, more sauce can be served separately.

Garnish with a sprig of flat leaf parsley and present, serve the vegetables and roast potatoes as you wish.

Wyviss Porridge Apples

Serve this warming classic Scottish dessert with plenty of whipped cream or thick custard.

[Preparation time 30 minutes.]

1 cup of melted butter
8oz of rolled oats
6oz soft brown sugar
½ teaspoon of salt
8 med size cooking apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1 extra cooking apple, cored but not peeled
5oz water
2 tablespoons thick, warm apricot jam

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F or 180C, grease a large oven proof dish with a little butter ready for the mixture.

Combine the oats, sugar, salt and the rest of the butter, stir well with a wooden spoon to blend together.

Layer the sliced apples with the mixture alternatively and pour over the water when finished.

Arrange the last sliced apple in a decorative fashion over the surface and brush with the apricot jam.

Bake in the oven for 40 to 50 minutes until the surface is golden brown and serve to your guests whilst hot.

All these dishes will be presented at The Vineyards on ‘Burns Night’ week-end January 2009 - For reservations - 01886 821346/Mob:07779990982

Also we offer a catering demonstration in your own home or we can provide a full service for you and your guests. Please contact us on: 01886 821346
Mob: 07779990982

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Jan Blog

It was raining ‘chats and chiens’ on the afternoon I first visited Chateau la Roque, situated in the remote region of Pic St Loup, north west of Montpellier.

I was in two minds whether to proceed with our arrangement to meet, as it was in the middle of the harvest, and as wine and water certainly do not mix, I may not be a welcome distraction at this difficult time.

However, as I had not been able to keep a previous appointment 3 days earlier with my host, vineyard owner Jacques Boutin, I made my way up the wet stony track that led to the main house.

Jacques was awaiting my arrival, at the same time deploying his workers to channel the ever increasing rivers of rain water from the vineyards now heavily burdonned with grapes of Syrah and Grenache.

I made my apologies and fully resigned at my expected dismissal, was surprised at his reaction.

With a wave of his hand and a typical French shrug of his shoulders, he beckoned me in.

The house was part of an old Benedictine Monastery and as we negotiated the well trodden stone steps and worn corridors leading to the cellars, I could sense the atmospheric history still existent within these vaulted caves.

His very limited command of English made me more aware of the necessity to communicate, in my best French of course, my reason for this seemingly inopportune rendezvous.

However I had forgotten that good wine has an international language of its own.

At Jacque’s invitation, throughout the day we tasted old and new vintages of ‘cuvee Tradition and the top marques of these specially crafted wines, tasting and savouring the delights of the originality of his unique style. Punctuated by frequent departures to assess the conditions outside, we continued this tasting experience well into late evening.

I awoke the next day to the unmistakable aromas of baking bread and freshly brewed coffee, the sun had mercifully returned and Jacques, who had left at dawn, was taking full advantage of this welcome gift to bring in his long awaited red wine harvest. Leaving grapes on the vine well into late September to maximise quality, always tests nature to its extreme.

Since the formation of this warm friendship, these wines of character are firmly entrenched on my list. Sadly, Jacques has now retired, however leaving a great legacy of wine creation to the new owners, the family Figuettes, who vow to continue this tradition adding their own professional style, still cared for by!