Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Venison stew with chestnut sauce

I was asked if I had any recipes which use chestnuts - here's one. It goes fantastically well with a mature Rhone such as any Raymond Usseglio Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

Serves 6-8
A variation on any basic stew recipe.

Fry 250g pancetta (otherwise, bacon or salted pork belly) until the fat is rendered and remove to a bowl. Brown 1.5kg diced venison in small batches and transfer to the bowl with the pancetta.

Sweat 2 onions, finely sliced, chantenay carrots, 2 sticks of celery (chopped into small pieces) and some chopped garlic. Deglaze the casserole with a good slug of brandy and set alight. Add half a bottle each of Port and red wine (preferably Pinot Noir or Nebbiolo, otherwise any light and fruity red – not a heavy one). Bring to the boil then add beef stock2 bay leaves and a sprig or two of thyme, 1tbs Dijon mustard and 1tbs redcurrant jelly. Return the meat to the casserole and, if necessary, add enough boiling water to cover the meat. Season (no salt should be required as this is already in the pancetta) and simmer for 3 hours, occasionally checking there is enough liquid.

Serve with Chestnut sauce, roast parsnips and some cavolo nero.

Chestnut sauce
I found a recipe for chestnut sauce in The Square cookbook. It involved deep frying the chestnuts before peeling them. The first time I tried this, without a proper deep fat fryer, one of the chestnuts popped and a load of oil shot into my face... I ended up in A&E, somewhat concerned that my quest for culinary perfection may have rendered me blind. I have since realised that the only reason for doing this is to ensure the sauce is as white as possible. If you want the flavour and texture and don't mind the sauce being light brown, use vacuum sealed chestnuts. It's a lot easier! The method below is a safe compromise.

Heat oven to 150°C.

240g fresh chestnuts
, crossed and roasted with a little oil for 15-20 minutes (covered) or deep fry at 180°C for 4 minutes. Peel the skins, leaving just the white chestnut flesh.

Melt 25g butter and add chestnuts with a pinch each of salt and sugar then place in oven for 10 minutes. Remove to hob and simmer for 30 minutes with

250ml chicken stock
150ml milk
Allow to cool then blitz in a blender to a smooth paste. If the sauce is too runny, gently simmer, stirring regularly. It will thicken a little as it cools anyway.

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Salami fest

After I posted yesterday about my current obsession with curing meats, I was challenged by a few, no doubt sceptical, readers (yes, apparently I do have them) so here is a shot of what's maturing right now. On the left, some venison pancetta (I just had a bacon sandwich: very meaty but really rather good) and the salamis: pork, venison and (pork) chorizo. These were all started on 17th March so they'll need a few weeks to reduce to 70% of their original weight which, apparently, is the point where they are ready to eat although, from my first attempts, they will need much longer to dry to the point where I would want to enjoy them. At that point I can vacuum seal any that need to have their maturation slowed down.

Basic salami recipe:

500g pork belly
500g pork shoulder – both should be ground fairly thick then mixed with the wine and:
100ml red wine (I used Muro's Rioja Crianza 2015 'Bujanda' since I was also making chorizo)
1/2tsp garlic powder
1tsp chilli flakes
1tsp black pepper, ground
1tsp black peppercorns
26g Prague Powder #2 (about 2.5g Prague Powder with the rest Himalayan salt)

Mix and leave in a fairly warm environment overnight to start the fermentation before putting into well washed beef middle cases and hanging to dry (somewhere cool and dark, ideally with air flow) until they are no more than 70% of their original weight. This will take at least four to six weeks and probably longer to firm up. A white mould may (should) form - this is good: it helps to develop flavour and protects the salami from any unwanted light.

Monday, 30 March 2020

Time on my hands

Actually, since off licenses have been deemed permitted businesses, things have been rather busy here but with the whole family at home all the time (except for the daily exercise exeat), the day seems longer than usual. No school runs for one thing. This means my desk is, for once, clear and, whilst I wait for a new delivery from the warehouse, I have time to plant some new asparagus crowns, make a batch of ragu big enough to last the first stage of lockdown (although I am in doubt that this will continue well into the summer) and, for the first time this year, write a blog post. I will endeavour to do more of this in the days and weeks to come although I don't know if anyone is remotely interested - sign up or 'friend' this blog or whatever is supposed to happen so I know someone is reading this!

I think there will be two main strands to whatever nonsense I write for the time being: wine and everything else. Everything else will probably be dominated by food since that, apart from wine and going abroad (which clearly won't be happening any time soon - I should be in France now for my annual buying trip and Italy tomorrow for a few days. Friends and colleagues over there are keeping me updated with what our future holds. It's quite grim!), food is unsurprisingly one of my great interests and, in particular, making and creating things to eat.

I have decided to start curing meats. This was inspired by a book about venison I was given for Christmas by one of my children but I wanted to go much further. I have made a range of curing salts which I have developed using specialist salts, sugars, herbs and spices. I only hope that next time I travel on Eurotunnel and the customs people check the steering wheel for explosives, there is no residual saltpetre.

So far, pancetta, bacon, hams, salamis (both pork and venison), chorizo and salt beef have been started and, in some cases, enjoyed already. It's remarkably easy although one small piece of pork left in a brine too long had to be thrown away. Horrendously salty. If anyone asks (and maybe if they don't), I will post some recipes for these and some of my regular meals. I have created an online cookbook for my family so I may as well share it, if anyone is interested.

Otherwise, it's all about wine. For today, a quick post about some recent wines I have enjoyed, regardless of where they were purchased. Inevitably, a lot of the wines I open are made by people I work with but I am foremost an aficionado and have a lot (and I mean a lot) of wines purchased from competitors in the UK or on my travels. How else to make sure the guys I work with are at the top of their game or to discover new wines?

Yesterday, a 2010 Cote Rotie from Rene Rostaing with venison pot roast (anyone wondering why venison features so much in my family's diet? Simple: I buy it by the beast which works out an outrageously affordable way to buy the one meat that has a net positive health rating and also, in my view, a benefit to the environment too - more on this another time). The wine is full of youthful vigour but drinks well although it would probably be even more fun with a bloody steak than a saucy stew - the tannins need to come up against a wall of blood or fat which was never going to happen with the pot roast.

Otherwise, a competition between two Italian wines from 2008: Il Poggione, Brunello di Montalcino and Nada Giuseppe, Barbaresco Riserva. Not an equal fight: the muscular Sangiovese was always going to be more robust than the elegant and comparatively evolved Nebbiolo. Still, both bottles were finished and deservedly so. The Brunello was lifted by some Parmesan cheese which helped cut through the tannins.

One thing I have to thank my continental friends for is the forewarning of the lockdown. It was easy to see the tsunami of COVID-19 coming really but most of us decided to keep our eyes closed to it until it was impossible to ignore. We were lucky, I suppose that, when the shelves were being emptied of pasta, we had already covered ourselves by buying a large sack of flour from Shipton Mill. We'll have bread and pizza all summer long - now we just need to grow some tomatoes and learn how to make Mozzarella with that kit someone gave me a couple of years ago that's still gathering dust.

Monday, 17 June 2019

Some recent delights

2006 in La Morra was a year of tannic monsters. The Serradenari Barolo was one such wine but fairly good natured by comparison to Crissante Alessandria's 'Roggeri'. When I was first assaulted by this cuvee, I thought there was fruit lurking somewhere and was persuaded that, given time, it would come good. Now, ten years on, my potential gullibility has given way to faith in my trusting nature. This is a fantastic Barolo on the elegant end of the spectrum (in contrast to an equally enjoyable but far more expensive Sandrone Barolo enjoyed recently) with tannins that dance to the tune of the violin sonata this wine evokes. Fabulous stuff.

Another oldie, relatively speaking, was the 2009 Les Hauts de Montmirail from Domaine Brusset enjoyed after an equally inspiring (and reassuring) 2009 Anonyme from Xavier Vignon. Why reassuring? Because 2009 was a hot vintage and wines often tend towards blowsiness. Not these two, certainly not at ten years' old anyway. Very refined with delicious length.

Domaine Ste-Anne's wines continue to blossom with the 2016 Viognier impressing me as far and away the best southern Rhone expression of this tricky variety. Indeed, I would go as far as to say it is the best Viognier outside Condrieu and Chateau Grillet. Too often, examples of this variety from the southern Rhone (and even more so from the Languedoc) are over-ripe and blowsy. They seem impressive at first but try getting through the tasting measure, let alone a glass and you can struggle. The Steinmayer's wine is the antithesis of this. Power exudes this wine which is all about subtlety and elegance. It probably won't win in a blind tasting where Kiwi cordials are the traditional victors but it's a wine a can enjoy to the last drop. The 2015 St-Gervais 'Mourillons' is a rather good Syrah too, very much in the style of a very good northern Rhone (it may be that I prefer the Mourvedre cuvee, Rouvieres, but, being Mourvedre, it needs a couple more years).

As a Pinot-phile, I am constantly on the lookout for examples which are satisfying yet affordable. The Joblot wines tick both boxes (certainly the first and, relatively speaking, the second) and I have enjoyed a few bottles recently but there are a handful of other wines which may offer even better value. When Juliette Joblot asked me to taste the wines of her husband, Antoine Lienhardt, I was afraid they may not match up but, at six years old, his 2013 Cote de Nuits Villages cuvees are turning into rather glorious wines at very low (for Burgundy prices) with the 'Aux Vignottes' cuvee my current favourite.

In the Cote de Beaune, Justin Girardin's 2013s (bottled under his father Jacques' name) are powerful Santenays with both Maladieres and Beauregard ready to enjoy now. That said, I anticipate enjoying them even more in another five or six years time.

Back in Italy I have enjoyed (as always) all the wines from Nada Giuseppe and Fabrizio Battaglino in recent months but that's too obvious to anyone who knows these estates. In some ways, then, more interesting has been the pleasure from Monte Rosola's 2004 Crescendo, better than ever before, a fabulous pure Sangiovese from vines which were only a few years old when this vintage was harvested. From the Veneto, I Campi wines - including some new ones which will be arriving soon - have been a source of much pleasure: always the reds but, increasingly, the whites too. More on these soon...

Friday, 1 February 2019

Burgundy 2017 - Domaine Joblot

Another great vintage for Burgundy. 

I have tasted quite a lot of 2017s over the last few weeks and have rarely enjoyed en primeur tastings as much. Forward and aromatic are two words that are going to be used to describe the 2017 vintage in Burgundy. I would add ‘joyous’ to the list. Weather-wise, it was a hot year. Indeed, after 2003 and 2018, it is the hottest year on record (remember the heatwave across Europe which went by the name of Lucifer?). However, whilst heat helps with ripeness (and therefore fruit), this can be at the expense of structure, especially acidity which is, perhaps, the most important structural element in Pinot Noir wines.

Not to worry, the wines are finely structured too, balanced with depth of fruit to age but most can drink well young (certainly younger than the more obviously tannic 2015s and acidic 2016s). It is said (of Burgundy, at least) if a wine is good in youth, it will always be good (Henri Jayer).

Generally, Burgundy returned to normal yields in 2017 with growers reporting a very generous crop, necessitating lots of green harvesting. Despite the region returning yields 8.9% above the five year average, unusually, in parts of Givry the Joblots saw production reduced due to freezing weather in the early part of the growing season. This means we are unable to offer any Cellier aux Moines in 2017 which is a shame as it is always one of our favourite cuvees. However, Clos Marole has stepped up well this year and, of course, Servoisine, and Bois Chevaux remains fine boned, the most delicate of the various wines.

Terroir-focused delicacy – this means the different premier cru wines of Joblot, which always reveal a sense of place, really shine this year and the fantastic new blend of the various crus, ‘L’Empreintes’ is a lesson in what a top producer can achieve in a supposedly lowly appellation. A recent tasting of the 2016 L’Empreintes revealed a wine that has grown considerably over the last year and can seriously rival its more prestigious northern counterparts (except in price, of course – a good Premier Cru from Gevrey-Chambertin will cost at least £75 these days).

Of the wines below, Servoisine offers structure, Clos Marole has the blackest fruit character whilst the lighter raspberry-fruited Bois Chevaux is also the most delicate. All are top flight Pinot and show how the great wines of the Chalonnaise should never be overlooked, especially at a time when Cote d’Or wines continue to escalate in price.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Strange review of Joblot's new cuvee

Davy Strange of was the grateful recipient of a bottle sent to him by one of our more unusual customers - unusual in that he sent a bottle of wine he had purchased from us to a self-declared madcap reviewer he didn't actually know. Davy has had quite a lot of experience of Jean-Marc Joblot's wines but I think this may be his first taste of anything put together by daughter Juliette and Davy certainly seemed a little upset that Juliette had dared to blend his beloved Servoisine with anything else, even if it was with the other Premier Cru wines from the same village and vintage.

Not to worry, he clearly loved the resulting cuvee, the 2016 Givry Premier Cru 'L'Empreintes' and sent me a note the following day, raving about it and demanding that I hold some wine back for him. The great British public don't generally rush to buy £30 bottles of wine so I didn't think this would be a great problem

Jancis Robinson doesn't appear to have tasted anything that has bolted from the Joblot stable since 2010 and the Vinous mob don't seem to know this estate exists! Sacrilege really when you consider that it is the finest estate in the Chalonnaise. 

Visit Elitistreview for the full text of Davy's review entitled 'BOLD, BRASH, BEAUTIFUL BURGUNDY' which sets the tone for his tasting note which begins: 'Wow, the energy and vivacity of this wine’s nose are enthralling! It amply demonstrates the beauty, power and total delicious pleasure-value that young Pinot Noir can explode with' and, later, 'This is a great wine at a highly reasonable price, and whether you want a fun, fine young Burgundy to enjoy now, or one to put away for 10-15 years I cannot recommend a better bargain'.

Thanks Davy. I agree with all of that.

Now, I know that £30 bottle of wine are not in everyone's grasp so it only seems fair to offer a mixed box with a little discount to entice you - but only for orders received by the end of the month (that's October 2018 for anyone reading this blog in the future) and it seems appropriate that the mix should offer you the chance to decide for yourself whether the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I only bought two of the four Premier Cru wines this year as well, of course, as 'L'Empreintes'. However, Servoisine and Cellier aux Moines are the mainstays of the family's production and there is also some 'Preface', a village Givry without Premier Cru status that is worth trying so...

A case of two bottles each of the four wines (L'Empreintes, Servoisine, Cellier au Moines and Preface) would normally cost £211 but the offer here is £195 including delivery.

For those feeling confident (and why wouldn't you), we are offering an 18-bottle case which will comprise four each of the above wines plus one each of the 2015 Clos Marole and Bois Chevaux, normally £473 for £425 - that's over 10% off our list prices.

Please note that the offer is not on the website so you'll have to email if you want to take advantage.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

A magnificent magnum

It is a rare dinner - other than with just the family - where I am one of the older people but the average age of the people around the table last night was very slightly lower than mine. An Italian theme seemed to fit the mood but I can never decide what to serve with asparagus, even when wrapped in prosciutto and sprinkled with parmesan before being baked so I went with the simple solution of encouraging everyone to continue with their pre-dinner drink which, in most cases, meant more of i Campi's rather fun Prosecco (I had, by this time, moved on to a delightful Mosel Riesling brought back from a trip there a couple of summers ago).

The main course was more straightforward: egg yolk pasta with a wild boar sauce (NOT ragu). This was to be followed by a simple cheese course of 36-month matured parmesan so this seemed a good opportunity to crack open a magnum of Enrico Nada's 2007 Barbaresco 'Casot' which sports the black label normally reserved for Reserva wines. 2007 was a very warm vintage with wines that gave a lot from the outset but, perhaps, lacked a little finesse because of this. Not so this bottle which was absolutely stunning! What more needs to be said? The weight and depth were pitched perfectly with the fruit pulling the drinker into the glass. A good job it was a magnum (and even better that three of the people around the table were driving!).

Subsequent drinking was curtailed by the zabaglione semifreddo which, whilst a winner, is perhaps too delicate for most dessert wines. A bottle of vin santo did call for some cantuccini dunking afterwards though. The wagon ensues.