Skip to main content

Posts

Watching and drinking Perseides concurrently.

Being British, I am obliged to comment on the Provencal weather this summer. Mostly hot with the occasional Mistral wind and, a few weeks ago, a threatened storm which yielded some highly unusual clouds, identified by a friend’s meteorologically talented daughter (moments before one of my own clever clogs) as being of the mammatus variety, these being, in effect, upside downclouds which, said expert explained occur whenthe cold, moist pockets of air sink rather than rise. Pic included of clouds over neighbouring property (would you believe me if I said it was sunny over us? No?).What I can’t give you a picture of because (a) it hasn’t properly occurred this year yet (a brief flirtation last night but that’s all so far) and (b) my technological wizardry has yet to master how to take a still image of a (literally) flying circus, is tonight’s extravaganza of shooting stars, known asPerséides. (Some of you will, by now, have figured where this is going.) The useful people who tell us ever…

Postcard from Provence

With lockdown more or less over, we made a dash to the other side of the Channel and are currently languishing in the Vaucluse département, home to the wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape et al. Mont Ventoux, known to cyclists the world over, is staring at me as I write, only providing a shield from the sun in the early hours of the morning before the heat hits. Exercise here, recently so highly prized (the French were allowed no further than 1 km from home to exercise during their lockdown), is necessarily limited to a gentle morning stroll around the village to collect bread from the boulangère. In time it may be possible to acclimatise but, looking at the locals, I wouldn’t bet on it.
France went into lockdown before us, of course, and came out earlier as well so, if we in the UK are fortunate, what I am seeing is a glimpse into the future. We are welcome here – I know plenty of people with concerns about this but it is the Parisians they fear most here it seems. The UK, until Covid, con…

Simple Burgundy, simply gorgeous

As we ease out of lockdown, you, like me, are probably dipping yourtoe into the social whirlpool rather more gingerly than in the past. We are fortunate to have a decent amount of outdoor space so can entertain a couple of friends and keep appropriately apart at the same time. After a gruelling drive to Bristol and back yesterday - to move things from one unoccupied student flat to another one - some local friends came over for a couple of hours of catching up over wine and cheese.
Not always the classic combination of Abigail's Party, some wines really struggle not to be overpowered by cheese. Epoisses is allegedly best matched by Burgundy but, for me at least, it kills off any wine, whether young and vibrant or old and mellow. Last night proved that (although the epoisses was good nonetheless). I am not enamoured by most soft cheeses and blue cheeses have a particular flavour compound that make them taste stale to me. Hard cheese is where it's at for me: always aged Parmesan,…

What to do with leftover Nduja

It's one of those ingredients you sometimes see on the menu in a pizza restaurant (or used to in the days when you could go to a pizza restaurant) but possibly felt too intimidated by the spelling to ask for it (semi-reliable sources tell me it's en-doo-ya). A friend gave me some for my birthday a couple of weeks ago and, having tried it on its own (very tasty but there's quite a lot of raw heat there) and on pizza (very, very good), I wondered what else I could use it for. Of course, I could simply rely on the internet but where's the fun in that?

We had some pasta left over from a lasagne a few days ago - I know it's not really lasagne season but another family birthday means we have to eat all sorts of things which would be far more digestible if he had been born six months earlier or later - so wanted to come up with something simple. Actually, the pasta didn't turn out so well but the sauce was extremely tasty and simplicity itself.

Just four ingredients (…

Which wine with curry?

With no imminent possibility of dining out, I have been pushing myself to come up with more authentic versions of all the foods we really enjoy. I'm a reasonably decent cook and have long since mastered Mediterranean foods (although there is always room for expansion of knowledge, hopefully not at the expense of waistlines). Chinese cooking has much improved since a family member invested in a copy of Fuchsia Dunlop's excellent book on Sichuan cooking. For some reason though I have never made a great curry... until recently. Of course, any recipe followed has to be developed according to taste so, for me, the sauce part of The Ivy's chicken masala has to be blitzed to a smooth, thick paste and served on a bed of fluffy basmati rice with Madhur Jaffrey's chicken tikka (she uses cream rather than yoghurt. It's much more authentic) cooked as whole chicken breasts and sliced over the top of the curry sauce (isn't that a tautology?).

But what wine to serve with curry…

Definitely not big red wines

Around 15 years ago, when Ciaran Rooney was winemaker at Domaine des Anges in Mormoiron, we met up for dinner and he brought a bottle of Sancerre. Never a fan of Sauvignon Blanc, wary of winemakers' tendencies to over-extract and make a searing, cordial-like bevy, I opened it cautiously. From the outset I smiled: Pascal et Nicolas Reverdy knew how to please all-comers. We made a beeline to the estate on the way back north and have visited many times since but it is only now that they have agreed to extend their list of UK importers to include us.


There are five wines in the range, the regular set called 'Terre de Maimbray' after the area near to the domaine where most of the vineyards are to be found. The wines in 2018 and 2019 are probably the very best we have encountered from this producer: the Blanc has quite a restrained nose (not too Sauvignon!), real depth of flavour and plenty of stuffing. It's bright with lively but not overbearing acidity and holds itself up …

S&M with brisket of beef

They say that blog writing is all about attention grabbing so I hope my cheesy title to this post will do the trick. Technically I have stretched the point: Xavier Vignon's gorgeous wine is called "SM" according to the label but the letters in question stand for Septrionale (the French name for the Northern Rhone) and Meridionale (you guessed it, the Southern Rhone) so, given that this is a blend of grapes from both regions, S&M is really what it should be called.

Not just any grapes, of course. The S could also stand for Syrah, the Northern Rhone's only permitted red grape (there's a statement that's bound to get a response - someone will assuredly know of a wine with something else in it that started out red) and not just any Syrah but Syrah from Cote Rotie which, along with Hermitage produces the best wines in the region.

In its original outing, "SM" was called "Sacrilege" because Xavier thought purists would find it borderline offe…