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.

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