Friday, 14 August 2009

Pigeon Pie and Chateau Les Graves de Barrau

If you are looking for a wine to accompany your pigeon dish why not try Chateau Les Graves de Barrau (£4.89) – it's a fantastic claret at a bargain price. Les Graves de Barrau comes from an estate that has been making wine for many centuries and is 18 miles north of Bordeaux. The wine makers are Serge Musset and Dominique Hébrard (famous for Cheval Blanc and Bellfont Belcier). Château les Graves de Barrau takes its name from the gravelly soil on which the vineyard stands – the word Barrau is Gallo Roman and means a difficult place to access – the English equivalent is barrow.

The vineyard is only 30 hectares and is a mix of clay/limestone gravel and sandy soils. It stands on a sunny slope and the average age of the vines is 15 years old. This type of terroir means that the sun soaked vines burrow their roots deep into the soil soaking up the minerals and nutrients. There is an earthy undertone to Château les Graves de Barrau which many people see as the sign of a classic claret.

Les Graves de Barrau is a good crimson colour and has lovely aromas of cherry with a very fine hint of vanilla. It's well rounded and fleshy in the mouth with well balanced tannins and has a long silky finish. I would recommend decanting it and letting it breathe for a good while whilst bringing it up to room temperature to enjoy its potential.

Pigeon Pie

5 fl oz red wine
2 tbsp port
6 juniper berries, crushed
2 tbsp olive oil
4 pigeons
1 oz butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4 rashers streaky bacon, rinds removed, chopped
12 oz beef skirt, trimmed and cut into 1 inch cubes
6 oz flat mushrooms, thickly sliced
few sprigs of parsley, chopped
1/2 tsp dried thyme
12 oz shortcrust pastry

Mix together wine, port, juniper berries and oil for the marinade and season with freshly ground black pepper. Remove breasts from the pigeons and cut into large pieces. Put into a non-metallic dish, pour over the marinade, cover. Leave in fridge overnight. Melt the butter and oil in a frying pan, add the onion and bacon and fry gently for 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon, reserve. Remove pigeon from the marinade, drain. Reserve marinade. Increase heat and fry the pigeon and the steak in batches, sealing on all sides.

Put the pigeon, steak, onion and bacon into a 2 pint pie dish and top with the mushrooms. Sprinkle with herbs, pour over the reserved marinade. Roll out the pastry to ¼ inch thick, put a pie funnel into the dish. Cut a ½ inch strip of pastry and place around the edge of the dish. Brush with water and top with the remaining pastry. Use the pastry trimmings to decorate the top of the pie. Bake at Mark 4 (180°C) 350°F for 20 minutes, then reduce the heat to Mark 2 (150°C) 300°F and cook for a further 1 ½ hours. Cover the pastry with foil if it browns too much during cooking.

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