Friday, 25 September 2009

Autumn Stews from France – Civet

Civet is a rich and hearty French stew traditionally made with game, thickened with the animal’s own blood and served with small onions. The name is derived from the old French word for onion ‘cive’. You can make a civet of just about anything, given what you've got, as long as you have onions and wine, and something that will hold up to the flavours (and you don't have to use the blood). A simple civet can be made with rabbit, marinated overnight in an aromatic mixture of wine, garlic and peppercorns and Civet de Cuisse de Canard is a popular French stew using duck legs and onions.

In the recipe below the blood has been omitted, but the long cooking time ensures a deliciously succulent stew and the addition of the pigs liver adds the richness and flavour expected.

Civet of Pork

1kg belly pork
1 pigs liver Sliced
Carrots 4
Onions 2
Shallots 2
Thyme (dried 1 teaspoon or 2 fresh sprigs)
Bay leaf
A sprinkle of peppercorns
2 Cloves
Flour - 1 tablespoon
Armagnac – one glass
Red wine 1 litre

Dice the carrots, onions and shallots and fry in a tablespoon of fat in a large heavy based casserole with lid. Cube the belly pork and add, along with the sliced liver to the pan. Fry quickly to seal the meat. Sprinkle with flour and stir. Add the Armagnac (or brandy) and set alight (remembering to stand well back). Once the Armagnac has burnt off the flames will die out and you will be left with deliciously aromatic pork. Add one litre of strong full bodied red wine with the thyme, bay leaf, peppercorns and cloves. Cover and simmer until the meat is tender – usually about 2 hours.

NB If you would like to use fresh blood then add a small cup 20mins before the end of cooking and stir it in well. Alternatively drain off some of the liquid from the meat and add the blood to that, boiling vigorously to reduce and thicken. The remix with the main stew and stir well.

Wines to accompany the Civet of Pork need to be able to stand up to its rich flavours. Pavillon Rouge de Château Margaux would be my first choice. Pavillon Rouge is the Second Wine of Château Margaux and was first made in 1908. The price ranges from £37 - £80 a bottle dependant on the vintage you choose. Pavillon Rouge du Château Margaux comes from a selection of grapes harvested from young vines and the quality of the vintages of Pavillon Rouge is naturally linked to those of the Grand Vin. It now represents 50% of the overall estate production. Its vinification is the same and it, too, is aged in new oak barrels. Pavillon Rouge is bottled 3 to 4 months earlier than Château Margaux and matures faster than Château Margaux itself . It is a full bodied, supple and velvety wine, powerful and concentrated yet well balanced. The flavours are of blackcurrant and cherry with a long finish and a creamy mouth feel. It's an opulent wine and resembles Second Growth status.

Clos Fourtet would also be a grand choice and prices average around £25 a bottle. It sits just outside the entrance to the old town of Saint Emilion and has an ancient history as it was once a Medieval military fort known as Camfourtet (Camp Fourtet) which defended Saint Emilion. The present day château was built by Elie Rulleau in the mid 18th century. It is a beautiful ivy-covered manor house and has some of the most extensive underground cellars in the region. The château was built over limestone quarries and caves which comprise the cellars. Some of the encircling walls of the original fort still exist today and Clos Fourtet is one of the few walled vineyards in the area. The wines of Clos Fourtet are full and concentrated with a creamy texture. They have notes of blueberries and blackcurrant with smoke, dark chocolate, cinnamon and nutmeg. They age well and have firm tannins and are well structured.

Bordeaux Clairet pairs extremely well with pork and Chateau des Lisennes (£5.87) and is one of the best that Bordeaux offers, winning the gold medal in Brussels in 2006. Being a medium to fuller bodied drink des Lisennes will accompany the richness of the Civet really well. It's a fragrant wine and is a deep raspberry pink with violet reflections. The aroma is complex; it has raspberry, peach and spice overtones. It is soft and full, and the fruity taste of blackberries, redcurrants and raspberries explodes in the mouth giving intense round flavours.

Chateau Chadeuil (£4.75) is another excellent choice and is a cracking Merlot-based claret with delicious black-cherry and blackberry fruit, lifted with a hint of mocha. It is a wine that has been produced with good food in mind . It's supple, lithe and incredible value.

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