Thursday, 24 September 2009

Autumn Stews from France - Cotriade

Cotriade (Kaoteriad in Breton, kaoter meaning “pot”) is to Brittany what the Bouillabaisse is to Provence. It is a fish stew and was originally made with the seafarer's share of the catch upon the boat's return to port. Each port has its own recipe, with one or more fish given top billing, combined with vegetables selected by the cook or crew, and potatoes being an indispensable ingredient. Unlike bouillabaisse it usually does not contain shellfish. It is traditionally served by ladling it over toasted French bread.

Today La Cotriade has become a well known gastronomic dish, much appreciated and widely renowned. It’s sometimes livened up with curry, saffron or vegetables. However the essential ingredient cannot be ignored : white wine which creates an aroma unique to the Cotriade. It’s also a relatively quick and simple recipe.


1.5 kg various types of fish (mackerel, monkfish)
500 g potatoes
100 g butter
litres of water
3 onions
3 cloves of garlic
parsley, bay leaf and thyme, chopped
1 bunch sorrel, stems removed, chopped
a few slices of farmhouse bread, toasted
salt and pepper

Clean the fish well, gut and cut into pieces, reserving the heads. Boil the water. Peel the potatoes and cut into pieces. Peel and chop the onions, peel the garlic. In a large pan, fry the onion in butter. When golden, add the potatoes and mix well. Pour over the boiling water and then add the garlic, herbs and sorrel. Season.

Boil for approximately 20 minutes. Add the fish pieces and continue to simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Taste the stock and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Sieve and pour into a warmed soup dish. Arrange the potatoes and fish in soup plates. Pour over stock and ladle over the toasted bread.

There are a range of wines to suit this fish dish: starting at the top I would choose the rare Third Wine of Chateau MargauxPavillon Blanc du Margaux. It's price range is £65 - £90 a bottle depending on the vintage. Not many First Growths make a white wine but Pavillon Blanc is part of an age old tradition at the château. It was sold in the 19th century as 'vin blanc de sauvignon'. The 30 acre vineyard is made up exclusively of Sauvignon white grapes. It is located on a very old plot belonging to the estate and the Sauvignon grapes reach a level of ripeness which rids them of their vegetal characters and brings out floral and fruity notes. Pavillon Blanc is fresh and aromatic with lots of grassy, green pepper notes characteristic of the Sauvignon Blanc grape. It's a yellow gold wine which is elegant and luscious with notes of melon, lemon, honey and hay with a hint of minerals.

My next choice would be the white wine of Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte in Pessac Leognan. The Château lies south of the city of Bordeaux in the commune of Martillac on a gravelly plateau named Laffite and grapes have been grown there as early as 1365. The Château was purchased in the 18th century by Scotsman George Smith, who gave the estate its present name. He also built the manor house and exported his – by now famous – wine to England on his own ships. It was bought in 1990 by former Olympic skiing champion, Daniel Cathiard. Both red and white grape varieties are grown in the vineyard and the white wines are rich, complex and well balanced with aromas of peaches and grilled fruit. The price ranges from £35 - £45 dependant upon the vintage.

Finally I would choose a wine made by the Chainge family in the Entre deux Mers region, not far away from Cadillac. They have been wine makers for several generations and own Chateaux Ballan Larquette and Peynaud. Domaine de Ricaud Blanc (£5.37) gives other more prestigious and expensive white wines a run for their money. The aromas from this pale, golden coloured, slightly pearlante wine are all of ripe soft fruits and summer blossoms. It has complex flavours of juicy apricots and exotic fruits. Bold and long on the palate, balanced and harmonious in the mouth it has well balanced acidity and one glass will simply not be enough!

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