Matelote is a French fish stew made with red wine. It takes its name from the old French word for sailor or bunkmate matenot, which has its roots in the Latin matte meaning bed or from the Old Norse word mötunautr, meaning messmate.
The ingredients for Matelote vary all over France: the Alsace version is made with freshwater fish, Riesling wine, and thickened with cream and egg yolks and the Normandy version includes seafood and is flavoured with cider and Calvados. These stews are normally embellished with pearl onions and mushrooms.
The classic Bordeaux version is Matelote d'Anguille (Eel Stew) and uses red wine with mushrooms, onion, leeks, prunes and mushrooms.
900g eel, skinned and cut into chunks (about 3cm thick)
3 tbsp brandy
8 prunes, pitted and chopped
4 tbsp oil
2 tbsp butter
1 bottle of red wine
1 dessert spoon plain flour
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large leek, finely chopped
100g button mushrooms, quartered
1 bouquet garni (bayleaf, parsley, chervil, thyme)
salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
watercress, to garnish
Heat the oil and butter in a pan and when foaming add the eel pieces and fry until golden. Add the red wine and the prunes along with the bouquet garni then bring the mixture to a boil. Flame the brandy in a ladle then pour over the boiling liquid. As soon as the flames die down add a lid and reduce to a simmer then cook gently for 25 minutes.
In the meantime, add the remaining oil to a frying pan and use to fry the onion, garlic and leeks until soft (about 6 minutes). Stir in the mushrooms at this point and fry for about 6 minutes more, or until just golden. Take the lid off the pan with the eels then mix the butter and flour into a smooth paste before whisking into the wine stock until smooth. Ad the onion and mushroom mix to the pan. Bring to a boil and cook until the sauce is thickened and smooth. Turn the stew into a warmed dish and garnish with a little watercress.
I would recommend two Rothschild wines from Pauillac to accompany Matelote d'Anguille. The first being the Second Wine of Château Mouton Rothschild: Le Petit Mouton (£43 - £110 dependant on the vintage). Le Petit Mouton is generally made from a selection of wines from the illustrious First growth Mouton Rothschild and is harvested, vinified and bottled with the same painstaking care. Le Petit Mouton has a special family connection as it is the home of Baroness Philippine and is centred right at the heart of the estate. Le Petit Mouton's ruby red wines are deep and concentrated with a nose of cherry jam, liquorice and spice with the toast and vanilla of oak. They are elegant and lush with a palate of peach, caramel and pepper. The wines are rich and well balanced and only a few thousand bottles are produced.
The second Pauillac is Château d'Armailhac (£18) which adjoins Château Pontet Canet to the west and south and Château Mouton Rothschild to the north and east. d'Armailhac dates back to the 1680s and one famous member of the d'Armailhac family – Armand - wrote a learned treatise on vine growing and wine making in the Médoc. He was an instrumental figure in improving quality at d'Armailhac, and across Bordeaux in general. He advocated the use of Cabernet Sauvignon above the other varietals and pushed for modern practices to be implemented. d'Armailhac's wines are full, firm and expressive with aromas of smoky redcurrant, cherries and cranberry. It's a medium bodied wine with a mineral character , is deep ruby in colour – almost purple and develops a blackcurrant, coffee and liquorice flavours with age. It's a classic wine and has much potential.
If you prefer white wine an excellent choice is Domaine De Ricaud Blanc (£5.37) which has the character and the richness to stand up to the strong flavours in this dish. It's produced from the Entre deux Mers region not far away from Cadillac - south east of Bordeaux. The aromas from this slightly pale, golden coloured, slightly pearlante, easy drinking white, 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 is incredibly moreish!
I would also recommend the Spanish Brissonnet Rouge (£3.08) which has a very pronounced nose with good ripe fruit. It's a very powerful fruity wine on the front palate and is concentrated with no acidity, its cherry red colour with violet bloom are typical of its youth.