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.

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!

Friday, 18 September 2009

Autumn Stews from France - Navarin

The word “stew” comes from the old French word estuier, meaning to enclose. The line between stew and soup is a fine one, but generally a stew's ingredients are cut in larger pieces and retain some of their individual flavours, a stew may have thicker broth, and a stew is more likely to be eaten as a main course than as a starter. The difference between a stew and a casserole is that stews are cooked typically over a fire or a hob and casseroles are done in the oven.

Navarin is a French stew of lamb or mutton with root vegetables and in the Spring time fresh young vegetables are added, making it Navarin Printanier. There is a debate about the origin of the name of the stew – some think it relates to the 1827 Battle of Navarino in the Ionian Sea, in which an Ottoman and Egyptian armada was crushed by a British, Russian, and French force. However Navarin probably refers to the stew's traditional inclusion of turnips - navet, in French – and as mention of the stew Navarin is made in the 17th century this is the more likely origin.


1 kg/2 lb of boneless lamb shoulder
30g/1 oz of butter
2 tbsp olive oil
6 baby onions or shallots
2 cloves of garlic , crushed
4 carrots, cut in half
4 small parsnips, cut in half
6 baby turnips
2 stalks of celery, chopped
10 small potatoes
12 fresh green beans
¼ cup of flour
2 tbsp of tomato paste
2 tbsp of Dijon mustard
2 cups of beef or chicken stock
1 bouquet garni (small bunch of fresh herbs, thyme, parsley and bay leaf)
¼ cup of fresh chopped parsley

Trim the meat, remove any excess fat and cut into small cubes. Heat the butter and oil in a pan and sauté the meat until well browned. Remove, drain and set aside. In the remaining butter sauté the onions until golden. Add the garlic, chopped carrot, parsnip, turnip and celery and sweat for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the flour and then add the tomato purée and mustard. Return the meat to the saucepan and add the potatoes and bouquet garni. Pour the stock over and mix thoroughly. Bring to the boil and simmer covered for 1 hour. Add the green beans and cook for a further 20 to 30 minutes. The meat should be lovely and tender and the sauce thick. Remove and discard the bouquet garni. Sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley and serve with crusty bread.

I would recommend Chateau Clerc Milon from Pauillac as a good wine to pair with your Navarin. Clerc Milon is owned by Baroness Philippine de Rothschild and sits just between the First Growths Château Mouton Rothschild and Château Lafite Rothschild. The château takes its name from the small village of Milon in the north western corner of Pauillac. Clerc comes from Jean Baptiste Clerc who owned the Château in the 19th century. Centuries ago the Château was somewhat of an obscurity despite being in a prime location and having superb terroir. However in 1970, the Baron Philippe de Rothschild purchased the property and began a complete renovation of the vineyards and the cellars.

The wines of Clerc Milon are firm , dense and well structured due to the high percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon used to make them. They have nutty, fruity oak on the nose and palate with hints of cranberry and black currant.

Another Chateau that has been restored and its wines rejuvenated is Chateau Sociando Mallet in the Haut Medoc. Sociando Mallet's vineyards lie in the commune of Saint Seurin de Cadourne on the Left Bank, north of Saint Estèphe. The Château was purchased in 1969 by Jean Gautreau, a négociant from Lesparre, who has opted to remain out of the classification system. When Gautreau bought Sociando Mallet it was a forgotten and derelict property of vastly reduced land. However the terroir is the same band of gravel that runs beneath the vines of Château Latour and Gautreau saw the potential that others had not. The Château has benefited from 4 decades of investment and improvement and the wines have been the insider's choice for top quality wines.

Sociando Mallet's inky purple wines have an unusual capacity for longevity and are one of the longest lived wines made in the Médoc. They are powerful, full bodied, tannic and rich. They are fragrant and have notes of blackberries, raspberries, blossom blueberries and wood.

Next I would choose a Saint Emilion – a wine to look out for is Château La Tour du Pin – that's an insider's tip. It's competitively priced at around £20 a bottle but that will change as it gathers status. La Tour du Pin originated from the estate of Château Figeac in 1876 and was acquired by M. G. Bélivier in 1923, who then transferred it to M. Giraud Lucien in 1972. It was bought by the First Growth Grand Cru Classé A Château Cheval Blanc in 2006. The wine of La Tour du Pin is a deep red with a purplish tint. The bouquet is fresh, complex and intense with a nicely integrated woody touch. The wine has notes of cherries, strawberries, blossom and raspberries. The attack is full and smooth leading into a silky tannic structure with a fresh edge highlighting the fruity quality of the finish.

Another great wine is Chateau Chadeuil4.75) which is made on part of an estate that has been famous for centuries. The vineyard is set up high on a south facing plateau and this exceptional position gives the grapes excellent ripeness. The Musset family has been on this estate for several generations. Serge Musset took over in 1966 and the wine making process is carried out by Dominique Hébrard. The result is a wine which has lots of finesse and all the characteristics of a great Bordeaux: well balanced tannins marked by the expressive fruitiness of the terroir.

The Hébrard family's involvement with wine goes all the way back to 1832 when it bought the prestigious Château Cheval Blanc which was sold 165 years later. Dominique is also the wine maker for Chateau Belfont Belcier which is a fabulous St Emilion Grande Cru Classe wine which has recently been upgraded in the Classification system. Chadeuil is a cracking Merlot-based claret with delicious blackcherry and blackberry fruit, lifted with a hint of moch and vanilla. It's supple, lithe and incredible value.


Thursday, 17 September 2009

Autumn Casseroles from France - Baeckeoffe

Baeckeoffe is a traditional casserole from Alsace and consists of 3 different meats cooked with potatoes, prepared in an earthenware or ceramic casserole dish. It's a little like a Lancashire Hotpot but includes Pork and Beef as well as Lamb which have been marinated overnight in Alsatian white wine and juniper berries. Leeks, thyme, parsley, garlic, carrots and marjoram are other commonly added ingredients for flavour and colour.

Traditionally, the women would prepare this dish on Saturday evening and leave it with the baker to cook in his gradually cooling oven on Sunday while they attended the lengthy Calvinist church services once typical to the culture. The baker would take a "rope" of dough and line the rim of a large, heavy ceramic casserole, then place the lid upon it for an extremely tight seal. This kept the moisture in the container. On the way back from church, the women would pick up their casserole and a loaf of bread.

Another version of the story of the origin of this dish is that women in France would do laundry on Mondays and thus not have time to cook. They would drop the pots off at the baker on Monday morning and do the laundry. When the children returned home from school they would then pick up the pot at the baker and carry it home with them.

To make rich Baeckeoffe you can add pigs trotters or oxtail to the ingredients and if you don't want to make a pastry seal to keep the juices from evaporating you can use a band of foil instead. It's a good idea to do so as it keeps the wine’s vaporous aroma’s from escaping whilst cooking.


1 lb boneless pork shoulder
1 lb shoulder of lamb
1 lb beef brisket
3 lb waxy potatoes, peeled and sliced
2 onions, chopped
2 leeks, trimmed and sliced
4 carrots, chopped

For Marinade:

1 tbsp salt
1 bunch fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 bunch fresh celery leaves, chopped
1 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
½ bottle dry white wine (preferably an Alsatian Riesling)

Cut the meat into bite-sized pieces and put them in a container. Toss with the salt, pepper, herbs, garlic, celery leaves, and parsley. Moisten with the wine. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 400º F. Select a large oven proof casserole with a lid. Grease the bottom and sides with the butter lard. If you are using pig’s trotters or oxtail lay them on the bottom and cover with half the potatoes, onions, leeks, and carrots. Remove the meat from the marinade and add, covering it with the remaining vegetables, ending with the potatoes. Strain the marinade through a sieve and pour the liquid over the contents of the pot. If necessary, add some extra wine or water to bring the liquid barely to the top of the vegetables. Seal the pot with dough or foil and cook for 1 hour. Reduce the heat to 350ºF and continue cooking for 1 ½ hours more. Serve with either Crémant d'Alsace, Riesling or Gewurztraminer.

I often wonder why we don't see more Alsatian wine available here in the UK , it really is an unsung region. The sparkling Crémant d'Alsace gives most other bubblies a serious run for their money. Crémant is the French word for "creaming" - this means that they are made with slightly more than half the pressure of champagne. This doesn’t give them any less sparkle but makes a wine with a fizzy mousse of bubbles and a delicious refreshing tingle on the tongue Today, Crémant d’Alsace is the market leader in at-home sales of AOC sparkling wines in France. It’s an undiscovered gem. Having tasted it I can understand why.

Cremant d'Alsace Joseph Pfister (£9.89) is traditionally made in the Alsace village of Ammerschwihr and is a pale yellow colour with a dense, very fine mousse lasting to the very last sip in the glass. It is very fruity on the nose with definite hints of apricots, lime blossoms and plums. It is light and fresh on the palate and an ideal wine for accompanying an entire meal, from the aperitif to the dessert.

Also from Ammerschwihr is the Cremant d'Alsace Extra Brut Jean Baptiste Adam (£12.49). No less than 14 generations of winemakers have contributed to the tradition and exceptional skills of the Adam estate. The Adam Crémant d'Alsace Chardonnay Extra Brut is a delicate and dazzling wine notes of melon, lemon, ripe pear and toast. It's crisp, effervescent and is a medium weighted sparkling wine with a dry, robust finish.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Mallard and Wine

The Mallard is the ancestor of all domestic ducks (except the few breeds derived from the unrelated Muscovy Duck) and are thought to be the most abundant duck on Earth. Mallard are in season at the moment and it's a good idea to use up some of the harvest's bounty when cooking them. Elderberries are nodding from the hedgerows and they make a great accompaniment to duck. They are the fruits of the Elderflower which has a long history of medicinal use and was once referred to as “nature's medicine chest.”

The white flowers of the elderberry bush have been used in many things; pressed into tonics, brewed into wines and champagne, lightly battered and fried into fritters, or stirred into muffin or sponge cake mix for a light, sweet flavour. The ripe berries, cleaned and cooked, can be made into many things: extracts, syrups, pies, jams, or used as garnish, dye or flavouring.

There are many reports of elderberries being used in recipes or tonics starting back in the year 43 AD when the Romans invaded Britain and brought with them their recipes, including one for Patina of elderberries. Sailors claimed it cured their arthritis and it was thought that colds were cured and fevers were broken from a spoonful of sweetened elderberry tonic. Elderberries contain potassium and large amounts of vitamin C, and have been proven in quite a few recent studies to shorten the duration of cold and flu symptoms, as well as strengthen the immune system so maybe there was some truth in those ancient remedies.

Roast Mallard with Elderberries

2 mallard ducks
butter for roasting
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 sticks of celery, chopped
A few sprigs of thyme
1 tbsp flour
1 glass of red wine
½ tsp redcurrant jelly
cup of chicken stock
80-100g elderberries, removed from their stems

Pre-heat the oven to 230ºC/ gas mark 8. Put vegetables and thyme, brush with a little butter and season with salt and pepper. Cook the birds for 30 minutes, then remove from the roasting tray and leave on a plate to rest and catch the juices.
Add the flour to the roasting tray and stir well on a medium heat for a minute or so. Pour in the red wine and stir well, add the redcurrant jelly and gradually add the chicken stock. Simmer for 10 minutes until the sauce has reduced by half and thickened. Strain the sauce through a fine-meshed sieve into a saucepan, add the elderberries and any juices from the duck, bring back to the boil and remove from the heat. To serve the duck, chop each in half with a heavy kitchen knife and serve them on the bone.

There are two wines that I would choose to go with this meal – from opposite ends of the price spectrum. Le Pin would be lovely with the duck and is one of the most sought after wines in the world. Despite its prestige Le Pin comes from a tiny vineyard and is considered by some to be the predecessor of garage wines. Although wines from the Pomerol appellation are not classified, Le Pin ranks as a First Growth. The wines of Le Pin are rich, lush and exotic which are approachable when young but are best with 7- 10 years of bottle ageing. They have flavours of chocolate, coffee, vanilla, oak, tobacco, and black currant with silky tannins and creamy texture.

Mathilde also comes from a small vineyard and is the second wine of Château La Fleur Morange - a garagiste winery in Saint-Pey-D'Armens that is receiving high acclaim from wine critics across the globe.

Mathilde is named after Jean-Francois and Véronique Julien's daughter and is produced from the same 100 year old vines and terroir as the Grand Vin. The wine is made from 100% Merlot and is opulent, well structured, rich and has notes of cherries, blackberries, chocolate, plum and earth . . . and at a fraction of the price!

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Snipe and Wine

The snipe is a relative of the woodcock and is a small, stocky bird which likes wetlands. Most shoots that have a quantity of rushes within its boundary is certain to have a population present at some time during the shooting season.

They are a notoriously difficult bird to shoot and the snipe gave its name to both the verb 'to snipe', meaning shooting from a hidden place (back in 1773) and the noun 'sniper', meaning sharpshooter (in 1824).

Snipe are excellent eating, tasting halfway between dove and teal and this is a French recipe that is really mouth-watering.

Snipe Almandine

12 snipe split down back
¼ cup flour
salt and pepper
4 tbsp butter
½ cup white table wine
2 tbsp lemon juice
¼ cup blanched, sliced almonds

Dust birds in flour seasoned with salt and pepper. Melt butter in a heavy frying pan and sauté birds until nicely browned. Add wine and lemon juice. Cover and continue cooking slowly for 15-20 minutes. Add almonds and cook for 5-10 minutes longer or until birds are fork tender. (Allow 2 snipe per serving).

There are two superb wines that pair well with game birds - Château Cheval Blanc and Pétrus. Along with Château Ausone, Cheval Blanc is Saint Emilion's only other First Growth. The 100 acre vineyard of Château Cheval Blanc is unusual in that it borders the stony plateau of Pomerol and takes on some of those qualities, it spans the gravel ridge which travels across to Château Figeac and also covers terroir typical of Saint Emilion. The grapes grown are also unusual as they are not the atypical Saint Emilion Merlot dominated vines. They are 57% Cabernet Franc, 40% Merlot and small parcels of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. The wines are mythical in their ageing potential and can last for 50 years or more. Cheval Blanc's wines are opulent, luscious and full of finesse. They are approachable whilst young and have notes of blackcurrant, smoke, raspberry, mocha, cherry and leather. The wines are elegantly structured, well layered and due to their ageing potential should be cellared correctly.

Pétrus is one of the most expensive wines in the world and is one of the most celebrated, receiving top scores from wine critics. Although wines from the Pomerol appellation are not classified, Pétrus ranks as a First Growth. The wines of Pétrus are fabulously rich, deeply intense and powerful with great longevity. They have flavours of preserved fruits: ripe mulberries, black cherries and blackcurrants, vanilla, truffles, minerals, smoke and liquorice.

On the same theme – but not carrying the same price tag – Chateau Puyanche (£5.86) would be a good choice to pair with game birds. As Helen Savage says:

“Another good red Bordeaux that’s so modestly priced it’s hard to see where they make a profit." The Journal

Chateau Puyanche is produced in the historic Côtes de Castillon which is now the most fashionable of all the Bordeaux satellites, located east of Saint Emilion and made by a family owned property since the turn of the century. It is a fabulous source of some tremendous value wines with some of Bordeaux's most talented wine producers setting up shop in the area. Puyanche is dark garnet in colour, has smooth tannins and is a supple and complex wine with the aromas of blackberry and plum compotés, raspberries, leather and spices.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Hare and Wine

The hare that most of us know in Britain is the European Brown Hare which changes its behaviour in spring, when they start to box (probably the origin of the term mad as a March hare). However it's thought that the Brown Hare was introduced into Britain during Roman times, probably from Asia. Our native hares are the Mountain Hare and Irish Hare. In Winter the Mountain Hare's coat turns white. Mountain Hare bones between 114,000 and 131,000 years old have been found in the Joint Mitnor cave in Devon and in the Thames Valley. Today, the mountain hare is confined to Scotland where it is indigenous and the Isle of Man and the Peak District of Derbyshire where it was re-introduced.

Jugged Hare is an old recipe and is known as Civet de Lièvre in Franc. The recipe calls for a whole hare, cut into pieces, marinated and cooked with red wine and juniper berries in a tall jug that stands in a pan of water. It traditionally is served with the hare's blood (or the blood is added right at the very end of the cooking process) and Port wine. Having a freshly caught, or shot, hare enables one to obtain its blood. A freshly killed hare is prepared for jugging by removing its entrails and then hanging it in a larder by its hind legs, which causes the blood to accumulate in the chest cavity. One method of preserving the blood after draining it from the hare (since the hare itself is usually hung for a week or more) is to mix it with red wine vinegar in order to prevent it coagulating, and then to store it in a freezer.

Not surprisingly in this day and age few people remember the recipe so I thought I ought to include it here. Indeed in In 2006, a survey of 2021 people for the television channel UKTV Food found that only 1.6% of the people aged under 25 recognized Jugged Hare by name. 7 out of 10 of those people stated that they would refuse to eat Jugged Hare if it was served at the house of a friend or a relative. I wonder what they would think of Black Pudding?

Jugged Hare - Adapted from Mrs Beeton's Recipes

1 hare, jointed
2 oz bacon fat
2 onions stuck with 3 cloves
1 stick celery
1 carrot
5 peppercorns
1 tsp allspice
Bouquet Garni
Rind and juice of 1 orange
1½ - 2 pt beef stock
1 tbsp red currant jelly
1 large glass port

Cut the hare into pieces and dredge with flour and fry in bacon fat. Put the beef stock into a casserole dish. Add the hare, onion, celery, carrot, orange juice, lemon and spices. Cover the casserole dish and put it in a slow oven for 3 ½ – 4 hrs. Remove the hare from the sauce and place in a serving dish and keep warm. Add several spoonfuls of the sauce by degrees to the blood. Then pour it back carefully into the pan, together with the port and redcurrant jelly. Pour over the hare and reheat gently taking care not to allow it to boil. The sauce should be smooth and rich.

You have to be careful when choosing wines for such a deliciously rich dish as this and I would recommend Chateau La Fleur Morange which comes from a boutique winery in Saint-Pey-D'Armens made by Véronique and Jean-François Julien that is receiving high acclaim from wine critics across the globe. The vineyard is a 4 acre plot of unique soil with the added rarity of having 100 year old vines. The soil is sand and clay layers over limestone and clinker sub soil – the only complex mixture known to exist in Saint Emilion – which Jean-François says contributes to the finesse of the tannins. The wines are full bodied and fruit driven, impressively structured and sophisticated. They are a deep dark crimson purple with notes of raspberries, liquorice, blackcurrants, smoke and earth.

La Conseillante is another good choice as one of the leading Pomerol châteaux. La Conseillante takes its name from an enterprising woman - Catherine Conseillan - a metal dealer based in Libourne. She established the vineyard originally as a share-cropping project, a system in which tenants work the land in return for a proportion of the harvest. By 1756 the project had expanded and the wine was christened La Conseillante. It was at this point that Conseillan took full control of the estate, thus securing its future as one of Pomerol's most important viticultural properties. The wines are very stylish, silky smooth clarets with aromas of violets with hints of coffee and vanilla. They are well balanced and opulent wines with the taste of rich ripe fruits such as cherry, plum and blackcurrant.

If you want to push the boat out then Chateau Pape Clement would be fantastic. It's the one of the oldest wine estates in Bordeaux and is also one of the finest clarets, harvesting its 700th vintage in 2006. The red wines of Pape Clemant are concentrated, elegant and have a purity of style. They have flavours of smoky ripe plum, tobacco, earthy coffee and chocolate.

I would also suggest a wine from Fronsac – Chateau Les Tonnelles (£7.82) as a lovely wine with Jugged Hare. In the 1800s Fronsac was more famous than Saint Emilion and Pomerol and centuries before Charlemagne loved the supple qualities and spicy flavour of Fronsac's wine. Fronsac - along with Canon Fronsac - is one of the up and coming regions of Bordeaux. Fronsac lay forgotten until the mid 1980's and now the producers from this area are benefiting from much interest in their rich, full and darkly coloured wines.

Fronsac wines are essentially hillside wines that have lots of body, character and a wonderful consistency in the mouth. They have notes of raspberries, pepper and spices and age well but can also be enjoyed young. Les Tonnelles is made from 100% Merlot and this grape loves the deep soil and ripens better here than Cabernet Sauvignon. Les Tonnelles is a lovely, full bodied wine which is a dark, warm purple. It has been aged in oak for around 15 months , is smooth and round in the mouth and has flavours full of black fruits. It's a sumptuous wine that is very classy.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Rabbit and Wine

French monks in the Champagne region of France are credited with the domestication of the wild European rabbit in the 5th century. The original European wild rabbits evolved about 4,000 years ago in the red shaded area of the world known as Iberia. In fact the visiting Phoenician merchants referred to part of Iberia as I-shephan-im which means land of the rabbits. This was translated as Hispania or as we know it . . . Spain.

It was thought that the Normans introduced the rabbit to Britain but many national newspapers reported in 2005 that the bones of a Roman rabbit had been found in Norfolk, and that this might be the earliest rabbit ever found in Britain. The Romans kept them in fenced off warrens and harvested their meat and fur. The earliest known records of rabbits in Britain occurred during the 12th Century – they were called conies.

However there is proof that rabbits lived in Britain long before the Romans set foot on British soil. Remains of rabbits dating back half a million years were found at Boxgrove in West Sussex and Swanscombe in Kent. It's thought that they probably died out in the last Ice Age, only to be reintroduced later by the Romans.

Rabbit meat is a source of high quality protein and it can be used in most ways chicken meat is used. Rabbit meat is leaner than beef, pork, and chicken meat.

Rabbit with Prunes and Mustard

675g (1.5lb) rabbit pieces
1 tbsp plain flour
1 tbsp each olive oil & butter, softened
1 onion, finely chopped
175g (6 oz) prunes
100g (4 oz) fromage frais
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
Seasoning to taste

Place rabbit pieces in a paper or polythene bag with the flour and shake to coat evenly. Heat the oil and butter in a large pan and fry rabbit until golden brown all over. Add the onions and prunes to pan and pour over just enough water to cover. Season generously and simmer for 45 minutes until rabbit is tender.

Remove the rabbit with a slotted spoon and keep warm. Stir fromage frais and mustard into the pan and simmer until reduced slightly. Spoon the sauce over the rabbit and serve.

If you are wondering what wine to pair with your rabbit I would choose Château Grand Puy Lacoste - the château was once owned by Raymond Dupin, one of Bordeaux's greatest gourmets! Grand Puy Lacoste has a reputation for consistently making big, durable, full bodied Pauillacs which should be in a higher classification. These wines have a wonderful perfume of cinnamon, ripe redcurrants, blackberries,wood and tobacco. They are creamily smooth, age well and represent a top class Pauillac.

Chateau Haut Batailley would be another great choice – it's owned by the same family that own Grand Puy Lacoste – Domaines François-Xavier Borie. The wines of Haut Batailley are concentrated but charming with aromas of blackberries, wood, liquorice and vanilla. They are medium to full bodied, fruity wines and have well balanced tannins and acidity.

If a Saint Julien is more your style then Chateau Saint Pierre would also pair well with rabbit. The château is one of the most ancient in Médoc and was bought in 1982 by Henri Martin who came from a family of coopers who had been barrel making for the châteaux of Bordeaux for more than 3 centuries. The wines are fuller bodied than others from the appellation, fruity and smooth. They have smoky flavours of blackberries, ground coffee, toast, toffee, violets and oak.

Finally, at the other end of the scale, I would choose Le Roc du Chateau Pellebouc – it's a fantastic wine at an unbelievably low price for the quality that it shows (£8.57). Pellebouc is owned by Pascale and Baudouin Thienpont – members of the famous wine making family who own Le Pin and manage several other top flight châteaux. The wine is a Gold Medal winner and it's a superb wine. It has a deep, intense purple colour, with a scent of red fruits and spicier notes. In the mouth, it is quite powerful in terms of both roundness and balance. It will delight the palates of wine-lovers looking for a heavy, balanced, fruity wine.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Woodcock and Wine

Woodcocks are wading birds with short legs, a very long straight tapering bill and are largely nocturnal, spending most of the day in dense cover. Most of the birds in the UK are residents; in the autumn birds move to the UK from Finland and Russia to winter here. They are woodland birds and like dry, deciduous woodland that is in close proximity to damp ground where they can feed on earthworms and surface insects.

The tiny feathers that are located at the tip of the woodcock's wings are referrer to as "pin feathers" and these are much sought after by artists for fine painting work. Coincidentally, they are also sought by game shooters who will place them in the band of their hat to show friends that they have shot woodcock. It is thought that the phrase "a feather in his cap" is derived from this practice.

I have found a great recipe for Woodcock using Pimento peppers. The pimento or cherry pepper is a variety of large, red, heart shaped chilli pepper (Capsicum annuum) which is sweet, succulent and more aromatic than that of the red bell pepper. Pimentos are grown commercially in Spain, Hungary, Morocco and the Middle East, and is native to South America. Pimiento dried and ground fine becomes the spice paprika, which is widely used in Hungarian and other cuisines and pimentos are also the familiar red stuffing found in prepared Spanish green olives. If you can't find any fresh ones you can buy them tinned. Woodcock, by the way, is best cooked with its entrails left in!

Woodcock and Pimento

6 woodcock; quartered
¼ cup flour; seasoned
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp freshly-ground black pepper
½ cup olive oil
6 small onions/shallots; peeled, whole
2 garlic cloves; crushed
3 medium green peppers; seeded, and cut into strips
½ cup sherry
3 pimientos; finely chopped
2 cups chicken stock

Dredge birds with seasoned flour. Heat oil, add onions, garlic, and birds, and cook, turning often, to brown evenly. Put in a deep casserole, and add green peppers, sherry, pimientos, and stock. Cover and bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.

As for wines that would pair well with your Woodcock recipe I'd recommend Chateau Mouton Rothschild. The chateau was once owned by the Duke of Gloucester, the younger brother of Henry V in the 15th century and has long been enjoyed as a top class claret by the English. Mouton's wines are concentrated and intense, with notes of dried black and red fruits, spice, black currants, raspberries, caramel, minerals and oak. The wines are creamy with good depth and complexity. They are polished, firm and weighty wines but are well balanced.

Chateau Palmer
is another superb choice and takes its name from General Charles Palmer, who had served under Wellington in the English army, who purchased the Château in 1814. Palmer expanded the vineyards and thanks to his influential relations "Palmer's Claret” was much sought after by London clubs, and was particularly appreciated by the future King George IV. The chateau's wines are famous for their finesse and elegance. The subtle balance between powerful, but understated tannins and aromatic richness makes Palmer an incomparably charming wine, even when very young. The dark inky red wines yield aromas of black currant, coffee and spices.

If you are looking for a claret that has bags of style but a lesser price tag then why not try Mathilde, (£17.12), the second wine of Chateau La Fleur Morange? Mathilde is produced from the same 100 year old vines and terroir as the Grand Vin and Château La Fleur Morange is receiving high acclaim from wine critics across the globe. Mathilde is made from 100% Merlot and is opulent, well structured and rich. The wine has notes of cherries, blueberries, chocolate, plum and earth.