Thursday, 29 December 2011

Mulled Wine Jelly

I came across a lovely recipe which will refresh tired taste buds after the Christmas dishes we have been enjoying over the past few days.

1 pint water
110g sugar
1 cinnamon stick
rind of 1 lemon
rind of 1 orange
1 Earl Grey teabag
285ml fruity red wine
juice of 1 orange
4 leaves of gelatine (pre-soaked in cold water for 10 minutes)

Place the water, sugar, cinnamon stick and the lemon and orange rinds in a saucepan and heat gently. Keep stirring till the sugar has dissolved and then boil for a couple of minutes. Remove from the heat and add the Earl Grey teabag. Leave to soak for a couple of minutes and then remove. Stir in the red wine, the orange juice and the soaked gelatine leaves. Leave to cool.

When cooled, remove the lemon and orange rinds and the cinnamon stick, and pour the cold liquid into six glasses. Leave in a cool place to set. This makes a super dessert but if you'd like to try this with a sweet dessert white like Sauternes it makes a delicious accompaniment to cold cuts of turkey or roast beef!


Tuesday, 27 December 2011

A Year of Food and Wine – Trends in 2011

It's traditional at this time of year to look back at what has gone before and reflect, so I thought I would highlight some of the miles we have travelled in the world of wine and food over 2011.

I hate to say it but chocolate comes out on top! Chocolate Wine that is. Apart from the wines I mentioned you came up with some other intriguing suggestions: Chocovine, Vino de Mocca from Kirigin Cellars, Deco Chocolate Port and Pindar's Cabernet Port. Recipe ideas were chocolate sauce made with port and drizzling chocolate wine over desserts such as ice creams.

2011 must be a year for those with a sweet tooth as the second most popular topic was the mint liqueur Crème de Menthe! I recommended using it in a cocktail, although I do prefer mine chilled and on the rocks, however this is another drink that can be poured over desserts or used as a glaze for chocolate brownies.

Asparagus and wine have been labelled as uncomfortable bedfellows when it comes to food and wine pairing and my blog on the ideal partner for asparagus – the sparkling wine Comte de Laube - proved to be very popular.

It was good to see the little appellation of Saint Mont in south west France attracting some attention. This is a very, very old vineyard which is being revitalised by a dynamic – and determined - set of wine makers. The forward thinking co-operative Producteurs Plaimont was founded in 1979 by André Dubosc, who set up the Conservatory of Saint Mont wines and saved many grapes from extinction.

Saint Mont now holds a unique collection in France (around 116 different grape varieties) and this botanical heritage is now attracting attention from researchers, scientists and vintners alike. Much of Dubosc's work has focused on the vineyard of René Pédebernade, which, according to the French wine critic Michel Bettane, contains the oldest vines in France. Some of the vines are believed to be 300 years old, giving new meaning to the term Vieilles Vignes (old vines).

The most popular food and wine pairing recipes were:

Marjoram, the Herb of Grace – Recipes for Barbeques and Good Wine, paired with the white wine Sancet from the Côtes de Gascogne appellation.

Saffron, a Recipe and M de Malle. M de Malle being a gorgeous white from the AOC Graves.

The Changing of the Seasons, Jasmine, Beef Stew and Chateau Peynaud. Peynaud is a cracking Bordeaux Superieur that has proved so popular that Nick has sold out! If you are looking for a wine to pair with this recipe Nick recommends that you try Chateau Roc de Levraut which is another little gem.

I hope you have enjoyed Ladies With Bottle throughout 2011 as much I have enjoyed writing it. Thank you for all your support!

Nick and I wish you all a very Happy Christmas!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Christmas Feast Case £49.99

Our Christmas Feast Case is packed with goodies for your Christmas dishes and is a special price of £49.99!
I am recommending Rosé wine as the perfect match for Turkey as I don't believe that red or white wines match it well . . . but a fruity Rosé does! Packed full of flavours of ripe red currants and cranberries Rosé is ideal.

What's more it won't make you sleepy – the combination of red wine and turkey are often blamed for the post meal “turkey nap” after Christmas dinner. A few years back researchers found the sleep hormone Melatonin in red grapes.
Melatonin is made from Tryptophan, which is also found in Turkeys! No wonder you feel like a snooze!

The Christmas Feast Case contains:

2 x Chateau Roques de Mauriac 2007
Great with a roasted Honey Baked Ham for Christmas Eve. Mouth wateringly, crisp flavours of redcurrant, raspberry, strawberry, pomegranate and cranberry.

2 x Chateau Lamothe Vincent 2009
Perfect with Roasted Turkey for Christmas Day. Bursting with the flavours of ripe red currant, red gooseberries, raspberry, crushed strawberry, cranberries and citrus.

2 x Montagnac Syrah
Ideal for a Cold Meat Supper on Boxing Day. Powerfully flavoured and full bodied with aromas of chocolate, violets, truffles, leather, coffee and black pepper.

6 x Brissonet Rouge
Perfect for Mulled Wine. An aromatic red bursting with ripe flavours of ripe cherries, violets, dark chocolate and blackberries. I'll pop an easy recipe for Mulled Wine in each case!

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Add a Little Christmas Cheer with our New 6 Bottle Christmas Case!

Add a little Christmas Cheer this festive season with our new 6 Bottle Christmas Case for £63.60!  We have chosen a great selection of wines to suit your celebrations and the case includes superb clarets, an award winning rosé, our most popular white wines and a super sparkler recommended by critic Joanna Simon.  These wines have been selected with good food in mind and are the perfect accompaniment for your  Christmas dishes – and make great Christmas presents too!

Chateau Teyssier 2007 – Lovely with venison or pigeon and pairs well with pâté, roast beef and lamb and strong cheeses.

Chateau Teyssier is a modern Saint Emilion made by Jonathan Maltus (producer of the super-cuvée  Le Dôme, amongst others and by the oenologist to First Growth Chateau Cheval Blanc, Gilles Pauquet).  Teyssier has flavours of rich, dark fruits such as black cherry, blackberries and mulberries with a hint of vanilla, violets, oak and cedar. This is a well balanced, elegant wine full of supple tannins and opulence that has been aged in oak for 12 months.

Stephen Spurrier from Decanter described this wine as “Dark red, clean and fresh fruit, fragrant and well-contained, good length and savoury balance, nice sense of place”.

Chateau Roc de Levraut Bordeaux Superieur 2009
– Great with pheasant, partridge, guinea fowl, goose, duck and roast pork.

Château Roc de Levraut is regularly an award winning wine and is velvety smooth with well integrated tannins and has flavours of blackcurrant, vanilla, liquorice, redcurrant and cherry.

Chateau Lamothe Vincent Rosé 2009 -  Terrific with turkey, chicken, roast pork, salmon, roast ham and cold cuts.
Chateau Lamothe Vincent Rosé is a multi award winning wine made by the Vincent family who have been making wines since 1873.  This wine is a fabulous dry, deep, dark pomegranate pink and is bursting with the flavours of ripe red currant, red gooseberries, raspberry, crushed strawberry and citrus. It is silky smooth, well rounded, deep and has a lovely long finish.
Chateau Laures 2009 – Super with turkey, chicken, guinea fowl, pork, goats cheese, prawns, lobster, salmon pâté and melon.  Good as an aperitif!

Chateau Laures has been well reviewed by the wine press and is a classy little gem.  This wine is a brilliant gold in colour with the aromas of mangoes and pineapples and and intense fruit and honey in the mouth. It’s elegant but expressive and rich on the palate with a good snap to the acidity.

Chateau Les Eymeries Blanc 2008 – Very good with oysters, scallops, smoked trout and smoked salmon, chicken, turkey and soft cheeses.

Chateau Les Eymeries is a superb find and has proved to be immensely popular.  This wine is very well made indeed and has minerally aromas with hints of honey which lead to both tartness and richness in the mouth. It is well structured, crisp, fruity and mouth wateringly fresh with flavours of sweet melon, pineapple, pink grapefruit and lemon.
Cremant d’Alsace Joseph Pfister – Perfect Bubbly for Christmas!   Light and fresh on the palate and an ideal wine for accompanying the entire meal, from the aperitif to the dessert.

Cremant d’Alsace Joseph Pfister is a lovely pale yellow colour with a dense, very fine mousse lasting to the very last sip in the glass. It has very creamy deep fruits on the nose with definite hints of apricots, lime blossom and plums.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Chestnut Liqueur for Christmas

Chestnuts are starting to appear in the shops ready for roasting over the fires for Christmas. I love roast chestnuts and if you haven't got an open fire you can roast them in the oven – but be careful to prick them first in case they explode. Chestnuts have been a staple food in the Mediterranean for thousands of years as they can be made into a form of flour for unleavened bread making.

Chestnut flour can also be used to make cakes, pancakes and pasta – it was the original ingredient for polenta. The chestnut bread can stay fresh for as long as 2 weeks and in the ancient world it was widely used as army rations. Alexander the Great planted chestnut trees across Europe whilst on various campaigns and the Greek army is said to have survived their retreat from Asia Minor in 401-399 BC thanks to their stores of chestnuts.

Candied chestnuts appeared in the chestnut growing areas North of Italy and South of France shortly after the crusaders brought sugar back with them from the Middle East. You can still buy them today in the form of Marrons Glacés (for a home made recipe see Christmas Sweets and Treats – Marrons Glacés and Crémant d'Alsace).

The Italians soak their chestnuts in wine before roasting and this reminded me of Liqueur de Châtaigne – Chestnut Liqueur. This is a very aromatic liqueur and makes a great Autumnal Kir if you add it to white wine or champagne – a different twist to cassis! It is also fantastic served over vanilla ice cream, in coffee or with slices of melon.

There are a few companies that produce Liqueur de Châtaigne – it's well known in France and Italy - and in Madeira it is a traditional beverage. However you can make it at home.

Chestnut Liqueur

500g chestnuts
150g sugar
200ml water
500ml brandy

How to peel your chestnuts:
Boil the chestnuts in a large saucepan of water for 20 minutes.

Remove and drain. Peel them whilst they are still hot – use rubber gloves to protect your fingers! Make a cut through the skin almost all the way round the chestnut and peel the skin away.

Place the chestnuts in a saucepan with the 200ml of water and simmer for 10 minutes with the lid on. Do not stir. Remove the chestnuts and stir the sugar into the water. Return the chestnuts to the saucepan and gently cook with the lid off for another 5 minutes. Place the chestnuts in a jar with a good seal; add the sugar solution from the pan and the brandy. Leave for liquor via a fine sieve then add the brandy. Store in a cool dark place for 2 weeks.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Christmas Nougat

Nougat is a popular treat at Christmas in Europe and it's name comes from the old French Occitan "pan nogat" which means "nut bread". The French town of Montelimar is renowned for making it, dating back to the 18th century. There are three basic kinds of nougat: The first, and most common, is white nougat (which appeared in Cremona, Italy in the early 15th century) is made with beaten egg whites and honey. The second is brown nougat (referred to as Mandorlato in Italy, Turrón in Spain and Nougatine in French) is made without egg whites and has a firmer, often crunchy texture. The third is the Viennese or German nougat which is essentially a chocolate and nut (usually hazelnut) praline.

Nougat is made with sugar and/or honey, roasted nuts (almonds, walnuts, pistachios, hazelnuts and recently macadamia nuts are common), and sometimes chopped candied fruit. You can vary the flavours of Nougat by adding lemon zest, liqueurs, pine nuts, coffee and chocolate. Adding dried cranberries would be a good idea if you are making this for Christmas!

In the Middle East Nougat is made with pistachios and rosewater and I have found a recipe for you to make at home. You will need a sugar thermometer as trying to make Nougat without one usually results in a mess. Glucose syrup is one of the ingredients and you can find this at most super markets. Glucose Syrup helps control the formation of sugar crystals when making cake-icing, desserts, confectionery and jam.

2 cups granulated sugar
1 ½ cups glucose syrup
pinch of salt
1/4 cup water
2 egg whites
1 ½ tsp rose water
1 cup toasted pistachios

Line a pan with foil and spray with non stick cooking oil. Place the egg whites in the bowl of a large stand mixer, and whisk until stiff. Combine the sugar, glucose syrup, salt, and water in a pan over medium-high heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved, and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 250 degrees. Remove from the heat and slowly pour a quarter of the mixture into the stiff egg whites, with the mixer running constantly. Continue to beat the egg whites until the mixture holds its shape.

Return the pan with the remaining sugar syrup to the hob, and continue to cook over medium-high heat until the mixture reaches 300 degrees. With the mixer running, pour the remaining mixture slowly into the mixer and continue beating until thick and stiff. Add the rose water and nuts and beat until combined.

Spoon the nougat into the prepared pan, and press it smoothly and evenly. Keep it in refrigerator until the nougat is set. Take it out of the mould and cut it into squares. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.


Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Come and Visit Us at the Wine Show 2011

Nick is with Bordeaux-Undiscovered at the Wine Show 2011 in Olympia, London (Thursday 11th - Sunday 13th November) so please come along and say hello!

It's a great opportunity for us to meet our loyal customers and to meet new friends. It's a wine lover's paradise as far as we are concerned as we will be able to enjoy our wines with visitors who are keen to try, discuss and discover our range.

Nick will be there to chat with visitors about what we all get from the wines, what kind of palates they have and which wines suit them. The feed back is very important to us as being an online company it will be great to be able to really interact on a personal level and get down to “talking wine”.

This year tickets include free entry to MasterChef Live and you can see John Torode, Gregg Wallace and the 2011 MasterChef Champion - Tim Anderson. Plus the Show will be jam-packed with over 100 of the best local producers, selling top quality food and drink perfect for a Christmas treat! You can also visit the Restaurant Experience to sample tapas-sized dishes from London’s best restaurants.

The Drinks Tasting Theatre is the place to meet top experts, including wine aficionados Oz Clarke, Susy Atkins and Ewan Lacey who will be holding Wine Tasting sessions. Sessions last 30 minutes.

It's a fantastic way to discover new wines and shop for Christmas! You can book tickets here. The Box Office number is 0844 581 1365.

Olympia is in Hammersmith Road, London, W14 8UX and if you are travelling by car it is best to pre-book a visitor's space in advance (tel 0207 598 2515). London Overground and Southern trains run direct services to West Brompton station (for Earls Court) and Kensington (Olympia). Direct services run from Clapham Junction, Gatwick Airport, East Croydon, Watford Junction, Willesden Junction and Stratford. If you want to hop on the tube you should travel to Kensington Olympia on the District line. Buses serving Olympia are: Hammersmith Road: 9, 10, 27, 28; Holland Road: 49; North End Road: 391 and National Express offer round the clock services to the heart of London via London Victoria Coach station.

Our stand number is WM46 which is located behind the English Wine Pavilion and we look forward to meeting you there should you pop along!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Christmas Orange and Lemon Slices

Years ago I remember that we used to have jellied Orange and Lemon Slices as sweets for Christmas but they seemed to slip off the shelves once the festivities had finished. I hadn't seen them for ages until I spotted some for sale recently.

I used to wonder how they were made and apparently they are an old German tradition, hailing from Bavaria. They are made from a mixture of sugar, water, pectin, colourants, and flavourings which is boiled and then poured into moulds. When set they are then sanded with sugar.

I have found some recipes that you can make at home and there seem to be two methods – one takes around an hour and the other takes two weeks. The longer method has far superior results and if you are making these sweets to give as Christmas presents it is the one I would choose. During the process of candying the fruits are placed in a sugar syrup which must contain a gradually higher sugar concentration every day so that the sugar permeates slowly through the cell pores. You can skip a couple of days but don't skip the 2 week duration. The Brownie Points Blog has a great version of this recipe for Orange Slices that have been partially dipped in chocolate and is well worth following to make Orange and Lemon Slices.

The Repressed Pastry Chef Blog has a good recipe for Candied Orange Slices which uses the quicker method. The only addition I would recommend is sanding the slices with sugar once they have cooled . . . unless you want to dip them in chocolate!

Home made Orange and Lemon Slices would go really well with a Sauternes and Chateau Sainte Hélène in particular has flavours of orange peel, apricots, cinnamon and honey which will compliment the sweets perfectly.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Chocolate Violet Creams For Christmas

Chocolate Violet Creams are an old British favourite that have made a come back in recent years. Sarah Lawrence tells us that when the demand for violets surged Bill Keeling of Prestat's told her that: “Twice in three years, the world-wide supply of crystallised violet petals ran out.” Prestat started making violet creams in the early 20th century and actress Sarah Bernhardt commissioned an inverted Violet Cream from them, sadly a long lost recipe. I'm not sure when Violet Creams were invented but Fry's sold the first Chocolate Cream Bar in 1866 – but violet was not one of the fondant centres. They were certainly popular in the early 1900s - one of Agatha Christie’s victim’s is poisoned by a box of Violet Creams! Jean Neuhaus invented pralines in 1912 and crystallized violets are used as one of the decorative toppings.

Violets have been used in cooking as far back as the 14th century as a flavouring for desserts, salads and in stuffings for poultry or fish. When Napoleon married Josephine, she wore Violets, and on each anniversary Josephine received a bouquet of violets. Following Napoleon´s lead, the French Bonapartists chose the violet as their emblem, and nicknamed Napoleon "Corporal Violet". In 1814, Napoleon asked to visit Josephine's tomb before being exiled to the Island of St. Helena and when he died, he wore a locket around his neck that contained violets he had picked from Josephine's grave site.

The French are also known for their violet syrup, most commonly made from an extract of violets. In the United States, this French violet syrup is used to make violet scones and marshmallows. Viola essence flavours the liqueurs Creme Yvette, Creme de Violette, and Parfait d'Amour. Parfait d' Amour is a liqueur and appears to have several forms - exactly who invented it remains unclear but the House of Lucas Bols in the Netherlands claims to have originated the liqueur but so does France . The colour is a magenta and violet hue and it is flavoured with orange peel, rose petals, vanilla and almonds. It was very popular in the 19th century and was once served in French brothels as an aphrodisiac!

It is also used in Parma Violets confectionery. I must admit I have a secret love of Parma Violets and found out recently that they were launched in 1946.

I have a recipe for making my own Chocolate Violet Creams which I have yet to try but it seems fairly straight forward so I thought I'd share it with you:

3tbsp double cream
Purple food colouring
2tbsp violet syrup
275g icing sugar
200g dark chocolate, broken into small bits
1tsp groundnut oil
20 crystallised violet petals, to decorate

Put the cream, a drop of the purple food colouring and the violet syrup in a bowl and mix. Sift the icing sugar over the cream mixture and stir to combine. Tip the mixture out onto a work surface lightly dusted with icing sugar and knead the fondant with your hands until it all comes together in a firm ball. Place in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

Using your hands, roll 20 teaspoon-sized lumps of mixture into balls, then flatten them slightly and place on a plate. Heat 5cm of water in a pan. Place a heatproof bowl on top, making sure that the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water. Place the dark chocolate and the groundnut oil in the bowl and warm until melted. Remove from the heat and cool for 10 minutes.

Line a flat baking sheet with baking parchment. Take a fondant ball, one at a time, and, using two forks, dip it in the melted chocolate until coated all over. Be careful not to melt the fondant. Place the coated fondant ball onto the baking parchment. Top each chocolate with a crystallised violet petal and leave to cool and set in a cool place.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Pink Champagne Truffles for Christmas

The chocolate truffle was actually invented in 1895 for a Christmas feast so it seems rather fitting that we still give them as gifts at Christmas over 100 years later! Pâtissier Louis Dufour created the first chocolate truffle in Chambéry, France after running short on ingredients for his Christmas sweets. He used the ingredients he had to hand and dusted the finished confections with cocoa powder. He named them truffles as they resembled the prized truffles found underground.

Chocolate truffles were introduced to London by Antoine Dufour and his story can be found at Prestat, one of London's oldest chocolate shops. Antoine established Prestat in 1902 and quickly became famous for its cocoa-dusted truffles, named ‘Napoleon III’ (after the 19th Century gourmand French emperor who spent several periods of exile in London with his loyal chef).

Prestat makes chocolates for Her Majesty The Queen under Royal Warrant and has a long history of celebrity customers from the actress Sarah Bernhardt in the 1910s through to Sir John Gielgud and Dame Peggy Ashcroft in the 1950s, Princess Diana in the 1990s and Stephen Fry today. Roald Dahl, author of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, was also a fan of Prestat truffles and made them central to his novel My Uncle Oswald.

In the 1960s, a giant version of the Napoleon III truffle was created by Prestat named The Prestat Bomb truffle. It was available in Plain, Coffee and Orange flavours. Apparently Prestat are recreating it for Chocolate Week (October 10th -16th, 2011).

Prestat's Pink Champagne truffles are made with Marc de Champagne which isn't easy to find here so I have come up with a simpler recipe to try at home. Marc de Champagne is a traditional Eau de Vie (brandy) that is produced by distilling the grape skins, seeds and stalks, which are left from the pressing process in the first stages of Champagne production.

250g dark chocolate
250g milk chocolate
100 ml whipping cream
1 egg yolk, beaten
65g butter
100 ml pink champagne
4 tsp brandy
cocoa powder to dust

Combine the chocolate, butter and whipping cream in a saucepan. Heat until the chocolate has melted, stirring continuously. Add in the beaten egg yolk and stir. Return to the heat and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring continuously. Remove from heat. Stir in champagne and transfer truffle mixture to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Beat cooled truffle mixture with electric mixer for about a minute. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. Use a small scoop to form 1 inch balls. Place each ball on the prepared baking sheet. Cover and chill in the refrigerator until firm. Roll truffles in cocoa powder. If you want to make a pink dust to coat your truffles you can use pink sanding sugar.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Crystallised Ginger for Christmas

I know Christmas seems to come earlier every year but I often make things in advance so that I am not so rushed once the festive season starts. Crystallised Ginger is one of Nick's favourites and is easy to make. I have made Marrons Glacés (chestnuts candied in sugar syrup) before and the recipe is basically the same.

Crystallised fruit (or Candied or Glacé fruit) was introduced to Europe during the Crusades. Preserving food using honey or palm syrup is a long standing method and was known to Ancient China as well as Rome - the Romans even preserved fish by soaking it in honey. However in Ancient Mesopotamia (now the land corresponding to modern day Iraq, N E Syria, S E Turkey and S W Iran) crystallising fruits was a speciality of the Arabic cultures. Crystallised citrus fruits and roses were served at Arab banquets and the speciality was brought with them as the Arabs moved into parts of Southern Europe.

In France the tradition of crystallising fruit in honey goes back to the Middle Ages and Apt in Provence is still renowned for it. In 1365, when Pope Urban V came to Apt on a pilgrimage, the people of Apt gave him crystallised fruit as a gift. In 1752, the city had six pastry cooks and confectioners. 150 years later, in England, crystallised fruits from Apt became very fashionable.

Ginger was one of the first oriental spices to reach Europe but its original homeland is still uncertain – it no longer grows wild. It's thought that Ginger probably originated in southern or south eastern Asia. March Polo saw Ginger growing in China and Giovanni de Montecorvino (a Franciscan monk and missionary) wrote an eye witness account of it in southern India in 1292. Ginger takes its Latin generic name, Zingiber, from the Sanskrit for ‘horn-shaped’, singabela, emphasising this rhizome’s similarity in appearance to deer antlers.

Tudor England loved Ginger, using it in sweetmeats and cakes and it was said to have been a particular favourite of Henry VIII (perhaps because of its reputation at that time of being a powerful aphrodisiac!) Gingerbread became popular in Elizabethan times and Elizabeth I is credited with the invention of Gingerbread Men as important courtiers had “charming likenesses of themselves” given to them as gifts. In Victorian times it became a popular practice to nibble Crystallised Ginger after a meal when it was disclosed that Chinese medicine recommended it for the digestion.

When Europeans took over the spice trade they hastened to cultivate Ginger in other tropical colonies as well. Ginger was the first spice plant that spread in this way from the Old World to the New, particularly in Jamaica which continues to produce good Ginger. A Frenchman was the first to grind the Ginger root to form a powder so often used today!

Crystallised Ginger

500g fresh Ginger root (peeled and sliced very thinly)
800g sugar
1 litre water
5 green cardamom pods
1/4 tsp salt

Place the Ginger in a pan with water, bring to the boil and then simmer for about 15 minutes. Make a syrup with the sugar, cardamom pods, salt and litre of water and boil for 20 minutes before adding the Ginger. Boil for another 30 minutes. Remove the Ginger pieces from the boiling hot syrup and dip into granulated sugar. Shake off the excess sugar and place on a cooling rack until dry. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Mushrooms and M de Malle

Nick picked our first mushrooms this morning whilst walking the dogs and sautéed them in butter for breakfast. They were lovely! Mushrooms are one of the most difficult foods to match with wine. I don’t mean cooking them in it – I mean pairing a mushroom dish with a wine to accompany it.

It is not as if there is just one mushroom to choose from, although our British grown Field Mushrooms that you spot nestling in the grass like an unexpected dollop of snow are my favourite. The many varieties of wild fungi and tame shop bought ones have lots of different flavours to confuse us wine enthusiasts.

France was the leader in the formal cultivation of mushrooms. Some accounts say that Louis XIV was the first mushroom grower. Around this time mushrooms were grown in special caves near Paris set aside for this unique form of agriculture. Originally, cultivation was unreliable as mushroom growers would watch for good flushes of mushrooms in fields and then dig up the mycelium, replanting in beds of composted manure or inoculating 'bricks' of compressed litter, loam and manure.

The general rule when it comes to matching a wine with your mushroom is based on how they are cooked i.e. what the sauces and spices are. French cuisine advocates that “less is more” so in other words keep it simple and you will be able to taste the flavour of the mushrooms.

You can't get much simpler than a pan of freshly picked sautéed mushrooms and Nick recommends a dry white Graves - M de Malle. This wine has quite a woody, buttery flavour which is similar to a white Burgundy from Meursault or Montrachet and would be great with your mushrooms.

M de Malle is a medium bodied white and is the dry white wine of the Sauternes Second Growth Château de Malle, owned by the Comtes de Bournazel. Château de Malle was built at the beginning of the 17th century and has remained in the same family without ever changing hands. De Malle is one of the oldest estates in Sauternes - early records suggest that the grapes were grown there are already in the 1400's, and that the wine at this time was dry and white rather than the sweet style that Sauternes later evolved into.

M de Malle is difficult to find because only 7,000 bottles are produced and we are lucky to have the 2005 vintage at Bordeaux-Undiscovered. This really is a beautiful wine: bold, brilliant green tinted gold with waxy hints of white blossoms, passion fruit, quince, spice and a good burst of lemon acidity.

Oddly enough Bordeaux has a link to cultivating mushrooms. Saint Emilion is riddled with 173 acres of catacombs that run underground. They are carved out of the soft, pale ochre limestone that was used to build Saint Emilion. Chateau Ausone sits upon 3 troglodytic caves, the smallest of which is used as an ancient wine cellar which ages the wines in a perfectly stable atmosphere. Legend has it that a Parisian mushroom grower, fleeing from the capital during the dramatic events of the Commune in 1871, set up production there. The darkness, constant temperature, aeration and high humidity of the quarries provided optimum growing conditions for mushrooms. How strange that a century later they should also be the optimum conditions for ageing wine!

Monday, 26 September 2011

Sloe Gin Liqueur Chocolates

If you have been making Sloe Gin and are wondering what to do with the sloes that are left after you have strained them from the gin you can make Liqueur Chocolates with them! Sloes that are removed from the gin after 2 to 3 months are best and the stones can be removed by pressing a knife over the fruits so that they pop out.

Melt 250g of milk chocolate
Add 4oz sloes
Mix well and pour into ice cube trays
Leave to cool

I have added Almond essence to my Bullace Gin this year and will add crushed almonds to the mix when making my chocolates.

You can buy chocolate moulds and make individually filled Liqueur Chocolates each containing a plump gin infused sloe but this is quite time consuming (the best recipe I have found is here).

I was wondering who invented Liqueur Chocolates and it seems that in 1913 Swiss chocolate maker Jules Sechaud of Montreux introduced a machine process for manufacturing filled chocolates. The Swiss Master Chocolatiers Villars invented the first chocolate bar filled with liqueur in 1935, Larmes de Kirsch. Villars still make these and the fillings are Kirsch, Poire William, Cognac, Coing (Quince Liqueur), Damson Liqueur, Walnut Liqueur, Absinthe and Apricot Liqueur. They also make Larmes d'Edelweiss which is a milk chocolate bar filled with Edelweiss Liqueur!

Edelweiss Liqueur is said to have a light herbal taste with hints of honey and chestnuts. This Liqueur, distilled from Switzerland's national flower, is manufactured in small quantities in cantons Neuchtel and Valais by Christian Borel-Jaquet and Stphane Keller.

There is a tradition of making alcoholic drinks from flowers in France, Italy and Germany but the only traditional one I can think of here in the UK is Elderflower, Rose and Hawthorn which are used to make both wine and liqueur. Does anyone know of more?