Tuesday, 28 February 2012

I had no idea that wine could be made from Cashew until I spotted a report from Sri Lanka about its popularity. In the West we use Cashew nuts as a snack and as a garnish or in its ground form as an ingredient for curries. The nut is actually a seed which comes from the Cashew Apple which is native to Northern South America.

The nut is a kidney shaped drupe that grows at the end of the Cashew Apple which is surrounded by a double shell containing a potent skin irritant chemically related to poison ivy. Properly roasting cashews destroys the toxin, but it must be done outdoors as the smoke can irritate the lungs. The Cashew Apple is extremely sweet and very juicy when ripe and shockingly astringent when not. It's supposed to taste a little like a sweet mix of Mango, Green Pepper and Citrus. The reason they’re not found over here is that their skin is thin and fragile, making it difficult to ship them but Health Food shops sometimes stock canned or bottled Cashew Apple juice.

The Cashew was introduced to Goa, India, between the years of 1560 and 1565 by the Portuguese and from there spread throughout South East Asia and eventually Africa. The Cashew Apple can be eaten raw, used in cooking and fermented into wine or liqueur – which the early Dutch traders apparently preferred to Brandy!

The Cashew liqueur and wine can be found in Belize where the main Cashew producing areas are Burrel Boom and Crooked Tree. A local winery, BelMer Wines makes Cashew and other wines from local fruits such as Mango. The wine is said to be sweet and potent, deceptively mild and alluring. It has a rich aroma and matches well with Oriental spicy foods.

If anyone has tasted Cashew Wine please let me know! As for Cashew nuts – here is one of my favourite recipes.

Prawns with Cashew Nuts
½ tsp salt
1 tsp cornstarch
1 egg white
1 lb. fresh prawns (shelled and de-veined)
4 oz. cashew nuts
3 cups cooking oil
2 spring onions, chopped
2 slices ginger
¼ tsp sugar
1 tbsp cooking wine
½ tsp salt
½ tsp sesame oil

Mix the salt, cornstarch and egg white together in a bowl. Add the prawns and marinate for 1 hour. In a large frying pan or wok, heat the oil and add cashews, stirring until browned. Remove, drain cashews on paper towels and set aside. Reheat the oil in the pan, add the prawns and stir fry for 1 minute. Remove shrimp and drain on paper towels. Discard the oil. Add two fresh tablespoons of cooking oil, heat in the pan and quickly stir fry the spring onions and ginger. Add the prawns, stir in the sugar, cooking wine, salt and sesame oil. Add the cashews and stir until thoroughly mixed. Serve immediately

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

75 Year Old Coronation Ale for Edward VIII Discovered

Two thousand bottles of a long lost Coronation Ale have been discovered in a bricked up cellar. The Coronation Ale was set to be sold in Britain to commemorate Edward VIII's coronation - planned for the anniversary of the King’s first year on the throne in January 1937. But the bottles of ale never saw the light of day because Edward abdicated just a month before in December 1936 to marry American twice-divorced Wallis Simpson.

The ale then lay undiscovered for decades until workman found it in a bricked up cellar after being called in to replace a floor at the 200-year-old Greene King Brewery in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.

Greene King is better known for beers such as Old Speckled Hen, Abbot Ale, Belhaven Best and a range of seasonal beers.

The origin of the ale became clear when a faded label was spotted on one bottle. Beer historians checked records and museum articles and confirmed the corked bottles were of Coronation Ale. Expert brewer John Bexon sampled the vintage ale and told the Daily Mail that:

This really would have been a fantastic beer in its day, it was 12 per cent when it was brewed so is quite strong and has kept really well.

The rich fruit flavour still stands out and you can see a clear ring around the top of the beer when you look at it through the glass, rather like you might see on a vintage port or wine.”
John, who has been in the brewery industry for 35 years, said it was impossible to put a price on the ale but said it could be of real value to beer buffs or collectors.

I had no idea that ales could age like wine but after doing a little reading up on the topic I have found out that Fullers produce a Vintage Ale. Their oldest vintage dates back to 1997.

The world's oldest beer was discovered in 2010 in the sunken cargo off a wreck found on the Baltic seabed near the Aland Islands, between Sweden and Finland - along with 30 bottles of Champagne (see Nick's Blog 200 Year Old Champagne is Veuve Cliquot and Juglar). However the beer from the wreck is not drinkable and scientists are hoping to analyse the remains to see if they can recreate it.

I wonder if the Coronation Ale is the world's oldest drinkable ale? Does anyone know of any ales that are older?

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

New Wine Film on Master Sommeliers: Somm

Somm is a new wine film, directed by Jason Wise is hoped to première on the East Coast. The film charts the progress of 4 young sommeliers: Brian McClintic, Dustin Wilson, Ian Cauble and D'Lynn Proctor who are attempting to pass the prestigious Master Sommelier exam. This is a qualification with one of the lowest pass rates in the world, with less than 200 people achieving a pass. Wise has submitted the film to the Tribeca and Edinburgh film festivals.

The trailer for the film has had over 15,000 unique page views within the first two days and Wise is optimistic about the film's success.

Access to the Court Of Master Sommeliers has always been strictly regulated and cameras have never been allowed anywhere near the exam . . . until now. According to Decanter.com the film also features interviews with some major wine producers, including Andrea Cecci of Tuscany, Hano Zillikenof Saar in Germany, Paul Graf von Schönborn of Schloss Schönborn, Bo Barrett of Chateau Montelena, and Wilhelm Haag of Fritz Haag in the Mosel. The film took two years to film and spanned 6 countries in location.

Described variously as ‘the new rockstars’, ‘prophets’, ‘egomaniacs’, and ‘sickly gifted’, the four Americans go through ‘thousands and thousands of hours’ of wine tasting, wine theory and practice.

In scenes reminiscent of The Apprentice and dozens of other reality TV shows, Somm – as sommeliers are sometimes called in the US – shows them in the depths of despair, as well as approaching what they concede is a ‘brutal’ ordeal with masochistic relish.”

Geoff Kruth, chief operating officer of the Guild of Sommeliers told Decanter that:

Somm highlights not only their extreme level of commitment but the all-encompassing effect it has on their lives.”

In the UK, Master Sommeliers contacted by Decanter were positive about a film which may lay to rest some misconceptions about their profession Ronan Sayburn MS, wine director at Hotel du Vin, said:

Demystifying wine is good for the industry as a whole” – although he firmly denied any pretensions to star status: “Maybe I feel like a rock star for about ten minutes when I’m decanting a bottle of Latour, but not at two am when I’m polishing glasses. In the Court of Master Sommeliers, we try to teach humility.”

You can watch the trailer here.