Wednesday, 15 August 2012

The Tomato and Wine

If you have ever had a bumper crop of tomatoes you may be wondering what on earth to do with them. I usually end up making tomato purée and either freeze or bottle it for use in Winter casseroles and dishes. Of course, there is nothing quite as good as plump sun ripened tomatoes fresh off the vine and I use them in a variety of salads and side dishes during the late Summer and early Autumn.

Tomatoes can be difficult to match with wine as the acidity is high, the texture juicy and the flavour naturally sweet – Susy Atkins writing in the Telegraph reckons that tomatoes pair well with crisp white wines, especially Sauvignon Blanc. We've found this to be true however a chilled dry Rosé can be really good too - Fleur de Luze and Chateau Ballan Larquette Rosé are my favourite choices with tomato based salads at home.

I read a while ago that in the past Guernsey tomato growers (Guernsey was famous for its tomatoes for most of the 20th century) came up with many different uses for the fruit . . . one of which was making wine. Several attempts were made at turning the tomato wine into a commercial venture, though they all seemed to fail – probably as the taste was none too good. Now it seems that a Quebec based farmer has cracked the secret to making a successful tomato wine in Canada. The tomato wine was made to a jealously guarded family recipe from Belgium and handed down over 4 generations. The wine is called Omerto, after Pascal's great grandfather Omer who made tomato based liqueur in Belgium in 1938. Since its launch 2 years ago he has sold over 65,000 bottles.

The wine is made from 6,200 heirloom tomato plants on his organic “vineyard” in Charlevoix, 400km northeast of Montreal. Pascal told the French news agency AFP that before making his first batch, he tested 16 varieties of tomatoes in order to find six that grew well in Quebec’s cool climate. He makes wine the same way in which wine is made using grapes: careful selection, crushing, soaking, fermenting and pressing.

The result is Omerto Sec, a clear, dry, 18% wine, and Omerto Moelleux, a sweeter wine that has been compared to French aperitif Pineau des Charentes. According to Pascal, there is no trace of tomato in the wine, not even in the taste.

The Omerto Sec is described as having the colour of golden wheat with aromas similar to Sauvignon Blanc and lemon and grapefruit. Suggested food pairings are smoked salmon, sushi, cheese fondue, smoked sausage, mussels and oysters.

Elen Garon, sommelier at hotel restaurant La Ferme a Baie-Saint-Paul, describes the ”honey sweet” Omerto Moelleux as having: “a hint of fruit” and “zesty aspects,” and believes it will match well with desserts and spicy food.

Pascal is keen to market his wine abroad and is seeking distribution in the USA, France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. Although he can legally call his product 'wine' in North America, he will have to rename it if he starts exporting it to France, where only alcoholic beverages made from fermented grape juice can be called wine.

I'd be interested to hear from anyone who has tried it!

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Chilled Soups for Summer

I love chilled soups and a good Gazpacho is really delicious. Chilled soups are refreshing, light and can be either savoury or sweet. I prefer the savoury varieties and here are two interesting recipes I came across recently.

Cold Fennel Soup

I'm glad I came across this one as we grew fennel in the Kitchen Garden one year and had a glut of it – it's lovely roasted to accompany a hot meal or steamed and used in chunks in salads.

2 bulbs of fennel
Juice of 1 lime
Tabasco sauce (to taste)
25cl of single cream
Olive oil (for frying)
Small bunch of dill, chopped
4 sprigs of cilantro or tarragon
Salt and pepper

Peel off the outer layers of the fennel bulb to clean it, wash and then cut into pieces. Sauté for 5 minutes in the olive oil over high heat and add salt and pepper. Cover with water and then add the chopped dill. Let it reduce to three quarters.

Mix in the lime juice, Tabasco sauce and single cream. You can then pour the soup into tall glasses and add a sprig of cilantro or tarragon to garnish. Cool and refrigerate until serving.

Cold Radish Soup

This is another great recipe if you have a lot of radishes to use up in the garden! You can make it with all sorts of different varieties of radish – we grew the slightly Black Spanish Round ones which are crisp and pungent.

2 bunches of radishes
1 cucumber
6 natural yoghurts
1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, crushed
6 sprigs of mint, chopped
1/2 tsp crushed coriander seeds

Rinse and peel a cucumber, grate it and place in a colander. Sprinkle with salt and let it drain for 1 hour in refrigerator. Clean and slice the radishes. Then drain the cucumber and squeeze out the excess juice by pressing it in your hands.

Whisk the yogurt with the lemon juice, crushed garlic and crushed coriander seeds in a bowl. Season with salt and add the radish and cucumber. Garnish with chopped mint. Serve chilled.

A good chilled rosé wine would be lovely with either of these soups – try the Montagnac Syrah Rosé which is made by a small co-operative, Les Vignobles Montagnac, located between Beziers and Montpellier in the Languedoc Roussillon. This is made from 100% Syrah (otherwise known as Shiraz) and has aromas of chocolate, violets, truffles, leather, coffee and black pepper.

If you are interested in making other cold soups check out my blogs: Summer Snacks: Chilled Grape Soup and White Wine and Chilled Soups (Gazpacho, Borscht and Vichyssoise).