Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Butternut Squash Risotto with Sancet, Cotes de Gascogne

Butternut Squash is lovely roasted or puréed into Autumn soups but it can also be used in casseroles, breads, muffins and risottos. We have grown it in the Kitchen Garden but ours developed into a monster plant sending its tendrils everywhere! I do like the taste of Butternut Squash, it has a sweet, nutty flavour with a hint of muskiness. When it's ripe it has a gorgeous orange flesh.

Squashes originate from the Americas. The Spanish Conquistadores found the Incas cultivating it in the 15th century and brought it back to the Old World on return from their voyages of discovery. You'd think that they acquired their name from their 'squashy flesh' but the word actually comes from the Massachuset Indian word askutasquash, meaning "eaten raw or uncooked."

The squash was grown by the native American Indians as one of the Three Sisters - beans and corn completed the trio. Whole communities could survive on these alone if game and other foods were scarce. They were also one of the first Companion Plantings, each contributing to the growth and well-being of the others. The corn supplied support for the beans to climb on, and shade for the squash plants during the heat of the day. The squash plants large leaves shaded the ground, prevented weeds, and deterred hungry wildlife that didn’t like to walk through the fuzzy vines. The beans fixed nitrogen in the soil to feed the corn and the squash.

I have a great Risotto recipe using Butternut Squash to share with you that's perfect for Autumn.

Butternut Squash Risotto

1 big butternut squash (about 2lb in weight), peeled, seeded and chopped into small cubes
3 tbsp olive oil
3 leeks, sliced
250g arborio rice
450ml vegetable stock
handful of fresh basil, chopped
grated Parmesan cheese (to taste)
freshly ground black pepper

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a saucepan and sauté the butternut squash until it starts to soften and brown. Remove the squash. Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and cook the leeks until tender. Add the arborio rice and a third of the vegetable stock and simmer until all the liquid has been absorbed, stirring frequently. Keep adding the remaining liquid until it has all been used up. Pop the squash back into the pan and cook till its heated through and creamy. Stir in the basil, parmesan and black pepper. Serve with a sliver of parmesan on top.

Wine Pairing

Butternut Squash Risotto is great with Sancet, Côtes de Gascogne – this is a wine made with Colombard, Ugni Blanc, Gros Manseng and Sauvignon Blanc beautifully balanced, bright, and refreshing with lush flavours of ripe pear, melon, guava, cucumber, apple and lemon. There is a light beeswax note which adds complexity, a hint of slight sweetness and a touch of minerality on the finish.


Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Spice Up This Autumn – Rich Coconut Beef and Sparkling Wine

As Autumn starts to settle in and the temperature begins to drop I find myself thinking of warming foods such as curry. I have a good recipe for Rendang Daging (rich and spicy coconut beef) which is packed full of flavour from Malaysia. Malaysia has been a melting pot of different cultures over the centuries including Indian, Chinese, Thai, Indonesian and Portuguese, and Malay cuisine is where all these different influences and flavours meet and mingle.

Coconut milk adds a delicious smoothness to curries and Rendang Daging is traditionally prepared during festive and ceremonial occasions. Tamarind pulp is used in this dish and Tamarind is a fruit that is native to Malaysia. It adds a fragrant sourness to the dish and is actually an ingredient in Worcestershire Sauce!

Rich Coconut Beef (Rendang Daging)

½ cup of olive oil
3 cm cinnamon stick
2 cloves
4 star anise
2 cardamom pods
500g topside beef, cubed
1 cup coconut milk
2 tsp dried tamarind pulp (soaked in warm water for juice). Alternatively you can use tamarind paste which is more commonly available,
a splash of lime juice (or 2 kaffir lime leaves if you can get them)
pinch of turmeric
1 ½ tsp sugar
salt to taste
2 tbsp kerisik (grated coconut roasted in a slow oven until brown)

Spice paste

2 shallots
3 lemon grass
2 cloves of garlic
2cm of fresh ginger root
10 dried chillies, soaked in hot water

Chop the spice paste ingredients and then puree in a blender until fine, Heat the oil, add the spice paste, cinnamon, cloves, star anise and cardamom and fry for 5 mins.

Add the beef, coconut milk and tamarind juice. Simmer uncovered, stirring frequently, until the meat is almost cooked, Add the lime juice, tumeric, kerisik, sugar and salt. Lower the heat and simmer (about 1 – 1 ½ hours) until the meat is really tender and the juices have dried up. Serve with rice.

Wine Matching

Sparkling wine can complement the exotic aromas and spices in Asian foods: it is refreshing and has a good level of acidity which creates a mouth watering effect. Too high an abv can add to the heat of the chillies so to avoid a burning sensation stick to a sparkling wine that is around 12% or below.

Comte de Ferrand Blanc de Blancs is a good choice at 11% abv. Made from Ugni Blanc grapes it's fresh, clean and has nicely balanced acidity. In the mouth it's bursting with soft fruits: white peach, quince and subtle hints of mandarin orange abd apricot. The bouquet is one of floral aromas such as magnolia and jasmine. It's delicious with spicy food!


Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Elderberries, Wine and Sorbet

At this time of year elderberries are dangling in lacy fronds of black berries and they are great to use in cooking if you can beat the bird to it! Elderberries medicinal uses too – they are an excellent source of vitamin C and are rich in antioxidants. They are used to lower cholesterol and boost the immune system. Elderberries have been used to fight coughs, colds and flu for centuries; in fact Elderberry juice was used to treat a flu epidemic in Panama in 1995.

The berries come from the Elder tree which was traditionally planted around Dairies and it was thought to keep the milk from 'turning'. Cheese cloths used in the Dairy were hung out to dry on Elder trees and the trees were also planted near Bakeries where loaves and cakes put out to cool under the leaves. (The elder leaves are a natural insecticide so they help to keep flies away).

In the 17th and 18th centuries elderberries were sometimes added to Claret – it was a common practice for London merchants to add colour to wine by blending in a little elderberry juice. If these were in short supply, the juices of the sloe, bullace, damson, mulberry and even beetroot were resorted to! Elderberries can make a good home made wine and in the North of England a drink called Ebulon was very popular which is a sort of ale. Nowadays elderberries are used in desserts, cakes, syrups, sauces and pickles and I have a lovely recipe for Elderberry Sorbet to share.

Elderberry Sorbet

1 ½ lb (680g) elderberries – removed from stalks (be careful not to include any bits of leaf)
100g caster sugar
½ lemon
120ml water
1 egg white

Place the sugar, elderberries and the juice of ½ lemon into a saucepan with 120ml water. Heat until the mixture boils. Allow to cool and then liquidise. Strain into a bowl through a fine sieve (I use a piece of muslin). Pour into a container and freeze until almost firm. Remove from the freezer, cut the mixture into chunks and whip in the egg white with a blender. Transfer back into the container and freeze once again until almost firm. Remove from freezer and blend once more until the sorbet is very smooth and then freeze again.