Wines for Christmas

FR-Quiot-Ventoux5Our autumn wine tastings were held on Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd November. We had an impressive selection of wines on tasting. Those who ordered obviously approved as this turned out to be our best tasting ever, with record orders. Thank you everybody who contributed to this! Just for your information, best sellers were Pierre de Chanvigne Brut; Quincy Sauvignon; Les Fumées Blanches Sauvignon; Chateau Pierrail Sauvignon; Dog Point NZ Sauvignon; Laurent Miquel Chardonnay Viognier; La Bastide Viognier ; Macon Villages; Candidato red; La Bastide Merlot; Salice Salentino Limitone dei Greci; Chaponne Morgon; Chanrion Cotes de Brouilly; Les Hauts de Naudon and Château Pierrail reds; Château la Tour de By… and the winner by a mile, Quiot’s Ventoux.

Best newcomer was the Sixteen Ridges Pinot Noirs, red, white and rose. They are made on the Worcestershire/Herefordshire borders from Pinot Noir grapes planted on a south-facing site thought to have been used for viticulture as far back as the Romans. The big advantage is that they are wonderfully weak – only 11%, a thing which is so hard to find nowadays!

Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc

dog_point_sauvignon_blancIt’s more than 15 years since Cloudy Bay took New Zealand Sauvignon from ‘niche’ to ‘cult’ and since then the world, and the UK in particular, has loved it. This has inevitably resulted in a huge number of cheap imitations – wines which claim similar heritage and quality but which are in fact made in industrial quantities by faceless conglomerates. So in order to make something authentic and worthy of attention, the makers of Dog Point have gone right back to basics.

Dog Point, which is the name of a peninsular, is a fabulous bit of Kiwi terroir managed by two people with 30 years’ combined experience in senior positions at Cloudy Bay. The immense quality of the wines, the result of a personal, careful and hands-on approach of the team (which extends as far as hand picking their grapes, something of a rarity in Marlborough) means that support for the Dog Point operation is not hard to come by. Leading Antipodean wine expert Tyson Stelzer sums it up perfectly: “There’s a consummately crafted dimension to this wine that propels it above the vast sea of New Zealand Sauvignons, a wine of genuine character and interest”. Clearly this is more than a match for Cloudy Bay and we heartily recommend it; as Mr. Stelzer says: “If you buy no other New Zealand Sauvignon…don’t miss Dog Point”! They also do a stunning Chardonnay which is in very short supply….but we do have a case of it if anyone is interested.

The 2013 Vintage in the Southern Rhone

The autumn and winter of 2012 and 2013 were fairly dry. This shortage was offset in the very late winter/early spring by heavy rain. The summer was very dry except for July, when the rainfall was three times the average. From past experience, heavy rainfall in July heavily influences the structure of the vintage, with supple tannins and a very distinctive finesse such as in 1996, 2001 & 2011. Temperatures were mild in the autumn, fairly cool in the winter and spring and normal in summer. During the peak flowering period in the middle of June very high temperatures hit the southern Rhone. This caused a surge in growth to the detriment of flowering. This resulted in heavily reduced fruit set in the Grenache grapes and therefore much lower than normal average yields when picking was over. The wines from 2013’s vintage are much lighter than usual, but they are delicious in a light, fresh, elegant, feminine way which many people will prefer.

Vintage Port 2011 – a very fine vintage, one to lay down

taylors-1985-vpThe winter of 2010 brought many wet days, which assisted the vines to resist the hot and dry summer that followed. As a result of a warm spring, the vines saw early blossom, allowing one of the earliest starts to harvest ever. However, two rainy days at the end of August were perfect for a cool-down of the berries, offering excellent conditions for the maturation process. The 2011 Ports are very concentrated yet elegant and fresh. In 2011, we have the better of the two worlds: the freshness, elegance and the exuberance of flavours of fresher vintages; and the power and structure of hotter ones.

We have various vintage ports here for Christmas: Taylor 1985; Graham 1997; Quinta de la Rosa 2009 and Dow, Graham and Quinta do Vesuvio 2011.

Autumn News

After a second wonderful summer in a row, although as is so often the case August wasn’t very nice, we had an Indian summer with record lack of rainfall and high temperatures in September and early October; and now it’s really cool and Autumnal. Some have forecast really cold weather ahead this winter. After last year’s exceptionally mild one, we could do with a slightly crisper one.

Sloes are in very good supply in our hedgerows and the blackberries were as good as I can remember them. Our walnut trees had plenty of nuts on them and the squirrels had a wonderful time plundering most of them! The leaves are only just starting to show their autumn colours, and the beech trees in particular are very pretty with real displays of autumn gold. Our Virginia creeper was spectacularly red for a while, but the heavy rain knocked its soft leaves off rather earlier than normal. For once our farmers have had a good year and a good harvest. There has been plenty of forage for livestock farmers too.

autumnAs usual at this time of year, we are exceptionally busy at Trencherman’s.  We had a very good trip to North-West Spain and then drove back up through France. For the first time we took the ferry from Plymouth to Santander. This proved a very worthwhile experience as we were in Spain 24 hours after leaving home. Fortunately the infamous Bay of Biscay was very calm. More of our trip later elsewhere but we are ready to offer you yet another fine selection of foods, drink and other ideas for Christmas and the New Year.

We have combined with The Present Finder to send everybody a hard copy of the Newsletter and Christmas Order Forms. Our thanks to them for sponsoring the postage. Do have a look at their catalogue where you will find lots of unusual presents for Christmas.

Lentil Salad with peppers and anchovies

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 300 g green lentils, cooked
  • 6 Piquillo peppers, sliced (or yellow peppers)
  • ½ a red onion finely diced
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • handful of mixed garden herbs (mint, chives, parsley, chervil)
  • 16 to 20 anchovy fillets

Method

  1. Mix lentils, peppers, onion and capers in a bowl.
  2. Add the oil and vinegar.
  3. Season, bearing in mind the anchovies are salty.
  4. Mix in the fresh herbs
  5. Decorate with anchovy fillets.

Herby Mini Roast Potatoes

Serves 4

 

Ingredients

  • 4 or 5 good sized potatoes
  • 8 sunblushed tomatoes
  • 3 shallots
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • fresh herbs from the garden (parsley, thyme, oregano etc..)
  • good olive oil
  • salt & pepper

Method

  1. Peel the potatoes and cut into roughly 2 inch pieces.
  2. Boil in salted water for 10 minutes.
  3. Drain through a sieve and shake them about in order to roughen the outside of the potatoes.
  4. Spread out and allow to cool for a good hour.
  5. This helps them go nice and crispy when roasted.
  6. Meanwhile, peel and finely dice your shallots.
  7. Gently fry in a little olive oil until soft.
  8. Cover the bottom of an oven dish with olive oil and heat in the oven at 400°F /200°C / Gas 6 for a few minutes until the oil is hot.
  9. Add the potatoes, shallots, garlic.
  10. Stir everything around to coat with the hot oil.
  11. Cook for 45 minutes to an hour, turning them 2 or 3 times.
  12. After half an hour is up, add the sun-blushed tomatoes and a generous sprinkling of fresh herbs and return to the oven for a final 15 minutes or so, until the potatoes are wonderfully crispy and golden!.
  13. Add salt & freshly ground black pepper and serve with whatever you fancy!

Fettucine with Norwegian Prawns

Serves 4

 

Ingredients

  • 250g peeled Norwegian Prawns
  • 8 King Prawns
  • 8 sticks celery
  • 1 large leek
  • 2 tablespoons Tomato Purée
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon Schwarz Thai Curry spices
  • 4 tablespoons Olive oil
  • Juice of ½ a lemon
  • 2 glasses dry white wine
  • ½ glass Pastis
  • 200g Fettucine
  • 25g butter
  • 1 tablespoon freshly chopped Parsley
  • Salt & Pepper

Method

  1. Thaw the peeled prawns and drain well.
  2. Thaw the King Prawns, remove the tails and add to the peeled prawns, but retain the shells.
  3. Finely chop half the celery and the leek, crush the garlic.
  4. Take a small heavy casserole and heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. Put all of the prawn shells in and fry for a couple of minutes, stirring constantly; then add the celery, leek and garlic and gently sweat for 3 or 4 minutes.
  5. Add the tomato purée and the white wine and leave to simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has been reduced to about ¼ of its original quantity.
  6. While this is happening, take another casserole, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and gently fry the remaining sticks of celery, cut into two lengthways and into approximately 1” pieces. This only takes a couple of minutes.
  7. Add the curry spices, the juice of ½ a lemon and the Pastis.
  8. Sieve the contents of the other pan into the second pan, extracting all the liquid possible, using the back of a wooden spoon.
  9. Throw away the solids remaining in the sieve.
  10. Pour the peeled prawns into the mixture, season with freshly ground black pepper.
  11. Put a saucepan of water on to boil for your Fettucine and cook as soon as the water comes to a rolling boil, adding salt to taste.
  12. When the pasta is nearly ready, put the saucepan of prawns on the stove and reheat thoroughly for no more than 2 to 3 minutes, or the prawns will toughen.
  13. Drain the pasta, put it back into the dish in which it was cooked, adding the butter at this stage.
  14. Pour the prawn mixture over the pasta, mix well and sprinkle the parsley on top.
  15. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan and a nice glass of chilled Quincy!

Dark Chocolate Mousse

This was Winston Churchill’s favourite recipe. It is actually a French recipe and is called Crème Marie-Louise.

 

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 6oz dark chocolate
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 small coffee cup of very strong sweet black coffee
  • 1oz Caster Sugar
  • 5 fl oz double or whipping cream

Method

  1. Take a pyrex (or similar) dish and a saucepan in which the dish can sit without its bottom touching the water.
  2. Fill the saucepan with enough water so that you can boil the water to melt the chocolate in the dish.
  3. Pour the cup of strong coffee (good instant will do) into the bowl, add the chocolate and heat until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth.
  4. Remove from the saucepan.
  5. Separate the egg yolks from the whites and beat them.
  6. Whisk the yolks into the chocolate mixture. Leave to cool to room temperature.
  7. Meanwhile, whisk the egg whites and sugar until firm.
  8. Whisk a third of this into the chocolate, gently folding in the rest.
  9. Whisk the cream until light and airy and also fold this in to your mixture (you can omit the cream if you’re watching the calories).
  10. For individual mousses, pour into ramekins or tall stemmed glasses. For a single mousse pour into a suitable dish.
  11. Place in the fridge for at least an hour or so until well set.
  12. Remove from the fridge 20 minutes or so before serving, to give the chocolate a chance to soften a little.
  13. Decorate with chocolate leaves or curls (see separate recipes) if required, and serve with a light biscuit such as an Amaretti.

Crab-stuffed Tomatoes

Serves 4

 

Ingredients

  • Either 4 ripe beef tomatoes or 12 smaller tomatoes
  • 250g fresh white crabmeat
  • 4 or 5 tablespoons good mustardy mayonnaise
  • 24 capers
  • 1 handful of chopped parsley
  • salt and pepper

Method

  1. Cut of the tops of the tomatoes, and a thin slice off the bottom so that the tomato stands on a plate.
  2. Empty the tomatoes of seeds with a teaspoon.
  3. Mix the crabmeat, mayonnaise, capers, parsley and seasoning.
  4. Fill each tomato with the mixture.
  5. Chill briefly and serve with crusty bread and butter.

Chocolate Pots

What can we say – just delicious!

 

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 2 oz dark chocolate
  • 2 fl oz milk
  • 5 fl oz double cream
  • ½ a vanilla pod
  • 1 whole egg and 3 egg yolks
  • 3 oz caster sugar

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170 °C, 325 °F, Gas 3.
  2. Put the chocolate, milk, vanilla pod (split lengthways) and cream into a heavy based saucepan.
  3. Bring to the boil.
  4. Meanwhile, in a bowl, cream the egg, egg yolks and sugar together, using a wooden spoon.
  5. Pour in the melted chocolate mixture and blend.
  6. Strain into a jug removing the vanilla pod. Pour the mixture into oven-proof ramekins.
  7. Place them in an oven dish and pour in hot water to within ½ inch of the tops of the dishes.
  8. Bake for about 30 minutes until the mixture is set like a custard.
  9. Remove the ramekins from the dish and allow to cool.
  10. Decorate with white chocolate curls or serve with some cream.

Chocolate Leaves

Serves as many as you can make!

 

Ingredients

  • Leaves
  • Chocolate

Method

  1. Go into the garden and find some pretty leaves. Rose leaves are good, as they have nice veins and are shiny.
  2. Wipe clean and allow to dry.
  3. Melt the chocolate in a bain marie, or in a dish over (but not in) some boiling water.
  4. Remove from the heat.
  5. Using the underside of the leaf, because they are better veined, paint the chocolate on to the leaf with a small paintbrush.
  6. Allow to set, then peel the leaf away from the chocolate.