This week is National Pie Week in the UK - not that we Brits need much encouragement to eat pies. It’s also been seized on by an enterprising PR agency as an opportunity to explore wine and pie pairing but to be honest I’m not convinced that beer isn’t the better drink - with the majority of British pies at least.
Having just got back from Alsace I thought I’d update my recommendations on the best matches for Alsace dry and off-dry white wines. What struck me particularly on this visit is how key sweetness is to the success of a match - something that will often be more marked in a younger wine than an older vintage.
With Thanksgiving coming up this Thursday here are some great pairings for pumpkin pie which I’ve updated from my previous article here.
With the sun shining and the World Cup just a week away what could be better than a South African-style braai. Let alone one that involves a pie . . .
Despite the emphasis that winemakers place on the different appellations or terroirs of Chablis three factors seem to me to influence a food match more than any other for most of the Chablis you’ll taste - the age of the wine, the vintage and the degree of oak influence, if any. There are exceptions to this - Chablis styles that are particularly fruity or ones that have more vegetal notes but in general I think you’ll find most wines fall into one of the following five groups.
I love pies but you can’t get away from the fact that they’re fiddly and time-consuming so here’s a neat idea for cutting the time they take by at least half and possibly trimming a few calories off the meal into the bargain.
The great thing about going to old country pubs is that they tend to have wines you can’t find anywhere else - or certainly not at the price. Like the bottle of Domaine Tempier Bandol 1994 we found at the Nobody Inn in Doddiscombleigh in Devon at the weekend.
You’ll always find people argue about shepherd’s pie but in my view it should be made with lamb rather than beef (that’s cottage pie) and with very little, if any tomato - apart from maybe a dash of ketchup for sweetness.
Why has no-one had the genius idea of putting beef bourguignon into a pie before? Here's the recipe courtesy of the brilliant Ginger Pig Meat Book which I've reviewed here.
This party piece – a deliciously aromatic fusion of flavours – isn’t a true Moroccan bastilla, but it is inspired by those I have eaten there, and less laborious to make. I serve it with a green salad – with fennel slivers and coriander and mint leaves added – and a bowl of yogurt to spoon onto your plate beside the pie. The filling can be made ahead.
I always think it’s misleading to describe pork as a ‘white meat’. Strictly that's accurate, I suppose, but ‘whiteness’ somehow seems to suggest lack of flavour. Although that’s still true of much mass-produced pork there’s far more rare breed pork around these days which has a great deal of character.
Today is the third International Grenache Day, a celebration of a grape which is (often anonymously) responsible for some of the most generous and appealing reds in the wine world.
I have a bit of a problem with pumpkin pie. I'm not a big fan of pumpkin and I don't have a massively sweet tooth which makes the thought of partnering it with a sweet wine a bit of a killer. But I know I'm in a minority and with Thanksgiving coming up on Thursday here are my top picks:
Vegetarians often get overlooked at this time of year so if you’re vegetarian yourself or cooking for one here are some perfect pairings for some delicious festive recipes from the web.
Today, being St George’s Day, what other pairing could I offer you but a classic British dish with a classic British beer?
Any of you who have been to J Sheekey's in the West End will probably have succumbed to their unbelievably good fish pie. Here's the recipe from their new cookbook J Sheekey Fish.
I was overwhelmed with good wine pairings last week but given that quite a few were similar to ones I’ve written about before I’m making this my star match.
We rarely think of tawny port as a flexible partner for food. We serve it with stilton, obviously and with hard cheeses like cheddar, with nuts and dried fruits and over Christmas with fruit cake and mince pies but that’s usually as far as it goes.
Real perry - as opposed to the often confected and artificially flavoured pear cider - has a different taste from cider. It’s more delicate, more fragrant, a better match for fish. You can treat drier styles like a dry white wine, sweeter ones almost like a dessert wine. And sparkling perries like champagne. But cheaper. Good news all round!
One of the most intriguing things to find out about chefs is not what they cook in their restaurants but what they feed their family and friends. True, at St John one morphs into the other, but the lunch they held in London this week to celebrate the publication of Fergus Henderson’s new book The Complete Nose to Tail was one I’d have been more than proud to put on for my mates.
Sherry gets a bad rap for being granny’s tipple of choice but if you’ve never tried an authentic Spanish style sweet sherry you haven’t lived.
The other day I won a selection of Pieminister pies in a raffle and as my husband was away rather sneakily found myself scoffing them for supper (until guilt set in and I put the rest in the freezer). As I also had some beers to taste from a new Marks and Spencer range I decided to pick one to partner with each pie and the combination that really impressed me was their London Porter with the Pieminister ‘Moo and Blue’ (aka steak and Stilton).
This week’s match is a blast from the past - a visit to the historic Rules restaurant in London’s Covent Garden where we tucked into the kind of food you’d have eaten 50 years ago - if not 100.
I spent three days last week travelling through France (about which more over the next few days) so it’s a tough call to decide which food and wine combination came out tops but I think it would have to be the Matthieu Cosse Cahors and the duck ‘parmentier’ I ate at a delightful modern bistro in Cahors called L’O à la Bouche.
I know Thanksgiving has past but I came across such a good pairing for pecan pie at a friend's* house the other day I had to tell you about it. Her pie by the way was quite distinctive with a thin layer of soft caramel in the centre (and, obviously, crisp pecans on the top).
There’s a distinct nip in the air this week that makes makes me suddenly feel much less like eating summery food. Last night we went round to friends and shared some absolutely awesome steak pies they’d brought back from a butcher called Murray Mitchell in St Andrews in Scotland (they will send them by mail order in the UK apparently if you ring them on 01334 474465).
In the wake of the great cider boom that has gripped the UK over the past year or so perry - which is cider made from pears - is also undergoing a renaissance. Typically drier than cider it goes well with the sort of dishes with which you’d drink a light dry white wine like a Chenin Blanc or a Chardonnay.
With the blazing weather over the last couple of days it's hard to remember it's still spring rather than summer but here's a light lunch to enjoy with a couple of friends before we move on to full al fresco eating.
A muggy evening in mid-July might seem an odd occasion to focus on wine and game matching but there were two reasons for last night’s Louis Jadot game dinner and the Westminster Kingsway catering college. One is that they hoped to engage the attention of consumer magazines who work 4-6 months ahead in terms of feature planning and the second is that the Game-to-Eat campaign is trying to encourage us all to think of eating game year round.
Assuming it’s made conventionally with a white sauce and mashed potato topping fish pie is a relatively straightforward dish to match. Almost any smooth dry white wine will do.
If you think of the ingredients that show off a great wine mushrooms would have to be near the top of the list. Possessed of the sexy ingredient umami - the intensely savoury taste identified by the Japanese, they flatter and act as the perfect foil for wines as disparate as vintage Champagne, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Last week we had one of our periodic Cheese Schools - an event where we explore the best artisanal British cheeses and pair different drinks with them. A regular feature is a beer vs wine ‘smackdown’ but I sneaked in this amazing Blenheim Superb dessert cider* from Once Upon a Tree with the pud.
A classic match for this time of year but no less enjoyable for that.
With just over three weeks to go to Christmas it’s time to begin planning your holiday drinking if you haven’t done so already. You may have already decided what to eat and drink for the Big Meal itself but chances are you’ll have to provide several other meals over the holiday period for which it’s useful to have an appropriate bottle.
The first thing to bear in mind about Thanksgiving - and for that matter Christmas - is that it’s as much about mood as food. Who you’re inviting, what age they are and how big your party is are factors every bit as important as what you’re eating. I say this particularly because the main Thanksgiving meal and the meals around it are hard ones to match: what you need is a wine that is going to cope with a whole battery of delicious flavours.
If you want to understand what British cooking is about - not the magpie character of of modern British but the genteel English country house tradition - head for Soho where Jeremy Lee has taken up residence behind the stoves at Quo Vadis.
It’s hard to avoid the obvious on St Paddy’s Day. Guinness (or Black Velvet) Bailey’s, Irish whiskey (most likely Jameson) or green cocktails are the usual suspects on any drinks menu. But if none of these appeal here are the sort of wines that will work with classic Irish fare.
You might think it odd to pick out South African Chenin rather than Chenin Blanc in general but I do think the wines are distinctive, particularly when it comes to the crisper styles which are much zestier than they tend to be in the Loire
Thanks to the Argentinians, everyone associates Malbec with steak and that’s a great pairing but with Malbec World Day coming up this Wednesday maybe it’s time to stretch your wings and give some other dishes a try. Here are a few ideas:
With Hallowe'en just over a week away here's a sophisticated supper for those of you who don't have to go out trick or treating . . .
No visit to Tuscany is complete without a glass of Vin Santo or ‘holy wine’, a (usually) sweet wine that is served at the end of the meal, almost always with hard little ‘cantucci’ biscuits.
This month’s issue of Observer Food Monthly hasa special on TV dinners featuring celebrities talking about their favourite snacks. Very few beverages are mentioned so I thought I’d suggest a few pairings ;-)
A couple of years ago I went to a chutney-making demonstration and tasting. No, not at the WI - it was held by the family owned company Tracklements at leading London cheesemonger La Fromagerie which has recently expanded its empire into the neighbouring shop and now has a fancy new tasting room.
A general idea has got about that Chardonnay is for chavs but as anyone who has a taste for top white burgundy or other premium new world Chardonnays will know it’s a spectacular food wine.
Amontillado sherry has richer, nuttier flavours than a classic fino or manzanilla sherry and calls for different food matches. Think more in terms of cured meat, game and cheese than seafood and richer, meatier tapas.
It’s true that lamb is one of the most wine-friendly of meats, as at home with red Bordeaux and Rioja as it is with the more fruit driven varietals from the new world. But if you’re looking for a spot-on match it’s worth thinking just how - and for how long - you’re going to cook it.
The answer to that may well be ‘whatever wine’s left over’ - if there is any, of course - but if you’re looking for a wine that will match specific dishes here are a few ideas:
The classic tarte au citron is tricky with wine, particularly if it’s home made. And the sharper and more lemony (and delicious) it is, the harder it is to find a good match.
The Spanish are more adventurous than us when it comes to matching sherry and food. I remember drinking a dry oloroso with roast partridge a few years back in Jerez. But what else could you pair with it?
One of the world’s most underrated grapes yet capable of making some of its most delicious dry whites, Sémillon isn’t on the radar for many. So if you get hold of a bottle what should you pair with it?
You might be surprised to know that red wine isn’t the first pairing I think of with steak tartare, which for those of you who haven’t tried it is chopped raw beef flavoured with punchy seasonings such as capers, parsley and hot pepper sauce. I actually think it pairs really well with sparkling wine, especially Champagne but last week I was down in the Languedoc and that didn’t really seem appropriate.
Apple tarts are one of the most flattering desserts to match with sweet wines but what do you drink with other apple-based desserts?
As the kids were off home straight after the New Year we jumped the gun by a few days with the last of the seasonal treats, a celebratory galette des rois. Traditionally eaten in France on the 6th of January (Twelfth Night) it celebrates the arrival of the three kings to visit the infant Jesus.