her food his wine

Cooking for a wine fanatic

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Sunday lunch but not as you know it

With the weather slowly improving we’ve started going non-traditional for Sunday lunch – that and the fact that the Dedham Vale roast sirloin of beef can’t be beaten at the Rose and Crown in Great Horkesley, which is a short stagger across a muddy field from our house and an even bigger stagger back!

There were a couple of things I wanted to incorporate into lunch – salted nut praline into a dessert and Morcilla Iberica. I’ve been obsessed for the last 18 months with finding a recipe for the salt caramel nut brittle that is sold in Ottolenghi – i’ve found one that I think is close, hence buying a couple of kilo’s of dark chocolate a few weeks ago, however I’m still recovering from the chocolate hit I got in my Death by Chocolate post. I decided on a Semi Freddo as it is quite light and I incorporated some smashed up salted pistachio praline. The Morcilla Iberica which I recently bought from the Delilah Deli in Nottingham as I can’t find it elsewhere – come on Brindisa get your act together, would go into a favourite dish of ours; Barrafina’s Morcilla Iberica, piquillo pepper and quail eggs, and as I just so happened to have some quail eggs left, job done.

For the main I decided on a variation on a chicken dish from Gizzi Erskine’s new book Skinny Weeks and Weekend Feasts served with parmesan and truffle gnocchi.

Unfortunately my appetite led me astray and I was half way through the starter before I realised I hadn’t taken a photo, so apologies! Quail eggs are notoriously hard to crack without breaking the yolk so I use a small serrated knife to cut the bottom off of the fat end then put back into the box (obviously fat end upwards) until I’m ready to cook them.

Morcilla Iberica, piquillo pepper and quail eggs

Roast chicken with parmesan and truffle gnocchi

Sage and truffle roast chicken with Parmesan and truffle gnocci

Serves 2

  • 1 tbsp butter mixed with 3 chopped sage leaves
  • 1 x chicken crown (from 1.5kg chicken) with wishbone removed
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 100g spinach wilted and seasoned

For the truffled gnocchi

  • 250g evenly sized floury potatoes, baked and still hot
  • 50g Italian ’00’ flour, plus extra for dusting
  • Quarter teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 25g parmesan, finely grated, plus extra for serving
  • 1 teaspoon white truffle paste or white truffle oil
  • 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten

For the sage and truffle butter

  • 30g unsalted butter
  • A handful of sage leaves
  • 1–2 teaspoons truffle-infused olive oil
  1. Preheat the oven to 220C/gas 7. To make the sage and truffle butter, put the butter and sage in a small pan and cook over a medium heat until the butter is golden brown and smelling nutty. Remove from the heat and stir in the truffle oil.
  2. Lift a narrow line of skin from each side of the chicken breasts to form two pockets. Push the sage butter under the chicken skin, season with salt and roast for 20 minutes. Lower the oven to 190C/gas 5 and cook for 35-40 minutes, or until the juices run clear. Cover with foil and leave to rest.
  3. Meanwhile, make the gnocchi. Scoop the flesh out of the baked potatoes and mash using a potato ricer into a large mixing bowl. Form a well in the centre of the mashed potato, add the flour, salt and cheese and stir together, then gradually mix in the truffle paste and beaten egg.
  4. Press the mixture together to form a dough, adding a little more flour if it seems too wet, and tip onto a floured surface. Shape into a long log, then cut into 2cm lengths. Using a fork, press down onto the top of each, then gently squeeze the sides so that the gnocchi resemble pillows.
  5. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil, add the gnocchi and cook for 1–2 minutes, or until the gnocchi have risen to the surface. Strain, add to the butter sauce and fry until the gnocchi are coated and catching in places. Carve the breasts from the chicken and arrange the gnocchi and spinach on plates. Pile the chicken on top and spoon over the chicken juices from the tin to finish.

Salted pistachio praline semi freddo with caramelised chilli pineapple

Salted pistachio praline semi freddo with chilli roasted pineapple

Serves 6-8

For the Pineapple

  • One pineapple cored, quartered and cut into slices approx 5mm thick
  • 2 cups of caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp water
  • A couple of large pinches of chilli flakes – piquin if you can get them

For the salted pistachio praline

  • 70g caster sugar
  • 100g pistachios lightly toasted
  • 1/2 tsp Maldon sea salt

For the Semi Freddo

  • 3 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks, extra
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups pouring cream
  • 1 cup of crushed salted caramel


  1. Take a large frying pan and spread the sugar evenly and pour in water for the pineapple and put onto a medium heat. Don’t stir. When the sugar has dissolved and starts to change colour add the pineapple pieces and chilli flakes. Stir and start to coat the pineapple and continue to heat until the caramel turns a golden dark colour.
  2. For the praline put the sugar in a small heavy-based pan and add a tablespoon of water and place over a low to medium heat until melted. Raise the heat and cook until it forms a dark golden caramel. Add the nuts and salt and remove from the heat. Pour the mixture on to a parchment lined baking sheet and leave to cool. When completely cold and hard, smash into small pieces using a rolling pin. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.
  3. For the semi freddo place the eggs, extra yolks, vanilla and sugar in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Beat with an electric beater for 5-6 minutes or until thick and pale.
  4. Remove from the heat and beat for a further 5-6 minutes until cool. Place the cream in a separate bowl and beat until stiff peaks form.
  5. Gradually fold the egg mixture into the cream until just combined. Add 1 cup of the salted caramel and use a knife to swirl it through the egg mixture.
  6. Pour into a 2 litre-capacity metal tin, or individual containers (I used the paper cone cups you get from water dispensers) and place in the freezer for at least 6 hours or overnight. Drizzle with remaining salted caramel and serve with the pineapple.



Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc Vieilles Vignes 2006

The 2006 Beaucastel Vieilles Vignes is 100% Roussanne and only 6,000 bottles are made. It is a voluptuous feminine wine that demands fine food. If you glug this tout seul then beware, the wine police are on standby! The winemaker states that this wine should be consumed at up to 3 years old and then after 15. This can only mean that PC Plod will be knocking on my door.

This  expressive, complex, wine is  medium + lemon in appearance and has aromas of marmalade, lemon and yellow fruit. The palate is compelling with deep rich layers of ripe tropical fruits, honeysuckle, almond, hazelnut, subtle sweet spice and honey. Needless to say there is a waxiness underpinning those luscious elements which is as one would expect from this grape. The finish is long, full bodied and very well integrated. This is an amazing wine and Bobbins Parker gave it 98 points…..go figure.

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Thank god it’s Thursday!

Thursday is a weekly milestone for us – for a number of reasons we stay off of the booze Monday to Wednesday but Thursday evening is the official soft start to the weekend (except on a bad week when in exceptional circumstances (usually someone being a tosser at work, so for both of us it can be a regular event!) we allow ourselves a drink for restorative purposes).

Last night was no exception. Mark started a new job so I thought i’d cook him something special to celebrate as well as giving us the opportunity to open something nice. After attending an Ottolenghi cookery class with the great man himself last year at Leiths School of Cookery, we’ve both had a real love of his food. Up until that point i’d only cooked one or two dishes from  Ottolenghi and Plenty so got away with bringing my own books for him to sign as they still looked new. A dish many people have been raving about is his cod cakes in tomato sauce from Jerusalem so it seemed the obvious choice given we’re both going through a period of being “meated” out.

We kicked off proceedings with a few glasses of Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc 2011 from New Zealand. We met Kevin Judd for a private tasting and tour of his vineyards in December 2011 during a holiday in New Zealand. Kevin is the man responsible for making Cloudy Bay so popular, before deciding to go it alone under the Greywacke label. He’s also an amazing photographer, however with scenery like you find in New Zealand, everyone can come away feeling like a budding photographer.

Greywacke vineyard visit, Marlborough, New Zealand  -December 2011

Greywacke vineyard visit, Marlborough, New Zealand -December 2011

It was summer when we first got into Greywacke SB and we found it a perfect aperitif sitting in the garden on a sunny evening as well going really well with my rather well used and worn out recipe for beetroot and goats cheese salad with caramelised walnuts. Recreating that garden moment in the cold, draughty kitchen of our 450 year old listed farm house on what was meant to be the official first day of spring (spring my arse, when is this chuffing cold weather going to end?!?) just wasn’t going to happen, and the wine that usually slips down so easily without having to be accompanied by food struggled big time. Tastes change and I really hope that mine for SB isn’t going the same way as my love affair with Viognier in 2005 – just the smell of it now almost makes me gag.

So we needed to move on to something else for dinner. Mark suggested a red, maybe a Beaujolais – I guess it may have worked, however I thought that a Mas de Daumas Gassac white from south west france would work better with the spices in the dish (and yes, for the smart arses out there, I do realise that it is 25% viognier however that is about the limit of my viognier tolerance these days) . The first bottle we tried was a 2005, however as has been the case with around half of the bottles in that case, something was not right with it. A bottle of 2008 was spot on with fresh fruity flavours that develop sherry like qualities with bottle age and we decanted it as recommended. The cod cakes didn’t disappoint either. I served them with a herb couscous.

Moral of this story – wine fanatics occasionally know sweet FA about food and wine pairing – maybe I should have called this blog her food her wine!