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Cooking for a wine fanatic

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HIS WINE: Leoville Barton St. Julien 2001, 2nd growth

2001 Chateau Leoville Bartton

I had the pleasure of meeting Anthony Barton at a trade tasting of the 2006 en primeur at Lords in London and I was very impressed with his charming laid back demeanor. I bought the 2001 en primeur back in the day when 1st growths were £1,000 per case of 12 and not for a bottle.

My readiness guideline for decent claret is now 12-15 years and I prefer not to be reminded that I broached my 2001 Mouton-Rothschild for the first time in about 2008 – infanticide of the first order. Don’t get me started on the fact I sold a case of Haut-Brion 2001 when in hindsight I didn’t need the money. I did double my money but I have since promised myself I will never sell wine for profit again.

Just back from a weekend in Bolgheri where we had a great private tour of Ca’Marcanda. Angelo Gaja turned up and was as chatty as you like. On our return to the UK I thought it was time to return to the original inspiration for the Super Tuscan; Claret. We took a bottle of the Leoville Barton to our local pub; the Rose and Crown which does excellent 35 day aged Dedham Vale beef. When you are in the coldest spring in 50 years then no time to mess about.

I do find a good claret is hit and miss but every now and then there is a redefining moment of wow! This was such a moment.

Clear in the glass with medium (+) ruby appearance. Just a few legs were evident. The nose was clean, medium intensity with text book notes of cheese, cigar box, leather, graphite, blackcurrant, mint – truly an exotic array of secondary aromas morphing into more tertiary territory. The wine was still developing with potentially another 15 years ahead. Given about 15 minutes to breath (no decanter available) the palate was breathtaking. Medium alcohol, medium(-) acidity, medium tannins which were fine grained. The medium body supported wonderful flavours of sweet but very subtle oak, the fruit was well integrated but the black elements of the fruit sat well with the cedar, gentle cupboard spice and each sip demanded more coaxing of the moreish aromas. Length was medium(+). This wine was one of the most pleasurable wines I have had this year. One was compelled to simply stare at the inky depths within the glass  in utter wonderment.

Cheers Angelo, this is what it is all about.

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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.