Archive for the ‘Wine’ Category

Potato & leek soup with smoked Gubbeen cheese & chives

This is no ordinary leek and potato soup but rich and complex with a subtle smoky flavour from the cheese. We’ve been cooking from Gill Meller’s latest book, Time, and the recipes are stunning.

This is the kind of soup that goes well with Northern Irish Wheaten Bread.

Leek & Potato Soup with Smoked Gubbeen & Chives – serves 4

  • 1 litre of vegetable stock or chicken stock
  • 3 floury white potatoes (about 350g), peeled and cut into 1-2cm cubes
  • 3 medium-large leeks, sliced into 1cm rounds
  • 25g butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 shallots or 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 or 3 thyme sprigs, leaves stripped
  • 100ml double cream
  • 50g smoked Gubbeen (Gill suggests smoked Cheddar or goat’s cheese), grated, plus extra to serve
  • a small bunch of chives, finely chopped

Bring the stock to the boil in a large heavy pan. Add just a third of the potato, bring the stock back to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 6-8 minutes, or until the potato cubes are tender. Add a third of the leeks and cook for a few minutes to soften, then drain the vegetables in a colander set over a bowl to catch the stock.

Return the pan to a medium heat and heat the butter and olive oil. When bubbling, add the onion, garlic and thyme leaves. Cook, stirring, for 4-5 minutes, then add the remaining leeks and potato to the pan, seasoning well with salt and pepper. Cook gently for 3-4 minutes, then add the reserved stock and bring to a gentle simmer.

Cook the soup for about 15 minutes or until the leeks and potatoes are tender. Remove from the heat and blend until smooth.

Return the soup to the pan. Add the cooked leeks and potatoes from earlier, along with the cream, grated cheese and chopped chives. Season again, then put back on the heat and bring slowly to a simmer. Stir well, remove from the heat, and stand for 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with some extra cheese, chives and seasoning.

(Original recipe from Time: A Year & a Day in the Kitchen by Gill Meller, Quadrille, 2018.)


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Situated at 100m above sea level in the Spanish Pyrenees is a remarkable vineyard set up by Miguel Torres’  long-serving technical director, Raül Bobet. Ekam is Riesling fermented in ancient, gravity fed, granite vessels carved into the rock and this has a profound effect on this wine. The aromas have a striking grapefruit and kerosene character which follows onto the palate which combines the fruit flavours with a multi-layered texture of stones, minerality and a touch of smokiness. This is a wine that refuses to be a wall-flower but at the same time is precise, pleasurable and engaging.

Ekam balances bold dryness and a good weight with concentrated fruit, mostly grapefruit, and a very long length. At 5 years of age on tasting this wine is still youthful and vibrant. It doesn’t seem to carry much (if any) residual sugar and relies on depth and personality.  The over-riding character is the grapefruit and minerality with the fruit is always to the forefront.

This is a wine we’d want to taste over the next few decades just to see it develop and unlock it’s potential. Well worth seeking out.

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Crab & Sweetcorn Soup

This soup is absolutely delicious and super simple to throw together. We made a main meal out of it by serving it with some shop-bought spring rolls. Try and use freshly ground white peppercorns if you can as they give a subtle spiciness that works really well with the aromatic ginger.

Crab & Sweetcorn soup – to serve 4

  • 125g white crabmeat
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 tbsp cornflour, mixed with 2 tbsp water
  • 1.2 litres chicken stock
  • 2.5cm knob of fresh root ginger, peeled and grated
  • 225g tinned sweetcorn, pulsed to a rough purée in a food processor
  • sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • 2 scallions, finely sliced

Lightly beat the egg whites until frothy. Add the egg whites to the crabmeat along with the blended cornflour and stir well.

Put the stock and ginger into a large saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add the sweetcorn and bring back to the boil. Reduce the heat slightly and simmer for a few minutes. Add the crabmeat mixture and some seasoning. Let it simmer gently and keep stirring for a few minutes until the soup has thickened. Taste and add more seasoning if necessary. Serve in warm bowls with the scallions scattered over the top.

Wine Suggestion: We didn’t actually try this but, having discussed it at length, we reckon an Austrian Grüner Veltliner might work here. Grüner has a savoury peppery character which should complement the peppery flavour of the soup. You don’t want it to be too heavy though so go for one that is no higher than 12.5% alcohol.

(Original recipe from Gordon Ramsay’s World Kitchen: Recipes From the F Word, Quadrille.)

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This is a really good veggie lasagne filled with curly kale and garlicky mushrooms – delicious! It is also much easier to put together than the usual meaty version and tastes much more luxurious.

Kale and mushroom lasagne – to serve 6

  • 300g curly kale, stalks removed
  • 30g butter
  • 500g mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • a few sprigs of thyme, leaves only, chopped
  • 175g lasagne sheets (fresh if possible)
  • 20g Parmesan, grated
  • olive oil

For the béchamel sauce 

  • 750ml full-fat milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
  • a few black peppercorns
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 50g plain flour
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard

Heat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4. Heat the milk with the bay leaf, onion, celery and peppercorns until almost simmering. Take off the heat and leave aside to infuse.

Roughly shred the kale. Put into a large saucepan and just cover with cold water. Add salt. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for a few minutes, or until just tender. Drain well and set aside.

Heat half the butter in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add half the mushrooms and season. Increase the heat and fry, stirring, until the liquid released has evaporated and the mushrooms are starting to brown and caramelise. Stir in half the garlic and half the thyme, cook for another minute, then remove to a bowl. Repeat with the rest of the mushrooms, garlic and thyme and set aside.

Gently reheat the milk, then strain. Heat the butter for the béchamel in a large saucepan. Stir in the flour and cook gently for a couple of minutes. Take off the heat. Add about a quarter of the hot milk and beat vigorously until smooth. Add the rest of the milk in about 3 batches, until you have a smooth sauce. Put the pan back on the heat and cook for  a few minutes, stirring and allowing the sauce to bubble gently, until thickened. Stir in the mustard, then season well.

Stir roughly half of the béchamel sauce into the kale.

Spread half the remaining sauce over the bottom of an ovenproof dish (approx. 28 x 22cm). Layer a third of the lasagne sheets in the dish, then spoon the kale over the top. Add another layer of lasagne, then add the mushrooms,. Finish with a final layer of pasta and the rest of the sauce.

Scatter the cheese over the top and add a trickle of oil. Bake for about 30 minutes until golden. Serve right away.

Wine Suggestion: We went for a red Burgundy from a lesser appellation (Santenay) in Burgundy with five years of age. It had a delightful earthiness and red forest fruit character which really complemented the flavours of the mushroom and kale.

(Original recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Veg Everyday!, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2011.)

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This is a really straightforward curry and we are glad to say it didn’t disappoint. The aubergine melts in the mouth and the spices are lovely and fresh as well as warming and comforting. Also takes no time at all to make.

Aubergine Curry with Lemongrass & Coconut Milk – serves 4

  • 3 large chillies, deseeded and chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • knob of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 2 lemongrass stalks, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tbsn ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 2-3 aubergine (approx 600g) quartered lengthways then halved
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 6 shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp Fish Sauce (nam pla)
  • 400ml can coconut milk
  • 400ml vegetable stock
  • small bunch coriander, roughly chopped

Pulse  to a coarse paste chillies, garlic, ginger and lemongrass in a food processor. Set aside

Mix the turmeric and chilli powder together and rub it all over the aubergine wedges. Don’t worry if it look like a lot of spices – it works!

Heat olive oil in frying pan and brown aubergine in batches, setting the aubergine aside when done. Add the paste, sugar and shallots to pan and cook for a few minutes until the shallots and garlic soften.

Return aubergine to pan. Add fish sauce, coconut milk and stock, mix well and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and cook gently for about 15 minutes and until aubergine is tender but not mushy. Season and sprinkle coriander on top.

Serve hot with steamed rice.

Drink with: a aged Clare Valley riesling (at least 5 or six years old) or a fruity young Mosel Riesling.

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One of those memorable dishes that combines flavours and textures to capture the Sicilian sun and bring it to a grey and wet Dublin summer evening; magic.

Timballo di Maccheroni (Baked Pasta with Aubergine) – serves 6

  • 3 Aubergine, see if you can get the round, pale violet ones for authenticity
  • sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 5 tablespoons breadcrumbs
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 400g rigatoni, or penne rigate
  • 60g caciocavallo, or pecorino cheese, grated

Thinly slice the Aubergine, sprinkle with salt and leave to drain in a colander for at least 2 hours. Squeeze lightly to get rid of excess liquid.

Preheat oven to 180C / 350F / Gas 4.

Grease a round cake tin with the unsalted butter; we used one that was 23cm wide and 3.5cm deep. put in 2 tablespoons of breadcrumbs and shake and turn the dish so that that they stick to the butter and line the dish.

Heat about 6mm of olive oil in a deep frying pan and sauté the aubergine slices in batches until lightly coloured. Lift out and drain on kitchen paper. Using about three quarters of the aubergine cover the base and sides of the breadcrumbed tin. Make sure that you overlap the slices so that there are no gaps.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and cook the onion and garlic over a medium heat until soft, but not coloured. Add the tin of tomatoes and season with salt. Cover with a lid and simmer over a low heat for 10 minutes.

While this is cooking bring a pan of water to the boil, salt well and cook the pasta for 3 minutes less than the packet instructions, so that it is still al dente. Reserve some cooking water and then drain the pasta.

Spoon a layer of the pasta into the aubergine lined tin followed by tomato sauce, a layer of the aubergine and a layer of grated cheese. Repeat with the remaining pasta, tomato sauce, and a final layer of aubergine. Finish with the remaining breadcrumbs to form a coating on the top. Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes and until golden.

Let stand for about 10 minutes. This will allow the dish to firm up.

Put a plate over the top of the tin and holding both the plate and dish firmly, turn both over together so that the Timballo turns out onto the plate. Serve in wedges.

Serve with: a southern Italian red like Nero d’Avola or Negroamaro, both of which have a satisfying earthiness but aren’t too heavy for the flavours in this dish.

NB. if you’d like to make your own breadcrumbs, which is both easy and satisfying, then remove the crusts from stale bread, slice and put it on a baking tray in an oven at 80C for an hour to dry out. Either grate and sieve the dried bread (which gives a more random and authentic look) or blitz in a blender.

(Original recipe from Georgio Locatelli: Made in Sicily, Fourth Estate, 2011.)

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The peaches at the moment are really tasty so we’re gorging on them while they’re in season. Here are two easy and delicious dessert recipes to distract ourselves from just eating the peaches fresh.

Baked peaches with an almond crust – to serve 4

  • 4 ripe peaches
  • 50g almonds – no need to skin
  • 50g golden caster sugar
  • 45g butter

Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Cut the peaches in half, remove the stones and put them in a shallow baking dish cut-side up.

Blitz the almonds in a food processor until you have a coarse rubble. Add the sugar and butter and mi again briefly.

Spoon the almond mixture on top of the peaches and bake for about ¾ of an hour or until the peaches are super-soft and the topping is crispy. Pour a little double cream over to serve.

Baked peaches with maple syrup and vanilla – to serve 4

  • 4 ripe peaches
  • 4 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • juice of a lime

Preheat the oven to 200ºC. Cut the peaches in half, remove the stones and put in a shallow baking dish cut-side up.

Pour the maple syrup into a bowl. Scrape the vanilla seeds from the pod and add to the maple syrup along with the lime juice. Bake for about 35 minutes or until the peaches are really soft. Baste them occasionally while they cook.

Drink with: a fragrant and slightly frothy Moscato d’Asti from the Piemonte region in Italy. Moscato is a completely under-rated wine that is fruity and light (about 5% alc.) and won’t overwhelm the dessert. We find that Moscato is quite often a much better match for fruit based desserts than traditional, much sweeter, “dessert” wines.

(Both recipes are adapted from Nigel Slater’s Tender: Volume II, Fourth Estate, 2010.)

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Gnochetti sardi is a Sardinian pasta shape which is shaped like gnocchi but made of durum wheat semolina and no eggs. It is a staple in Sardinia and usually prepared with a heavy tomato based  ragù or sauce made with beef, lamb or sausage. The ragù clings to the heavy ridged pasta shape.

If you can’t find gnochetti sardi then another short pasta shape, like penne, will do. This will serve 4 as a main course but stretches to many more as a first course which is how we like to serve it.

Sardinian Pasta with Sausage and Tomato Sauce – to serve 4

  • 500g bag of gnocchetti sardi pasta
  • 15g dried porcini
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp crushed dried chillies
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, lightly crushed
  • 350g Italian sausages or other meaty pork sausages
  • 120 ml dry white wine
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • Pecorino or Parmesan to serve

Soak the porcini mushrooms in 100ml of boiling water for about 30 minutes. Drain the mushrooms and chop but don’t throw away the soaking liquid as you’ll need it later.

Bring a really large pan of salted water to the boil. Meanwhile, skin the sausages and break the meat up into little pieces.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan, then add the onion, garlic, chilies and fennel seeds and fry gently until nicely coloured.

Add the sausagemeat and mushrooms and continue to fry for another 5 minutes. Add the wine and bubble for a couple of minutes to reduce, then add the tomatoes and mushroom soaking liquid. Season well with salt and pepper. Leave the sauce to simmer for about half an hour.

Cook the pasta according to the pack, then drain and add to the sauce. Pass around the cheese and let people help themselves.

Drink with: the Sardinian red wines would work a treat, especially the ones made from Cannonau or Carignano. These two grape varieties are better known as Grenache and Carignan, so if there are no Sardinian gems in the local, find something made from these grapes and you’ll have a match.

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This is a Basque inspired dish where fresh fish is cooked really simply over hot coals. Firm fish like Monkfish, or Grouper, will not fall apart as easily so make them perfect for barbecuing. Serve with a green salad and some bread.

Barbecue Monkfish Kebabs – to serve 4

  • 1 kg monkfish fillets, cut into large chunks
  • 12 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 4 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice

Light the barbecue and wait until it is really hot before you start cooking.

Thread the monkfish onto 4 metal skewers. Make a marinade using 6 tbsp of the olive oil, the lemon juice, 3 tbsp of the white wine vinegar and 1 tsp salt. Brush this lightly over the kebabs and barbecue until the fish is browned and cooked through. Keep brushing with the marinade as the fish cooks.

Put 6 tbsp olive oil, the garlic and chilli flakes into a small pan and heat over a high heat until the garlic turns golden (but don’t let it go brown as it will turn bitter). Take off the heat and stir in the parsley, 1 tbsp white wine vinegar and ½ tsp salt. Drizzle over the fish and serve.

Drink with: a chilled glass of Txakoli if you can find it. This Basque speciality is hard to find outside Spain but an Albarino from Galicia makes a more than satisfactory substitute.

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Our local supermarket, which will remain nameless, has perfectly ripe Spanish peaches at the moment. Absolutely perfect for a summer barbecue salad. It’s worth paying the extra for free-range chicken from a reliable source (probably not the local supermarket).

Warm Chicken & Peach Salad – to serve 4

  • 500g good-quality chicken breasts
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • olive oil
  • baby spinach leaves
  • ripe peaches
  • basil

Heat the barbecue.

Put the chicken breast in a shallow dish. Add 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 1 tbsp olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper. Turn the chicken breasts in the marinade until they are well-coated.

Cook the chicken on the hot barbecue until cooked through (ours took about 6 minutes on each side). You are going to slice the chicken anyway so it’s no problem to slice open one of the fillets to check.

Scatter a good few handfuls of spinach and a small handful of basil leaves over a large serving platter.

Mix 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 2 tbsp olive oil, a few shredded basil leaves and some salt and pepper together to make a dressing.

Slice the chicken and peaches and toss gently with the salad leaves. Drizzle over the dressing and serve.

Drink with: either Roussanne or Marsanne with their stone-fruit flavours to complement the light peachy flavours of the salad. We had a glass of a St Joseph white from Pierre Gaillard made from Roussanne which is amazing on it’s own and a perfect match for this dish.

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We didn’t brush the grill of our barbecue well enough to prevent the skin sticking to it. If you’re cooking fish on a barbecue learn from our mistakes and brush the grill down well and rub with a bit of oil to stop it sticking. You can also season the fish with salt and set it aside for 15 minutes or so before cooking which will draw the moisture out of the skin. Alternatively you can take the extra safe precaution of cooking the fish on some tinfoil. This is a delicious way to cook fish and you get the flavours of the garlic, ginger and Tikka flavours with the added barbecue smokiness which works a treat and can be served with a fresh cucumber, tomato and coriander salad.

BBQ Tikka Sea Bream – to serve 2

  • 2 tbsp finely grated fresh ginger
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 2 small sea bream, approx. 450g each
  • 6 tbsp natural yoghurt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp chilli powder
  • 3 tsp cumin seeds

Get the barbecue hot.

Slash the skin of the fish on either side and place in a shallow dish. Mix the ginger and garlic, season with salt, then rub all over the fish.

Mix the yoghurt with the oil, spices and seasoning. Pour this over the fish and rub it all over the fish with your hands, inside and out.

Cook for about 6 minutes on each side and serve with an Indian-style salad.

Drink with: a chilled bottle of Singha beer, preferably outside in the sunshine.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

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The watercress has finally arrived in Caviston’s, one of our favourite vegetable shops. The seasons seem to be all out this year and we can’t predict when produce will be there and at it’s freshest. The bags you buy in supermarkets just don’t taste like the real thing at all so catch it while you can as it mightn’t be here for long!

This soup can be on the table under 10 minutes if you want. We love asian soups as they have great depth of flavour and really zing with freshness.

Hot and Sour Watercress and Prawn Soup – to serve 2 

  • 3 tbsp rice vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
  • 500ml vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1tsp golden caster sugar
  • 2.5cm piece ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 300g raw peeled prawns
  • 1 bunch watercress, stalks cut off

Put all the ingredients except for the prawns and watercress into saucepan and bring to a simmer.

Cook for a minute, then add the prawns and cook until they turn pink.

Stir in the watercress and take off the heat. Taste and add another teaspoon of sugar if necessary.

Drink with: a non-Burgundy Pinot but not from a hot climate. We tried one from San Gimignano in Tuscany which had lovely juicy fruit but was still nice and light without too much tannin which tends to clash badly with chilli. A surprisingly good choice and one that will be repeated.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

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This is a classic Sicilian dish. Casarecce is the pasta shown in the picture but you can use penne if you can’t find it. You can roast the pistachio’s in advance but don’t chop them until you are ready to make the pesto as they will go rancid very quickly once their oils are released.

Casarecce con pesto di pistacchio – to serve 4

  • 70g shelled pistachios
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 40g fresh basil
  • 200ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 30g pecorino cheese, grated, plus a bit extra to serve
  • 400g casarecce (or penne)

Heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Spread the pistachios out on a baking tray in a single layer and roast for about 8 minutes. Check them near the end to ensure they don’t burn.

Chop the pistachios. Take ¾ of the pistachios and the garlic and pound to a paste with a pestle and mortar. Pound the basil into the paste, then gradually add the olive oil.  Add the remaining pistachios and the pecorino and pound just briefly to make sure you keep some pieces of pistachio. Season.

Cook the pasta in lots of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and put the pasta back in the pan, reserve a little of the cooking water. Toss the pasta with the pesto and add a bit of the cooking water to loosen if necessary. Grate over some more pecorino to serve.

Drink with: We tried a Vermentino from Colli di Luni DOC (Hills of the Moon) in the hills of Liguria in Italy which worked very well and is a classic partner for Pesto dishes. To be even more authentic to the dish we would suggest something Sicilian made from Grillo; you need minerality, nuttiness, fresh acidity and fruitiness wrapped in a medium bodied wine.

(Original recipe from Georgio Locatelli’s Made in Sicily, Fourth Estate, 2011.)

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This is a delicious recipe from Marcella Hazan’s The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. Marcella recommends using canestrelli which are tiny little sweet scallops which are also know as Queen Scallops or Queenies. We didn’t have canestrelli to hand when we made this but achieved a similar effect by chopping up larger scallops so there are lots of little pieces through the dish. Serve the sauce with spaghettini if you can get it, but thicker spaghetti will work too.

Scallop Sauce with Olive Oil Garlic and Hot Pepper – to serve 6

  • 450g fresh queen or deep-sea scallops
  • 8 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp very finely chopped garlic
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • chopped hot red chilli pepper, to taste
  • salt
  • 450-675g pasta
  • 45g dry breadcrumbs, lightly toasted in the oven or a dry pan

Wash the scallops in cold water, pat dry with a tea towel and cut into little pieces about 9mm thick.

Put the olive oil and garlic in a saucepan, turn the heat to medium and cook until the garlic becomes pale gold, add the parsley and chilli. Stir and add the scallops and a couple of large pinches of salt. Turn the heat to high, and cook for about 90 seconds, stirring often, until the scallops become opaque and loose their shine. Careful not to overcook them or they will be tough. Taste and adjust the seasoning. If there is a lot of liquid in the pan, remove the scallops with a slotted spoon, and boil down the watery juices. Return the scallops to the pan, turn quickly, then take off the heat.

Toss well with the cooked spaghettini, add the breadcrumbs and toss again.

Drink with: An easy, simple and fruity Grüner Veltliner (GV) works well by not overwhelming this delicate sauce and the spicy white pepper spices in GV complement the spices and chilli in the dish. Don’t spoil the balance by getting a powerful and complex GV.

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Delicious and speedy after-work dinner.

Moroccan Chicken Wings with Herby Couscous – to serve 4

  • 1kg chicken wings
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp harissa paste, plus extra to serve
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds, lightly crushed
  • 1 medium orange, zested and juiced (you need about 6 tbsp)
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 150g couscous
  • large bunch mint
  • large bunch coriander
  • preserved lemon, enough to give 2 tbsp when finely chopped
  • 0% fat Greek yoghurt to serve

Heat the grill to high. Put the wings into a large roasting tin and grill for 15 minutes, turning once, until golden.

Mix the maple syrup, harissa and cumin with the zests, half of the orange and lemon juices and some seasoning. Pour this over the wings and give the tray a good shake to coat everything, then return to the grill for another 15 minutes until browned and stick, turning once.

Add the rest of the citrus juices to the dry couscous, then add enough boiling water to cover. Clingfilm the bowl and leave for 10 minutes. Roughly chop the herbs.

Stir the couscous with a fork to separate the grains, then add the herbs, preserved lemon, 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil and some seasoning. Serve with the wings and a spoonful of yogurt mixed with a bit more harissa.

Beer Suggestion: Choose once of the fuller-flavoured lagers such as Kirin from Japan, it’ll work a treat.

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A bit of a celebration of peas. The original recipe also suggested topping it off with pea shoots at the end but unfortunately we couldn’t find any today. Not as tasty as some of our richer risottos (with much more butter and cheese) but very nice all the same.

Pea risotto – to serve 4

  • 50g butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 300g cooked fresh peas
  • 1.7 litres hot vegetable stock (you might not need it all)
  • 350g risotto rice
  • 200ml white wine
  • 25g Parmesan, grated

Melt the butter in a large saucepan, add the onion and cook gently for about 10 minutes until very soft but not coloured.

Whizz about a third of the peas in food processor with a ladle of stock to make a purée.

Stir the rice into the onion, turn up the heat, then sizzle and stir for about a minute. Add the wine and bubble until it has all be absorbed, stirring the whole time. Continue cooking this way, adding a ladle of stock at a time and stirring continuously until the rice is tender and creamy. It should take between 20 and 30 minutes.

Stir in the pea purée, the remaining peas, Parmesan and seasoning, then turn off the heat and leave to stand for a few minutes. Drizzle with a splash of good olive oil before serving if you like.

Wine Suggestion: A Sauvignon Blanc should complement the fresh green pea flavour you can often find similar characteristics in the wine. We prefer the more subtle versions from the Loire Valley but there are some excellent examples from Marlborough in New Zealand that don’t go too over the top, like Morton Estate.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

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A really fabulous starter with some crusty bread; a classic Tapas or party starter.

Garlic prawns with parsley & lemon – to serve 6

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • pinch of red chilli flakes
  • 400g large, raw, peeled prawns
  • juice from half a lemon
  • small handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • crusty bread to serve

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and gently fry the garlic with the chilli flakes.

Add the prawns and cook over a high heat for 2-3 minutes until pink.

Squeeze in the lemon juice, stir in the parsley and serve.

Wine Suggestion: This is a classic Spanish dish so we went for the classic Spanish white, Albariño, a great match for shellfish. It worked a treat.

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We have been waiting for asparagus season to start and this dish seemed an appropriate celebration. Basque inspiration but completely at home in Ireland with every ingredient in season and locally sourced which we are passionately in favour of.

This recipe uses the tips of asparagus but we suggest buying the whole thing and cutting the tips off at home (instead of the pre pack tips). The remaining asparagus stalks are great steamed or blanched the next day for breakfast with a nice boiled or poached egg 🙂

Merluza a la koxkera – serves 4

  • 4 x 175-200g pieces of skinned hake fillet, 2 – 2.5cm thick
  • 200g asparagus tips (8cm long)
  • 250g peas
  • plain flour for dusting + 1 tbsp for the sauce
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 100g shallot, finely chopped
  • 175ml dry white wine
  • 100ml fish stock
  • 250g small clams (or a few extra of your pot will fit them)
  • 1 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Season both sides of the hake pieces generously with salt and set aside for 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile drop the asparagus tips into a pan of boiling, salted water and cook for 2 minutes. Add the peas and when it reaches the boil again drain and refresh under cold water. Leave to drain.

Pat hake pieces to remove excess moisture and then dust with flour and shake off any excess. Heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil over a medium-high heat in a large frying pan (big enough to fit your 4 hake pieces). Add hake and fry for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown on outside, but not quite cooked through. Lift out onto a plate and set aside.

Wipe frying pan clean and add 2 tablespoons of oil, the garlic and shallots. Fry over a medium heat for 3 minutes, or until soft and lightly golden. Stir in the 1 tablespoon of flour and then gradually stir in the wine and stock to make a smooth sauce.

Bring to a simmer and return the hake to the pan and cook for 1 minute. Add the clams, cover and cook for 2-3 minutes until all the clams are opened and the fish is cooked through. Uncover and scatter over the asparagus, peas and parsley. Simmer for a minute or two until the vegetables are warmed through. Taste for seasoning and serve.

Wine suggestion: As this is of Basque origin we could suggest a Txakoli, a Basque white wine. If this is difficult to find try a Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc blend, like from Bordeaux which has good freshness and crispness but also the body and structure to stand up to the flavours of the dish.

Inspiration from: Rick Stein’s Spain, BBC Books 2011

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Another fantastic recipe from the master of vegetarian cooking, Denis Cotter, of Café Paradiso in Cork. I (Jules) went there last week and got all inspired by tofu, having never been particular excited by it before. To avoid any confusion, tofu is bean curd and not “a meat substitute that tastes and looks just like meat” as the bewildered person at the table beside  me thought! There is quite a lot to do at the end of the recipe but it’s well worth the effort.

Maple-glazed tofu with rice noodles & kai-lan in a miso broth – to serve 4

  • 200g flat rice noodles
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 300g kai-lan (Chinese kale) or sprouting broccoli
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced at an angle
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery sticks, chopped
  • 60g fresh ginger, thinly sliced
  • 1 whole fresh red chilli
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 bunch of fresh coriander, including stalks
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp red miso
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp chillis sauce
  • 250g firm tofu
  • vegetable oil, for brushing
First make the broth: in a large saucepan, bring 1 litre of water to the boil. Add the onion, carrot, celery, ginger, chilli, garlic and coriander. Simmer gently, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Leave to stand for a further 30 minutes.

While the broth is standing, prepare the tofu; mix together the maple syrup, soy sauce, vinegar and chilli sauce.

Slice the tofu into 16 slices about 1cm thick. Place in the liquid and leave to marinade for 20 minutes.

Heat a heavy frying pan over medium heat brush the pan with vegetable oil. Add the tofu and fry for 2-3 minutes per side, until lightly coloured. Pour in most of the marinade and continue to fry, swirling to make sure the tofu is coated, the marinade will stick to the tofu as a glaze. Add more marinade if necessary.

At the same time, bring a saucepan of water to the boil and cook the noodles according to the pack. Drain in a colander.

Finish the broth: strain out the vegetables and return the broth to the pan. Add the soy sauce.

Put the miso in a bowl and stir in a few tablespoons of the broth to get a smooth pouring consistency. Bring the broth back to the boil, whisk in the miso and hold at a low simmer.

Heat 1 tbsp of vegetable oil in a wide pan over high heat. Add the kai-lan and sauté for 4-5 minutes, adding an occasional splash of broth.

To serve, put some noodles in warm bowls. Place the kai-lan on top of the noodles. Ladle over some broth, top with slices of tofu and sprinkle with scallions.

Wine Suggestion: This is a dish which has a lot of competing flavours and components so a wine match isn’t easy. A yeasty beer or ale would work a treat like a Hobgoblin or a Leffe Brun to compliment the yeasty flavours provided by the miso.

(Original recipe from Denis Cotter for the love of food, Collins, 2011.)

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Perfect as the nights close in and the seasons change. This is our second recipe from Rick Stein’s Spain and another success. It takes two days to make but is so straightforward that it’s not a chore at all. As we had torrential rain in Dublin on Saturday and Sunday we could not have picked a better weekend to try it!

P.S. you have to like sucking on bones!

Oxtail and Red Wine Stew from Pamplona – Rabo de torro de Pamplona – to serve 6

  • 2kg oxtail, cut across into 5cm thick pieces
  • 50g plain flour, seasoned
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 200g carrots, sliced
  • 175g leeks, thickly sliced
  • 4 tbsp brandy
  • 500ml red wine
  • 500ml dark beef stock
  • A bouquet garni of bay leaves, parsley stalks and thyme sprigs
  • 1 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley

Trim the excess fat off your oxtail pieces and season well with salt and pepper. Toss in the seasoned flour and knock off the excess, keep the remaining seasoned flour. Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large flameproof casserole over a medium-high heat, add the oxtail pieces in batches and fry until well browned. Lift them onto a plate as they are done.

Add the rest of the oil to the pan with the garlic, onions, carrots and leeks and fry for about 10 minutes or until browned.

Pour the brandy over and set alight. Once the flames have died stir in the remaining seasoned flour, then gradually stir in the red wine and bring to the boil, stirring. Simmer for 3 minutes, then stir in the oxtail, the beef stock, bouquet garni, 1/2 tsp of salt and lots of black pepper. Cover and simmer gently for 2 1/2 – 3 hours, until the oxtail is tender but not falling apart yet. Remove from the heat, leave to cool, then cover and chilli overnight.

The next day, scrape the layer of fat off the top of the casserole. Gently reheat, then lift the oxtail into a bowl. Pass the sauce through a fine seive into a clean pan, pressing out as much sauce as you can with the back of a ladle. Discard what’s left in the sieve. Return to the heat and simmer vigorously for 5-10 minutes until the sauce is reduced and is well flavoured. Return the oxtail, season and simmer for 5 minutes to heat through. Serve sprinkled with chopped parsley.

Nice with steamed or mashed potatoes and broccoli.

Wine Suggestion: Pick a medium bodied red wine based on Tempranillo and maybe with a dollop of Garnacha to give it extra juiciness. We drank a Sierra Cantabria Cuvée which had some good age in the bottle and 18 months in oak which softens and rounds the tannins. Anything heavier or more tannic will feel a bit too much with this rich dish.

(Original recipe from Rick Stein’s Spain, BBC Books, 2011)

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