21 Mar 2011

Which Colour of Wine to Choose

A number of considerations can affect our choices when buying wine. The selection available is vast and making the best choice can be a time-consuming exercise if we don’t have some knowledge behind us.

Wine drinkers with an appreciation for both red and white wine can often face a dilemma at the off licence. Wines of all varieties are readily available to suit all tastes and all budgets.

Sumptuous red wine from all over the world can be found for under £5 per bottle. French reds from the Cotes du Rhone-Villages region are a great example of this, offering full-bodied, heavy notes at brilliant prices. Occasionally, fans of Spanish Riojas can take advantage of shops and supermarkets dropping the prices below £5 and any red wine enthusiast would be well advised to join them when the chance arises.

Good white wine for less than £5 is equally simple to find if you know what you are looking for. Recently, bottles of the 2008 Marsanne, Vin de Pays d’Oc from France has been spotted on sale for as little as £3 a bottle and has been described by critics as offering “rather more sunny, apricot and almond-stashed fruit for your money”.

The final decision of red or white usually comes down to occasion. If wine is being bought to be enjoyed with a particular meal, this makes the choice significantly easier.

The basic guidelines read something like: red wine with red meat, game and casseroles, white wine with fish, spicy food, vegetarian food and pasta. For more detail on choosing the particular red or white wine to accompany your meal, the label on the bottle almost always makes some reference, or your wine merchant may be able to help.

However, wine is not only served with food and many of the wines that compliment food brilliantly might taste drastically different when tasted without food.

‘No-food’ wines are not hard to find in these days of wine being commonly purchased as an aperitif in bars and enjoyed in front of the TV with little more than a bowl of nuts for sustenance. The watchword for these wines is ‘smooth’. For wine to taste good on its own, it needs to be low in tannins, which give red wines their dry, tight flavours. Wines like Negroamaro and Rosso di Salento fit the bill here, with their softer, riper tannins and higher alcohols.

For white wine lovers, Shiraz tastes just as great on its own as it does with a curry or a Mexican banquet.

Thank you to Michael for this Guest posting and also to
Stephen Bolen for the photograph.

17 Mar 2011


The story of Parker House Rolls is part legend and part truth. Apparently, they date back to the 1800's and originated at Parker House Hotel in Boston. There are a variety of stories surrounding them and you can find out what The Food Timeline have to say about these wonderful rolls by clicking here.

The rolls are a butter and egg enriched dough, served warm they are very moreish.

The dough can be made in a bread machine (by referring to your manufacturers instructions), in the food mixer fitted with a dough hook or if you feel like a good workout, made by hand.

The book this recipe came from is for either making bread by either hand or bread machine. The fundamentals of breadmaking are covered, there is a photographic gallery showing some of the world's most mouthwatering breads, a guide to ingredients and equipment, also techniques. There are recipes from basic breads to sourdoughs, flavoured breads to festive breads, in fact something for everyone.

Bread by Eric Treuille & Ursula Ferrigno
Page: 118
ISBN No. 1-4053-0511-8

You will need:
2½ tsp dried yeast, 250ml milk, 60g melted unsalted butter, 30g melted butter to glaze, 2 tbsp granulated sugar, 2 beaten eggs, 560g strong white flour, 2tsp salt

1. Sprinkle the yeast into 100ml tepid milk in a bowl. Leave for 5 minutes; stir to dissolve. Warm the remaining milk in a saucepan with the butter and sugar. Stir continuously, until the butter has melted. Cool until tepid, then beat in the eggs until evenly distributed.
2. Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the yeasted milk and the butter mixture. Mix in the flour to form a soft, sticky dough.
3.Turn the dough out on to a floured work surface. Knead until smooth, shiny, and elastic, about 10 minutes. Knead in extra flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, if the dough is too sticky. Don't add too much flour, the dough should be soft not dry.
4. Put the dough in a buttered bowl and cover with a tea towel. Leave to rise until doubled in size, approximately 1½ hours.
5. Knock back, then leave to rest for 10 minutes. Divide the dough into two pieces. Roll out each to form a 20cm x 40cm rectangle. Cut each rectangle lengthways into four strips, each 10cm long. Brush half of each rectangle with melted butter, then fold in half, leaving a 1cm flap.
6. Place the rolls on a buttered baking sheet so that each roll overlaps slightly with the one next to it; cover with a tea towel. prove until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
7. Brush the tops of the rolls with melted butter. Bake in a preheated oven 220°C for 15-20 minutes until golden and hollow sounding when tapped underneath. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

13 Mar 2011


It's Red Nose Day/Comic Relief on Friday, 18 March and I couldn't resist making these cheeky cupcakes. If you are taking part in a Red Nose Day bake these will be perfect.

The coconut flavouring can be bought online from Jane Asher. I topped the cupcakes with chocolate fudge frosting and a whole glace cherry for the nose.

If you use Lakeland muffin cases I would only make 11 cakes, because their muffin cases tend to be larger (you can see from the photograph these are the ones I used), but if you use the supermarket ones the mix will easily make 12.

You will need: A muffin tin lined with 12 muffin cases.

125g softened butter, ½ tsp coconut flavouring, 150g caster sugar, 2 eggs, 80ml milk, 40g dessicated coconut, 70g washed and chopped red glace cherries, 50g dark chocolate chips or chopped chocolate, 150g self-raising flour, 35g plain flour

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
2. Beat the butter, flavouring, sugar and eggs in a small bowl with an electric mixer until well mixed.
3. Stir in the milk, coconut, cherries and chocolate, then the sifted flours. Place the mixture into the muffin cases.
4. Bake for 25-35 minutes until cooked. After 10 minutes turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

Chocolate Fudge Frosting

100g plain or milk chocolate chopped (I use Green & Blacks), 2 tablespoons milk, 50g unsalted butter, 75g icing sugar

1. Put the chocolate, milk and butter in a small saucepan and heat gently, taking care not to overheat, stirring until the chocolate and butter have melted.
2. Remove from the heat and stir in the icing sugar until smooth. Spread the frosting over the cakes while still warm.

For the noses: 12 red glace cherries

7 Mar 2011


On Sunday we braved the cold, but sunny weather and had a barbeque, a silly thing to do I know. It was too cold outside for moi but my husband, who seems to be an all weather person, set about cooking the barbeque with a smile but I did notice later on this had turned into a grimace (I think he was feeling the cold and had barbeque regret!). The rewards were high though, a beautifully cooked barbeque chicken, which is impossible to replicate in the oven.

It is very easy to spatchcock a chicken and here are the instructions. Sometimes this surgical procedure on the poor chicken is also called butterflied chicken. You may also see this recipe come under the recipe title of chicken under a brick. You don't have to use the bricks (which in fact we didn't because we forgot), but it does keep the chicken flat and you then have better contact with the cooking surface. The recipe can also be made with spatchcocked poussins (but I/we just couldn't!).

This wonderful, tasty and aromatic chicken was marinated overnight. A wild rice and pepper salad, together with lots of vegetables cooked on the barbeque made a perfect meal.

The chicken is very easy, with only a few ingredients for the marinade.

You will need:

A medium spatchcock chicken, 1 chopped garlic clove, juice of 2 lemons, pepper, 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary.

1. Mix together the rosemary, fennel seeds, olive oil, garlic clove, juice of 2 lemons and seasoning.
2. Put the spatchcocked chicken into a ziplock bag together with the lemon shells, pour over the marinade. Place the bag into a large bowl.
3. Chill in the fridge overnight, if possible.
4. Pat the chicken dry, drizzle with olive oil and season. Put skin side down on the barbecue.
5. If you wish, wrap a brick in foil to weigh down the chicken and cook for 30 minutes on medium heat.
6. Turn the chicken over and cook for another 30 minutes weighed down with the foil covered brick. Check the chicken is cooked through and leave to rest.


You will need

Zest of 1 lemon, 1 chopped clove garlic, large bunch of chopped parsley.

1. Sprinkle over the cooked chicken.


You will need:

½ a finely sliced red onion, 150 g wild rice, 2 roasted and sliced peppers (or from a jar), 100g crumbled goat's cheese, handful of toasted pine nuts, small bunch chopped mint, 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons olive oil.

1. Put the onion in a bowl, season and toss with the red wine vinegar and olive oil, leave to marinate and soften.
2. Cook the wild rice in boiling water for about 25 minutes, drain and rinse under cold water, drain again. Toss with the onion and dressing.
3. Mix the red peppers, goats' cheese, pine nuts and chopped mint through the rice mixture.

1 Mar 2011

Olives Et Al

Olives Et Al was launched in 1993 by Annie and Giles Henschel, and are based at Sturminster Newton, Dorset where they have a shop and deli. Also, The Potting Shed, based at Poundbury, Dorchester, Dorset, is a cafe serving food and drinks, a large shop and deli counter. They also have a fabulous online shop selling oils and balsamics, speciality olives, sauces, snacks, kiln roasted nuts, dressings and marinades.

Harissa Almonds, kiln roasted by Olives Et Al and spiced with sweet hot harissa - crush and sprinkle onto salads, chop and use to replace pine nuts, or simply to snack on.

Putney Sauce, a relish made from sundried tomatoes, red peppers and spices - this goes well with sausages and would be perfect for barbeques.

Beetroot & Thyme Dressing - this is a lively dressing and perfect stirred into soured cream with smoked salmon or for dressing a rocket salad.

Plump Green Olives stuffed with sundried tomatoes in sunflower oil - there are many ways to use these juicy, flavoursome olives and I chose to top homemade foccacia with mine.

Thank you Olives Et Al and James.