Friday, 24 December 2010

Pressed Tongue

So this year we're having a whole load of the family around on Boxing day, this means that there needs to be a whole host of lovely things prepared.
First to be set about to was pressing a tongue. Now I don't know about you but I'm ok with certain bits of food but I find my sqeamish meter tends to get going around raw tongues. They're more than a little bit special.
Any way quickly empty from its bag into a large pan, then trying not to look too closely at it cover with cold water.
Leave for the best part of 24 hours, occasionally (I managed once) changing the water.
Prepare stock like items, heat the water up, take of a what scum form, then add the veg. 2 carrots, some celery, an onion, black pepper, bay leaf. Simmer for about 4 hours.
Once it's cooked it feels rather different. There's a pleasing solidity to the meat and it becomes quite fascinating peeling the skin of.
Here you'll need a tongue press, slit the underside of the base of the tongue and force into the basin. Then screw on the lid. Leave in fridge over night...

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

quick bites no.1

It's cold, I'm going out to a friends for drinks this evening so I've no idea what time I'll eat. I need something warming, but proper comforting as well as heating.
Some salad potatoes, half an onion, some Hungarian sausage, though any spicy salami or chorizo would do, and some Reblochon cheese. Oh yeah, speedy Tartiflette for lunch; Parboil the roughly sliced potatoes, soften the onions with a little bit of garlic, add diced salami, add potato slices, add thin slices of Reblochon (pos a small spoon of creme fraiche), let mingle, then eat with a bit of salad and a glass of crisp white. Today it was a glass of Vavasour 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, taut, citrus with a touch of herbality but all together pleasingly restrained for a Kiwi Sauv.

Smoked Haddock and Celeriac Remoulade

It was my sisters birthday, so obviously there was dinner to be made. However I was still feeling a little bit knocked around by this dastardly cold that has taken up residence in my sinuses. Any way main course turned out to be quite simple as both my sister and her mum (mine as well) expressed a desire for roast leg of lamb... So all my preparations for slightly more exotic versions of slow roasted pork belly with sage and orange (as suggested by @bribedwithfood). However this still left starters, pottering around the shops I realised that all the usual things had made their way into the shopping trolley, smoked salmon, creme fraiche and so on. So I decided to remove said items and start again (obviously I left the creme fraiche, so many uses).
A largish fillet of smoked Haddock, a celeriac root and that was about as far as inspiration went.
I should state in advance that this isn't really a remoulade as there's no mayonaisse involved, but it was very easy and very tasty. The creamy smokiness of the fish combining nicely with the slightly crunchy earthiness of the celeriac.

1 large fillet of smoked haddock
1/2 a celeriac root
1 medium onion (go for quite a strong one)
full cream milk
salt and pepper

Prepare the vegetables by grating the celeriac, and finely dicing the onion, then set aside.
Lightly poach the smoked haddock in some butter and the full cream milk. You want to use a pan where the fillet, cut in half takes up most of the pan, then the milk should come up to about half way up the highest point of the fillet, start the poaching skin down, then turn after a couple of minutes, I find this makes it easy to get a good cooking through, and yet still have the skin come off easily. Incidentally you want the flesh to flake apart but not fall apart.
Remove the fish from the poaching liquor and retain both, peel off the skin of the fish (this should be quite easy if the fish is only lightly poached.
Then add the celeriac and onion to the poaching liquor and leave to simmer for about 5 minutes, you're looking just to soften and flavour it.
Flake up the fish, add in the celeriac and onion and mix together. Season to taste.
Finely chop some of the capers and dill (not too much) and mix into the fish and celeriac.
Then turn the mixture into the serving bowl.
Decorate with more chopped capers and dill, salt and pepper and refrigerate.
Oh and I served it with toast and some sharply dressed leaves.

Disgustingly easy, and for me it used hardly any pans (only one). Sadly I failed to take any photos while cooking as I was absorbed with being grumpy and headachey, and the lemsip was taking it's time to kick in. Luckily it had done by the time we sat down for dinner.

I think the label shows what area of the market this was targeted at..
As for what we drank with it, I pulled out one of my experimental bottles of Riesling, Duckbill 2006 from the Great Southern in Western Australia. Now Great Southern is quite a large area that encompasses the steep hilly Mount Barker and the Porongorups, as well as Frankland River and the verdant surrounds of Denmark. I guess I saw this bottle a few years back and figured that it was cool climate Australian Riesling, it wasn't expensive and was worth a punt.
Now I like my Rieslings with a few years of bottle age to them, and this was no exception, tight, minerally, with the beginnings of some toastiness, whoever the winemaker was won't like me for saying that I certainly found a spot of kerosene like characters, but again I like them. All in all it went great with the dish, the acidity pairing the creaminess of the dish well, and the assertive citrus, sherbet and kerosene like characters standing up really well to the smokiness of the fish.


So we’re coming to the end of a year that started with travel, then stayed resolutely London bound before ending with my longest period away.
I’ve been lucky enough to visit wineries in four countries and to have extended stays in two of them. Obviously with so many wonderful and special memories, not to mention incredible wines it’s quite hard to pick out favorites, but with no small application of a critical razor I’ve just about managed to do it.
One of the Grand Father vines in the Hill of Grace Vineyard
Red wine of the year:
This is a pretty easy call, it was Henschke, Hill of Grace, 1996. Tasted (and later drunk) at Pru and Steven Henschke’s winery in the Eden Valley. Sometimes when you taste wines that are legendary there is a sense of expectation, and with that comes a nagging doubt as to your impartiality in the face of the wine. Well there was no time for that with the 96 Hill of Grace, it was a wine that soared and dazzled, with such breath taking complexity of aromatics. My first notes on tasting it were; wow, privileged, deep succulent herbal red fruits, pot pourri, violets, clove oil, unicum, pepper, such depth and complexity. But this isn’t really doing the wine justice, every time I went back to it, it had changed, it was a glass that I really didn’t want to end. The 86 that was served along side would be a close contender for the years crown, but it was the 96 that leapt straight into my list of all time wines.
White of the year:
I’m not going to go with the greatest white I tasted this year, as to do that would require choosing between four or five stunning experiences, so instead I’m going to go for my biggest surprise of the year. The wine that knocked my right on my arse for simply being so impressive and for being such an unexpected treat.
Movia is a winery in the Collio hills, straddling the Italy/Slovenia border the fact that their post box is in Slovenia makes them Slovenian. Ales Kristancic their winemaker was present at the London International Wine and Spirit Fair. Amongst his mightily impressive collection of wines he was presenting his Puro 2002 Sparkling wine. This is undisgorged and as so needs opening in a bucket of water at the table.
Now this isn’t the time nor the place or a lengthy dissertation on the effect of yeast lees in the bottle with regards to contribution of autolytic flavours, but also as a protection from oxidation. Suffice to say that with recently disgorged Champagnes the closer to the disgorgement you can drink them the better and more unique (as distinct from non lees bottle aged Champagnes) the experience will be.
Ales’ Puro is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Rebulla (known in Italian as Ribolla Giallo), the base wine is made and aged in old oak for 4 years, then instead of adding sugar and yeast to the base wine a la the Champenoise, he adds fresh grape juice, which has enough sugar and natural yeasts to start the secondary fermentation.
For all the funkiness of the production it would have all been for naught if the wine hadn’t been great. All sorts of toasty, apricot, salt caramel savoriness, butterscotch, spiced apples, all tied together with a great minerally core.
Dish of the year:
I’ve chosen my dish of the year, from what was undoubtedly from a technical perspective the outstanding meal of the year. The tasting menu lunch at the Ledbury. A succession of dishes that were each as outstanding as the next, but the one I’ve plumped for was the Celeriac backed in ash with wood sorrel and a wild boar kromenski.
Very often when I visit restaurants the focus is on the protein, whatever the beef is, or on what the lamb has been fed. However it’s  more often that not something that has been done with the vegetables that turns my head, be it beetroot caramelized in sherry vinegar with thyme comprehensively blowing the great Tasmanian steak out of the water at the Black Cow in Launceston, or at the Ledbury, the Celeriac being brought to the table in it’s ash sarcophagus, ceremonially carved in front of us then being returned to the kitchen for plating. The dusky, earthy, smoky notes transforming the celeriac from a great, but slightly work horse vegetable, into the star, from girl next door to smoldering kohl eyed temptress. Quite sensational.
Meal of the Year:
Again there are a lot of very strong contenders here from my travels, particularly the salt pepper squid and fish n chips we enjoyed at the etherial Star of Greece in the McLaren Vale. However it was the first of the trips meals that really stood out, and that was despite quite a few potential marks against.
Lunch with William (Bill) Downie in his barn on their farm in Gipsland Victoria. We started with his zero Sulphur Pinot and plates of Charcuterie and Crudites from his farm and the pigs next door. This was hands down some of the finest Charcuterie I’ve ever eaten, the Lardo was divine, salty, intriguingly herbal with just a hint of spicing to it. The Prosciutto lingered longer on the palette than any Pata Negra I’ve ever tasted. The vegetables were gorgeously sweet and crunchy, it was as if Bill was laying down a gauntlet; Forget everything you might have though about Australia and her wines.
Then an off dry Petit Manseng which he made in 09 as it was a bit hot for him to be happy with his Pinot Noir, a salad of raw seafood, impeccably fresh and moreish.
Then the main course, BBQ lamb, plates heaving with the most sumptuous Morels and Artichoke hearts. Bottles of Bill’s Pinots started arriving on the tables, they’re stunning, pure, elegant, and yet each hugely different from the others.
Oh and all the while there was an open fire blowing smoke at us in a doomed attempt to mitigate the late spring chill. Yep this was cool climate Australia, and we carried the smell of the smoke as a reminder for several days to come....

Friday, 3 December 2010

Hetzolo on a very cold day in London

Sometimes day's just don't pan out as you expect them to. I had my Friday afternoon pretty tightly scheduled, a swim, followed by an experiment with Bikram Yoga then off to London.

On the train to London feeling strangely stiff and flexible at the same time all my meetings started to fall through. The weather, staying up far too late watching the cricket, generally being a bit useless. The reasons were varied and plentiful. However it's not like I've never amused myself in London for a day before, so I managed a spot of xmas shopping, had a couple of pints of Caledonian 80 shilling at the Gun. Lovely beer that I've not drunk for years (not since Glasgow days) that tastes like a hearty ale that someone has added a nice Sunday roast and popped in the blender. I could almost feel the goodness surging through my pores.
Then after being cornered by my old work I succeeded in having my arm twisted into helping them out for a week before xmas, on the condition that I don't have to eat any turkey and they pay me cash (lots of it).
Feeling like I ought to totter back to Reading I got a call from Gustavo Lo Bianco, sommelier consultant, buyer, general all round good egg Brazilian wine person asking me if I fancied a little tasting of the wine of Hetszolo. Well of course I wanted to do that.

Tokaji Hetszolo is a little bit special amongst the great estates, it's cellars have possibly the most romantic history of any winery, being where Rackoci Ferenc launched his revolution against the Hapsberg dynasty, so if anywhere represents Magyar pride then it's Hetszolo.
Stylistically it's different as well, their vineyards are situated in a South East facing amphitheatre of deep, 12-15 feet, loess this gives the wines a characteristic lightness and a perfume that tends towards honey and flowers.
Hosting the tasting at the chic and stylish Fine and Rare offices was Kata Adasz, Hetszolo's ambassador in the UK and she was doing a fabulous job of shepherding the assembled through the intricacies of Tokaji nomenclature. Suffice to say that Szamoronodni is never, ever, ever going to be a break out hit in the UK market, it's just too unpronounceable.

Any way we started with the Dry Furmint 09, vinified in steel with a little bit of old oak this was quite delicate with lightly floral aromatics, showing some of Furmint's trademark acidity, but quite a subdued style in comparison to other dry Furmints.

This was followed by the Edes Szamorodni 05, Edes means sweet (Szaraz on the other hand means dry and is a whole different kettle of fish) and Szamorodni is a term deriving from the Polish market which generally means 'we picked everything' in effect the wine is made from whole bunch picking, which means that there isn't quite the concentration of Aszu berries and the wine is there for lighter in style. However there is quite a lot of discrepancy in the style of wines that carry the name. Hetzolo's was weighing in at about 75 grams of residual sugar, which to my mind wasn't quite enough, the wine showed new oak like characters that mingled playfully with some floral peach like notes, but then it finished a bit dry, which after the initial seductiveness seemed needlessly miserly.

The 2001 5 Puttonyos was where the wines started to get serious, the wine was delicate with a real drinkability, white flowers, ripe peach accents, honeyed vanilla cream and a tight little coil of acid structure, one that was crying to be drunk with food.

I decided to disregard the line up of wines and go for the older 5 puttonyos before jumping to the more powerful 6 puttonyos as I find that once you've jumped up a sugar level going back down makes the wines seem lacking. The 96 5 Puttonyos was showing a lovely meaty almost earthy side, with slightly caramelised honey, some spiced apricot and had great elegance.

Now in the past, I've perhaps been a little bit hard on Hetszolo, in that I've occasionally found their wines a little inconsequential and have also noted what seems like slightly lifted aromatics. The 99 6 Puttonyos, straight Harslevulu seemed to be a case in point, with some wood polish like notes initially before showing intense caramelised apricot and quince, before finishing with an almost white pepper like note. This was one of those wine that I find a little hard to categorise, not quite floral enough to shout Haars, but enjoyable none the less.

The final wine on show was the 93 6 Puttonyos, this was magisterial, a deep burnished ochre
coffee salt caramel, some floral toffee, dried apricot, mango, fresh, great length and intensity,
still really fresh for an 93 – showing real zing and minerality on the finish...

So a somewhat of a rehabilitation in my eyes for the Hetszolo style, though I admit that I'd only tasted youthful examples of their wines, and thus it was illuminating to see them at an age when they're actually ready to drink.