Archive for December, 2010

Winter soul food

I love the many joys of winter: frosted scenery, toasty fires, mulled wine and the sense of panicked camaraderie when it snows and the country descends into chaos.

Seriously though, what’s not to love? Freezing offices and drying air-conditioning aside, I openly admit that I think this time of year is wonderful and I love the fact that it’s OK to wake up on a Sunday, do a bit of ‘proper’ activity and then go home at 3pm to watch a film and drink some wine. It’s almost like nature is urging you to do it; it would be a slight on Daylight Savings if you didn’t.

Not wanting to ruin this opportunity, this is precisely what I did last Sunday and, although I appreciate that most people in England did a similar thing, I very much doubt that they ate the venison casserole of kings at the end of the day. Oh no.

So, after a highly productive afternoon of chores on Saturday, I felt even more entitled to a day of winter bliss when I woke up to a beautiful crisp English morning on Sunday. After a quick dose of Peep Show on iPlayer we trotted along to Pierreponts for a spot of brunch (check out the warmer on my boiled egg and Marmite soldiers!), and then made our way up to The Bell in Aldworth (if you haven’t been, it’s essential for countryside drinking pleasure) and planned to go for a ‘nice long walk’ along the Ridgeway. Well, we managed 45 minutes which, considering the sub-zero temperature and my appalling lack of navigational skills, was actually pretty good going. This was followed by a pint of ale – you must remember to reward yourself, you see.

Anyway, in the words of Mr. T, I’ll quit this jibber-jabber (I have the same birthday as him, incidentally) and get on with the casserole. Now, I would love to take the credit for this masterpiece, but I have to admit that Adam (smiling like a true, relaxed chef, at the top here) should really take the praise as, apart from scrubbing the carrots and potatoes (which was bloody hard work as the tiny blighters came from allotment at work, although they do taste heavenly, are a bugger to clean individually) I did little else of use other than faff around cleaning up after him and chop and stir.

So, with venison bought from the lovely Fielders Farm Shop in Theale, we set to work making what Adam described as ‘the darkest, glossiest ragu ever’. I don’t think he exaggerated.  It involved a whole bottle of wine (’07 Côtes du Rhône, if you’re interested), plenty of love and a little West Indian chocolate. Beautiful.

Five hours later, when we sat down to eat with a glass of the really wonderful, elegant and exceptionally good value 2008 Camins del Priorat from master wine-maker Alvaro Palacios, something happened to me.  I experienced what can only be likened to a rich, savoury embrace from a familiar lover who has just returned from a time away on tropical shores and has now acquired a new air of charm, appeal and spicy exotic fragrance. Intoxicatingly comforting. Well, I suppose there probably are other ways to describe it, but this is how I felt.

So, there you have it, if you were hoping for a recipe I may have let you down but I’m sure I could cobble something together if you are desperate. It was totally exceptional. Roast belly of pork tonight…


Read Full Post »

European expeditions of late

Would you Adam and Eve it? I almost forgot about this, but recently I have been rather jet-set and embarked on a touch of European traveling (what, what.) In a treacherous move, I only wrote blogs about two of these visits on my company’s blog (which you really ought to check out, as I edit the thing), but I thought that maybe you’d like to read these official versions. To that end, click the links and you can read about my work trip to sample the wines of Piedmont and my holiday to Jerez, where the sole aim was to drink copious amounts of Sherry and eat top-notch tapas. Finally, for your pleasure only, here is a picture of me, full of delicious food, happy and a bit defeated after my sixth or seventh 4-course meal in a row in Italy. A pasta course as well as a meat course? What do you mean it’s rude to say no?

Read Full Post »