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  • Posted on December 19, 2014

    Recipe for the Weekend: Festive Edition

    Christmas feasting can be tricky if you have allergies or intolerances. Luckily Hannah Miles is on hand to help out with her newest book, Gluten-Free Christmas! This fab stollen recipe means that even previously forbidden treats can be enjoyed, and a little bird told us that if you head over to MadePeachy tomorrow you’ll find a Gluten-Free Mince Pie recipe too!

    Spiced Stollen

    Stollen is a rich fruit bread, originating from 14th-century Germany. My version is bursting with cherries, chocolate and marzipan, with an amaretto and lemon dough.

    250 g gluten-free self-raising flour, sifted

    1 tablespoon gluten-free baking powder

    1 teaspoon xanthan gum

    3 eggs, beaten

    75 g butter, melted and cooled

    300 ml soured cream

    100 g caster sugar

    grated zest of 1 lemon

    2 tablespoons amaretto or other almond liqueur

    a pinch of vanilla salt (or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract and a pinch of salt)

    200 g dried morello cherries

    100 g unsalted pistachios, chopped

    100 g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), chopped

    250 g golden marzipan

    icing sugar, for dusting

    38 x13-cm stollen pan, very well greased

    large baking sheet, greased and lined with baking parchment

    Makes 1 large loaf

    Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) Gas 4.

    Sift the flour, baking powder and xanthan gum into a bowl. Add the eggs with 50 g of the melted butter, soured cream and caster sugar.  Stir in the lemon zest, amaretto, salt, cherries, pistachios and chopped chocolate. Spoon half of the mixture into the prepared stollen pan.

    On a clean surface, use your hands to roll the marzipan out into a sausage shape the length of your stollen pan and place in the centre of the dough in the pan. Spoon the remaining dough mixture over the top of the marzipan, then invert on to the prepared baking sheet, keeping the stollen pan over the dough. (If you do not have a stollen pan, dust your hands with flour, and shape the dough into a long oval loaf, approximately 35 x 20 cm, and insert the marzipan in the centre of the dough before shaping.

    Bake for 40–50 minutes in the preheated oven, until the top is golden brown, gently lifting away the stollen pan to see if it is cooked. Remove the stollen from the oven and remove the pan.

    Brush the top of the warm loaf with the remaining melted butter, and dust with icing sugar. The sugar will be absorbed by the butter, giving the loaf a sweet coating. This stollen is lovely eaten warm, spread with butter, if you wish, but will store well for up to 3 days in an airtight container. It can also be frozen in slices.

    Gluten-Free Christmas by Hannah Miles is available here.


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  • Posted on December 18, 2014

    Make your own Christmas gift tags!

    We had a super time for our office Christmas party last night and exchanged some cracking Secret Santa presents! The gifts themselves were absolutely lovely - with everything from homemade chutney and beautiful scarves to the greatest, oversized pencil sharpener for spiral cutting carrots, courgettes and the like! – though it has to be said that some of the wrapping could have been a little more inspired...

    So today we thought we’d share this great project from Christmas Crafts to encourage some wonderfully wrapped gifts! Whether you're a last-minute wrapper, happy to piece it all together on Christmas Eve, or already have everything wrapped and ready under the tree, these homemade gift tags will make your presents extra special this Christmas!

    Handstitched label

    These cute gift tags for attaching to presents are made from standard parcel labels and decorated with red buttons and rows of embroidered running stitch. 

    Materials

    Ruler and pencil

    Brown parcel label

    Foam board (for piercing and stitching holes)

    Large needle

    Eraser

    Red embroidery thread

    2 red buttons for each label

    Hot glue gun (or all-purpose glue)

    4 3/4in (12cm) narrow red ric rac braid (for the loop)

    1. Use the ruler and pencil to draw a soft line, about 1⁄8in (3mm) from the edge, all around the brown parcel label. Place the label on the foam board and use the large needle to pierce holes along the pencil lines, spaced approximately 1/4in (5mm) apart. These will form the stitching holes for the embroidery. Rub out the pencil lines using the eraser.

    2. Thread the needle with the red embroidery thread and work a row of running stitches around the edges of the parcel label.

    3. Glue two buttons to the center of the label. You may find it easier to use a hot glue gun to do this. It is better to glue the buttons rather than sew them on, as you won’t be able to write on the back of the label if the buttons are sewn on.

    4. Thread the ric rac braid through the hole at the top of the parcel label and tie securely. Thread the ends of the braid to your parcel to finish.

     

    Christmas Crafts by Catherine Woram is available here.

    Have a lovely last week in the run up to Christmas everyone!


    This post was posted in Craft Projects, Craft Projects, Featured, Featured, UK, US, What's new, What's new and was tagged with books, cico, cico books, christmas, blog, book, craft, crafts, catherine woram, craft book, craft author, amazon, Blogger, handmade, gift, presents, craft project, christmas crafts, 2014, wrapping, giftwrap, gift tag, label

  • Posted on December 16, 2014

    Cosy Knits for Christmas

    There is no denying it now, Christmas is definitely almost upon us. Whether you’ve had your presents wrapped since mid-October or are more of a Mad-Dash-on-Christmas-Eve sort of a shopper, there’s always that surprise gift that you’ve forgotten you needed. Office Secret Santa catching you by surprise, or that friend who announces she's dropping by with pressies. But fret not! We have it covered! Scarves and Cowls by Fiona Goble is full of lovely warm knits for men, women and children and many can be knitted in an evening using just one ball of wool, making these patterns an ideal last-minute gift idea. This pattern is classy but cosy and will brighten up any winter outfit!

    SIMPLE CAPELET

    It may surprise you to discover that this stylish capelet is a simple knitted rectangle. What’s more, to create it you need know nothing more than how to cast on and bind (cast) off, and how to work the knit and purl stitches. So if you want something that’s impressive as well as easy, this is definitely the project for you.

    Yarn

    Rowan Baby Merino Silk DK (66% wool, 34% silk) light worsted (DK) yarn

    2 x 1 ¾ oz (50g) balls (148yd/135m) in shade 686 Cantaloupe

    Needles and equipment

    US 6 (4mm) knitting needles

    Yarn sewing needle

    Other materials

    1 x 1 3/8in (35mm) button in dark red

    Gauge (tension)

    22 sts and 30 rows in stockinette (stocking) stitch to a 4-in (10cm) square on US 6 (4mm) needles.

    Measurements

    The finished cape measures 34 ¼ in (87cm) along lower edge and is 8in (20cm) deep.

    For the capelet

    Cast on 48 sts.

    Knit 2 rows.

    Row 3: K4, [k1, p2] to last 5 sts, k5.

    Row 4: K4, [p1, k2] to last 5 sts, p1, k4.

    Row 5: Knit.

    Row 6: K4, p to last 4 sts, k4.

    Rep rows 3–6, 56 times more.

    Row 231: K4, [k1, p2] to last 5 sts, k5.

    Row 232: K4, [p1, k2] to last 5 sts,

    p1, k4.

    Knit 2 rows.

    Bind (cast) off.

    To make up

    Fold down 2 ¼ in (7cm) at the top corners of both ends of the capelet and overlap the right over the left side. Sew on the button, using the picture as a guide, taking in all the front layers so the two ends are held in place. Fold down the top edge of the cape to form the collar.

    Weave in all loose ends.

    Scarves and Cowls by Fiona Goble is available here.


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  • Posted on December 12, 2014

    Recipe for the Weekend

    First things very well first: Happy Christmas Jumper Day one and all! We’ve all donned our festive knits and we’re raising some money for Save the Children UK in the process. Here are some members of the sales and publicity departments looking ever-so-jolly with penguins, baubles and snowflakes galore!

    Now, on the serious business of our 50th(!!!) Recipe for the Weekend! Since we’re feeling wonderfully Christmassy, we’ve got a Yule Log with a difference for you today from the glorious Chocolate at Home by Will Torrent. You may remember back in September we had a go at a couple of the recipes from this fab book, including the Chocolate & Chestnut Roulade. So we can vouch for just how delicious this recipe is, and it definitely deserves a spot on your Christmas table!

    Chocolate & Chestnut Roulade

    We always have a chocolate yule log at Christmas, it’s just a family tradition. I’ve added chestnut purée to a chocolate buttercream to roll my soft chocolate sponge with instead of traditional whipped cream and decorated it with chopped chocolate. It’s rustic, easy to prepare and perfect for Christmas day!

    Roulade

    4 large eggs

    150 g caster sugar, plus extra for rolling

    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

    100 g plain flour

    25 g cocoa powder

    ½ teaspoon baking powder

    a pinch of salt

    50 g unsalted butter, melted

    Buttercream

    200 g dark chocolate, chopped

    3 large egg whites

    200 g caster sugar

    a pinch of salt

    250 g unsalted butter, softened and diced

    1 x 250-g can sweetened chestnut purée

    marron glacé, chopped

    To serve

    chocolate shavings

    cocoa powder, for dusting

    40 x 30-cm Swiss roll pan, greased and lined with baking parchment

    Serves 6–8

     

    Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) Gas 4.

    To make the roulade, put the eggs, sugar and vanilla into a large mixing bowl and whisk with a handheld electric whisk for about 5 minutes, until the mixture is pale and thick and has trebled in volume.

    Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt into the bowl and gently fold into the egg mixture using a large metal spoon, taking care not to knock out too much air. Carefully pour the cooled, melted butter around the edge of the bowl and fold in until there are no traces of it.

    Spoon or pour the batter into the prepared pan and gently spread level with a palette knife. Bake on the middle shelf of the preheated oven for 8–10 minutes, or until well-risen with a light crust and the cake springs back when lightly pressed with your finger. Let the cake cool in the pan for a minute.

    Meanwhile, lay a large sheet of baking parchment on a clean work surface and scatter with 1 tablespoon caster sugar. Carefully turn the roulade out of the pan onto the sugar-coated paper and peel off the paper lining. Lay a clean dish towel on top of the cake and, starting at one of the shorter edges, roll the cake into a tight spiral with the towel inside the roll. Set aside until completely cold.

    To make the buttercream, melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan or pot of barely simmering water. Stir until smooth and set aside.

    To make the meringue, put the egg whites, sugar and salt in a separate heatproof bowl set over a saucepan or pot of simmering water. Add 2 tablespoons of water and whisk until the sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture is foamy. Continue to cook for about 5 minutes, until the mixture is warm to the touch, thickens, turns bright white and will hold a ribbon trail.

    Pour the mixture into a large mixing bowl and beat for about 3 minutes with an electric handheld whisk, until it has doubled in volume is thick, stiff, glossy and the outside of the bowl feels cold to the touch.

    Gradually add the butter to the cold meringue mixture, beating constantly on low–medium speed, until the frosting is smooth. Using a large spoon or spatula fold in the melted chocolate and the chestnut purée.

    To assemble the roulade, carefully unroll the cooled cake and remove the dish towel. Spoon 4 generous tablespoons of buttercream onto the cake and spread evenly using a palette knife. Scatter with the chopped marron glacé. Using the baking parchment to support the cake, roll the cake back into a tight spiral and transfer to a serving plate. Cover the whole cake with more buttercream, scatter with chocolate shavings and dust with cocoa powder to serve.

     

    Chocolate at Home by Will Torrent is available here.

    We hope you enjoy it as much as we did, and Happy Baking!


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  • Posted on December 8, 2014

    Party-Perfect Bites...just because!

    After a lovely quiet weekend at the end of Drinks Week, we’re feeling like we could probably manage to slip our party shoes back on and celebrate something…What? It is December after all! Fortunately, Milli Taylor’s Party-Perfect Bites has come to our rescue! Packed with delicious canapés and party snacks from around the world, this gorgeous book will see you right through to New Year and beyond!

    This recipe for Teriyaki Salmon Skewers is making our mouths water just thinking about it and we’re totally prepared to overlook the fact that the only thing we’re celebrating is making it all the way through Monday!

    Teriyaki salmon skewers

    2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

    thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, thinly sliced on the diagonal

    freshly squeezed juice of ½ a lime

    1 teaspoon sesame oil

    5 tablespoons Japanese soy sauce

    4 tablespoons clear honey

    500 g salmon fillet, skinned and boned

    black sesame seeds to garnish

    26 wooden/metal skewers

    a baking sheet, greased

    Makes 26

    Put the garlic, ginger, lime juice, sesame oil, soy and honey in a large bowl. Stir well to combine.

    Slice the salmon into 26 bite-sized pieces. Toss the salmon in the sauce.

    Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F) Gas 5.

    After 10 minutes, drain the salmon and reserve the sauce. Skewer the salmon and place on the prepared baking sheet and cook in the preheated oven for 5 minutes, or until cooked to your liking. Meanwhile, reduce the sauce in a small saucepan on a low-medium heat for about 3 minutes, or until thickened and glossy.

    Remove the skewers from the oven and brush or spoon the reduced sauce over each salmon piece, along with a sprinkling of sesame seeds. Serve immediately.

    Party-Perfect Bites by Milli Taylor is available here.

    Congratulations on making it through Monday, and enjoy your celebrations!


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  • Posted on December 5, 2014

    Recipe for the Weekend: Drinks Week Edition!

    We’ve had a great time celebrating Drinks Week, and it’s really got us into the festive spirit. We’ve learnt about pairing wine with some store cupboard staples from Jane Parkinson, and about the taste of Natural Wine from Isabelle Legeron MW. We also had some whisky cocktails thanks to Tristan Stephenson, and enjoyed some boozy mussels at the beginning of the week! Phew!

    So, to finish up in a truly celebratory style, we’ve got something really special from LOLA’s Forever, the new book from the LOLA’s Bakers...Enjoy!

    Cosmopolitan Cupcake

    This cupcake was made for the special cocktail range at LOLA’s. A lime-scented sponge is brushed with a Grand Marnier syrup and finished with a vibrant pomegranate buttercream. A glamorous grown up treat – this one is Not For Children!

     

    200 g/1½  cups plain/all-purpose flour

    1 teaspoon baking powder

    90 g/¾  stick butter

    190 g/scant 1 cup caster/superfine sugar

    3 eggs

    100 ml/½ cup full-fat/whole milk

    3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

    grated zest from 1 lime

    GRAND MARNIER SYRUP

    2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

    50 g/¼  cup caster/superfine sugar

    2 tablespoons Grand Marnier

    BUTTERCREAM

    150 g/1¼ sticks butter

    400 g/2¾ cups icing/confectioners’ sugar

    1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

    1 tablespoon vodka

    4 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

    1 /2 teaspoon pink food colouring paste

    TO DECORATE

    muffin pan lined with 12 muffin cases

    piping/pastry bag fitted with a large star nozzle/tip

    MAKES 12

     

    Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F) Gas 4.

    Start by making the Grand Marnier syrup. Place the orange juice, sugar and Grand Marnier in a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Take off the heat and leave to cool slightly.

    Sift the flour and baking powder  into a bowl and set aside.

    Place the butter and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or use an electric whisk and large mixing bowl), and beat the mixture at medium to high speed for 1–2 minutes, until light and fluffy. Occasionally stop to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula to make sure that all the butter and sugar is incorporated. Add the eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated.

    Mix the milk, lime juice and zest together – don’t worry it will curdle! Gradually add this to the butter and egg mixture, alternating with the sifted flour mixture, until you have a smooth batter and all the ingredients have been incorporated. Using an ice cream scoop, divide the mixture between the muffin cases, filling to almost two-thirds full.

    Bake in the preheated oven for 20–25 minutes, until well risen and a skewer inserted into the cakes comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool for 15 minutes, then brush generously with the Grand Marnier syrup.

    To make the buttercream, place the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or use an electric whisk and large mixing bowl), and beat until soft and fluffy. Sift in half of the icing/confectioners’ sugar and, with the mixer on low speed, mix until incorporated. Add the second half of the sugar, along with the vanilla bean paste, vodka, pomegranate molasses and food colouring paste, then beat, slowly, until smooth. This will take 1–2 minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl down and give it a final beat until the buttercream is light and fluffy.

    Spoon the buttercream into the piping/pastry bag, and pipe a swirl of buttercream onto each cupcake. Alternatively, spread the buttercream onto each cake using a palette knife or metal spatula. Decorate each cupcake with a slice of lime.

    LOLA's Forever by the LOLA's Bakers is available here.

    We hope you've enjoyed Drinks Week as much as we have, and Happy Baking!


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  • Posted on December 4, 2014

    Drinks Week: Store-cupboard Wine Matches

    As part of Drinks Week, we’ve got a little something from Jane Parkinson that will come in very useful for anyone wanting to pair their wine and food. We perhaps all know to choose something light (and often white) with fish or to go for a tasty red with meat - though Jane might have something to say on that assumption! - but what do we really know about pairing with flavours?

    In her new book, Wine & Food, Jane talks not only about the main ingredients on your plate, but also which flavour you should pay attention to for a good wine pairing. So today, we have some great info about matching wine with your favourite store-cupboard sauces, and as always, Jane makes it really nice and simple. So simple in fact, that I fancy having a jacket potato and green salad this evening with a good dollop of salad cream and a glass of Pinot Gris!

    Store-cupboard wine matches 

    Those magic little pots and jars in your cupboards and fridges, which are usually packed with flavour and can change the taste of a dish altogether, depending on how much you add, can be tricky to pair with wine, so here are a few ideas to get you started.

    Mustard

    AUSTRALIAN SEMILLON

    The heat and sharp tang of mustard works well with a mellow and slightly nutty wine like Australian Semillon.

     

    Piccalilli

    PINOT GRIGIO

    Although the bite of the Indian spice and the types of vegetables can vary in this and other chutneys, a fruity Pinot Grigio copes really well, and especially if it’s from the southern hemisphere, like New Zealand, where it’s often really ripe and full.

     

    Soy sauce

    AMARONE DELLA VALPOLICELLA

    Balance out the salty soy flavour with a wine that’s dry but gives the impression of being a bit sweet. Cue a ripe, cherry–flavoured Amarone della Valpolicella.

     

     

    Sweet chilli/chile

    MOSCATO D’ASTI

    Sweetness and chilli/chile heat makes for a very tricky wine match, but Moscato d’Asti usually works well. It’s floral, with bags of grapey lusciousness and low alcohol, both of which soften the effect of the heat. Plus, even though it’s lightly sweet it’s usually very crisp so it will cut through the sauce’s sticky texture.

     

    Tartare sauce

    SAUVIGNON BLANC

    The capers and herbs in this sauce are practically screaming ‘Pair me with Sauvignon Blanc!’ because of this grape’s natural affinity with anything heavy in green herbs and saltiness, but you could try a fizz, too.

     

    Salad cream & Thousand Island dressing

    RIESLING & PINOT GRIS

    The hint of sweetness in off–dry Riesling or Pinot Gris really counters the acidic tang of these sauces.

     

    Tomato ketchup & tomato relish

    NEW WORLD PINOT NOIR

    These sweet tomato condiments are best with a New World Pinot Noir that’s unoaked, so it’s plump, juicy, full of raspberry fruit and not too tannic.

     

    Vegemite & Marmite®

    OLDER CHAMPAGNE

    Seems like a decadent choice, but it’s a really great match. Some people might think the dark colour and rich flavour of these spreads needs a red wine, but it’s actually the yeasty flavour that you want to match here, and older Champagnes have a rich, yeasty character, while their bubbles prevent the combination from tasting too heavy.

     

    Wine & Food by Jane Parkinson is available here.

    Have lovely evening!


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  • Posted on December 3, 2014

    Drinks Week: Whiskies

    Did we mention that we’re celebrating Drinks Week? We think it might have come up once or twice… Today we’ve been getting to know a bit more about whisky, thanks to The Curious Bartender: An Odyssey of Malt, Bourbon & Rye Whiskies by Tristan Stephenson and we thought we’d share a recipe.

    Some of us in the office (a.k.a. Not Me) are going skiing over New Year and getting super excited about it, whilst others (a.k.a Me) are getting jealous. This Malt Blanc cocktail has a lovely wintery, skiing holiday, chalet-living sort of a feel to it so everyone can enjoy some snow, and if you have to hunt a bit for the ingredients…well, we just know it’ll taste really special.

    Malt Blanc

    20 ml/¾ fl. oz. Brewed Milk Oolong Tea

    35 ml/1¼  fl. oz. Dalwhinnie 16-Year-Old

    120 ml/4¼ fl. oz. Unsweetened Soy Milk

    15 g/1 Tablespoon Wildflower honey (according to taste)

    Brew the tea at 90°C (195°F) at a ratio of one part tea to 20 parts water and allow to infuse for 5 minutes.

    Strain the leaves out and leave to cool. Combine all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake with ice.

    Remove the ice, then ‘dry shake’ the liquid to introduce plenty of air. Pour the drink into a tall glass and garnish with a cinnamon stick dusted with icing/confectioners’ sugar.

    Glass: Sundae Garnish: cinnamon stick dusted with icing/confectioners’ sugar

     

    This is a drink I invented for L’Aubergaude hotel in Morzine, France. The aim was to create a whisky cocktail that was highly approachable, but that also drew influence from the French Alps. The obvious route was to make a white-coloured drink, which typically means milk, cream or yoghurt, but I wanted to avoid the heaviness of those ingredients so instead opted to use soy milk. Soy milk, and rice milk for that matter, do have a certain affinity with malt whisky, a kind of nutty sweetness that tastes very wholesome and ‘of the earth’.

    That nutty characteristic led me to the next ingredient: tea. Chilled green tea is a very popular whisky mixer in China, where the almost citrus-like grassiness of the tea lengthens the spirit, but remains sympathetic to its character. Green tea didn’t deliver quite the flavour I wanted, though, so I turned to oolong, and more specifically, milk oolong. This particular type of is prized for its milky texture; it’s oily, naturally sweet and not at all bitter when prepared correctly.

    The drink required some sweetening, which would improve the texture, and also balance out the dryness of the other ingredients and suppress some of the volatile alcohol characteristics. I quickly found that too much alcohol heat in a milky drink was especially unpleasant – milk shouldn’t burn; it simply isn’t natural. I settled on wildflower honey, which contributed fruitiness along with its delicate sweet flavour, once again making a good partner to malt whisky.

    Speaking of the whisky, I chose Dalwhinnie 16-year-old. There were two good reasons for this, the first being Dalwhinnie’s dessert-like qualities of caramel, chocolate and silky vanilla custard. The second, less important but very apt, reason is that Dalwhinnie is Scotland’s highest distillery – the perfect choice for a drink named after the highest mountain in Western Europe.

    The Curious Bartender: An Odyssey of Malt, Bourbon & Rye Whiskiesby Tristan Stephenson is available here.

    If you've missed Drinks Week so far, we've got a fab recipe for mussels here, and a great extract discussing taste from Natural Wine by Isabelle Legeron MW here.


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  • Posted on December 2, 2014

    Drinks Week: Natural Wine

    December has arrived, and it’s brought Party Season with it! To celebrate we’re holding Drinks Week all this week, with loads of interesting things to share with you including tips, recipes and ideas. We kicked things off yesterday with a fab recipe for cooking with booze and there’s loads more to come! Make sure you’re following us on Twitter (CICO Books and RPS) and Facebook (CICO Books and RPS) to ensure you don’t miss a thing!

    Today we’ve got an extract from Isabelle Legeron MW’s Natural Wine in which she answers the all-important question…

    DOES NATURAL WINE TASTE DIFFERENT?

    I am often asked whether natural wines taste different. It is difficult to draw general conclusions, given how diverse a group they are, as I am sure you will experience yourself after tasting your way through The Natural Wine Cellar. There is, however, common ground. All fine natural wines, for example, are vibrant (sometimes even a little electric) and full of emotion. They have a broader spectrum of flavors and are usually wines of great purity, often produced without obvious oak additions or too much extraction. They are usually made quite gently, and growers often refer to the fermentation process as an infusion. In fact, as I write this, I cannot help but draw parallels with coffee. Delicious, lightly roasted coffee beans, for example, show far greater aromatic (perfume, acidity) and textural complexity (oils) when percolated rather than being exposed to the quick, harsh extraction of an espresso machine. The result is a drink with a gentleness and elegance that is not dissimilar to natural wine.

    Natural wines also tend to have a lovely, salty minerality because of the way in which they are farmed, as the vines are encouraged to cultivate deep roots that engage with the bedrock, processing its minerals through living soils. This proximity to and link with the actual, physical earth means that natural wines also have a far greater array of textures than conventional wines. The liquids have very different tactile sensations, which means that you can almost eat them, and the differences are made all the more stark by the fact that natural wines are neither fined nor filtered but, instead, are given time to stabilize and settle.

    However, perhaps most important of all is what the French call wine’s “digestibilité.” We (in the wine trade especially) often forget that wine’s primary function is to be drunk, making deliciousness possibly the most important factor in assessing a wine. And what is certain is that all good natural wines are extremely drinkable. They have a sort of umami, or mouth-wateringness, a je ne sais quoi that makes you salivate and want to drink more. This isn’t perhaps surprising when you realize that most natural growers produce wines that are as much for their own consumption as anything else, and are not made to fit a target market. All in all, natural wines tend to be lighter and more ethereal in nature, and those who enjoy them often remark on their freshness and digestibility.

    Because of their aliveness, natural wines behave a little like people. Some days they are more open and generous; others more closed or shy. Some people dismiss this variable living-ness as a lack of consistency, which is a mistake. In good natural wines, the quality is always there, but the aromas morph—opening and closing depending on the day or the wine’s exposure to air. So, if your bottle isn’t tasting as full, for example, as you remember it from last time, leave it until tomorrow, as you might find it suddenly blossoms. Unlike many conventional wines that are identical, day in and day out, year in and year out, until the moment you open them and are then pretty much shot after 24 hours, natural wine is subtly variable and much, much longer-lived once open.

    Natural Wine by Isabelle Legeron MW is available here.


    This post was posted in Featured, Featured, Interviews, Interviews, UK, US, What's new, What's new and was tagged with books, cico, cico books, blog, book, december, amazon, Blogger, organic, autumn, flavour, 2014, Isabelle Legeron, natural wine, natural wine movement, natural, Isabelle Legeron MW, drinks week, Drinks Week 2014, does natural wine taste different, taste, vibrant

  • Posted on December 1, 2014

    Drinks Week Recipe: Mussels Cooked in Beer!

    It’s finally here! We’re celebrating Drinks Week in RPS and CICO Books towers, with tons of exciting things to share over the next few days! Kicking it all off on the blog, we have a great recipe for cooking with booze from master of the drunken kitchen, Helen Graves.

    Why start with a food recipe and not a crazy cocktail, you say? Well, we couldn’t exactly run a Drinks Week without a recipe from Helen's latest book, My Drunken Kitchen - a hilarious a collection of stories and recipes that celebrate the joys of drinking and dining - plus, it’s only Monday, and we don’t want to start the week with a full glass (or a hangover!) So Helen, over to you…

    Mussels bloody LOVE booze. Thirsty buggers. They need to be steamed open by the addition of liquid to the pan, so why not make that liquid as interesting as possible? Wine is often used, but some of the newer, craft beers are better. You want a beer that’s hoppy but not crazily so, one with a good floral backbone. My favorite is Jaipur, but I think Goose Island IPA or Brewdog’s Punk IPA also work well. Use whatever you like. You could use cider too, come to think of it, or any aniseed-flavored spirit, like Pernod, Ricard, or ouzo (scale back the quantity on those. Yikes!). I’ve included bacon, but— at risk of stating the obvious—leave it out for a pescatarian dish.

    2 ¼ lb (1 kg) fresh mussels

    2 tbsp oil

    4 slices thick-cut smoked bacon, diced

    1 white onion, finely chopped

    1 celery stick, finely chopped

    1 big clove of garlic, crushed

    11 fl oz (330 ml) beer or other liquor (see above)

    A small handful of fresh parsley, roughly chopped

    Freshly ground black pepper

    Lemon wedges and crusty bread, to serve

    Makes 2 servings

     

    1. Put the mussels into a colander and scrub them under cold running water, knocking off any barnacles and removing the gritty beards by giving them a sharp tug. Discard  any mussels that do not close when you give them a sharp tap on the side of the sink. Also discard any that have broken shells.

    2. Heat the oil in a pan large enough to hold the mussels. Add the bacon, onion, celery, and garlic and cook, stirring, until the bacon fat is beginning to crisp up.

    3. Add the liquor and some black pepper and bring to the boil, then add the mussels. Put the lid on and cook on a medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, giving the pan a shake now and then, until the mussels have steamed open. Discard any mussels that don’t open.

    4. Divide between bowls, sprinkle with parsley and serve with the lemon wedges and bread.

    My Drunken Kitchen by Helen Graves is available here.

    Happy Monday all, enjoy the recipe and here's to a great Drinks Week... cheers! 


    This post was posted in Featured, Featured, Recipes, Recipes, UK, US and was tagged with books, cico, cico books, blog, book, recipe, drinks, amazon, Blogger, recipes, dog n bone, cooking, craft beer, beer, food, food stories, helen graves, cocktail, 2014, cooking with beer, drunk cooking, my drunken kitchen, drinks week, mussels, mussels in beer, IPA, mussels recipe, how to cook mussels

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