As a food writer it is rare (unheard of perhaps) that you are asked to write and develop recipes and for there not to be a brief attached. Seasonality is a popular one, holidays and times of year another; writing about Christmas, Easter etc. However for me this has been one of the most interesting briefs to date, to try three popular and quaffable wines (one more unusual…) and write recipes to match, but also with a French vein. A double challenge if you will and one that got the creative juices flowing (excuse the pun).
The result is hopefully three knockout spring and summer dishes, evoking daydreams of sunny southern France, that work a dream when paired with the wines listed below. The lamb paired with the Val de Loire rouge is the sort of meal that will undoubtedly impress. And to be honest the Duo des Plages rosé is the sort of wine that would work with a plethora of spring and summer dishes - paired with this addictive salad I am instantly transported to a veranda in the sun. And finally an Alsace muscat, which is my new obsession, an interesting, complex wine that works fantastically with spice, making it quite a special meal alongside the monkfish and mussel bouillabaisse. A date night dinner if you will, or just something to be enjoyed amongst friends. Either way I hope you enjoy them as much as I did creating them. Bon appetit.
Slow Cooked Lamb with Tapenade and Crispy New Potatoes
This is one of those wonderful one pot dishes that takes little effort but rewards you with intense, deep flavour - and potentially some of the best potatoes I have written about to date. Paired with this fresh Loire red, and perhaps a lemony dressed salad on the side, it would make a perfect lazy summer supper.
- 2kg lamb shoulder, rolled
- 180g pitted olives, green and black
- 2 tablespoons small capers
- 3 anchovies
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Olive oil
- 750ml hot beef stock
- 1kg new potatoes
- A few sprigs of thyme
- 1 bulb of garlic
- ½ x 25g bunch of flat leaf parsley, chopped
Preheat your oven to 140ºC. Take your lamb out of the fridge an hour before you cook it so it comes to room temperature. You can make the tapenade either by hand or in a food processor. Finely chop or pulse together the olives, capers and anchovies. Add the red wine vinegar, a good pinch of pepper and enough olive oil to make a spoonable paste. If you are happy to, unwrap your lamb and spread all over with the tapenade then re-roll and tie it up again. It doesn't have to be perfect. If it has been beautifully rolled and you'd rather not mess with it, pierce the lamb all over with a sharp paring knife and rub in the tapenade. Sit it in a large roasting tray - big enough to eventually hold all the potatoes also - and pour the hot stock in the base. Cover with foil and place in the oven for 1.5 hours.
After the initial 1.5 hours is up, carefully remove the tray from the oven. Scatter the potatoes all around the lamb in the stock and add the thyme. Roughly break up the garlic and add that also. Re-cover the tray and return to the oven for a further two hours. When everything is cooked, remove the tray from the oven, and turn the temperature up to 200ºC. Discard the foil and ladle out most of the stock from the tray - leaving around 3cm behind. Using a potato masher lightly crush the potatoes, so they just break up and flatten slightly. Drizzle everything with a little olive oil, sprinkle a little salt on the potatoes and return to the oven for a final 30 minutes, so everything becomes crispy and golden, and there is a little juice left behind in the tray. Finish by scattering with the chopped parsley and serve.
Roquefort, Roasted Grape and Endive Salad
This has to be one of my favourite summer salads, a classic combination of ingredients and flavours heightened by roasting the grapes for maximum sweetness and resulting in a slightly jammy texture. It works perfectly with this Duo des Plages rosé too. However, as it is such a refreshing, easy to drink wine, I feel it will work with a huge range of summer foods.
- 500g red grapes on the vine
- 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 40g walnuts
- 120g Roquefort
- ½ x 25g bunch of chives
- 90g lambs lettuce
- 2 endives
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
Preheat the oven to 220ºC. Lay the grapes out in a roasting tray and drizzle with a little olive oil, 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar and the honey. Season and place the tray in the oven. Roast for 15 minutes, then remove and leave to one side to cool a little.
Roughly chop the walnuts, roquefort and finely chop the chives. Pick the lambs lettuce and endive into a large mixing bowl. Cut the end off the endive and put the leaves into the bowl also. Scatter over the chopped walnuts, roquefort and chives.
In a jam jar, or small bowl, make the dressing by whisking or shaking together the remaining extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar and the Dijon mustard. Spoon in 1 tablespoon of the grape roasting juices from the tray, season well and mix until creamy. Drizzle over the salad and toss everything together until well dressed. Scatter most of the grapes on a platter and top with the dressed salad. Finish with the remaining roasted grapes and serve.
Monkfish and Mussel Bouillabase with a Spiced Rouille
When I first read about this Alsace muscat, I was fascinated by the claim that it complemented ingredients that don't normally work with wine. Spice is a tricky one, and keeping on the theme of a French inspired summer's day I couldn't resist trying to pair it with a bouillabaisse and spicy rouille. I can confirm it works perfectly, a really fascinating, delicious wine that I will definitely be trying with a wider range of foods.
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 onions, peeled and chopped
- 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
- A pinch of fennel seeds, crushed
- 1 heaped tablespoon tomato puree
- 5 ripe tomatoes, finely chopped
- 1l good fish stock
- A pinch of saffron
- 1 bay leaf
- A thick strip of orange peel
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1-2 red chillies, halved and seeds removed
- 1 garlic, peeled
- 2 charred red peppers
- 75g good quality mayonnaise
- ½ lemon
- 40g fresh breadcrumbs
- 750g monkfish, cleaned
- 400g mussels or clams, cleaned
- ½ x 25g bunch of flat leaf parsley, to serve
- A loaf of French bread, to serve
Pour the oil in a very large casserole or saucepan and place on a medium heat. Add the chopped onion, fennel, garlic and crushed fennel seeds and sauté for 10 minutes until they begin to soften. Stir in the tomato puree and chopped tomatoes, then add the fish stock, saffron, bay leaf, orange peel and season well. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 30 minutes.
While the base is cooking make the spiced rouille. Roughly chop the chillies and garlic and place in a mini food processor or blender with the red peppers, mayonnaise and a squeeze of lemon (you can always start with one chilli then add more depending on how spicy you like your food). Blitz until smooth, then pulse in the breadcrumbs. You can do this in advance and store it in the fridge. It will make the rouille thicker.
When the veg is cooked, you can either carry on with a chunky bouillabaisse, or blitz the base for a creamier, smooth soup (I prefer the latter). If doing so, remove the bay and orange peel and use a stick blender to blitz until thick. Cut the monkfish into 3cm chunks and add to the pan. Add the cleaned mussels (discarding any that are still closed), cover with the lid then reduce the heat and cook for five minutes. The fish should be opaque and the mussels should have opened (any that are still closed should be discarded). Stir through the chopped parsley and serve the bouillabaisse with fresh crusty french bread and the spicy rouille on the side.