Taking on a pork willy


Pork tenderloin is the sort of thing I look at in the supermarket not quite knowing what to do with it. For that reason alone (and also perhaps the fact that I find these enormous pork willies mildly alarming to look at) I’ve never actually cooked one. The other day I picked one up and spent the next couple of days trying to decide how to approach it. Having scoured the internet and found a plethora of options I settled on the one below and it is definitely something I’ll be coming back to. The other great thing was that it forced me into the Chinese supermarket which is somewhere I just don’t spend enough time. That said there’s nothing here you wouldn’t be able to find easily elsewhere.

Flat rice noodles with sticky Vietnamese grilled pork

  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 120g caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • a small bunch coriander
  • 500g pork tenderloin
  • 200ml rice wine vinegar
  • 2 red chillies, deseeded and chopped
  • 3 tbsp roasted salted peanuts, crushed
  • 250g flat rice noodles

Mix together the fish sauce, turmeric, lemongrass, garlic, 20g sugar, sesame oil and 1/2 the coriander. Cut the tenderloin in half and mix with the marinade and leave for 30mins or overnight if you can.

Pork marinade

Heat the vinegar and remaining sugar in a small saucepan. Boil until thickened for 5-10 mins, then cool. Beware that it is impossible to tell if it has thickened until it has cooled a bit – I boiled mine for much longer and then had to add more vinegar back into it as it had thickened far too much. Also be careful when tasting as this stuff turns MOLTEN hot.

Pour boiling water over the noodles and leave until cooked al dente. Drain, rinse with cool water and drain again. Dry in a tea towel and drizzle with a little extra oil to keep from sticking.

Cook the pork under a hot grill (or bbq) for 10-15mins until browned and starting to blacken on the outside and just pink on the inside. Try and baste with the marinading liquid as the pork cooks to make the most of all the delicious flavours.

Pork cooked

Once cooked remove from the grill and leave to rest for a few minutes. Meanwhile reheat the noodles in a hot wok – this will only take 30 secs or so. To serve slice the pork into thin slices , place over a bed of noodles with the sticky chilli and peanut sauce on top. Finish off with some extra coriander.

The sauce gives a distinct element of sweetness to this dish and for that reason and all the aromatic flavours that have gone into it I would match it with an off dry Riesling or Pinot Gris.


Recipe adapted from http://www.bbcgoodfood.com

Lunching at The Shed


It is quite a spectacle going out to lunch with my family. There are so many of us (I have 2 brothers, 2 sisters and between us we now have 3 plus ones in tow) and inevitably end up slightly taking over every restaurant we ever go to leaving me feeling faintly sorry through the haze of alcohol for the other folk there who were probably looking forward to a nice quiet luncheon and who through no fault of their own and some horrible twist of fate ended up next to us.

On this occasion (my sister’s birthday) we took our noisiness (and discerning palates) to The Shed in Notting Hill. For me, as a concept, The Shed rather symbolises ‘living the dream’. The two guys who run it hale from Sussex not far from where I grew up and they source the majority of their produce either from their younger brother’s farm or other local farmers. The menu changes daily depending on what’s available and it makes you feel like jumping up and down on one of their kettle drum tables singing ‘The Circle of Life’. And it’s all very farmyard themed – the top of their bar is made out of what looks like the bonnet of a John Deer tractor and there’s tractor wallpaper in the loo. The other chap in the restaurant celebrating his birthday (who had obviously had the forethought to tell them in advance) had his birthday cake ‘rung’ in to the room with a cow bell!

All this would be incidental if the food wasn’t good. But it was SO GOOD! The kind of good that means we all sort of couldn’t cope with how good it was. We were at first slightly confused by the menu but had it gently explained to us by our extremely patient waiter – it’s all about small plates here, like tapas but English. This is bad news if you’re not good at sharing but really good news if you’re looking at a menu (like we all were) thinking there is no heavenly way in the world you would ever be able to pick two dishes out of all this deliciousness. As it was we ordered 13 out of the possible 16 dishes (they are split into two categories of ‘Slow Cooking’ and ‘Fast Cooking’) and many of these we doubled up on.

Veal Medallions, Bone Marrow Pesto
Veal Medallions, Bone Marrow Pesto

Highlights were the Lamb Chips – slow cooked lamb pulled apart and put back together into a ‘chip’ shape, rolled in bread crumbs and crisped up in the deep fat frier. The Scotched Mozzarella and Veal made us all literally all bend forward in unison and go ‘Ooooooh’ before having to up our order to 3 portions. The Veal Medallions with Bone Marrow Pesto almost made my father fall off his chair with excitement and for me the Hake with Fennel Ground Pork, White Beans and Wild Garlic was one of the best dishes I have had in a long long time and had me reaching for my notebook to try and remember to recreate it (in my dreams) at home. Even the desserts (yes we had room, just) were phenomenal – all twists on old favourites – Rhubarb Jelly with Crumble Ice Cream, Hot Cross Bun and Butter Pudding and Magnum Vienetta Parfait. I am still not genuinely sure what a parfait actually is (it always makes me think of Donkey from Shrek – you know the scene) but all I know is I would eat that for dessert every time I went out for the rest of my life and die a happy (yet rather portly) woman.

Hake, Fennel Ground Pork, White Beans, Wild Garlic
Hake, Fennel Ground Pork, White Beans, Wild Garlic

I never actually saw a wine list but the house red and white (a Merlot and a Languedoc blend respectively) kept us happy throughout the meal. I believe they serve ‘Nutty Nutbourne’ as their house fizz which is certainly worth a try if you have any interest in English Sparkling Wines and if you don’t, shame on you, you should and it’s time to get on board.

Please bear this place in mind the next time you go out. It really was one of the most fun lunches we had all had in a long long time. It is informal, relaxed but attentive service. The food is brilliant and exciting and delicious but without being fussy or poncy. I can’t wait to go back and I only hope that living the dream is as good for them on the inside looking out as it seemed to me from the outside looking in.

Pigeon, Butter Leaf Salad, Bacon, Hazelnut, Port... with a little bit missing
Pigeon, Butter Leaf Salad, Bacon, Hazelnut, Port… with a little bit missing

Website – www.theshed-restaurant.com

Nutbourne Vineyards – www.nutbournevineyards.com

Yealands Estate and the Awatere Valley

For the longest time I have struggled with Sauvignon Blanc. It used to be my go-to grape for everything (a bit more interesting than Pinot Grigio but that was about where my wine knowledge ended) which I think was partly the problem – overkill! Suddenly the sometimes aggressive herbaceousness and high acidity became all too much for me and I had to resign myself to the inevitable conclusion that I had ‘gone off’ Sauvignon.

TamraUntil a few weeks ago I was invited to a fantastic wine tasting with Yealands Estate hosted by their chief winemaker Tamra Washington. I can categorically say that the evening has reignited my love for Sauvignon Blanc. The home of Yealands Estate is the Awatere Valley in Marlborough New Zealand. They are a relatively new producer having only produced their first vintage in 2008 and are now at the forefront of sustainable winemaking in New Zealand. I have to just linger on this point for a second to tell you about their sheep! They have these tiny little sheep, aptly named Babydoll sheep, that they introduced to the vineyard for weed and grass management which are too small to reach the grapes; this completely appeals to the farmer’s daughter in me.

Awatere Valley

I have never properly considered the concept of terroir in the New World before. Terroir is something I would associate much more strongly with the Old World and especially the older vineyard sites in Burgundy. The fact that a Premier Cru and Grand Cru site can be mere metres apart yet the wines still display the nuances in soil type and aspect completely blows my mind. Tamra talked about the importance of microclimates in the Awatere Valley – these microclimates are created my the undulating terroir throughout. Their Seaview Vineyard boasts the most significant planting of vines in the Awatere Valley; the vineyards are closer to the sea than anywhere else in Marlborough which results in it being cooler, dryer and windier. This results in a longer growing season for the grapes which produces wines with distinctive mineral characteristics.

The focus on the importance of microclimates at Yealands Estate has led them to harvest and mature different ‘blocks’ of Sauvignon Blanc completely separately. There are around 160 blocks in total; the coastal Sauvignons (from Seaview) produce a purer mineral and herbal character whereas the Sauvignons from further inland are less herbal with a more tropical character. This has inspired the concept of single block wines and Yealands now produce 4 different Sauvignon Blancs that are bottled as Single Block.

The main lesson we have learned today – Marlborough does not produce one single style of Sauvignon Blanc!

The Wines

Yealands PNWe tried a lot of wine. All different, all interesting for different reasons. It seems mean, and frankly far too difficult, to pick and choose between them so I’m just going to tell you about them all! Most of these are from 2012 vintage – this was a very cool, dry vintage where the grapes were harvested extremely late. This was the best and longest ripening season to date for Yealands Estate:

  • Yealands Estate Single Block S1 Sauvignon Blanc 2012 – Tropical nose with more citrus and grapefruit on the palate. There was more body than you’d expect with a mineral salty character coming from the 3 months this wine had spent on lees.
  • Yealands Estate Single Block M2 Sauvignon Blanc 2012 – Much more closed than the last wine with an almost (!) sweaty nose, more of a gooseberry flavour of minerality. This is from the Wairau area which has heavier soils, flat land and no wind exposure. You would usually expect a more tropical fruit character to this wine as Wairau is warmer but since 2012 was particularly cool it displayed more citrus than tropical fruit.
  • Yealands Estate Single Block L5 Sauvignon Blanc 2012 – This is a classic Seaview wine displaying lots of power on the palate with a distinct flavour of Romano peppers and thyme. The fruit is cool and clean with a brilliant finish.
  • Yealands Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2012 – The best blocks go into this wine – it is a blend of 3 different blocks. Extremely well balanced with a fresh fruit character on the nose with great length and minerality.
  • Yealands Estate Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2011 – For me this had a really gentle, creamy, nutty flavour whilst still being very much a Sauvignon Blanc. It has seen a bit of oak but it’s very very subtle – 33% of the blend has gone from the press to old oak barrels where it has been left to ferment naturally. It is then blended back with the unoaked tank wine.
  • Yealands Estate Riesling 2012 – This wine was super dry with searing acidity. The lemon and lime characteristics were rounded off by a softer finish – this could do with a bit of time to open up.
  • Yealands Estate Gruner Veltliner 2012 – There are only 30ha of GV planted in New Zealand and I confess I’ve never tried one before. The palate was soft and spicy with a touch of floralness and a hint of white pepper. There are two picks for this wine (one early and one late) which results in a wine with a full body while retaining a distinctive mineral streak.
  • Yealands Estate Viognier 2012 – A classic Viognier nose and a tropical (almost banana?) palate. 40% of the blend has spent time in old oak. Excellent length.
  • Yealands Estate Single Block R6 Pinot Gris 2012 – This was brilliant – an apricoty nose and flavours of stone fruits, white peach, pear, spice but still with a savouriness. This wine has also spent time on lees meaning a mineral character is apparent under the fruit.
  • Yealands Estate Pinot Noir 2011 – A nose of green pepper, white pepper and extremely underripe cherry. The palate is spicy cherry fruit with good length – quite a restrained style.
  • Yealands Estate Reserve Central Otago Pinot Noir 2012 – A much riper nose than the previous wine; more plums, velvety, lush, spiced cherry and a distinctive smokiness with great length. I loved this wine.

The Sauvignons were stunning; the Pinot Gris and Otago Pinot Noir also really stood out for me. It was a tremendous evening and thrilling to have the focus on what was for me an unknown aspect of New Zealand wine. We were given an outstanding dinner by the Union Club of roast salmon and salsa verde starter, an enormous braised lamb shank followed by cheese and drank the wine out of beautiful and extremely decadent Baccarat glasses.

Watch out for these wines and if you come across them – BUY THEM!

LambshankYealands Estate – www.yealandsestate.co.nz

Union Club – www.unionclub.co.uk

Chateau Baccarat – www.baccarat.com

Other excellent posts

Yealands Estate Tasting and Dinner with Tamra Washington – Cambridge Wine Blogger

Yealands Estate, producing vibrant fruity wines with big character – Kandabites

Relight My Sauvignon Fire – SipSwooshSpit

Italian comfort food and the easiest cake in history


Winter doesn’t seem to be shifting quite as quickly as we’d like. The problem is that I always forget about February. January I’m prepared for; I protect myself from the hideous post-Christmas-blues and the financial hardship that accompany them by making sure I’m as busy as possible. You don’t mind the fact that it’s colder than December and November put together because January is still ‘proper winter’. But really my patience runs out at about this time of year when it’s still showing only TWO DEGREES (feels like -12) on my Met Office app.

This weather calls for comfort food; something slow cooked and delicious and hopefully cheap (because let’s face it – the financial hardship almost always continues into February). For this particular Sunday lunch I decided to cook a Beef Ragu with Pappardelle. I scouted round for a recipe online and predictably settled on a Jamie Oliver that I think comes from the original book Jamie’s Kitchen. The recipe said serves 4 but we found it more than enough for 6 (with seconds)!

  • One 28-ounce piece braising meat (beef/venison)
  • Olive oil
  • 1 handful each of fresh rosemary and thyme, stems discarded and leaves finely chopped
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 celery stick, finely chopped
  • 2 wineglasses Chianti
  • 2 tins of plum tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons pearl barley
  • Salt and pepper
  • Pappardelle
  • Unsalted butter
  • 2 handfuls grated Parmesan (plus extra to serve)

Season the meat with salt and pepper and cut into 2-inch chunks. In a hot casserole-type pan, fry your meat in a little olive oil until golden brown on all sides. Add your herbs, onions, garlic, carrot and celery. Turn down the heat and continue to cook for 5mins until the vegetables have softened.

Add your red wine and continue to simmer until the liquid has almost cooked away but left you with a fantastic colour and fragrance.

Add the plum tomatoes, pearl barley and just enough water to cover the meat by 1/2 inch. Make yourself a cartouche (cut out a piece of baking parchment to the size of your pan). Wet it with a little water, rub it with a little olive oil, and place it over the pan. Put a lid on the pan as well as this will help retain as much moisture as possible while cooking. Cook over a really low heat for 2-3 hours depending on the tenderness and type of meat. It’s ready when you can literally pull the meat apart in tender strands.

At this point season the braise carefully with salt and pepper to taste and allow to cool slightly before removing the meat from the pan. Using 2 forks, pull apart all the lovely pieces of meat. Skim any fat from the surface of the braising liquid. Put the meat back in the pan over a low heat. (At this point we felt something was still missing – Mr F suggested I stir a teaspoon of Dijon mustard into the sauce and it somehow brought the whole thing together)

It’s now ready to serve so cook your Pappardelle. Once cooked, drain it in a colander, saving some of the cooking liquid in case the sauce needs a little loosening. Remove the pot of stewed meat from the heat and stir in a large knob of butter and the Parmesan with a little cooking water – this will make it juicy and shiny. Serve immediately with the sauce spooned over the pasta and extra Parmesan on top. We put a pot of basil on the table and mixed the torn up leaves in with the sauce. 

Since the recipe had called for Chianti I decided to keep things simple by serving it with just that. This is a great demonstration of one of the basic rules of wine and food matching – that the wines from a particular country often match perfectly with the local cuisine. Chianti is predominantly made from the Sangiovese grape and is naturally quite high in acidity which goes brilliantly with the classic Italian tomato based pasta sauces. This particular one was reduced to £5.99 in Sainsbury’s and not bad at all with straightforward cherry fruit, and smooth tannins.  

I absolutely cannot finish this post without adding in what we had for pudding as it was so brilliantly simple that it’s going to become my staple ‘easy-pud’ of 2013. It came from Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries and you could adapt it to whatever fruit you happen to have in the house at the time:

  • butter – 130g
  • unrefined caster sugar – 130g
  • ripe pears – 2
  • eggs – 2 large
  • plain flour – 130g
  • baking powder – a teaspoon
  • blueberries – 250g
  • a little extra sugar

Set the oven at 180 degrees. Line the base of a square cake tin with a piece of baking parchment. Beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Peel and core the pears and cut them into small chunks. Break the eggs, beat them with a fork, then gradually add them to the butter and sugar. Sift the flour and baking powder together and add them gently into the mixture. Scrape into the lined tin then tip the blueberries and pears on top. Scatter a couple of teaspoons of sugar over the top. Bake for 55mins, then test for doneness with a skewer. Eat warm and serve with cream and/or ice cream.

fruity cake

Recipes taken from Jamie’s Kitchen by Jamie Oliver and The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater.

Wine and food matching with L’atelier des Chefs

AndreI’ve never really done any kind of cooking classes before. I know lots of people that went off to terribly grand cookery schools at some time or another – some have gone on to become really brilliant home cooks, some not so much. For me I’ve always seen that kind of thing as luxury I can ill afford. I’m also not very good at being told what to do and have therefore always been ‘tricky’ in that kind of school environment – combine that with the high stress environment of a kitchen and it could be a recipe for disaster (excuse the pun)!

But how wrong I was. Last week I went to a class at L’atelier des Chefs; they are a cooking school currently with two sites in London who offer classes of different lengths starting from 30mins (for an extremely affordable £15) to 4 hours for their more specialised Master Classes. I have done a 30min class in the past and couldn’t believe that it a) genuinely took 30mins, and b) you got such fantastic food and quality produce for the price. Last week was particularly relevant as it was a food and wine matching class. The theme for the evening was Thai food with a lineup of 3 fantasticClass dishes – Thai spiced mussels, barbary duck with Asian greens and a soy and chilli glaze and mango and lime tart tatin for pudding. Each dish was matched with a wine; they were all from Majestic but it would be easy to find a suitable equivalent elsewhere. Thai food is so immensely popular yet is something a lot of people are afraid of cooking themselves at home due to the plethora of complicated ingredients and flavours. Similarly matching wines to these dishes can be a daunting prospect for the same reasons. Brilliantly there was almost nothing in these dishes that would have been difficult to find in a large supermarket making them all possible to reproduce at home.

The thai spiced mussels were matched with a Gruner Veltliner from Austria. Gruner Veltliner is a particularly good grape to match with food as it’s got a relatively full body but retains its elegance with delicate flavours and a lovely mineral streak. This restrained character allows the subtle flavours of the mussels to shine through and complimented the delicate spice and flavours of the sauce.Mussels

The barbary duck was matched with a pair of wines and the results were split pretty much 50/50 as to who liked what best. The pair was the Waimea Estate Pinot Gris and Waimea Estate Pinot Noir from New Zealand. Pinot Noir is quite a natural match for duck as it’s a lighter style of red wine with red fruit and soft tannins. The trouble is that this duck is again cooked with delicate Thai spices which can easily be overpowered by a red wine – this is where the Pinot Gris came in. Slightly off dry it complimented the chilli spice in the dish and the fattiness of the duck which had caramelised during cooking; it also gave room for all those gorgeous aromatic flavours to show off. As I said, both went down extremely well but for me the white won by a nose. Duck

Finally the mango and lime tart tatin with passion fruit drizzle – my goodness this was a beautiful pudding; a bit fiddly but by no means complicated and looked just stunning. It was matched with the Brown’s Brothers Orange and Flora muscat. The dessert wasn’t as sweet as I had expected as the lime gave it a real kick – it needed a wine with fruity sweetness to compliment the mango and with high acidity to match the lime and stop it all becoming too sticky; this worked admirably. Shockingly, orange muscat tastes orangey which gave it the desired fruit character – the flora is what gives it body and colour. A lot of people admitted not normally liking dessert wines but this was a real hit and something you wouldn’t often try yourself at home.Mango tatin

I couldn’t recommend L’atelier des Chefs highly enough – the school is set up beautifully with a shop at the front which is lethal for anyone who is as easily tempted as I am by exciting things like kitchen tongs and cook books. Our chef Andre was amazing and extraordinarily calm considering he had a kitchen of 16 people to keep under control. As well as learning 3 delicious recipes there are constant tips throughout the evening from basic knife-skills to how long you should rest meat for after cooking.

We were all emailed our recipes after the class and they have generously allowed me to share one with you…

Barbary duck breast with Asian greens and soya and chilli glaze (Serves 6)

  • 6 duck breasts
  • 5cl soy sauce
  • 20g honey
  • 2 red chillies
  • 2 limes
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3 sweetheart cabbages
  • 3cl groundnut oil
  • half a bunch of thai basil

For the meat – Preheat the oven to 180’C. Trim the duck breast to remove any excess fat and sinew. Score the skin. Place into a cold dry pan skin side down and cook till crispy draining away the fat as it renders. Turn the breast remove from the pan and roast in a 180’c oven for 6 minutes. Allow to rest before carving.

For the vegetables – Finely dice the chilli and puree the garlic with a pinch of salt. Zest and juice the lime. Cut the cabbage into quarters, remove the tough core and thinly slice. Colour the cabbage in a a hot pan with some of the duck fat, add the garlic and chilli and cook for a further minute. Add the honey and the soy and start to reduce to a glaze, constantly basting the cabbage. Finish with the lime juice and half of the zest.

To plate – Carve the duck into 3 pieces and serve on top of the cabbage. Drizzle the glaze on top and garnish with the Thai basil and a sprinkling of lime zest.

This dish was match with Waimea Estate Pinot Gris and Waimea Estate Pinot Noir both from Majestic Wine.

With thanks to L’atelier des Chefs for their fantastic recipes and a wonderful evening.