Two delicious whites – a Pinot Gris and White Rioja

I popped into Vagabond this week and tried a couple of delicious whites – the Bodegas Ontanon Vetiver white Rioja and the Awatere River Pinot Gris from New Zealand.


The Rioja region in Spain is of course better known for its reds. Indeed the production of whites is pretty minimal in comparison. The grape variety is Viura (known as Macabeo elsewhere in Spain) and the traditional style of white Riojas would often be extremely heavily oaked with an almost oxidised aroma to it. The Bodegas Ontanon Vetiver has none of this; it is relatively restrained and paired back for a Rioja allowing its fresh fruit characteristics to shine through. The nose is lovely and creamy due to the 6 months spent in American oak; a very well-balanced wine. The suggested food match would be a crab lasagne or paella.

tasting notes

The Rioja was good but the Awatere River Pinot Gris was fantastic. Hailing from Marlborough in New Zealand it had a luscious, apricot nose with a hint of spice. The body was full, off dry with a wonderful intensity of flavour and a very good length. It also came with the most brilliant food match suggestion – pork fillet stuffed with apricot and spinach – which I have to say, sounds like it would go perfectly. So much so that I bought a bottle (not cheap at £13.95 but worth the money I thought) and will have to imagine up said dish some time soon.

Vagabond – I’ll let you know how it goes!!

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

Some very important pork meatballs


I have this thing about cooking. If I have someone coming for supper I will have been thinking about what I’m going to cook pretty much since the moment I invited them. That isn’t to say that it’s necessarily something fancy, more that it’s something that fits with the person I’m cooking for and it gives me an excuse to try certain recipes that I haven’t been able to justify for just myself. Some people warrant ‘safe recipes’ – ones you’ve tried and tested and know are crowd pleasers but don’t take too much thinking about. This tends to be an evening where all element of risk is removed from the equation; generally speaking people you know less well. This was not one of those evenings.

The second thing about me and cooking is that once I’ve decided what I’m cooking, that’s it. There are no last minute changes and no backing out. Usually I will have bought food at least the day before. As I said… not one of those evenings.

I really really thought that pork mince is the kind of thing you can buy anywhere but on this particular day it felt as if it was sold out of every single mini supermarket in London. I’ve never had to ask someone I’ve invited for dinner to bring their own food before, but this is what happened. Charlotte, I’m very very sorry and I promise, the next time you come back from Africa I will not send you to THREE SUPERMARKETS looking for pork mince just because I’m too stubborn and unimaginative to think of something else to cook.

Confession out the way (I really did feel jolly guilty about that); let’s focus on the fact that I had been planning to cook these for supper since at least the weekend before which shows immense effort and thoughtfulness on my part (clutching at straws here??) – and that they were really rather good.

Another corker from Nigel Slater (thanks Nige) – this time it was from Apetite:

  • smoked pancetta – a handful or so
  • minced pork – 500g
  • groundnut oil – a little for frying
  • onions – either a couple of shallots or 4 small spring onions
  • chillies – 3 or 4 small, hot red chillies
  • coriander – a small bunch
  • lime leaves or lemon grass – 4 lime leaves or 2 thick stalks of lemon grass
  • garlic – 3 or 4 cloves, peeled and crushed

Chop the shallots or spring onions finely, then chop the chillies even finer, first removing the seeds if you don’t like things too hot. Scrub the roots of the coriander and chop them and the leaves finely, discarding the stems. Roll the lime leaves up and shred them finely, then chop them: if you are using lemon grass, remove the coarse outer leaves and discard them, then chop the tender inside leaves very thinly.

Chop the bacon or pancetta and add it, with the seasoning above, to the minced pork. Mix in a good pinch of salt, then cover with clingfilm and leave to rest in the fridge for half an hour.

Shape the seasoned pork into small balls and flatten them slightly. To cook you will need to warm a little oil in a heavy frying pan, then lay the meatballs in – without crowding them – and let them colour on both sides before turning the heat down a bit and letting them cook all the way through. They should be done after 4 or 5 minutes – the centre should be juicy but not especially pink.

We had this with basmati rice and spinach and it was delicious. A really clean dish that was straightforward to cook but something a bit different. It was a pretty good match with the La Grille Chenin Blanc (see Tuesday’s post); texturally speaking it was perfect and the chilli in the meatballs was complemented really well by the off dry edge to the wine.

So not too much of a disaster in the end despite the somewhat hectic beginning. What jolly important meatballs these are to warrant so much fuss.