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The Secret to Baking a Great Loaf of Bread

Over the years I have gone through various bread-baking phases, trying out everything from sourdough to brioche. Much of the time I struggled to bake a loaf as good as that from a proper baker. Then, within a week the same solution was handed to me by two completely different people; Darina Allen and Paul Hollywood. The way to successfully bake a really great loaf, better than anything you will find in most supermarket bakeries is:


A cast iron casserole, a Le Creuset or Dutch Oven, as it is called in the States.

First, having completed a wine-tasting session at Ballymaloe Cookery School, I sneaked into the back of a class on fermentation, given by Darina Allen and Emer FitzGerald. It was a fascinating talk, and I wish I hadn’t been obliged to race off back to Wicklow. For me the most interesting part was the sourdough bread, which did not require any kneading and was baked in a cast iron casserole preheated in a very hot oven. The idea came from Chad Robertson of Tartine in San Francisco.

Three days later, watching Paul Hollywood on the Food Network channel, he introduced a New York baker who produced a fail-safe no-knead bread baked in the same vessel. See for the same video.

In both cases, you fold rather than knead the bread, and in both cases, you preheat the casserole, bake the bread for 20 minutes with the lid on, and then a further 15-25 minutes without the lid, allowing the crust to crisp up. I tried both out. I baked my sourdough at a very high temperature, which shattered my Le Creuset handle, and the loaf stuck a little to the bottom of the casserole. I now unscrew the handle and sprinkle a little wholemeal or rye flour on the casserole before adding the bread. It works a treat. I can now cook really good bread, both sourdough and standard, to a very high standard. I usually mix strong white flour with a proportion of whole meal, rye or granary. It may not look quite as artisanal as real bakery bread, but the crumb and moisture is good, the crust nice and crunchy, and the flavour excellent.


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A few very nice wines – the weekends modest consumption

The weekends modest consumption.


Rocca de Montemassi 2013, Maremma Toscana

Made, I think, from a Bordeauxish blend with some Syrah, this was a medium to full-bodied wine with concentrated blackcurrant fruits, toasty oak, plenty of structure and good dry tannic length. Sort of like Bordeaux on steroids? Very nice wine. €40 from Fresh Outlets.

Dom Freitas Reserva 2013 Castelao, VR Peninsula de Setubal

SuperValu will launch this (in selected stores) in very smart wooden cases of six for €50, or €8.33 a bottle from 21st July. Light with piquant cherry fruits, good acidity and some oaky vanilla. Good with lighter meat dishes and good value too.

Guardoilvento 2014 Etna Rosso

Herbal nose with some dark fruits; slightly baked and wild, with ripe dark fruits and good acidity. Lovely wine. Imported by Grapecircus, I suspect it would retail for around €25-30.

Macon-Uchizy 2014 Mallory & Benjamin Talmard

An old favourite showing very well. Medium-bodied with fresh clean green apple fruits and a touch of style. €18.95 from Searsons and other independents.

Cullen Kevin John Chardonnay 2006, Margaret River, Western Australia

I stashed this away five years ago, having written a very positive review of the wine. It is still very good and certainly shows no sign of oxidiation (or premature oxidation) but I would have hoped for a little more intensity of flavour. Still had plenty of fresh acidity, light toasty hazelnuts, and peach fruits, Good but not great.

Ch. Lagrange 2012, Grand Cru Classé, Saint Julien

A bottle I smuggled home from the Lidl press tasting, to be featured shortly in their French Wine sale at around €40. Fine, classic Saint Julien with elegant blackcurrant fruits, and a cloak of new French oak. A very nice wine, but just wish it had a touch more concentration at this price.

Croce di Febo Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2011
Fairly full-bodied (14%) with plenty of dark savoury cherry fruits, some new oak showing through and a firm long finish. Well-made wine. Organic. From Grapecircus I think and therefore probably available in Sheridans.

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Lidl French Wine Sale Part One – White Wines Preview

The Lidl French wine sale starts on the 12th September. As usual, quantities are limited, so some will sell through fairly quickly. There are, I think, fewer wines this year, but the overall quality was pretty good with some impressive wines. As in previous years, Bordeaux features strongly with a nice range of wines at around €10.

Prices are indicative and will be confirmed closer to the event. Today, I review my favourite white wines, to be followed by the reds next week.


Ernest Wein Riesling 2015, Alsace (around €10)

Very recognisably Riesling with plump apple fruits, a little residual sugar, but it works very well. Nice wine.

JP Muller Riesling Grand Cru Altenberg de Berbieten 2013 (€13-15)

Bigger, richer and riper than the Riesling above, with good mature honeyed fruits, nice concentration and a clean finish. Well-made wine and very good value.

Bestheim Sylvaner Vieilles Vignes 2015, Alsace (€8-9)

A pleasantly herbal nose and palate with decent plump fruit. Perfect sipping wine at a very good price.

Sancerre 2015, Vigne de la Taille aux Buis (€14-16)

I am not usually a fan of cheap Sancerre, but this was an exception. Light crisp and mineral with some elegant green fruits.

Touraine Sauvignon La Chardoise 2015 (around €10)

Looking for an inexpensive sipping Sauvignon? This should do the trick. Light elderflower aromas rich rounded green fruits. Fine at the price. By the way, I am not sure this is the correct picture above – there were two on tasting.


Adrien Marechal Reuilly 2015 (€11-13)

If you haven’t tried a Reuilly before, this is your chance. This small appellation in the Loire valley produces some very good Sauvignon Blanc. This was one of my stars of the tasting, a lovely lightly aromatic wine with concentrated stony green fruits and a crisp dry finish. Lovely wine.

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The Haul this weekend

DSCF6815Closerie des Alisiers Mâcon-Milly-Lamartine 2015
€14.95 from Whelehan’s Wines, Loughlinstown

I have reviewed the 2014 of this wine; a nice crisp dry white with a touch of honey and orange peel.

Etoile 2015, Domaine Begude, Limoux
€19.95 from O’Briens

Another Chardonnay, this time from Domaine Begude in Limoux; lovely wine, a future wine of the week in the Irish Times.

Viognier 2015, Domaine de Belle Mare, Pays d’Oc
€13.25 from Wines Direct

Fine. A little sweet for my tastes, but it does have good medium to rich peach fruits. Well-priced €13.25

Bardolino 2014 Cantina de Negrar
From Grapecircus, so probably available in Sheridans.

Delightful light (11.5%) summer wine with toothsome plum fruits.

Celeste 2014 Ribera del Duero, Torres

€21.95 for O’Briens and independents

Smooth lush dark fruits, beginning to develop some tertiary, if not barnyard flavours. No complaints from our dinner guests though.

Givry Clos Saint Pierre 1er cru 2012, Domaine Thenard

€28.95 from Whelehan’s Wines, Loughlinstown

Light and toothsome with maturing leafy red cherry fruits. Given the way Burgundy is going these days, good value.

Chakalaka 2013 Spice Route, Swartland
€24.99 imported by Liberty

Representing a range of very good wines from Charles Back that I tasted. A very attractive smooth big swarthy red.

Charles Mignon Cuvée Comte de Marne Gand Cru, Champagne NV
€45 from SuperValu

Very nice creamy Champagne with a core of ripe peach and pear fruit.

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A Few Days in Slovenia


I was enchanted by my first visit to Slovenia a decade or so ago and had been trying unsuccessfully to return ever since. This is a really beautiful country that also produces some seriously good wines; sadly we do not see nearly enough of them in Ireland. The following is a short(ish) summary of a fairly relaxed three day trip to Stajerska, organized by Sinéad and Liam Cabot, who import most of these wines, and make their own wines there too!


Stajerska is in the south-east corner of Slovenia, a twenty-minute drive from Austria and Hungary, and two minutes from Croatia; the border has a recently erected (very sharp) barbed wire fence running right the way along, although it is now unmanned, as refugees are now stopped at the Macedonian border. The inhabitants would once have considered the city of Graz as their capital rather than Ljubljana, and German is the default language. As mentioned above, this is one of the prettiest wine regions, with rolling green hills covered in vines, forest, fields of pumpkin and maize, dotted with substantial prosperous well-maintained farmhouses, each with its own immaculate kitchen garden. In June, there was still enough rain to keep everything verdant. Apparently it becomes much drier and hotter in August. The hillsides provide some excellent and varied sites to grow vines. The people are very friendly and open. It was a joy to walk around the narrow roads on a bright sunny June morning and very hard to leave. This is part of the Pannonian plain that runs through Eastern Austria and Hungary as well, bringing warm, dry Easterly winds.


The newly fenced border between Croatia and Slovenia

The newly fenced border between Croatia and Slovenia


My fist visit was to Verus, a company set up by three former employees of the local large co-operative winery, which is now privately owned. Danilo makes the wine, Bojo the vineyards and Rajko looks after sales. They set up their winery in a bakery owned by a friend, who was closing it down. Set in an industrial estate on the outskirts of town, it is not the most glamorous winery, but a bakery is temperature-controlled, and therefore perfect for winemaking.


Over the last nine years they have built up relationships with some of the best small growers in the region – ‘mainly friends and relatives and we also own some vineyards now’ says Danilo. These are all small parcels located in the Jeruzalem region. Their Sauvignon Blanc, for instance, comes from twenty different plots. The wines are all white with the exception of a small quantity of Pinot Noir.
The winemaking here is very modern, using inoculated yeasts, almost exclusively stainless steel and minimum contact with the air. ‘The first time our wine meets oxygen is when you pour it into your glass,’ says Danilo, ‘this region gives very nice wines with good aromas and fruit – you don’t want to lose them. Everyone likes to talk about the moon and their machinery, but cleanliness is everything if you are making precise wines.’

I have been a big fan of most of the Verus wines in the past, although sometimes I have found them a little too clean and almost confected. However, on the basis of this tasting, not only are the wines very good, they also age very well too. We tasted an excellent 2012 Chardonnay and a wonderful 2007 Pinot Gris. We also tasted a vastly improving Pinot Noir, an intriguing Gelber Muskateller and a very smart dry Riesling. These guys are making some seriously good wines, well worth seeking out.

Puklavec & Friends

This is the old co-operative that all three Verus guys worked for. It is now privately owned by the Puklavec family who were originally involved in the winery back in the 1930s. It is a large company, producing some 4.5 million litres of wine a year, working with 330 growers. In addition they own 150 hectares of their own vines. The large circular building houses a 367,000 litre tank, surely one of the largest in Europe. They also have an amazing collection of older wines, stretching back to the late 1950’s. Some of these are available for sale – see The 1990 Sauvignon Blanc looked reasonable at €40.95 a bottle, but I am not sure I can afford the 1959 Pinot Grigio for €1,566!

Liam Cabot & Rok Jamnik of Puklavec

Liam Cabot & Rok Jamnik of Puklavec

We were given a tour by Rok Jamnik one of the winemakers. He gave us some very interesting samples from tank, and a great tasting of his sparkling wines (called Penina in Slovenia) from tank and bottle, including a demo of how to disgorge the plug of yeast from a bottle of sparkling wine in a sink. Sadly given the time constraints, we didn’t get to taste their very wide range of wines, but the sparkling wines were very good. Dunnes Stores and Cassidys did stock some wines from Puklavec & Friends, but no longer. Hopefully we will see them again soon in Ireland.



That evening we had a tasting of 25 wines from all over Slovenia, mainly from Stajerska, but including other regions. Also present were two winemakers, Uros Valcl of Marof winery in Prekmurje (north of Stajerska) and Bojan Kobal from the winery of the same name. It really brought home how interesting Slovenian wine can be; lots of skin maceration for white wines, lots of biodynamics in the vineyard, and plenty of wine made with minimal doses of sulphur. Alongside the wines of the two gentlemen above, which were very good, the wines of Dveri Pax, imported by Wines on the Green, excelled. By the way, both of the above are looking for an importer in Ireland at the moment – happy to pass on details to anyone!

The following day we spent in the vineyard or cellar with Sinéad and Liam Cabot. We have known each other for many years, since they first opened their wine shop in the IFSC, but leaving friendship aside, I was seriously impressed by their viticultural knowledge and winemaking skills. They are a dynamic couple, having somehow managed to move from Dublin to Westport, where they run a successful wholesale wine business (with a list packed with goodies – see supplying many of the finer hotels and restaurants in the west, while also buying a house with a hectare of vines in Stajerska. They seem to play tag-winemaking, with one running the business in Mayo while the other prunes vines, and then swopping roles a few weeks later. This while rearing three children! It all seems to work very well, although it has taken them six years to get the vienayrd into shape. The wines we tasted, many their first or second vintage, were very good.Their first vintage was 2011, the first commercial one 2013, and they have made huge strides in 2015.

Sinéad & Liam amongst the vines.

Sinéad & Liam amongst the vines.

Our tasting covered a range of cask/tank samples, as yet unbottled, including two very good 2015 Šipon (Furmint), a lovely Blaufränkisch, and two very good sparkling wines, one a white made from Sipon, the other a red sparkling wine, made from Blaufrankish ! Not being a fan of sparkling red wine, I expected to hate it, but actually it was very good. These guys are friends, but leaving that aside, I genuinely think they are producing some lovely wines.

Tasting chez Cabot

Tasting chez Cabot

Miro Vino

Miro at his winery

Miro at his winery

Miro lives a five minute walk through a pretty little village from Sinéad & Liams house. His vineyards face eastwards, whereas the Cabots look to the west. Miro has been through a lot over the last decade or more since the. At first, with the assistance of an Austrian winemaker, he increased production and began making modern fruit-driven wines. However a bad experience with a major supermarket chain left him badly bruised, so he took stock and these days is more reclusive and thoughtful, with a unique take on life. He has, I think, been a great friend and advisor to Sinéad and Liam.

‘We try to be as friendly as possible to the wine, and it is then as friendly as possible to us’, muses Miro. He uses indigenous yeasts and very little sulphur in his winemaking. We had a delicious dinner (cooked by his wife Slavica) outside the winery, tasting Miro’s wines throughout. All were interesting and most were very good.

Relaxed Miro

Relaxed Miro

We started with his delicious 2015 Sipon, and then the attractive rich, slightly oily but clean 2015 Totovino (Muller-Thurgau & Muscat Ottonel), a very good 2015 Laski Riesling, an excellent 2015 Pinot Blanc (alongside a more difficult version aged in new oak that needed time). To finish, we tried am intriguing 2002 Sauvignon Blanc – still very alive, crisp and very Sauvignon with honey, beeswax and truffle. Finally a glass of the amazing Fuga Mindi, made from every grape variety he grows, with no added yeats, sulphur – ‘no nothing’, says Miro. ‘It is a wine for the next life’. It fermented for seven years (my bottle at home still starts fermenting every now and again) leaving 11g acidity and 80-90g residual sugar.

This part of Slovenia is fascinating, and makes some great wines. If you do get the chance to travel, there I would certainly recommend you take it. If not, the wines below will do nearly as well! We stayed in a very friendly hotel run by several generations of the Hlebec family in the village of Kog. Father Milan Hlebec distills his own brandy known as Kognac!

Milan Hlebec and his (very good) Kognac

Milan Hlebec and his (very good) Kognac

A few wines to try.
Verus Pinot Gris 2015
€20.99 from Cabot and Co, Westport; Grapevine,

A fresh, floral aromatic nose, rich, plump spicy melons on the palate and a lingering finish. Very good wine. Great with smoked salmon according to one of the sommeliers present.

Verus Furmint/ Šipon 2015
€20.99 from Cabot and Co, Westport; Grapevine,

Šipon did not have a great reputation in Slovenia when we first made this wine’, says Danilo, ‘but with our first vintage we had a great success with Jancis Robinson, which made people sit up. If you keep the yields low and make it carefully, you can get very good wine.’ This wine certainly proves the point; less aromatic with green apple skins, a lovely quality of fruit, finishing long and dry. Seriously good wine. The current 2014 is also very good but in a lighter more refreshing style.


Roka Šipon 2015
Arriving in Ireland late August 2016 rrp €15.99
We tried three cuvées of this wine; each made differently, that will be blended together. I have no doubt it will be very good; all showed lovely plump ripe fruit and a very good backbone of acidity.

Roka Laski Riesling 2015 rrp €15.99
A variety widely grown in Austria, Hungary and Slovenia. Laski Riesling is not always given the respect it deserves. We tasted a number of very good examples on our trip, including a deliciously plump fruity version that Sinéad and Liam will release later this year.

Roka Blaufränkisch 2015
Arriving in Ireland late August 2016 rrp €15.99
This was showing a little new oak, which I am sure will fade, with delicious fresh crunchy blue and dark fruits. Light and very moreish.

Liam Tasting

Liam Tasting

Miro Traminec 2013, Stajerska, Slovenia
€22.50 from Cabot and Co, Westport; Grapevine, Dalkey

I don’t often go for Gewürztraminer or its relatives but this is a lovely wine. It has subtle aromas of honeysuckle, and a clean fresh palate, with honeyed ripe peach fruits. A meditation wine, as is the Fuga Mundi below.

Miro Fuga Mundi 2007, Jeruzalem, Stajerska
€43 from Cabot and Co, Westport; Grapevine, Dalkey

This is a intriguing wine in the very best sense, a mix of figs, raisins and tobacco, a true meditation wine to finish an evening off. I have a bottle beside my computer and reward myself with a glass when I finish off an arduous project.!

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Dveri Pax Šipon Ilovic 2011, Stajerska Slovenia
€20.99 from Wines on the Green, Dawson St.

This is a single vineyard wine that provides perfect evidence that Šipon can mature well. Nice aromas of smoke and honey, with a delicious maturing palate of ripe exotic fruits, given real backbone by excellent acidity. Given the quality, very good value for money.

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A Speed Tasting of New Zealand Wines


I dropped into a New Zealand mini-tasting (50ish wines) yesterday. I didn’t try them all as I was in a bit of a hurry, but an interesting selection, including two Grüner Veltliners, a Viognier and an Albariño. However, on this occasion, it was the red wines that impressed me most. The 2014 vintage, talked about in glowing terms on my visit there last year, seems to be fulfilling all the promise.


Neudorf Chardonnay 2014, Nelso
One of the greatest producers in New Zealand, now handled by Berry Brothers in Ireland, although Jnwine have the 2011 vintage on their website for a tempting €26.99/£19.99. Wonderful classic Chardonnay, with rich rounded fruits, a restrained use of oak giving it elegant toastiness and lovely refreshing lime zest acidity.


Framingham Classic Riesling 2014, Marlborough

Another great NZ producer. This off-dry wine had lovely honeysuckle and melon fruits with a crisp minerality. The Le Caveau website has the 2009 vintage at €22.65 which should be drinking beautifully.

Escarpment Pinot Martinborough 2014
Larry McKenna, known as Dr. Pinot in those parts, crafts some beautifully rich, but balanced Pinot from his winery in Martinborough. This had lovely ripe dark cherry fruits and very good length. Searsons has the 2011 vintage for €28.95.


Ata Rangi Pinot Noir 2014, Martinborough

Ata Rangi make what is probably New Zealand’s finest Pinot Noir. This was completely different in style to that of Escarpment above; a superb, elegant Pinot with youthful precise complex dark cherry fruits. A wine that will develop and improve for years to come, but a joy to drink now. Expect to pay around €65. This or the excellent 2013 vintage is available from The Corkscrew Chatham Street; O’Briens; On the Grapevine, Dalkey;; Green Man Wines, Terenure.

Elephant Hill Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2014
Delicious sweet ripe Syrah with a touch of black pepper. Lovely wine. Taserra Wine Merchants (01 4904047) are listed as distributors. I would suspect it retails for €25-30 a bottle.

Vidal Reserve Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2013, Hawke’s Bay
I tasted and blogged about this wine earlier this year – it is excellent, a clean fresh Syrah with black peppers and savoury black cherry fruits. Well worth seeking out. Barry & Fitzwilliam are the agents – (0214320900)


Trinity Hill The Gimblett Cabernets Merlot 2013, Hawke’s Bay

I also wrote/blogged about this wine earlier this year. It is an impeccably balanced delicious mix of the two Cabernets and Merlot with 1% Petit Verdot; lean and clean with perfectly ripe cassis and damson fruits. €29.99 from independents. Liberty are the agents.

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Summer Salmon Recipe

Poached sea trout with summer vegetables and lemon aïoli

This is a recipe from Tomasina Miers in The Guardian (18th June, 2016). I changed it around a bit using a large piece of salmon, as I was unable to find sea trout. I hadn’t made a mayonnaise at home for years, largely because it tastes so good, I end up eating far, far too much. I also served it warm. The dish was great, really summery with masses of fresh vegetables and herbs. My one criticism is the asparagus turned an unappetising brown colour once I added the white wine. To drink, I opened up a bottle of Domaine Huet Vouvray Le Haut Lieu 1990; sadly it was oxidised. Instead we drank the delicious Dveri Pax Llovci Furmint (Sipon) – €22 from Wines on the Green, and a bottle of Carneros Pinot Noir from Stemmler, a present from my sister.

3 tbsp olive oil
40g butter
½ bunch spring onions, trimmed, outer layer removed, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced thin
200g podded broad beans
1 handful asparagus spears
100ml white wine
400g peas
1 large handful mint leaves

For the sea trout
1.2kg side of sea trout, pin-boned
1 lemon, sliced
2 big bunches fresh dill
175ml white wine
2 bay leaves
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 shallot, halved
Fine sea salt

For the lemon aïoli
2 egg yolks
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp cider vinegar
250ml olive oil
250ml vegetable oil

Put all the ingredients for the fish apart from the water in a deep roasting tin that’s big enough to hold the trout flat (or use a fish kettle). Add cold water to cover, measuring the amount, then add a tablespoon of fine sea salt for every 1.3 litres of water. Bring to a boil, then cover tightly in foil and take off the heat. Leave the fish to sit in the water until it has cooled, then lift out on to kitchen paper to drain. Transfer to a serving platter, cover with clingfilm and refrigerate – you can make it to this stage up to a day ahead.
For the aïoli, put the egg yolks, garlic, mustard, lemon and vinegar in a food processor. Briefly blitz, then, with the engine running, slowly pour in the oil drip by drip. When the mayo starts coming together, add the oil in a thin, steady stream, until you have a glossy, emulsified mayo. Season, add a touch more lemon if it needs sharpening, and refrigerate. (If the mayo splits, you can rescue it by adding a teaspoon of warm water or a little lemon juice. If that doesn’t work, keep the split mayo and start over again in a clean processor bowl, adding the split mayo bit by bit once the new batch starts emulsifying.)
Heat a deep sauté pan or casserole on a medium flame and add the oil and butter. Sweat the onions for five minutes, then add the garlic and cook for three to four minutes, until soft and translucent. Add the beans, asparagus and wine, leave to bubble for two minutes, season, then toss in the peas and mint. Cook for a few minutes, until the peas and beans are tender, season and spoon around the fish. Serve with the aïoli, and rye sourdough or steamed jersey royals.

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My favourites from the SuperValu Tasting

SuperValu Tasting June 2016
My standard intro here; as with the other multiples, SuperValu has no shortage of inexpensive wines, most of which are drinkable, usually with a few grams of residual sugar to smooth things out and mask any deficiencies. Fine for everyday drinking. However, excitement may be in short supply.

Here is my selection from the recent SuperValu tasting, showing many of the wines they source directly. SuperValu have made huge efforts to improve their range over the last year or two. There were some good wines. Two of the least expensive turned out to be amongst my favourites too. Naturally you should buy at the promotional price whenever possible.

La Petite Perrière Sauvignon Blanc 2015 €11.99 / €9.00
Vin de France
Well-made fresh easy-drinking wine; light aromas, followed by good well-rounded yellow fruits, melon and pears with good acidity. Perfect all-purpose summer white at a keen price.

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Armas de Guerra Godello 2015, Bierzo €11.99 / €9

I am very fond of Godello (a Galician grape), but you will rarely find it at this price. This has decent light clean soft pear fruits and enough acidity to keep it refreshing. You won’t mistake it for one of the top whites of Valdeorras (also made from Godello), but at €9, this is quite amazing value.

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Pouilly-Fumé Guy Saget 2014 €18.99 / €14
Nicely aromatic, with medium-bodied green fruits, good acidity and a decent dry finish. Try with salmon steaks or goats cheese salad.

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Flor de Anon 2015, Campo de Borja €14.99 / €12.00
A delicious big fat ripe fruit bomb, this will go down a storm at barbeques, or drunk alongside any kind of grilled and roast red meats. Ripe strawberries, spice and a soft finish.

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Cantina Tombacco Aglianico Benevantano 2013 €12.99 / €10
If you have never tried Aglianico, this would make a great gentle introduction. Aglianico can be a bit brutal, all tannic power and firm savoury leathery flavours. This however, has smooth rich dark fruits and a lightly tannic structure. Drink with roast red meats, rich stews and pasta dishes.

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Carius Cairanne 2015, Côtes du Rhône Villages €14.99 / €12

Soft rich supple ripe red fruits, with a nice herbal twist. A good all-rounder, but maybe best with roast white meats. Good value too.



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The search for a decent pork chop.

<strong>The search for a decent pork chop.</strong>

The search for a decent pork chop.
For various reasons (including flavour), I only ever buy outdoor reared pork. For many years I was able to buy Marks & Spencer thick pork chops, at one stage even with a delicious kidney attached. These disappeared off the shelves recently, so I came up with a new idea – buy a loin roast and cut pork chops to your own specifications. I tried a shoulder roast, which was a bit tough, but the loin is very good. Better still, if you find pork chops tasteless, use a brine.

I have been brining pork roasts and chops for a few years now; it is very easy and really makes the pork taste amazing. You just need to make a basic brine by dissolving salt and sugar in boiling water, add flavourings and leave for a couple of hours. I do it overnight for a full roast, although you don’t get good crackling this way. Dry off before grilling or roasting and enjoy a really juicy flavoursome pork chop. I enclose a brief recipe below, but I change the ingredients nearly every time.

1 litre water
55 grams salt
30 grams sugar
All or any for the following seasonings: garlic (smashed); chopped onions; ginger; toasted cumin and/or fennel seeds, toasted and smashed; juniper berries, bay leaves, sage leaves; thyme, chili flakes.

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