Archive for the ‘Wine’ Category

The Cafe at the End of the Shop, Ballymaloe

April 19, 2010

Unexpectedly, I arrived at Ballymaloe in a blaze of sunshine. So yet again I find myself in a country with a reputation for being cold and wet with a suitcase full of fleeces and waterproofs and nowhere to wear them. If this happens again, I’ll start demanding my dues as a Sun God.

Having ditched my thermals and notionally unpacked, I joined forces with Alphabet Soup and we set off cross-country for Sunday lunch. Our destination was The Cafe at the End of the Shop, located at the end of the shop next to Ballymaloe House, 2 miles from the school. And there is no better way to work up an appetite than by marching along a winding country road, diving for the safety of the hedgerow every 5 minutes.

But the Mad Car Drivers Of Cork were no match for our lightening quick reactions. We arrived at the shop to find a queue for the cafe, which very nearly defeated me. I’d gone from being not hungry at all (thank you Irish breakfast) to ravenous and there, blocking my way to lunch, were sweaty recreational cyclists in not enough Lycra. If I’d grabbed an olive stoner and punctured my way through them screaming: “But I must have quiche!” no one would’ve blamed me.

However, I’ve left the anger and the violence behind in Peckham. 20 minutes later we had a table and a blackboard menu to squint at. There was a short list of soup, salad, tarts and open sandwiches to pick your way through and next to the blackboard were an array of seductive cakes, bakes and tarts. The lemon meringue tart was particularly come hither.

I ordered the Roast squash, sweet potato and cumin soup and a home-made lemonade. The lemonade was like the best glass of squash you’ve ever swilled on a hot sunny day. Tiny shreds of soft lemon zest bobbed along the surface and the flavour was intensely citrussy. Apparently, I will be learning to make this and I will laugh in the face of R Whites when I do.

The soup was magnificent. A wash of sweet squash followed by warm, earthy cumin flavours, it had an addictively velevty mouthfeel. I spooned and spooned and spooned until I could spoon no more and had to content myself with the basket of excellent bread and creamy-rich butter.

Alphabet Soup ordered the New York Reubens sandwich, made with juicy beef, melted Comté cheese, mustard and topped with a pickled gherkin threaded around a cocktail stick like a pickle sail. She described it as “mustardy” and made her way through the lot with panache.

The meal cost €20.70 for 2 lemonades, the soup and the sandwich, not including service. We resisted the siren call of the cakes due to an approaching pizza evening, but I think I’ll make the dangerous trek back. The cafe is run by a graduate of the school and it’s a reassuring introduction to the cooking at Ballymaloe. If I can make soup like that at the end of the course, then I will have achieved.

Mulled wine

December 4, 2009

If you’ve read the comments on the Mulled cider post, then you’ll have read the story of the flaming pot incident. That incident taught me two crucial things about mulled wine:

1 Don’t put in so much hard liquor and fortified wine that it makes the atmosphere flammable

2 Buy pre-prepared blinis.

I love mulled wine and spend most of December developing a red wine moustache and ruining my teeth with glass after mug after pot of the stuff. The recipe below is for mulling a bottle of wine, but for a party, I normally start with 3 bottles of red wine, 1 bottle of Port, 1 litre of orange juice, 500g caster sugar, 3 oranges, sliced and stuck with 24 cloves, and 3 sticks cinnamon. The Port gives the mull depth, the orange juice adds citric bitterness and the sugar makes it as drinkable as squash.

Mulled wine
Serves 4–6

1 x 75cl bottle cheap, fruity red wine (use something Spanish that costs £2.99)
300ml Port
300ml orange juice
200g caster sugar
1 orange
12 cloves
2 sticks cinnamon

1 Pour the wine, Port and orange juice into a pan and stir in the sugar. Slice the orange and stick a few slices with the cloves. Add the orange slices and any juice that’s leaked out of them with the cinnamon sticks.

2 Gently heat the wine, stirring occasionally, until it is steaming hot and the sugar has dissolved. Turn the heat off, cover and leave it for an hour. To serve, reheat until it’s steaming hot again and ladle into mugs.

Merry Widows Pinot Noir

July 14, 2009


Sister Number One and Merry Widows Pinot Noir
Sister Number One emails Merry Widows while drinking their fine wine

I was walking home on Friday – I know, how healthy am I? – when I walked past the Slow Food Market on the South Bank, behind the Royal Festival Hall. I can’t resist a food market, and as I was going to Sister Number One’s flat for dinner that night, I thought I’d have a nose round in case there was something I could bring, in spite of her strict instructions not to bring anything.

I spent a significant amount of time staring at the William Curley chocolate stall considering the merits of a slab of cinnamon milk chocolate or a bar filled with sea salt caramel but other people were dithering over their purchases too, so I abandoned that, skirted a few cheese stalls and then was drawn irresistibly in by a wine stall with shiny black bottles. 

The stand was run by Merry Widows, who sell Austrian wines – Austrian! – in shiny black bottles. Better than that, they sell Austrian wines in different sized shiny black bottles, including 750ml, 500ml, 375ml and little pop cap 250ml bottles for wine on the run.

SN1 has an abiding fondness for rosé wine, so I picked up a half bottle of their Pinot Noir rosé and, after an excellent Manchego, Almond and Quince Salad (thanks SN1), we set about tasting it.

Is the bottle nice? It’s shiny and black – what more could you want?

What does it smell like? SN1 thought it smelt like cheese, specifically Pecorino. I thought it smelt like orchards. 

What does it taste like if you knock it back like there is no tomorrow? Like every rosé wine in the history of humankind, it tastes of strawberries and bubblegum when you chug it.

And if you swill it around your mouth and make slurping noises? SN1 thought it tasted like cherry skins at the start and then cheese on the finish. To me, it still tasted of strawberries with a sweetish hint of vanilla, but there was also an almondy, marzipan edge to it. The wine was much more complex than the initial swill and swallow suggested and I found myself thinking: ‘This is a rosé wine I can actually respect.’ I gave myself a slap, but the thought still lingered so maybe there is something in Merry Widows’ claim that it is the rosé you have always wanted.

Serve it with food? Well, is there any wine that isn’t good by itself? Merry Widows give the usual ‘try it with a salad or appetisers’ recommendation, but we tried it with a few squares of chocolate SN1 had in for dessert. It’s possible I was completely plastered by the time we got to this off-piste pairing, but I think it went well. The milk chocolate sweetness brought out the bitter cherry stone/almond flavours, and the white chocolate made it taste grassy and herby. I wouldn’t pair it with a dark chocolate mousse, but it might be worth trying with a Bakewell tart.

Price? £7 for a half bottle. SN1 emailed them for listings and Merry Widows sell from a couple of small shops, but the easiest way is to order from them direct or keep walking past the South Bank in the hope that a Slow Food Market will be on and they will be there.



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 93 other followers