Those who know me well know that a kir of any kind is one of my favourite drinks. When I, occasionally, run out of cassis I am at rather a loss. I’ve made it with the classic white burgundy, with any dry white wine I can get my hands on, with red wine (first tasted in Paris and known as kir communard, its good in the winter) and of course with champagne (or other dry sparkling wine) as a kir royale. It’s probably my first choice of cocktail. I love it.
So what to make of Peronelle’s Blush, made by Aspall’s of Suffolk, a Suffolk cyder with a dash of blackberry liqueur ready mixed? Sounded interesting, and in my quest for eating and drinking locally whilst at the Suffolk coast I thought it deserved a try.
It comes in 500ml bottles and is 5.4% abv – against what I’d guess to be about 14% for a kir/kir royale.
Apples and blackberries are such classic English ingredients (think autumn crumbles after collecting blackberries in the local lanes, of such are childhood memories made), so I’m expecting it to work well. It gives a pleasant hiss of bubbles when I open the bottle and is a delicate pinky/red when poured. The aroma of fresh apples is predominant but with a subtle hint of the blackberry underneath. It’s fizzing nicely but not madly in the glass and its time to take my first sip.
It’s very refreshing, not as strong as I make my own kirs but I suspect I go rather heavy on the cassis compared to the classic mix. The blackberry gives it a subtle sweetness and smooth berry flavour. Its good. I like it. I can see it becoming a good summer alternative to kir.
The story on the bottle (and website) is rather lovely, it’s apparently named Peronelle after the rosy glowing cheeks of the grandmother of the current generation of the Chevalier family (who’ve been making Aspall’s for eight generations since 1728). She sounds pretty amazing lady living to 102, running the business for 30 years and then travelling the world in later life. I’d say that the current Aspall family have created a lovely tribute to her with this drink and an excellent English take on a classic French drink.
There’ll be some supplies in my larder again soon.
I think you can find it across the UK in branches of Waitrose, Sainsburys and Tesco as well as locally across Suffolk.
PS: the bottle of organic cyder in the picture was drunk by my husband, its one of his regular cyder/cider choices. He declined to provide tasting notes – sorry.
Wild garlic had been popping up on my radar for a couple of weeks as being very much in season and ‘very now’ i.e. a thing it seems we should aspire to be seen eating. Never one to want to miss out on an emerging trend I thought I’d best give it a go.
Eventually I struck lucky at the farm shop in Middleton, Suffolk – no I didn’t go to Suffolk to find wild garlic I was going anyway- there it was for sale by the bag looking pretty fresh and perky to me.
I did a bit of searching around for suggestions as to how to use it – most books and sites saying it could be substituted for chives or garlic though its milder than the latter. Spring herb soups also seemed to be recommended and salads. All good sounding stuff. After a bit more thinking about how to incorporate it into our meals over the next couple of days I decided on two different options:
The second time I used it I decided to do a warm potato salad with a vinaigrette made from 1 part white wine vinegar to 4 parts extra virgin rapeseed oil and a teaspoon of wholegrain mustard all shaken in a jar. I did lots of potatoes (local grown Charlotte – so a good waxy salad potato) and after simmering them for about 15 minutes I allowed them to drain for about 10 minutes (covered) before tossing them in the dressing then adding the chopped wild garlic and tossing again. This was really very good. The warm potatoes brought of the garlic flavour well and they were nicer, I think, than either spring onions or chives done in the same way – spring onions can be too harsh and chives not strong enough – the wild garlic was just right. It was just as good next day cold.
So if you can get your hands on some wild garlic, either foraging or from a farm shop, then give it a go. These are two simple recipes to get you started but there’s lots of other good ideas out there too. I’ll certainly be trying it again.
Last night I had mussels just as they should be – wonderfully fresh, plump, sweet and with a tang of salty sea-ness about them. Cooked in the classic style of mariniere – butter, white wine, shallots, parsley and served with crusty bread to mop all the delicious juices.
I have to confess I didn’t cook them myself – I’ve always been a bit scared about preparing shellfish at home, maybe I just need to find a reliable local source and give it a go. The instructions in books always seems a bit of a faff – lots of leaving the shellfish in a bucket of water for days (!), swooshing them round to get out any grit, tapping them too see if they are dead or alive (and I don’t mean the 80s band from Liverpool), scrubbing, scraping etc etc, all before you get to cook them for about 5 minutes. I like the hard work to be done by someone else sometimes and I just do the eating.
So these were my starter at Regatta in Aldeburgh (after a bracing walk and a quick pint of Adnams). I followed them with salt beef, home made piccalilli (homemade by the team at Regatta not by me!) and new potatoes. But the mussels had been so lovely and such a generous portion (the amount some places would give you as a main to be honest) that I stalled part way through the salt beef – and now I’ve got a little take out to make a sandwich with for lunch tomorrow ?.
I’d say these were the best mussels I’ve had by far ever and I’ve eaten a fair few in my time. Just goes to show how good local produce (there’s plenty of mussels produced on the Essex and Suffolk coast) fast from the producer to the table can be. So good I might even venture to cook some myself this season.
No pictures sorry, was too busy eating!
I’ve been blogging now for a couple of months and I’ve been looking at some of the other food blogs out there to see what goes on in the food blogging community. I noticed that some bloggers run ‘events’ as part of what they do and I thought it might be fun to join in now that I’m starting to get used to (or possibly obsessed by) the whole blogging thing.
- Chargrilled leeks with shavings of a hard sheep’s cheese, or with a mayonnaise or hollandaise (Sybil Kapoor, Simply British)
- Lightly steamed, dressed with a vinaigrette and finely chopped hard boiled egg (Hugh F-W, The River Cottage Year and Simon Hopkinson, Roast chicken and other stories)
- A la grecque (Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book and Margaret Costa, Four Seasons Cookery Book) – fundamental flaw with this one was that it didn’t use the eggs or the cheese – oops! But it is delicious.
- With pasta in a kind of vegetarian carbonara style or with homemade pasta (using the eggs) and a leeky cheesy sauce (any Italian cookbook will help).
- As a kind of French onion style soup with a nice melted cheese crouton (I think this was from a Jamie Oliver book where he does a three types of onion soup – I think its Jamie at Home but can’t seem to locate it right now – sorry).
- In a risotto (any Italian cookbook).
- As a gratin….
And so it went on – lots of fun delving in recipe books, finding great ideas, discounting them because they either didn’t use all three ingredients or they didn’t seem to fit with the fact the weather was getting wonderfully spring like. I was beginning to think that I wouldn’t be submitting again this time…….
For 2 as a light lunch you need:
½ – 1 Pant Ys Gawn goat’s cheese (I used a whole cheese but see later) – or other fresh tangy soft cheese
1 slim leek
freshly ground black pepper
Salad leaves of your choice
Make sure the grill is on and warm before you start
The eggs: break the eggs into a bowl; add a splash of milk and some salt and pepper. As soon as the leeks have softened a little pour the eggs into the pan and allow to cook slightly. Draw in parts of the sides a few times to create a little fluffiness in the texture. Once you think you have a good base but the eggs are still runny for most of the depth then…..
Add the cheese, which you have crumbled or cut into small chunks. Cook for a little longer and then pop the pan under the grill (be careful with the handle if its not heat proof) to cook the frittata from the top. This will take about 3-4 minutes if the grill is hot.
I was pretty pleased with the result, the leek flavours showed through well and they were soft enough but still with some bite, the cheese contrasted with them nicely and had a good tang and the salad leaves (dressed with just a little extra virgin rapeseed oil) made for a nice soft balance. I think probably the whole goats cheese was a little too much as the egg flavour was a bit lost so when I make this again I’d probably scale back to ½ of the cheese.
I really enjoyed the whole ‘In the bag’ challenge; it made me think about some ingredients differently, gave me chance to read lots of recipe books and generated lots of ideas for ways to have leeks that I’d either forgotten or not thought of before.
I’d been curious for a little while about one of the products I’d spotted in the farm shop I like to use when I visit Suffolk and then a couple of weeks back two things conspired to make me get on with trying it out.
First I was reading Hugh F-W’s weekly slot in The Guardian (‘Trickle treat’ on 7 March) and then I went out for dinner at ‘The Lighthouse’ in Aldeburgh and when they brought the bread with oil and balsamic they explained that the oil was a local product made from rapeseed (in fact just theone I’d been eyeing up).
- Oh that terrible stuff that blights the English countryside in May covering all the fields in a yellow haze of flowers.
- Grrrr that’s the stuff that gives me major hayfever as soon as I step anywhere outside of a town centre and nearer to the countryside.
- Isn’t that grown for them to feed to cattle or something like that?
- Isn’t that just horrible industrial extracted oil used in ready meals and other stuff that’s bad for us?
- Don’t they use that in bio-diesel?
But maybe we haven’t got all this quite right.
Firstly not all rapeseed flowers are yellow – you sometimes see purple ones, but they are mainly yellow and they are a bit of a blot on the landscape when in flower. We should however remember that the English landscape (as any other) is a changing thing, after all it used to be mostly woodland before it was rolling hills with wheat waving in the gentle breeze. But we are also right to there be concerned that a crop takes over an area and we get a monoculture.
I’m not a doctor so the link to hayfever and asthma is not my specialist subject. A quick search via Google (see for example Wikipedia and also The Independent as examples) however suggests that the link is not definitive, as rapeseed does not have wind born pollen. I imagine there’s plenty out there would testify that it triggers some kind of reaction for them.
Yes they do use it in cattle feed, yes some of it is extracted using industrial means but some is now produced like virgin pressings of olive oil; and yes they do use it in biodiesel.
I decided to do a comparative tasting of three
Hemp: Good Oil Original cold pressed
Olive: Waitrose Organic 100% Italian extra virgin
Rapeseed: Hill Farm cold pressed extra virgin
Hemp: this is very unusual and a bit of an acquired taste – this actual tasting is the third time I’ve tried it since buying the bottle and it is growing on me slowly but I’m not quite convinced just yet. It has a strong flavour, which comes across as earthy and almost woody. The finish is quite long. It was better on the bread that it was ‘pure’ and contrasted the sourdough quite well. It makes a good change from olive but I doubt some people will ever be convinced that it’s a good substitute.
Olive: this was fairly fruity with a slight tang and peppery endnote. Its not a very strong oil but its nicely mild with the classic Italian notes. It was good with and without the bread but lets remember that this is the oil I have been using for a couple of years now as my basic olive oil so I’m used to its flavours.
Rapeseed: this has a mild and mellow taste. There’s a slightly nutty fruity seeds flavour that I couldn’t quite identify (I’m not sure its grassy like HFW says but then I was tasting a different brand). It was good on its own, but stood up to the bread test less well. The loaf though has a very distinctive sourdough flavour so this oil might work better with a milder flavoured loaf – it was certainly good when we had it at ‘The Lighthouse’ with balsamic. It’s also a good cooking oil – less distinctive than olive oil so better in some dishes and also with a nice high flame point making it better for sautéing.
Overall? I’ll stick with olive for a lot of things but the rapeseed is a definite permanent addition to the kitchen and I’ll keep trying the hemp but I’m not sure I’m ever going to be a big convert. Hugh FW suggests it more sophisticated than the rapeseed but actually I just think it’s stronger and more unusual but unusual does not always tally with sophistication and in this case I’d say it’s quite hard to get to know and love.
Up on the Suffolk coast for brisk walks and tasty food this weekend. Love it up here and there is plenty to keep a food addict happy – from great farm shops to favourite restaurants, good beer and excellent fish and chips. Too much to fit into one weekend so we are pretty regular visitors.