Breaking the mold in Bordeaux

Sweet Bordeaux is reaching out to a new, less formal, drinker and showing off its multiple expressions. Nick meets the winemakers that can pair the wine with more than just pudding.

‘It’s corked!’ says Monsieur Labergere, director of Château Rayne Vigneau pulling a sour face.

He flips out the contents of his glass and it falls like rain down through the leaves of the tree and onto the ground. ‘Pas de probleme,’ is Au Fil du Ciron climber Vincent Galle’s response as he swings off in search of a fresh bottle.

treebigThe recoil of his move makes the suspended platform we’re sitting around pirouette wildly and we hang on tight hoping our harness ropes hold. It’s about a hundred feet straight down and we don’t to end our wine tasting by getting out of our tree the wrong way.

It’s not normal of course to have a wine tasting at the top of an ancient pine, having first climbed hand over hand up a rope to get there, but for Château Rayne Vignaud a sweet wine maker here in south west France, doing things differently is the new sweet Bordeaux way. Continue reading

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Mountains of magic

Nick finds out of ski season Switzerland is all about lush landscapes, fine vistas and plenty of cheese and chocolate.

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Interlaken is a centre for tandem parasailing

The parasailers circle over town like colourful vultures, perhaps lured by the smell of cheese? It’s hard to avoid the aromas of Emmentaler in a country where it’s eaten as often as we eat cheddar.

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The holes are made by the trapped gases during maturation

Emmentaler with its classic ‘cartoon’ holes is often regarded as a cheese suitable only for children, but Emmental eaten in Switzerland is another taste experience altogether.The milk of course is crucial, in Switzerland it comes from cows that graze on grass made lush by the snow melt. Continue reading

Oiling the kitchen wheels with Borderfields rapeseed oils

Forget olive oil, corn oil, vegetable oil and any other old oils because rapeseed oil is the new frying choice and what’s more it’s 100% UK sourced and bottled. Nick Harman goes to see how the seeds become liquid gold..

Bottled with love

Rapeseed oil, known as Canola oil in America perhaps for obvious reasons, has had a relatively short history in the UK but has been going  from strength to strength with supply sometimes being outstripped by demand. Especially when endorsed on the TV.

‘Well, Greg Wallace mentioned how good it was on Masterchef a few years back and the next day sales went through the roof,’ says Jon Hammond, Executive Director of Hammond Food Oils as we duck through plastic curtains into another section of the rapeseed pressing and bottling plant near Nottingham. ‘It was like the old Delia effect, do you remember when she recommended that saucepan?’ Who could forget?

Rapeseed genuinely is a seed, a tiny black round seed that s identical in look to the mustard seed used in Indian cooking, or the cabbage seed we plant in vegetable plots. This is because it’s a part of the same brassica family and even smells rather the same. Today its unmistakable bright yellow flowers are a familiar part of the UK’s colour palette all summer long.

It’s harvest time comes in August and the seeds are arriving at the factory in their millions where they are quickly sieved and sorted to remove unwanted flower and stalk debris before heading to the cold presser. The woody debris goes to be used as biofuel for heating, nothing is wasted not even it seems the waste

Chicken feed, no waste

Chicken feed, no waste

‘Chicken feed!’ says Jon showing me a sample of squidgy green material left after the pressing, it’s perfect for chickens, full of nutrients and gooey with the last traces of the oil that couldn’t be extracted by the relatively (compared to hot pressing) less efficient cold press method. ‘Cold pressing though preserves more of the goodness,’ explains Jon ‘and we press and filter the seed five times, that’s more than any other brand on the market, for the purest product

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Gold standard

The oil pours sinuously down pipes to be refined ready for bottling, gradually going from green to gold in the process.

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The machine marches on

This is a small factory with a small workforce where the bottling machine chugs away cheerfully, occasionally stopping and being tended by its minders, before lurching back into clinking life again. The bottles are wrapped with their date marked labels and pass out through a catflap affair to be hustled into boxes by hand ready for dispatch.

Not just plain rapeseed oil either, much of the produce is flavoured with things such as lemon, basil, chili and garlic to meet increasing demand.

The natural oil is relatively neutral in flavour,  it has a slight nuttiness that’s warm and embracing and not the assertive pepperiness of so much olive oil as well as half the saturated fat and and a near perfect blend of omegas 3, 6 and 9.

The neutral flavour makes it ideal for frying, as does its high smoke point that means that unlike olive oil it can be made to go very hot indeed without choking you out of the kitchen.

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Cooks’ choice

A big fan is Michelin starred chef, Kenny Atkinson who first won a Michelin star at St Martin’s on the Isle Hotel  and then at his own restaurant, House of Tides in Newcastle. He’s been a big fan he says since he was obliged to find a substitute for olive oil when cooking for the Great British Menu. ‘Everything had to be sourced from the UK obviously, so that meant no olive oil. But I fell in love with rapeseed oil and now that’s all I use in my restaurant kitchen.’

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Grate for any dish

To prove how good it is he gets busy and cooks Grilled Mackerel with salad of fennel and an orange, brown shrimp and ginger vinaigrette, whips up a vibrant Watercress Pesto Sauce and then Lemon and Thyme Cake Bars. Follow the links for the recipes.

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Mayonnaise made easy

All delicious I find,  as I eat the dishes under a clear blue sky out in the Nottinghamshire countryside just a mile or two away from where the oil was produced.

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Ready to fry

Rapeseed oil is one of our island’s most perfect products it seems and is slipping ever deeper into the clued-up chef’s toolbox.Try some yourself and get the golden touch.

The full Borderfields range includes:

Borderfields British Cold Pressed Rapeseed Oil (500ml and 250ml)

Borderfields Scottish Cold Pressed Rapeseed Oil (500ml and 250ml)

Borderfields Chilli Infused Rapeseed Oil (250ml)

Borderfields Basil Infused Rapeseed Oil (250ml)

Borderfields Garlic Infused Rapeseed Oil (250ml)

Borderfields Lemon Infused Rapeseed Oil (250ml)

Borderfields Garlic & Ginger Stir Fry Oil (250ml)

Available at Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Asda stores nationwide, as well as selected Tesco stores and www.amazon.co.uk – with RRPs ranging from £1.99 – £4.50.

Queen of the crop

Nick heads down to Kent to fill his punnet with some of the tastiest strawberries in the country

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My hand snakes out again almost against my will, grabs a traffic-light red strawberry from its stem and I pop it into my mouth. I’m actually supposed to be putting it in the plastic punnet I’m carrying but it’s impossible to resist the sun-warmed fruit.

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Continue reading

Worth its salt

Nick goes to Anglesey to earn his salary (sic) by seeing Halon Môn salt created and how Green & Black’s chocolate is making new use of it.

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David Lea-Wilson, co-founder

‘Every day whatever the weather I come down to the water’s edge and use this device,’ says David Lea-Wilson co-founder of the Anglesey Salt Company waving a curious kind of measuring instrument that looks rather like the thing doctors poke in people’s ears.

It is in fact a  refractometer and accurately measures how much light bends, or refracts, when it enters water. The more salt dissolved in the water, the more resistance the light will meet and the more it will bend.

This device is crucially important because the seawater here is what goes to make Halen Môn salt, widely regarded as one of the best sea salts in the UK if not the world. And it’s the salt Green & Black’s have chosen to go into their new Dark Sea Salt THIN bar.

Continue reading

Go Dutch for great food at sea.

Today’s cruisers attach massive importance to the quality and variety of food on board. Nick Harman sees what Holland America’s newest ship has on the menu.

home-bgHolland America is one of the most venerable of cruise lines, but perhaps not the best known in the UK. Founded in 1873 for many years it ran regular passenger sailings from Holland to New York.

In fact when Rotterdam was the gateway to a new and better life for European emigrants in the early part of the last century, it was mostly on Holland America ships that they sailed.

I was invited to Rotterdam to sail and eat on the ms Koningsdam, the newest addition to the Holland America Pinnacle-class cruising fleet, and the largest as well. It was about to be dedicated by Queen Maxima of the Netherlands before we sailed to Amsterdam overnight.

All aboard for ‘free’ food Continue reading

La Cova Fumada, Barcelona

Carrer del Baluart, 56, 08003 Barcelona, Spain

‘There’s no sign outside,’ my informant told me over a beer in the Ramblas, ‘and you’ll think that there simply can’t be anywhere good to eat in that tourist area, but honestly, it’s the bomb.’

bomba6-1Which is a bit of an in joke because the restaurant is known, by those in the know, as ‘La Bomba’ because of one particular tapas it serves that is loved by all who go to this tiny place hidden in the backstreets of Barcoloneta, the port part of Barcelona. Continue reading