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Monday, 25 October 2010

A bit of fizz?

So someone's about to get wed, has a new job or maybe has won the lottery!

Naturally, we have to get some sparkling liquid with which to commemorate the occasion and for most people, this usually means Champagne.
But if you thought the best sparkling wines come from the Champagne region of France, you'd be wrong - very wrong indeed in fact!

The picture above should give you a few clues. And here, by way of another clue, are just a few some of the awards this sparkler has won.

International Wine Challange 2010: Trophy for best sparkling rose in the world (including champagne). 2005 International Wine Challenge Gold Medal: the only Gold in the whole world for a sparkling wine from outside Champagne.

So, where is this fantastic place?

Well don't think Raymond Blanc, think Rick Stein, because the best producer of sparkling wines in the world is in ...............CORNWALL!.

The Camel Valley Vineyard just outside Bodmin is a superb little vineyard that I have visited many times.

Their chief winemaker these days is Sam Lindo who is the son of the owner. Sam did me a very big favour a couple of years ago. For my 50th birthday, I held a wine quiz and for the Rose, I chose Camel Valley's rose to die for, which takes just like ripe strawberries.

The problem was that Camel Valley had not yet bottled their rose for 2008. However, when I explained to Sam that I was running a quiz for charity, he made up some bottles of his 2008 especially for me!

The top prize for the quiz was a bottle of their 2005 sparkler called 'Cornwall' which was the one that won the gold medal. A mate of mine who is a toastmaster won the quiz and claims that he will never ever buy champagne again for big events.

Mind, neither will the British government, because they now use Camel Valley 'Cornwall' (which is their name for their champagne), for all their major events.

To find out more, got to http://camelvalley.com


Who says good food is expensive?


Now, I know I have written about risottos before, but tonight I thought I would add another entry - and for good reason as will soon become clear. Oh, and by the way, this is also for Gina.

This is vegetable risotto for one.
Handful of chopped vegetables of your choice
20 grams of Arborio Rice
1 Vegetable Oxo Cube dissolved in 500 mls of hot water
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
50 grams grated Mature Cheddar
150 Ml of white wine or a tablespoon of lime or lemon juice if you don't want alcohol.
Salt
Pepper
Olive Oil

So, finely chop onions and garlic and pop them into a frying pan with some quite hot olive oil and salt and pepper and cook until they are soft but not brown.

Then, take your rice - and you literally want a handful. Add it to the mix and coat well with the oil.

Now, turn the heat up a bit and sling in either the wine or the lime juice with black pepper in it, if you don't want alcohol. If you ARE using wine, remember the golden rule.

NEVER cook with any wine that you would not be willing to drink yourself! Now, for me, thats not too much of a problem, because as everyone knows, I drink various kinds of gut rot! But, if you only drink Cloudy Bay, then you have to be prepared to put Cloudy Bay into your food!

Let that all fizz away until the wine is soaked up and then add the stock, a bit at a time and stir. If you are using hard vegetables like carrots, add them now as they will take a long time to cook.

As the stock soaks up, add some more and add the vegetables in order of the time needed to cook. So, if you are using lets say, string beans cut up, add them in the middle, but finely cut broccoli is best left until almost last because if you put it in too soon, it will turn to mush.

So, once the rice is cooked, boil the liquid down slowy as this will release the starch in the rice to give the dish a creamy texture. Then, just at the end, while the mixture is still quite watery, add the cheese in and reduce to a creamy mix and serve with some chopped parsley over the top.


Now, I must admit, I did not end up with too much of a classic this evening. However, I don't know about anyone else, but I do think that there is a bit of a dark art to producing risotto. Sometimes you get it just right, but at other times it rather lacks something. I think in my case this evening, I was trying to cook it quickly and of course, good risotto's are never done quickly. But it still tasted pretty marvellous and quite sweet because of the vegetables I used.

So, why did I write about risotto AGAIN?

For this simple reason - it was so cheap.

I've already got the onions, garlic, oil, cheese and stock and i decided against wine or lime juice. So, all I needed were the vegetables.

Now, I knew I had a few things in the cupboard at home that needed using as well as a couple of bits in the freezer, but this rather generous tray would bring a lot to the party - so I brought them. And thats all I brought.

So, tonight's dinner cost me a whole TWENTY FIVE pence!

I saw a Vegetable Risotto on the menu of a 3-Starred Michelin chef the other day. It was £15.00!

Who says good food has to cost a fortune!