Being truthful, it was more like three bottles – but any number will go wonderfully well with this simple and satisfying fish dish.
It's almost as good as Monica's sea bream (don't tell her) and very easy to prepare, leaving you free to enjoy a glass as cool as an ocean breeze.
TIP: While we recommend using whole fish on the bone for superior flavour, you can use four small fillets or sea bass instead if you're squeamish.
INGREDIENTS (serves 2)
2 x small whole sea bass (gutted and scaled – ask your fishmonger)
1 x lemon, sliced
1 x fennel bulb, sliced
1 x small handful of black olives, stoned
1 tbsp olive oil
1 x small handful basil
Salt and pepper
- Pre-heat oven to 200℃.
- Wash and dry fish, then season liberally and fill cavities with lemon and fennel slices, plus some basil.
- Spread the rest, plus olives in a roasting tin and lay fish on top.
- Drizzle with oil and bake for 30 minutes or until fish is just cooked through.
While the fish is cooking, savour the amazing smell and get stuck into some Domaine De La Croix Cru Classé Irresistible Rosé.
Fizz and nibbles – bliss for a dinner party or day in the sun.
Recreate special holiday memories with these ludicrously easy cheesey bites and a popped bottle or two or refreshing cava.
We recommend this wonderful Paco Molina Brut, a perfect partner at under £10 a bottle!
TIP: For flavour variation, replace cayenne pepper with smoked paprika, dried thyme or mild chilli powder.
INGREDIENTS (20-30 bites)
125g plain flour
125g cubed unsalted butter
25g freshly grated parmesan
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 x pinch cayenne pepper
- Pre-heat oven to 180℃.
- Rub butter into flour or use a food processor until mixture looks like breadcrumbs.
- Mix in remaining ingredients.
- Form together into a ball, then knead on a lightly floured surface for a few minutes until dough is smooth.
- Cut dough in half (to allow for rolled out surface area) then roll out first piece between two pieces of cling film to 0.5cm thickness.
- Remove top piece of cling film, cut out as many 5cm round biscuits as you can and place on a greased baking tray.
- Repeat with second piece of dough and any trimmings.
- Bake for 8-10 minutes until golden, then cool on a wire rack.
Serve alongside something sparkling like Paco Molina Cava Brut but make sure you've got plenty of both for everyone!
It's officially summer, even the weather agrees, so it's time for a holiday inspired recipe.
Think barbecue and big glasses of Chianti Classico, like San Giorgio a Lapi.
It has to be the Tuscan classic, 'Bistecca alla Fiorentina' – succulent, simple and superb paired with the region's most famous red.
TIP: If you're not in the mood to fire up the barbie, a grill pre-heated and set to high will work.
INGREDIENTS (Serves 6)
1kg T-bone steaks
6 x lemon wedges
3 tbsp Italian olive oil
4-6 sprigs of fresh rosemary
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Chop rosemary and spread over both sides of steaks, pressing in before leaving for an hour to marinate at room temperature.
- Light barbecue and wait until coals are white.
- Brush oil onto steaks and season with salt and pepper.
- Cook over hottest part of barbecue for around five minutes on each side, then remove and leave to rest for ten minutes before adding a final sprinkle of salt and oil if required.
Serve with nothing more complex than a very simple salad and of course, Chianti Classico.
Do you feel like a holiday yet?
When I started writing this, the rain in the garden was dampening my spirits a bit.
Of course, since posting, we've been in the middle of a heatwave – which if anything has made me think about getting away even sooner.
Many of my holiday memories are linked to delicious food matched with stunning wines – and I'm sure I'm not the only one.
So, to limber up your palate for your own summer getaway, or to bring back memories of special times you've enjoyed, here are a few 'holiday' wines we're discounting.
If you spot your dream destination or a fond memory, get in the mood with a bottle or two.
A few years ago on the way to stay with friends in Italy, we flew into Nice for a couple of nights on the French Riviera.
Our first lunch, sitting close to the sea in Villefranche sur Mer, started with a bottle of Provence rosé being ordered before we even saw the menu.
That first bottle didn't even touch the sides and number two was close on its heels.
By the time the third bottle arrived with a delicious baked sea bass with fennel and olives, the taste was cemented in my memory – so refreshing yet gastronomic too.
Try it yourself, irresistible rosé from Domaine de la Croix – a cru classe wine from close to St Tropez, beautifully pale pink with violet and salmon highlights.
Savour the intense aromas of peach, pear, mandarin and melon with floral notes of iris – buttery and silky on the palate, with citrus fruit, cherry and mango fruit flavours.
A favourite destination for us Brits, especially wine lovers, is 'Chiantishire' – the rolling hills between Florence and Siena better known as Tuscany.
Whether you prefer to soak up the culture in both cities or chill out by a pool at a stylish villa, you'll do well to avoid being offered Chianti to go with whichever dishes you enjoy.
A favourite of mine is the famous Bistecca alla Fiorentina – a T-bone steak, usually cooked over a wood fire and fairly well salted, either before or after.
It's the perfect partner to Chianti and makes a great sharing plate too.
Try our promoted Chianti Classico from San Giorgio a Lapi, which is bright ruby coloured with garnet reflections.
Expressive and intense on the nose, it has scents of black forest fruits and pleasant hints of freshly sawn cherrywood, leather, peppery spice, coffee and dry leaves.
It's crisp, well-structured, full-bodied and elegant on the palate, with a good balance of tannin, acidity, plus plump cherry and red fruit notes, with an excellent length to the finish.
Our final favourite holiday wine memory is tied to Spain but a little off the beaten track, a destination not as familiar as the Costa Blanca or Costa del Sol.
On the Costa Dorada, close to the attractive town of Sitges, there is a wide choice of excellent tapas bars and restaurants to try.
But for an interesting day out, just 30mins by car or less than an hour by bus, is Vilafranca del Penedes – otherwise known as the heart of Cava country.
Sampling local tapas dishes while savouring the wide selection of Cavas on offer is the stuff great holiday memories are made of (it even makes for a good breakfast drink too!).
On promotion at the moment is Paco Molina, our house Cava – I'm certain you’ll love the fresh, clean flavours of this excellent traditional sparkling wine.
Those are just a few of our favourite holiday wine memories – but where are you off to?
From Napa Valley to New Zealand, there's a wine that will transport you back to your favourite fortnight as soon as it's opened.
Technically it's Summer, so even in this green and pleasant land there will be some days soon where you can get the barbecue out.
Think beyond boring burgers and try these easy lamb chops, beautiful with a glass or three of fruity Pinot Noir – we recommend this aromatic number by Bladen.
TIP: If desired, wrap exposed ends of bones in foil before cooking to avoid charring.
INGREDIENTS (Serves 4)
1kg lamb chops
Half tsp of black pepper
3 x garlic cloves (chopped)
1 x onion (thinly sliced)
4 x tbsp white wine vinegar
2 x tbsp olive oil
1 x tsp salt
- Mix all ingredients except the lamb in a bowl until the salt has dissolved.
- Transfer mixture to a large seal-able plastic bag, add lamb chops and toss until well coated.
- Seal and transfer to fridge to marinate for 3 hours.
- Stoke up the barbecue until at a moderate to high heat.
- Cook lamb for three minutes per side, for medium (reduce or lengthen according to preferred taste).
Savour with stunning Bladen Marlborough Pinot Noir – enough to keep the colour in your cheeks regardless of whether the sun's out or not.
We know lots of people don't like the idea of eating rabbit, so don't worry – this dish works just as well with chicken (it just needs cooking a little longer).
So simple to make but requires some quick preparation the day before – well worth the effort though.
Try this with a bottle or two of Waipara Springs Pinot Gris – perfectly balanced acidity to complement the food.
TIP: Ask your butcher to joint the meat into eight pieces to save you the work and mess at home.
INGREDIENTS (Serves 8)
1 x rabbit or chicken (around 1.5kg), jointed into 8 pieces
4 x garlic cloves
1 x handful of fresh basil
1 x small bunch of fresh parsley
3 x tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
METHOD (prepare day before eating)
- Wash and dry the meat, then add to a large casserole dish with a lid and cook dry over a medium heat for 10 minutes, turning once, until sealed.
- Remove from heat, allow to cool and discard any liquid that comes out.
- Finely chop garlic, basil and parsley and combine with salt, pepper and oil.
- Mix and coat the cooled meat with the oil and herbs, then cover and refrigerate, ideally for 24 hours or overnight.
- Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees and cook for around half an hour for rabbit (or until chicken is cooked through).
- Serve with boiled new potatoes and green veg.
Enjoy with Waipara Springs Pinot Gris, a rich and complex bottle with vibrant floral undertones.
A delicious and satisfying dish doesn't have to mean meat or fish.
This fresh and flavoursome risotto, with tender asparagus and fragrant mint would fuel even the heartiest eater weighing on them.
INGREDIENTS (Serves 4)
175g asparagus (trimmed and sliced into 1.5cm lengths)
1.5 litres chicken stock
4 x mint sprigs
2 x tbsp chopped mint leaves
2 x tsp fennel seeds
2 x tbsp olive oil
1 x small onion (finely chopped)
1 x stick of celery (finely chopped)
500g risotto rice (carnaroli if possible)
125ml Sauvignon Blanc
30g unsalted butter
90g freshly grated parmesan
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Put chicken stock, asparagus ends and mint sprigs into a saucepan and bring to boil, before reducing heat to low, covering and keeping hot.
- In a large saucepan, toast the fennel seeds over a high heat, stirring for around one minute or until fragrant.
- Transfer seeds to a mortar and pestle or spice grinder, then – once cool – roughly grind.
- In the same saucepan, heat the olive oil then add the onion and the celery and cook over moderate heat for around five minutes until softened.
- Add rice and fennel seeds and stir until coated with oil, then add wine.
- Stir for a couple of minutes until absorbed, then add enough hot stock to just cover the rice.
- Cook and stir until stock is absorbed, then continue to add stock one ladle at a time, stirring constantly until rice is just tender – this should take about 20 minutes.
- Stir in the sliced asparagus and cook, adding more broth as necessary, until the asparagus is almost tender and the rice is al dente and bound in a creamy sauce.
- Stir in the butter, parmesan and chopped mint, then season with salt and pepper.
- Serve in warmed bowls, with more parmesan if desired.
Enjoy with the rest of your Tin Cottage Sauvignon Blanc while your veggie friends beg you for the recipe.
Without doubt, Sauvignon Blanc has become New Zealand’s flagship grape variety, mainly making its home in the South Island’s Marlborough region.
For years, the iconic ‘Cloudy Bay’ brand has commanded high prices – but for me, the quality level is not what it was and other labels now offer greater value.
To get the most enjoyment out of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, it can help to get a better understanding of this iconic grape.
Why is Sauvignon Blanc such a superstar in NZ?
Since it was first planted there in 1973 – and in the 40-odd years since – it has accounted for the lion’s share of New Zealand’s wine exports.
New Zealand growers have never tried to bastardise quality in favour of a fast buck – the general quality produced throughout the country is high.
A part of Sauvignon Blanc’s mass appeal is an abundance of aromatics and fruit flavours on the palate – essential for a variety with such powerful acidity.
Working with restaurants on a daily basis, we’re constantly reminded that most ‘by the glass’ offerings are driven by price alone.
That’s not true of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, where quality is the driving factor in the majority of cases.
It’s not the easiest of food partners – shellfish and seafood certainly work, as does asparagus – but the high acidity levels make it a great aperitif wine.
New Zealand wines have the gooseberry fruit and pepper (bell pepper) found in Sauvignon worldwide.
But they also tend to have more tropical characters too, making them so much more drinkable in volume.
Plus, Sauvignon is very much an aromatic variety, with bold fragrance and flavour components.
And when these are grown to New Zealand quality levels, they really hit you between the eyes, giving the impression of more bang for your buck.
What to look for when buying Sauvignon Blanc
Firstly, as with any cooler climate wines, vintage can make a big difference.
Happily, both 2015 and 2016 have been kind to Kiwi Sauvignon – although 2015 was lower in yield.
These wines will never be the cheapest and it’s always worth spending that little bit more to ensure quality.
But there are some great value alternatives to Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc – here are three that are just as good in our eyes (and less expensive).
Dave and Cristine MacDonald’s Bladen Estate is one of the founding ones of the Marlborough region.
You’ll have to go a long way to beat the quality and style of their generous Sauvignon Blanc, with its gooseberry, grapefruit, nettle and floral hints.
These give way to a plentifully fruited palate with minerals, grapefruit zest and herbal notes and a long clean finish.
It’s perfectly balanced and – at under £13 a bottle – offers great value.
Marlborough’s Forrest Wines have created a range of lower alcohol wines that lack nothing in terms of flavour and enjoyment.
They won’t tell us the special techniques they use in both the vineyard and the winery but have admitted that special clones have been chosen for the project.
Their classic Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc leaps from the glass with red capsicum, passionfruit and fresh herb aromas.
It’s full and satisfying to taste, with that crisp and refreshing tropical Marlborough finish – all at a modest 9.5 percent alcohol.
If you’d like to try something that’s not from Marlborough you can’t go far wrong with the wines of the Waipara Valley.
Although more famous for Pinot Noir and Riesling grapes, Sauvignon Blanc fares really well there – this example from Waipara Springs winery won’t disappoint.
Aromas of passionfruit, nettle and capsicum dominate the nose and these in turn flow through onto a bright palate.
Salivating acidity couples with chalky minerality to bring depth – mouthwatering at little more than £10 a bottle.
You either love it or you soon will…
If you’re already a devotee of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, enjoy the quality of these Cloudy Bay alternatives and let us know what you think.
And if you’ve not tried it yet, give a bottle a go and you’ll likely become a convert before it’s empty.
It's summer, so some zingy freshness and exotic heat is in order.
This Thai prawn dish is a stunning complement to Bladen Marlborough Gewurztraminer – a masterpiece of a wine that matches so well with Asian flavours it's scary.
INGREDIENTS (Serves 4)
200g peeled raw tiger prawns (or king prawns will do)
3 x garlic cloves (finely sliced or crushed)
A few chopped chillies (2-5 dependent on taste)
1 x bunch of coriander, leaves and stalks separated
1 x tbsp caster sugar
3 x tbsp fish sauce
Juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp groundnut oil (peanut or sunflower can be used)
Small piece of ginger (grated or shredded)
8 x spring onions (finely sliced)
1 x red pepper (thinly sliced)
85g water chestnuts (sliced)
1 x tbsp soy sauce
- Using a small food processor or pestle and mortar, combine coriander stalks, chillies, garlic and caster sugar.
- Mix with fish sauce and lime juice, then pour over prawns and leave to marinate.
- Heat half the oil in a wok, add ginger and spring onions and fry for one minute.
- Add red pepper and fry until it starts to soften, then add water chestnuts and beansprouts.
- Add soy sauce, a generous grind of pepper then remove to a serving dish.
- Heat the remaining half of the oil in the wok, add the prawns and toss for a couple of minutes until just pink.
- Add in the marinade, stir until coated, then tip over the veg.
- Sprinkle with chopped coriander leaves and another squeeze of lime juice.
- Enjoy with rice noodles or jasmine rice.
Enjoy with an aromatic bottle or two of Bladen Marlborough Gewurztraminer and you'll have no problem ignoring the underwhelming British summertime.
Have you noticed that when Wimbledon's on, you suddenly want strawberries and cream, whether you like tennis or not?
Well we've decided that even if you're not into rugby, you can still celebrate the British & Irish Lions tour with some delicious food and New Zealand wine.
This flavoursome smoked salmon is ridiculously quick and easy and a perfect pink partner to Bladen Pinot Noir Rose 2016.
TIP: Smoked salmon trimmings can be bought cheaply from supermarkets and taste just as good as higher priced larger slices.
INGREDIENTS (Serves 4 as a starter)
150g smoked salmon trimmings
200g cream cheese
1 tbsp creme fraiche (optional)
Juice of half a lemon
Small bunch of dill or chives, chopped
Granary toast and lemon wedges, to serve
- Chop salmon into small pieces.
- Put salmon, cream cheese and creme fraiche (if using) into a food processor, season generously with black pepper and blitz.
- Add smoked salmon and pulse a few times for a rougher, rustic consistency or continue processing for longer if you want the pate pink and smooth.
- Stir in herbs and transfer to four small bowls before serving with toast and lemon wedges.
Enjoy with Bladen Pinot Noir Rose 2016 in front of the rugby – yes, most of the matches will be kicking off around 8am, you'll just have to power through.
How are you spending your May Bank Holiday?
One of the UK’s favourite weekends can be made even better with wine.
Here are some recommendations to enjoy (even if you’re working the Bank Hol!).
I’m having a barbecue 🍖
Without doubt, one of the greatest barbecue wines is the Braai Cabernet Sauvignon from Indaba Wines in South Africa.
It’s inexpensive – so good for big groups of friends – and has been designed with barbecues (or Braais as they are known in SA) in mind.
The delightful charring effect of cooking over coals adds just the right element of taste to match this rich earthy wine.
For fish grillers, the zestiness of Bladen Wines’ Riesling makes a great partner to trout or mackerel when the smokey flavours bring its bright fruit flavours to life.
I’m having a dinner party 🥘
Of course it depends what you’re cooking but lamb is great at this time of year, so why not try a Pinot Noir?
There are many styles and prices available but Astoria’s inexpensive ‘Caranto’ will work well with its light, fresh berry fruit.
For something rounder, South Africa’s Paul Cluver Pinot Noir is full of fruit, with a decent structure that makes for good drinking against lamb or any red meat.
But if the pocket allows, the best for me will always be from Burgundy.
If you want a white instead (or as well!), Burgundy offers so much, with Puligny Montrachet a particular favourite for fans of whites from the region.
But why not try something a little off the beaten track?
Domaine Prunier Bonheur’s excellent Auxey Duresses is a beautiful golden wine, vivid but rounded and guaranteed to please.
Or for seafood, look no further than Bouchard Finlayson's Blanc de Mer, a blend of several grapes based on Riesling and a real joy to drink.
I’m working ⏰
Nobody wants to work over the Bank Holiday weekend but if you can only enjoy a glass or two, go for a low sulphur content – the main cause of a bad head.
Happily, any bottle from us will boast lower levels but for something especially short on sulphur dioxide, go for the Gavi from Tenuta la Marchesa.
This deliciously pure wine is unsulphured until bottling and uses a very low amount even then – it tastes as fresh as you’ll feel in the morning!
What else are you doing? 🍷
However you’re spending the Bank Hol, we’d love match a wine to your plans (with exceptions – operating heavy machinery, nuclear testing), get in touch!
Or if you’d prefer to pick something yourself to enjoy, take a look at our current 12.5% off all Spanish and New Zealand wines promotion.
This quick and delicious supper or lunch is easy to make and even easier on the wallet, which means you can enjoy it with a decent Rioja – it really is worth it.
I first fell in love with it four years ago having enjoyed it at our hotel in Haro.
TIP: If you don't have white Rioja for cooking, another white wine can be used as long as it's not an oaked variety.
INGREDIENTS (serves 4 adults)
250g cooking chorizo
1 x large onion
2 x garlic cloves
4-5 x tablespoons of olive oil
500ml chicken stock
1 x quarter bottle of white Rioja
1 x tablespoon of paprika
- Peel potatoes and cut into one inch chunks.
- Chop chorizo into one inch pieces.
- Peel and chop onion and garlic.
- Heat oil in a heavy based frying pan and fry onion and chorizo until onion is translucent.
- Add garlic and fry for further minute.
- Remove from heat and add all other ingredients.
- Stir and return to heat, bringing to the boil.
- Cover and simmer on lower heat for 20-30 minutes, until potatoes are cooked.
Enjoy with a glass or three of ruby red Sierra Cantabria Rioja Crianza.
We last enjoyed this delicious fish dish in restaurant overlooking the ocean in beautiful Jacob's Bay in the Western Cape, with a bottle of Bouchard Finlayson Blanc de Mer.
And with 12.5% off all South African wines, you should select a similarly fragrant fruity white to cut through the luxurious indulgence of this seafood feast.
800g monkfish fillet
125ml dry white wine
1 x bay leaf
Small handful of parsley
Half a small onion
6 x peppercorns
Half a teaspoon of salt
200g mushrooms (sliced)
25ml softened butter
50ml double cream
1.5 x dessertspoon French mustard
2 x medium potatoes (mashed and creamed)
Grated parmesan or gruyere cheese
FOR THE SAUCE
3 x level tablespoons of softened butter
250ml warm milk
375ml fish stock
METHOD (serves 6)
1. Pre-heat oven to 160°C/320°F.
2. Put monkfish, wine, water, bay leaf, parsley, onion, peppercorns and salt in saucepan and poach until the fish is just just cooked through.
3. Remove and drain the fish, cube and set aside.
4. Fry mushrooms lightly in butter and drain on a paper towel.
5. Make the white sauce by heating the butter and flour together, stirring to make a 'roux'.
6. Whisk in the milk and stock to complete the sauce, taking care not to burn.
7. Season to taste, then add the fish, mushrooms, sherry, cream and mustard.
8. Spoon into individual dishes and surround the top with a border of creamed potato.
9. Sprinkle with cheese and bake in the oven for 25 minutes.
Despite the number of strong flavours, the monkfish is tough enough to stand up for itself and really shines when complemented with a few glasses of Blanc de Mer.
Top tip: For added wow factor at the table, serve in individual scallop shells (available from most fishmongers) instead of dishes.
Pronounced 'ba-boor-tee', this protein-packed panful pairs well with robust reds like the Curator Red and is a national favourite in South Africa.
And with 12.5% off all South African wines, don't whip up this meaty treat without having a bottle or two to enjoy with it.
1 x fairly thick slice of crusty bread (white or brown is fine)
10ml melted or softened butter
1 x clove of garlic (crushed)
2 x onions (sliced)
1.5 x tablespoons curry powder
15ml smooth apricot jam
15ml Worcestershire sauce
1 x teaspoon turmeric
25ml brown vinegar
1kg raw beef mince
5 x tablespoons sultanas
3 x eggs
METHOD (serves 8)
- Pre-heat oven to 180°C/356°F and set bread to one side, soaking in milk.
- Heat the oil and butter in large pan and fry onions and garlic until soft.
- Add curry powder, pinch of salt, chutney, jam, Worcestershire sauce, turmeric and vinegar and mix well.
- Drain and mash the bread, reserving the milk.
- Add bread to pan together with mince and sultanas. and stir over a low heat until meat loses its pinkness.
- Remove from stove, add one beaten egg, mix well and spoon into a greased baking dish (28 x 16cm), levelling the top.
- Beat remaining eggs with reserved milk (you should have around 300ml), a further pinch of salt and pinch of turmeric, then pour over the meat mixture.
- Add a few bay leaves on top and stand the dish in a larger pan of water (important to prevent drying out), then bake, uncovered for 1 hour, or until set.
It's traditionally enjoyed with rice but we'd recommend also accompanying with coconut, chutney, nuts, bananas and (of course) a few glasses of Curator red.
Top tip: Get ahead by making the meat sauce up to a day in advance and chilling it in the fridge until you are ready to finish the dish off.
Over the last decade or so, Pinot Grigio has seen a dramatic rise in popularity with the UK wine consumers, many of whom believe that it’s a grape indigenous to Italy and that little else is produced outside of the borders. How wrong they are.