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Wine Talk

Vegetarian recipe: Pastry-free spinach tarts with porcini sauce (Italy)

 

This isn’t a tart in the traditional sense – more like a light mousse that simply melts in the mouth.

I first fell in love with it in a small restaurant in Alba in Italy's Piedmont region.

The establishment is sadly no longer there but I still make this for friends and it never fails to delight.

And as a veggie dish, it means everyone can enjoy the same thing – no need to have too many plates spinning.

TIP: This porcini sauce is just as delicious as a standalone sauce for pasta or gnocchi. 

Spinach tart recipe

 

INGREDIENTS

FOR THE 'TARTS'

600g cooked or frozen spinach (with all water squeezed out)

25g unsalted butter

1 x tbsp onion (finely chopped)

2 x eggs

100g parmesan (finely grated)

200ml double cream

3 x tbsp fresh orange juice

Grated nutmeg

Salt and pepper

1 x handful of fresh breadcrumbs 

FOR THE PORCINI SAUCE

25g dried porcini mushrooms

50g unsalted butter

2 x tbsp flatleaf parsley (chopped)

1 x garlic clove (finely chopped)

Salt and pepper

150ml single cream

METHOD

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 190°C and heat butter in a pan, gently sautéeing the onion until soft.
  2. Add the spinach and saute for 5 more minutes, then blend to coarse puree in a food processor.
  3. Lightly beat the eggs with the parmesan, then add the cream, orange juice, nutmeg and season with salt and pepper before mixing thoroughly with the spinach mixture.
  4. Generously grease 8 ramekins with butter, making sure the bottoms are well covered, then sprinkle with breadcrumbs – shaking out any excess.
  5. Fill with the spinach mixture and place in a bain marie with the very hot water coming 2/3rds of the way up, then bake for 20 minutes.
  6. Turn out onto heated plates and serve with the porcini sauce on the side.
  7. For the sauce, soak the dried porcini in 250 ml of hot water for 30 minutes, then strain while reserving the liquid.
  8. Gently fry the parsley and garlic in the butter until soft, then add roughly chopped porcini, frying for a further 10 minutes.
  9. Adding 3-4 tablespoons of the soaking liquid and season with salt and black pepper, before adding the cream to the sauce and serving (If the sauce seems a bit dry, just add a little more of the reserved soaking liquid from the porcini).

Enjoy with some quality cereal bread and plenty of good white wine.

Two excellent partners are Ciabot Berton’s Favorita and Astoria’s Pinot Grigio Alisia.

Recipe: Bistecca alla Fiorentina (Tuscan steak – Italy)

 

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.

 Bistecca alla Fiorentina recipe

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

METHOD

  1. Chop rosemary and spread over both sides of steaks, pressing in before leaving for an hour to marinate at room temperature.
  2. Light barbecue and wait until coals are white.
  3. Brush oil onto steaks and season with salt and pepper.
  4. 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.

Wish you were there? Favourite holiday wines (Special offer)

 

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.

Holiday wine ideas

France

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.

Irresistible Rose Domaine De La Croix

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.

Tuscany

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.

Chianti Classico San Giorgio a Lapi

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.

Spain

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!).

Paco Molina Cava

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.

Where next?

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.

Enjoy!