Each month, to inspire your tables and encourage you to try new food and wine pairings we’ll be highlighting some of the best ingredients that are in season with a couple of recipe ideas and the wines we think compliment them best.
Oysters are a True Rags to Riches Story
In Western societies, oysters are very much considered a luxury and can be something of an acquired taste, right? Well believe it or not, before the early 1900s, oysters were not only plentiful but were cheap to buy and mostly consumed by the working classes.
Oysters’ True Value
Oysters are a keystone species in the marine world, not only creating habitat within their beds for hundreds of other marine species, large and small, but they are also ecosystem engineers clarifying and purifying the shallow waters where they inhabit by filtering huge volumes of water through their shells. They have proven to help restore marine health too, especially through the removal of excess nitrogen-containing compounds which would otherwise damage the marine ecology over time.
How to Eat Oysters
Probably the most popular way to eat oysters is raw, straight from the shell. Maybe a squeeze of lemon or a splash of vinegar and a dash of tabasco sauce can further enhance the flavours. If you struggle with the idea of eating it raw or it’s a textural thing, they can be lightly grilled, steamed, fried or even baked with a sauce.
In the UK, and in fact in the northern hemisphere in general, there’s a rule that says you should only eat oysters in months that contain the letter ‘r’. Now with the warmer summer months having passed, along with the essential breeding season, September marks the first autumn month when home-grown oysters are celebrated again. From Falmouth to Whitstable and from Loch Fyne to Colchester, our native oysters are sensational and, like quality wines, are all nuanced in their own unique flavours.
For Raw Oysters Let it be Fizz
Oysters are quite meaty and the subtle briny, saltiness needs something fresh yet not too overpowering in flavour to balance these characteristics. Traditional method sparkling wines, like Champagne and English Sparkling Wine, tick all the right boxes, and what better to accompany our delicious native oysters than a glass or two of one of our excellent native sparklers. The Simpsons ‘Chalklands’ Classic Cuvée blends all three of the Champagne varieties (Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir) that are grown on the chalky soils of the Kentish Downs. Following at least 2 years conditioning in the bottle before disgorgement, the process that removes the dead yeast cells prior to topping up and corking, the wine is ready to be released for sale. With a lovely pale gold colour, the aromas are pronounced and the flavours are zingy and delicate and kept lively with a lovely linear, chalky acidity.
In Pursuit of Venison
The word ‘venison’ actually derives from the Latin term meaning ‘to pursue or hunt’ and historically related to game in general. Now it refers specifically to deer of which we have two true native species, red deer and roe deer, and a number of introduced species. Fallow deer were brought across by the Normans, specifically for the establishment of Royal hunting estates, and three Asian species arrived during the late Victorian era, the most prolific of which is the muntjac.
Compared with lamb and beef, venison is much leaner and finer in texture, contains higher quality protein and amino acids and lower levels of saturated fats. It’s also rich in essential B Vitamins so helps to maintain a balanced diet.
Cooking and Enjoying Venison
Venison is a straight-forward and versatile ingredient in the kitchen whether roasting a haunch with herbs and spices or mincing into sausages or a Bolognese with a difference! The key is not to overcook it otherwise it dries out and becomes tough. One of our favourite dinner party recipes is James Martin’s venison wellington.
The ideal dinner party wine to pair with this dish is Domaine Chanson’s Marsannay. Marsannay is a village in the Côte de Nuits region of Burgundy and lies just to the north of Fixin and Gevrey Chambertin. It is also the only village appellation in the region that produces all three colours of wine; white, rosé and red.
Marsannay is also known for its fuller-bodied style of Pinot Noir and this wine from the superb Domaine Chanson is no exception. Beautifully fragrant, with ample body, tannins and fruit intensity, this is bright yet powerful and perfectly suited to the rich flavours of the venison wellington.
Panna Cotta is the Cream of Italy!
This ‘cooked cream’ dessert from Italy is quick and simple to make and can be flavoured with many seasonal ingredients, not least the ripe, summer berries that are in abundance at this time of year. Thought to have originated in the Piedmont region of north-west Italy in the early 1900s, it’s become a popular pudding in restaurants all over the world. Australian/Lebanese chef Greg Malouf gives a particularly creative Middle-Eastern twist to this classic with his Rose and Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Comice Pears.
To compliment this wonderful dessert, we’ve selected the classic, fruity Max Ferd Richter Estate Riesling from Germany’s Mosel Valley. The estate, founded in 1680, is now run by the ninth and tenth generations of the same family. Sourced from extremely steep slate vineyards that were replanted 15-20 years ago, this wine is neither dry nor sweet, just lusciously fruity with a bracing freshness that keeps it super-lively.
Let’s enjoy the last of our Indian summer and the incredible variety of ingredients that are in season and at our fingertips!