Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Celebration Wines and A Very Quick Cucumber Pickle

Happy Christmas! It really is that time again - how does that happen? It's a good time of year for the sociable and the greedy in equal measure, definitely something to be celebrated. I am an endless fan of the shiny and the sparkly bits of the world especially at this time of  year when most of the light and warmth has leaked from the northern world, seemingly never to return. Delightful company, luscious food and good wines are a proper riposte to winter.

I had some wines from the Loire to sample, all whites in this case though due to its enormous reach the river winds through a multiplicity of landscapes offering such diverse conditions for the cultivation of grapes that every possible style of wine can be produced.We had people we like coming for lunch Saturday to catch up before Christmas so a perfect chance to treat ourselves and share nicely at the same time.

First up was this lovely sparkly Monmousseau, not as dry as some champagnes instead with a subtle richness, was perfect with an elegant plate of smoked salmon and soda bread. I made a quick pickle of cucumber with ginger that brought all the elements together to be even greater than the sum of their - very considerable - parts.

We had a Japanese influenced duck and clementine dish with noodles as the main, which I paired with a red from Douro - different river, good wine!

Then there was my favourite wine of the day - La Noé, the name of the grape not the producer - a very fine Muscadet from Eric Chevalier. It was fresh and rich and deliciously creamy. Its subtle delicacy has won the heart of Jancis Robinson, she notes that the effect of a slow fermentation using ambient yeasts and then seven months ageing on the yeast lees has given La Noë a marked and delicious creamy texture that beautifully complements the freshness and high tension delivered by crisp acidity. Subtle, refreshing, satifying and long.

I normally serve Muscadet with fish or a light chicken dish - it always seems to work - but M Chevalier suggests too that it has the depth to pair with cheeses so we drank it with a fine stilton - it's not Christmas if there's no stilton! - and it was a very good match.


We finished - much later - with sweet white Raisins Nobles, Jasnières 2009, gorgeous with warm mince pies but it would work too as a decadent aperitif with goose rillettes or foie gras and a garnish of pruneaux.

Most of lunch was a simple put together of bits and pieces and very little cooking involved. Mostly just the cucumber pickle, I shall add the recipe here if you are looking for something to go with smoked salmon or indeed cold pork or poultry. It only takes minutes to prepare.

Quick Cucumber Ginger Pickle

1 long cucumber
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/4 cup white wine or rice wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon  very finely grated ginger

Peel, halve lengthways and deseed the cucumber then slice very thinly. Put the slices into a colander, mix with the salt and leave to drain for about 15 minutes. Rinse briefly under cold water and pat dry with kitchen paper.

In a pretty bowl whisk together the rest of the ingredients then add the cucumber and give it a stir. Cover with clingfilm and fridge it for an hour or so before serving. If there's any left it will keep happily in the fridge for a few days.

Here's to a great Christmas and a happy 2014. Cheers!