Friday night curry: Wines to go with spicy dishes

Post curry night with work colleagues, I felt inspired to share some tips for matching wines with spicy dishes. I LOVE cooking Asian inspired dishes – Thai particularly – and to find a great wine match is ultra enjoyable. Try these easy-peasy rules next time you’re stuck for choices and just dont fancy a pint (granted this is the standard UK curry match, and even as a wine lover, yes, I did have a pint of Kingfisher with mine !)

1. Match spice for spice. Try a spicy Gewurztraminer or Pinot Gris with a white meat, or veggie dish with a range of spices, or a peppery Zinfandel with a red meat dish to match red chilli spice.

2. Go for bold, not subtle. A subtle wine will be  overpowered by a spicy, often flavoursome dish. Go for complex or aged wines with big flavours, like a  zesty Riesling or a floral, tropical/exotic white.

3. Balance heat with sweet. Residual sugars in off-dry, and indeed some dry white and rose wines, balance the fiery kick in spicy dishes. Try a demi-sec Vouvray, a juicy Loire rose.

4.  Sparkle, sparkle. A dry or even demi-sec sparkling will cut through any grease and chillled bubbles will cool the palate but fire up fantastic flavours.

5. NO tannin! If you do fancy a red, don’t pick one with bold tannin, this will only enhance the spice and chilli-heat and will make a tannic wine taste bitter and ruin both the wine and food. Instead, try a lighter red like a Beaujolais or a powerful flavoured, spicy, robust red like Zinfandel.

To match these top 5 tips, here are my top 5 wine choices from established member’s owned co-operative, The Wine Society. The application is a one-off payment of £40.00 for a lifetime membership, but from now until Christmas, every new member gets £20.00 credit on their account to spend towards their first order!

1. Zarcillo Gewürztraminer, 2011, £6.25 per bottle. 13.5%. The pink-skinned gewürztraminer offers exotic flavours of lychees and superb value for money. Delicious with fresh ginger spiced dishes. One of my absolute favourite buys.

2. Kumeu River Pinot Gris, 2010, Auckland, £12.50 per bottle. 13%. A lovely floral pinot gris which is smooth textured, like good Alsace examples, but with the vibrant fresh fruit so typical of New Zealand. Although dry, the sensation of a little sweetness works well with a spicy Thai green curry.

3. Crémant de Limoux, Cuvée St Laurent, 2010, £9.95 per bottle. 12%. Stylish, rounded sparkler from the Aude Valley in the foothills of the Pyrenees where bubbly has been made for 500 years. The blend is chardonnay, chenin and a little local mauzac. A perfect aperitif. Crisp and fresh, try with a creamy curry to cut through grease, or a fresh, spicy chilli noodle salad.

4. The Society’s California Old Vine Zinfandel, £6.95 per bottle. 13.5%. California’s quintessential red grape, best at producing ripe, full-flavoured dry wines, this Zinfandel is a ripe but serious dry red with the juicy fruit and hint of pepper typical of the variety, with enough structure to last a few years in bottle. It would stand up well to robust, spicy, red meat curries.

5. Bleasdale Sparkling Shiraz, Langhorne Creek, £12.50 per bottle. 13.5%. Deeply coloured, rich-tasting sparkling Aussie shiraz. You may think – how is this going to work?! But it seems to have the sweetness to stand up to the spices and the sparkle cuts through richer curry sauces. Yes, Shiraz generally breaks the rule of avoiding highly-tannic wines, but the effervesence of this wine creates a lighter feel. Best served chilled.


Thai Curry snap from missy & the universe‘s photostream on flickr.


Out and about: Wines and beers at Borough Market

There is nothing greater than a fresh food market on a Saturday morning. Bustling with people, vendors shoutings to sell their goods, aromas of roasting coffee, fresh bread, spices and cooked meats.  Borough Market on Southwark Street, London, never fails to make me smile – and needless to say, spend lots of money! After a huge breakfast roll – bacon, egg and bubble – at Maria’s Market Cafe, we shuffled through every inch of the market sampling cheese, bread, olive oil, cured meats and spices.

All bases are covered at Borough Market, including beverages from specialist teas and world famous coffee to English cider, international beers and hundreds of wines. For a tippling market experience, fill up with a glass of Prosecco from Borough Wines or Cartwright Bros. and get shopping!

In the middle market, New Forest Cider sells by the glass or the bottle and offers dry, medium, sweet, Kingston Black, perry and – in the winter months – hot mulled cider, along with a selection of ciders made to the Normandy and Champagne methods. Apples from their own orchard in Hampshire are pressed in October and November, along with fruit from Somerset and Herefordshire.

Around the corner, Cartwright Bros.  specialises in importing wines sourced from small independent estates, sometimes directly from the growers. Wines are primarily French and Italian, but the range is ever increasing. Try a glass of Prosecco for £3.50 or a glass of mulled wine for £3.00.

Just next door is Utobeer, which stocks beers brewed in their country of origin – whether that be Britain, America, Belgium, Germany, Holland, Scandinavia or Australia, to name just a handful. As a proud South Aussie, I am very pleased to see not only Cooper’s Pale Ale, but also the Cooper’s Sparkling and Cooper’s Stout!

And right next to that? (This shopping malarkey is so simple!) Top up your Prosecco again at Borough Wines – although at £4.50 a glass rather than £3.50, it may be worth a few steps back to Cartwright Bros! Started as a promotional stall for Chateau Ponchapt, Borough Wines still remains amostly French selection, with representation in smaller numbers from Italy, New Zealand, England and other regions. As I was there, Nyetimber Sparkling was available to taste, and was on a special offer price.

If it all just gets too much, head to The Wine Pantry, just on the edge of the Market on Stoney Street – London’s first English wine tasting room. With over 20 wines available to taste or buy by the glass, thanks to automated dispensing machines, owner Julia Stafford is an inspiring ambassador for English wines as well as English cheese and cured meat producers.

A gourmet foodie’s idea of heaven, Borough Market is open for lunch Monday-Wednesday 10am-3pm, Thursdays 11am-5pm, Fridays 12-6pm and Saturdays 8am-5pm.

JoJo’s own photos 15th September 2012

ABSOLUTely in love with ABSOLUT Vodka!

Until now, I had never been to the ABSOLUT Vodka website. I thought I knew all the flavours. I thought I was a dab hand at a bit of vodka cocktail mixology. I am very sad to admit defeat. I do not know all the flavours and by no stretch am I a vodka mixologist in the making. My hands, and my white flag are up and I am surrending to the ABSOLUT gods. Never in my life have I been dazzled to blindness by such an extensive cocktail list. It would be wrong of me to choose just one favourite but here are a few;

ABSOLUT Mango Mojito

4 Parts ABSOLUT MANGO, 2 Parts Lime Juice, Mint Leaf To Taste, Soda Water To Taste, 1 Slice Mango

Stir lime juice and sugar, superfine in a chilled highball glass. Add mint leaf. Muddle. Fill with crushed ice. Add ABSOLUT Mango. Stir. Fill with crushed ice. Topup with soda water. Garnish with mint leaf and mango.


ABSOLUT Gingerpear Martini

4 Parts ABSOLUT PEARS, 3 Parts Simple Syrup, 2 Parts Lemon Juice, 2 Pieces Ginger

Muddle ginger in a shaker. Fill with ice cubes. Add ABSOLUT Pears, lemon juice and simple syrup. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with ginger.


ABSOLUT Blackberry Bellini

1 Part ABSOLUT KURANT , 1 Part Blackberry Syrup, Prosecco, 1 Whole Blackberry

 Fill a mixing glass with ice cubes. Add blackberry syrup and ABSOLUT Kurant. Stir and strain into a chilled champagne glass. Topup with prosecco. Garnish with a blackberry.



Yum yum, Jamaican rum!

Last weekend I popped my Notting Hill Carnival cherry and immersed myself in the sounds, colours, and amazing smells of this annual Carribbean and West Indian festival. How could you go to Notting Hill and not spend your day drinking Jamaican Red Stripe Beer, eating jerk chicken and rice and peas, sipping rum punch and drinking coconut water straight from the shell?! Ok so I didnt actually have time for this last one, but I really wanted to!

Whilst we are literally gripping to any last rays of sun peeking through the rain clouds, which I think are loitering over most of Britain, I am inspired to whip up one last summer punch. This deliciously easy recipe for Jamaican Rum Punch from Drinks Mixer will have you feeling the sun on your back and the sand between your toes….we wish!

1 cup Bacardi® 151 rum
1/2 cup Myer’s® dark rum
1/4 cup Malibu® coconut rum
2 1/2 cups pineapple juice
2 1/2 cups orange juice
1/4 cup lime juice
3 tbsp grenadine syrup
Ice cubes
Mix all ingredients together in a blender or punch bowl. Pour over ice cubes in any type of glass. Orange slices to garnish.
Happy end of summer!

Wine and Cheese – yes please!

I LOVE cheese – just putting it out there. And I LOVE finding the perfect wine to go with cheese – that moment when you get that it just goes, without even realising why. Recently I came across a fantastic article about cheese and wine matching in Aussie food and wine magazine, Selector, which put the art very simply; The whiter and brighter the cheese, the lighter and crisper the wine. The harder and darker the cheese, the darker and richer the wine. Another key point to note is that regional pairings also work very well, for example a goats cheese from the Loire Valley in Fance will pair well with a Loire Sauvignon Blanc.

If it’s the perfect match you’re looking for, it may be better to keep it simple and have just one cheese with one sensational wine match that your guests will remember – a full cheeseboard with a selection may prove more challenging. If this is the case, whites usually fair better as they go with a wider vareity of textures and flavours without being overbearing. At the end of the day, all palates are different and heavenly match for one guest may not work for another.

Try these classic matches to impress friends with your wine and cheese knowledge!

Sauvignon Blanc Soft goats or sheep’s milk cheeses
Chardonnay (oaked) Creamy Brie or Camembert – fat food, fat wine!
Viognier, Gewurztraminer or Riesling Sweeter cheeses like Swiss Emmental, Gouda or strong washed rind cheeses
Sticky sweet eg. Sauternes Blue cheeses – mouldy cheese with rotted grapes!
Sparkling wine or Champagne Hard cooked cheese like Parmesan or Gruyere
Pinot Noir or Cabernet Lighter pressed cheeses like Gouda, Manchego
Shiraz Mature, sharp, cheddar
Sherry Hard cooked cheese like Parmesan or Gruyere
Port Blue cheeses

As a self proclaimed wine and cheese aficionado (well, it’s great for a Friday night in!), here are a few of my favourite pairings:

Hardys Crest Chardonnay Pinot Noir NV Sparkling, Tesco, on sale at £6.99!! , with a deli Parmesan

 – Les Coteaux Tufiers Demi Sec, Vouvray, £6.95, The Wine Society*, with Lincolnshire Poacher

 – Saintsbury Chardonnay, Carneros, £16.99, Majestic**, with a creamy Brie

 – Cape Nelson Shiraz, South Africa, £8.99, Sainsburys, with a mature vintage cheddar like Davidstow

 – Campbells Rutherglen Muscat, Waitrose, £11.49, with a strong blue cheese like Stilton

For more great cheese and wine pairings – with a patriotic tick of approval – check out this great piece about Perfect Partners, put together by The British Cheese Board and English Wine Producers.

Cheers! Or should that be cheeeeese!

* Note that you do need to be a member to order from The Wine Society! Lifetime membership is a one-off payment of £40

**Note that minimum order is 6 bottles, but delivery is free when you spend £40

Cheese plate photo taken from cwbeucheler’s photostream on flickr.

English Tipple: Damson Gin

Possibly the most quintessentially English thing to do on a sunny weekend (besides going to the pub!), is to go to a Country Show. I spent a gloriously sunny Saturday last week pretending to know the differences between cow breeds, oohing and ahhing over piglets suckling, watching sheep shearing and dog training, drinking Pimms, and convincing my boyfriend we do not need to buy chickens!

By far the best part of this experience, for me, is the fantastic local produce on display; cheeses, pickles, chutneys, sausages, pies and pasties and local tipples. I tried, (and subsequently purchased!) this deliciously tart Damson Gin by Foxdenton Estate – specialists in English Gin & Gin Liqueurs.

Made from Damsons grown in Herefordshire, this gin is vibrant red in colour and tastes like tart cherries and sour plums. It can be enjoyed in summer with chilled sparkling tonic or soda in a long glass with ice, or in winter as a neat shot. You can also try adding to fruit puddings for a extra kick. But what excited me the most was blending this tipple with Champagne to make a sophsitcated cocktail called a Damn Shame. Of course, for the penny conscious, you could try with Prosecco or Cava – it is still delicious! Garnish with a strawberry to make it look extra pretty :-)

Although the show has been and gone for this year, the Hatfield Country Show is an annual event, usually in August. However there is also a fantastic Christmas Frost Fair in November which is great for finding Xmas gifts and crafts, whilst sipping on mulled wine – can’t wait!

A-Z Spirits and Liqueurs: F is for Frangelico

Despite the fact I appear to be allergic to raw hazelnuts, I am very pleased that this does not extend to anything hazelnut flavoured, in particular, Frangelico. So versatile is this liqueur, it can be enjoyed in winter or summer; to warm you up or cool you down; long or short and in sweet or savoury dishes. If there was one tipple to have in your cupboard year round, I’d say this is it!

What is it? Frangelico is a traditional liqueur made in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy, dating back over 300 years to the time of early Christian monks in the area. Wild hazelnuts, crushed and toasted, are infused with vanilla and cocoa, to make a pale gold liqueur with a delicate hazelnut flavour and hints of dark chocolate. Its signature bottle is an obvious nod to a distinctive history, shaped like a monk’s habit with a rope tied around the middle, making it easy to spot on endless shelves of spirits and liqueurs.

How can I enjoy it? At 20% abv its sensible enough to enjoy on its own after dinner, poured over a tumbler of ice, but can also be added to coffee, mixed in a number of cocktails, dashed into delicious desserts or even used in savoury dishes.

I LOVE Frangelico in coffee and it is so easy! This quickie Hazelnut Coffee, is from the Frangelico website, but could easily make it without the cream if you dont feel like indulging!

  • 30ml/1oz Frangelico
  • Coffee
  • Cream
  • Chocolate flakes

Stir 30ml. Frangelico into your favourite hot coffee. Garnish with whipped cream and chocolate flakes.

If you do feel like induldging, this absolute cracker of a cocktail from Mix That Drink is practically a meal repalcement, but totally worth it!

Liquid Snickers

  • 1 ounce (30ml shot) dark creme de cacao
  • 1/2 ounce (15ml) Irish cream
  • 1/2 ounce (15ml) Frangelico
  • 1/2 ounce (15ml) light cream

Fill an old-fashioned glass with ice cubes. Pour the three liquor ingredients over the ice. Finish by topping with the light cream. Serve with a stir straw (it looks cool), or stir before serving.Try munching on some peanuts with this one – it enhances the Snickers flavors, and the salty makes a great contrast to that sweetness.

For true absolute decadence you can always rely on Nigella Lawson to come up trumps. This Nigella recipe for Frangelico Tiramisu is a sure fire dinner party hit, but be sure to set some exercise time aside the next day!

  •  1 cup espresso coffee, 1 cup Frangelico hazlenut liqueur, plus more for the filling
  •   2 eggs, separated
  • 1/3 cup superfine sugar
  • 1/4 cup Frangelico hazlenut liqueur
  • 1 pound (2 cups) mascarpone
  • 30 Savoiardi biscuits (lady fingers), approx. 14 ounces
  • 3/4 cup chopped roasted hazelnuts
  • 3 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder

See link for directions on how to make!

I want it! Where can I get it? Pick up a 70cl bottle of Frangelico for £18.14 at easy online One Click Vintage. They offer free UK shipping for orders over £35.00 so why not pick up a few liquid essentials while you’re there. If you fancy trying the Liquid Snickers, they also sell Creme de Cacao for around £12 and Irish Cream starting at around £7.

Actually factual: The name Frangelico is based on the legend of a hermit called Fra Angelico who created his own unique liqueur recipes.

Frangelico bottle shot image taken from Geoff Penaluna’s photostream on flickr.