Five things I love this week #6

1. Jordan's Super Fruity Granola. To mark their 40th anniversary of making granola, Jordan's commissioned a 'Perfect Breakfast' survey to find out what us Brits consider our ideal morning. Nearly half of the 2000 people surveyed considered a bowl of healthy cereal their perfect breakfast, and needed an hour and five minutes between waking up and leaving for work to be fully relaxed. Favourite breakfast pastimes include reading the paper and watching the news, but it also gets more specific - being made a cup of tea by someone else and not having to wear a coat outside are also ingredients for the ideal weekday morning, while guaranteed threats to such a morning include a bad night's sleep, running out of milk, or stubbing one's toe. I can agree with pretty much all of these, except I like to make my own cup of tea - I'm fussy like that.

Apparently only a tragic 30% of us would refuse to leave the house without a healthy breakfast. That means 70% of the people out there are running around without having sat down to a proper breaking of their fast. I physically cannot comprehend such a notion. If I don't eat breakfast, I'm a danger to myself and others. Perhaps to combat this sad statistic, Jordan's have released two new tempting varieties of their granola: Super Fruity and Super 3 Seeds. I was kindly sent a sample of the former to try, which features sweet, toasty oats baked in honey and offset by a tongue-tingling mixture of pomegranate, raspberry and redcurrant pieces. I enjoyed it enormously - granola can often be too sweet, but this has just the right balance of sweet crunchiness and acidity from the fruits. They are really quite tangy, but the whole thing works together perfectly and will definitely provide the much-needed morning wake up call for the average Brit, who apparently snoozes for around 8 minutes after the alarm goes off before rising.

2. South African apples and pears. This lovely hamper arrived from the people over at South African Fruit the other day, so I've been feasting on delicious crisp Gala apples and Forelle pears, which I particularly like because I think you pronounce it as 'For Elly', therefore clearly this type of pear is destined to be eaten by me. It's nice to have some decent apples and pears to fill the gap before the English ones start to come into season in the early autumn. The Forelles have a beautiful blushing skin and sweet flesh. I quite like them in savoury dishes - they go very well thinly sliced and tossed with wafer-thin fennel, chopped mint, pomegranate seeds and a mustard vinaigrette to make a crunchy and zesty summer salad that works with all kinds of meat and fish. The apples I just ate pure and unadulterated - I sometimes find the Gala variety a bit bland, but these were really crunchy and juicy.

3. This photo, which my boyfriend took as I was making the filling for a treacle tart. The breadcrumbs sank to the bottom of the bowl, weighed down by the sheer mass of golden syrup, while the eggs and lemon juice formed a floating layer on the top. I love the way the syrup and egg are oozing down the side of the bowl. I can't quite explain why I like this; I think it's the rich amber colours and the suggestion of sheer sugary decadence.

4. Recovering from kitchen disasters. A couple of days ago I decided to make a cake for my mum. Specifically, this amazing lemon drizzle cake that I've made a few times and is just utterly perfect in every way (there's a reason it's received 1041 five-star reviews on BBC Good Food...). It is incredibly moist and buttery, with a gorgeous crunchy lemon tang from the sugary topping. Normally I double the mixture and make two at once, but this time I just made a single quantity. As I poured it into my loaf tin I was a bit worried that the tin was basically full and there would be no room for the cake to rise, but I casually dismissed it in my mind and stuck it in the oven.

Twenty minutes later, I was horrified to see batter overflowing from the tin in a volcanic fashion, pooling and baking on the oven floor. There was no way the cake was going to bake properly in that way. So I hastily pulled it out of the oven and scooped about a third of the still-liquid batter out of the baking cake tin and put it into another loaf tin, thereby breaking the First Rule of Cake Baking: do not open the oven door while it's cooking.

Predictably, the main cake sank horribly the middle. We're talking a proper crater, something that might appear if a small asteroid had hit the cake. The second, improvised cake came out pretty flat, as there wasn't that much batter to fill the tin. It wouldn't have been great as a cake on its own, because it had gone slightly crunchier and more biscuity, lacking the moist centre that makes its bigger brother so special.

Rather than throw it away, which I couldn't bear, I improvised. I cut it into cubes, put it into dessert glasses, and sprinkled it with sherry. I threw a few handfuls of juicy raspberries on top, then smothered the lot in thick cream. A sort of raspberry lemon trifle, with emphasis on the 'sort of'. I've never actually made a real trifle; this is probably the closest I will ever get.

But apparently it tasted great. What's more, it looked beautiful too - much more beautiful than in its flat cake form. It just goes to show that not all kitchen disasters are disasters - some are simply the wonderful origin of a new, unintended, but nevertheless delicious dish.

5. Getting ready for my new kitchen. I'm moving house in October, to start my PhD at the University of York. I have a lovely little house awaiting me, five minutes from the gym (with heated outdoor pool!) and - more importantly - ten minutes from some fabulous Asian grocers. Finally, I will have a kitchen that is entirely my own. No more sharing with horrible dirty people who leave my pans full of oil for fifteen days or casually leave the freezer open overnight. No more asking my friends to sit on upturned bins around the table because there are only six proper chairs. No more coming upstairs in the morning to find the cleaner has thrown away my baking parchment. Thank the lord.

Naturally, this means a quick re-evaluation of all the kitchen items I possess, and a shopping spree for further essentials (such as a Le Creuset teapot). Recently acquisitions include a sexy red Gaggia coffee machine and a Magimix food processor, which I found on eBay and was a total bargain. My little Kenwood blender, which struggles even to turn bread into breadcrumbs, is no match for this beast, and I am looking forward to putting it through its paces and making some blended delights.

Like I said, I can't wait to have a kitchen all to myself. It's going to be wonderful.

Five things I love this week #4

1. Tracklements Pear & Perry chutney. If you're feeling a bit jaded by the world of condiments, this is one for you. It's much lighter tasting than a traditional chutney, which I often feel can be rather overpowering in its flavour and end up masking the ingredient you want it to complement. Made with British pears and a 'generous dash' of Perry (pear cider), this chutney is lovely and sweet with a delicate fruity flavour and lots of nice textures - tender pieces of onion and juicy sultanas that burst in the mouth, plus a little kick from mustard, ginger and cinnamon. Tracklements recommend pairing it with salty cheeses like mature cheddar or Pecorino; I found it worked beautifully with a mild goat's cheese. I'd also suggest serving it with cold meats, particularly pork.

2. Café No. 8, York. My boyfriend and I stumbled upon this fantastic cafe/restaurant when we visited York back in October. I returned again last week, with fond memories of a truly gorgeous sandwich I'd eaten. It was no ordinary sandwich - the bread was a thick, doughy flatbread, encasing soft chunks of goat's cheese and marinated artichokes. The lovely oil from the artichokes soaked into the dough and covered my fingers, leading to many messy but sublime mouthfuls.

This time I had a sort of bruschetta featuring an unlikely combination of ingredients: goat's cheese, rhubarb chutney, lemon oil, and fresh figs. I'd never have thought of pairing all those together, considering it overkill, but it worked harmoniously and was so good. For dessert, one of the best cheesecakes I've ever had. The ratio of biscuit base to creamy filling was nearly 1:1, which is the holy grail of cheesecakes and one as elusive as it is wonderful. There was a thick, creamy topping, quivering slightly but still holding its shape, a topping of gooseberry compote - I bloody love gooseberries - and - it gets better - crumble. Thick shards of buttery crumble, scattered over the top. Just in case this wasn't decadent enough, the whole thing was drizzled with cream. I absolutely devoured it and am still thinking about it a week later.

So it's lucky that I'll be moving to York in October to embark on a three-year PhD. I have a feeling this place is going to be my regular haunt. If you're in the area, do visit - you won't be disappointed.

3. South African fruit. I was lucky enough to be sent a gorgeous hamper of plums and nectarines from South African Fruit recently. South Africa, with its Mediterranean climate and quality soil, has a thriving fruit industry that produces nectarines, peaches, plums, apples, pears and grapefruits. I've seen South African produce in shops and supermarkets but never really thought twice about it, until now.

The fruits arrived nestled in wrapping, beautifully cosseted and snug in their little basket. I could smell their perfume as soon as I opened the box. Normally a bit sceptical about imported fruit - especially plums  and nectarines which have a tendency to be a bit woolly and bland even when home-grown - I found these ripe, juicy, and fragrant. I usually like to post a recipe featuring products I've been sent, but I'm afraid in this case I didn't want to do anything more than eat the fruit. It was so delicious and perfect on its own that I couldn't bring myself to adulterate it in any way. Next time you're in the fruit aisle of the supermarket, have a look for the South African fruit and enjoy a little taste of summer in the cold winter and spring months.

4. Smoked quail eggs. I found these at the East Anglia food festival a couple of months ago and oh, are they addictive. Can't imagine a smoked egg? Imagine eggs and smoky bacon. There's all that rich, meaty smoky flavour, yet without the bacon. They're utterly fabulous and so moreish, giving a rich flavoursome bite to anything you pair them with. I used mine in a potato salad, with celery, dill, cucumber, broccoli and green beans, all in a tangy mustardy vinaigrette. It was one of the best impromptu meals I've ever made, with the eggs the real star of the show. If you ever see smoked eggs, or know someone with a smoking kit, get your hands on some and be amazed.

5. Thinly sliced fennel. Although not so cool when it causes you to lose the tip of a finger, fennel shaved wafer-thin on a mandolin is my current vegetable of choice for meals. I love coating it in a vinaigrette of olive oil, mustard and lemon juice and tossing with smoked mackerel and segments of blood orange, or with cooked salmon and pomegranate seeds. It's also wonderful mixed with thin slices of pear and pomegranate seeds - I ate this with a veal burger, and the combination was heavenly.

Prepared this way, with a little acidity to sharpen it up a bit, fennel is fabulous with all sorts of protein  - smoked fish (mackerel, trout and salmon), smoked meat, cooked meat of all varieties but especially lamb, beef and chicken, fish in general (oily or white) - and also with cheese (mozzarella, feta and goats' work particularly well). Add something to give it a bit of fruity bite, like orange or grapefruit segments or slices of apple or pear, and you have lunch or dinner in almost an instant. It has a pleasant crunch that makes it infinitely refreshing, and a lovely mild aniseed flavour that is the perfect foil to rich meat, fish or cheese. Plus its pale green tendrils look beautiful in salads.

Pairing food with Chablis: a four-course tasting menu

I was recently invited to take part in the Chablis blogger challenge, an initiative designed to get food bloggers who are not wine experts thinking about food and wine pairing; specifically, creating dishes to partner Chablis. As someone who knows very little about wine and even less about pairing it with food, I was intrigued and a little excited by this prospect. I love having something to give my cooking a focus; a particular ingredient to showcase, a certain technique to perfect, or a concept to follow, and this sounded like the perfect opportunity to take up a challenge and get a little bit creative.

Plus, there was wine involved, so why wouldn’t I say yes? As French chef Julia Child apparently once said: “I love cooking with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food”. 

I received two bottles of Chablis in the post to help inspire the sommelier that I’m sure is lurking somewhere within me, just waiting to break free and dazzle the world with her quirky yet fabulous wine-and-food matches. The bottles were immediately labelled with ‘DAD, DO NOT DRINK’ stickers (a customary ritual every time I receive or purchase alcohol that I don’t want to find gone several days later), placed safely in the wine cupboard, and I was ready to start racking my brains for recipes that would showcase them to their full potential.

A bit of background first. Chablis is produced in the Burgundy region of France, in an area that was once covered by an ocean and now has fossil-rich limestone soil. Its viticulture was developed by Cistercian monks, and now over 300 vineyards exist in the region. 35 million bottles of Chablis are produced every year, and three out of every ten are sold in the UK. I found this quite surprising, seeing as I don’t think I’ve ever drunk Chablis before, nor have I really encountered it while eating out or working behind a restaurant bar. However, that statistic would suggest we’re not all as hooked on our Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc as I’d have thought. The wine is produced from Chardonnay grapes, and there are four different appellations: Chablis Grand Cru; Chablis Premier Cru; Chablis and Petit Chablis.

The first wine I received was Domaine Bois d'Yver Chablis 2008. This is a dry wine and a classic example of the Chablis style, described as possessing a ‘flinty’ quality, with apple and herby flavours. I was particularly interested by the story behind this wine: the vineyard is family-owned and, as of 2007, completely organic. Suggested food pairings included seafood, particularly oysters, and white meat in a creamy sauce.

The second wine was Chablis J. Moreau & Fils 2009. This is a younger wine and therefore slightly fresher, with an almost creamy, buttery roundness. It has aromas of pear and citrus, as well as floral, almost blossomy notes. It’s sweeter than the Domaine Bois and lighter, but is also recommended for seafood and white meats.

Both these wines are available at Marks & Spencer for around £12-13, and I’d especially recommend the J. Moreau, which was the all-round favourite in my family.

Unsure where to start devising food pairings for these wines, I turned to terrior, that elusive and nebulous concept that conjures up images of lush vineyards, terracotta-coloured earth, balmy summer days and luscious, fat grapes coiled seductively around gnarled, creeping vines. It seemed only natural to use the home of Chablis – Burgundy - as a starting point, and so I began a heady online adventure into the region’s cuisine; as with all areas of France, Burgundy has its own culinary specialities.

“Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are”, remarked Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, a famous French gourmet who hailed from Dijon, Burgundy. Having found out what the Burgundy people like to eat, I could tell them what they are: undoubtedly happy, and probably quite fat. The region is blessed with pungent mustard from Dijon, ideal for cutting through rich meaty cuisine such as andouillette (intestine sausage) and various offal dishes; inky and mysterious blackcurrant Cassis, grown-up Ribena for making Kir or flavouring desserts; beef from Charolais cattle that ends up in the famous beef bourgignon; that peasant classic Coq au Vin, reputedly invented by Julius Caesar; and a wide variety of artisan cheeses such as Epoisses, Chaource, and various types of chevre. I figured it would be common sense to take some of these flavours and pair them with my Chablis, reuniting several wonderful products of the same gastronomically fertile region.

This, then, is my specially designed Chablis tasting menu, which sounds incredibly posh but is basically just a four-course menu of dishes that I think go very well with these wines. It is themed around flavours of Burgundy, given a modern twist, but the essence is simplicity, allowing the complex and sometimes delicate aromas of the wine to shine through. Chablis features quite prominently, both in the starter and dessert, as it seemed only right to inject an undercurrent of that lovely wine into the food to complement the drink. I hope you’re encouraged to give one or even all of these recipes a go, and to see if you agree with me that they’re a wonderful way to showcase this type of wine.

My starter is inspired by Burgundy cheese. It’s a common misconception that cheese should be paired with red wine only; in fact, white wine can be an excellent partner to many cheeses, allowing their complex flavours to feature without masking them with heavy tannins. I was intending to use Chaource, a cow’s milk cheese that is creamy in the centre with a soft white rind, similar to Brie. However, I stumbled upon something even better at the market. Affiné au Chablis is a cow’s milk cheese similar to the classic Burgundy Epoisses, but with an intriguing difference: it is washed in Chablis before its maturation period. The result is a gorgeous cheese with a pale orange crinkly rind and melt-in-the-mouth centre. Its aroma is much more pungent than its flavour, which is pleasantly creamy and nutty and possesses a slight sweetness from its bath of Chablis. I loved the idea of pairing a Chablis-drenched cheese with my Chablis wine; a match made in heaven.

To showcase this cheese, I used a classic Burgundy recipe: Gougères. Gougères are wonderful little cheese puffs; like profiteroles, but savoury. They’ve existed for centuries, evolving from a more primitive mixture of eggs, cheese and breadcrumbs, and are often served alongside wine as a canapé. Gougères are made with a basic choux pastry dough (butter, flour, water, eggs) enriched with cheese, and can be served hot or cold. When hot, they are delightfully crispy and burnished on the outside, while fluffy and molten in the centre. You can eat them as they are, enjoying their unadulterated contrast in textures, but I decided to go a step further and slice each steaming gougère in half as they emerged from the oven and stuff them with a generous slice of Affiné au Chablis cheese.

I made my gougères with a mixture of strong cheddar and Parmesan, but true Francophiles could use Gruyère or Comté. I added a generous amount of fresh lemon thyme and a pinch of cayenne pepper to cut through the richness of the cheese trio. They turned from blobs of sticky dough to wonderful puffed-up whorls of feathery pastry in the heat of the oven, possessing a subtle tang from the thyme and the cheese. Whilst delicious on their own, the combination of crispy cheese puff with a creamy, molten piece of Affiné au Chablis was heavenly. Imagine the ripest, creamiest, nuttiest, runniest Camembert or Brie you’ve ever eaten, or your favourite ever cheese fondue, and add tangy savoury pastry to it. An utter joy to eat.

These gougères paired wonderfully with the J. Moreau & Fils 2009. I was originally intending to tuck a small piece of caramelized fresh pear into each along with the cheese to take the edge off all that richness, but once I coupled the gougères with this wine I realized there was no need. The pear and slight citrus notes of this very fresh, floral, slightly sweeter wine pair absolutely perfectly with the onslaught of cheese, providing the necessary sugar, acidity and fragrance to cut through the creamy nuttiness. I was utterly blown away by the success of the combination, and it took a lot of willpower not to polish off the whole tray of gougères before I’d even started cooking the next course.

It’s sad that fish courses seem to be no longer a mandatory component of meals. We stick with our starters and dare not to ditch our desserts, but we seem satisfied with a single course in between. As a huge fan of fish, I couldn’t bring myself to design a menu that didn’t feature it in some capacity, particularly as white wine (including Chablis) and seafood is such a perfect combination.

I wanted to feature blackcurrants in this menu as a nod to Burgundy’s famous export, Cassis. Dessert wouldn’t be the right place, as they’re too acidic to pair well with wine. However, I suddenly remembered a recipe I’d seen in the Telegraph by Diana Henry last year, featuring salmon cured in a mixture of blackcurrants, Cassis, salt, sugar and dill. I’d never seen anything like it before and I’ve never seen anything like it since, but I thought it would be a fabulous way both to include Cassis in my menu and to involve fish. I scaled down the recipe rather a lot, only using two small salmon fillets rather than over a kilo of the stuff, and changed a couple of things, but essentially I owe my inspiration to her recipe.

Curing your own salmon sounds complicated, but it’s really very easy – you mix together the components of the cure, spread them over the salmon, wrap it tightly in cling film then put it in the fridge in a dish with some heavy weights on top. Over a few days, the salt in the cure draws the liquid out of the salmon and the weights squeeze it out into the dish, leaving you with firm-textured flesh and a simply gorgeous purple tinge around the edge of the fish. You can then just slice it thinly, like smoked salmon, and serve.

If you’re skeptical about the idea of salmon and blackcurrants, please don’t be. This is absolutely wonderful and really unusual. The colour alone, that fabulous purple bleeding of berries into fish, is worth making it for, and the flavour is intense and intriguing. There’s a hint of the zingy, almost grassy flavour of blackcurrants, a tang from the salt, and an underlying sweetness from the fruit and the sugar. It’s like the best smoked salmon you will ever eat, yet there’s no smoking required. 

I would serve this either au naturel, or with some good bread (thinly sliced baguette, perhaps, to carry on the French theme, or rye bread for a nutty contrast) and cream cheese mixed with a little horseradish. It doesn’t need any more to adorn it, as the focus is really on the delightful melody of flavours and textures. This salmon works best with the Domaine Bois Chablis, which provides a refreshing acidity as a counterpoint to its richness. I was amazed by how well the wine worked with the dish; it really complements the fish perfectly, enhancing its intense flavour while preventing it from cloying on the palette.  

My main course is inspired by a classic Burgundy dish, making use of a classic Burgundy ingredient: Dijon mustard. Rabbit cooked in a mustard sauce is a traditional dish from the region, and one I’ve made before. It involves braising a jointed rabbit in a mixture of cider, mustard, bacon, stock, vegetables and herbs until it becomes tender and delicious. You’re left with a rich, creamy sauce with a pleasant tang of mustard to cut through the richness of the rabbit meat.

However, this is a very rich dish, particularly if you make it with wild rabbit which is a lot more gamey than its farmed counterpart. I decided to take the traditional Burgundy recipe and make it lighter and fresher, a perfect complement to the lovely zesty Chablis wines. The result is a mustardy wild rabbit and wild rice salad with peppery watercress and caramelised Russet apples

The shredded meat from the braised rabbit is scattered over a bed of nutty wild and brown rice, which provides a lovely contrast in texture and flavour. You then have the tang of watercress to perk it all up, and finally some beautiful slices of Russet apple caramelised in butter and brown sugar to bring out their flavour. The sweetness of the apples marries perfectly with the very rich rabbit and the mustardy sauce, and the end result is a really unusual and delicious salad. I scattered over some toasted hazelnuts at the end for a little textural contrast.

I wanted to include a lot of sharp, sweet and peppery ingredients to contrast the richness of the meat, but this job is also admirably performed by the Domaine Bois Chablis. Its acidity and appley flavours provide the perfect foil to the strong flavour of mustard and rabbit, and you end up with a really harmonious pairing that works on every level. In fact, I’d suggest that this wine is mandatory with this salad; it really enhances the whole eating experience. You can make this delicious recipe with either wild rabbit or farmed rabbit, or if rabbit eludes you then try chicken thighs instead, but if using farmed rabbit or chicken I’d suggest adding a little less mustard as the flavour isn’t as strong.

My dessert is light, sweet, fruity and refreshing: the perfect end to a meal of bold flavours and the final chance to show off the complexities of Chablis. Pears poached in wine is a classic French dessert; not only that, it’s actually a classic Burgundy dessert, a fortuitous coincidence that I discovered while watching Raymond Blanc’s new show, The Very Hungry Frenchman (all in the name of research, of course, and nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that I am certain my life will be a wasteful mass of despair unless Raymond proposes to me some time in the very near future). 

Instead of the normal red wine I decided to use Chablis (you could use Chardonnay, or any similar white wine if you don’t want to splash out too much). To the wine I added sugar, a cinnamon stick, cloves, bay leaves, sprigs of rosemary and some strips of orange zest. Into this heady mixture went some elegant, tapered Conference pears (I’m more of a fan of Comice for eating, but Conference are great for poaching as they hold their shape and look more slender and refined), which simmered for around half an hour until their grainy flesh yielded into sweet, unctuous, translucent softness.

The real finishing touch for this dessert comes not in the gorgeous poaching liquor which forms a syrup that can be drizzled over the pears, though this is delicious, but in the addition of a hazelnut crumble sprinkled over the top. Given the slight hazelnut notes of the J. Moreau Chablis, I felt hazelnuts would work perfectly in my dessert.  Pears and hazelnuts are also a fabulous combination, and the coupling of crunchy, buttery hazelnut crumble with the soft pears is wonderful. The dessert still feels light, but rather more indulgent for its addition of butter, nuts and sugar. 

I baked the crumble in a tart tin to make a whole crumbly hazelnut biscuit – the recipe makes at least twice the quantity you’ll need for the pears, but the biscuit is fabulous broken off into chunks and coupled with your afternoon tea or coffee. It’s a simple combination of toasted hazelnuts, flour, butter, sugar, a little cornmeal for texture, a hint of vanilla, and two egg yolks to loosely bind it and give it that crumbly quality. Snapped and scattered over the pears, it makes an excellent ending to a Chablis-themed meal, and the perfect partner to a glass of the fruity J. Moreau. 

Incidentally, you don’t have to make the pears if you don’t have the time or inclination – this hazelnut biscuit is utterly delicious served on its own in crumbly chunks with the J. Moreau, its buttery richness perfectly complemented by the fruitiness of the wine.

I really enjoyed coming up with these recipes. It’s been an interesting education in the world of food and wine pairing, as well as a delightful little mental voyage around the farms and fields of Burgundy. I have to say, I was wonderfully surprised by how well my dishes worked with the wines, given my lack of experience in such matters - it just goes to show that with a bit of an imagination anyone can create food to complement wine. The trick is to think about the flavours and aromas of the wine, and then try and echo or contrast these in the food. A nod to terroir also helps; it makes logical and gastronomic sense to me to reunite ingredients from similar regions; there's something pleasingly neat about the concept.

I hope these dishes have inspired you to give them a go, or at least to try these lovely Chablis wines, which I would heartily recommend as something a bit different for a special occasion. And if you can’t be bothered to cook anything to accompany them, get some good bread, some good cheese, and some good friends - the ultimate match for any type of wine.

(For the Chablis recipes discussed above, read on).


Lemon thyme gougères stuffed with Affiné au Chablis (makes around 20)
(Gougère recipe adapted from David Lebovitz)

One Affiné au Chablis cheese
120ml water
40g butter
¼ tsp salt
A generous pinch of cayenne pepper
70g plain flour
2 large eggs
2 tbsp fresh lemon thyme leaves (or normal thyme)
100g cheese, finely grated – a mixture of Gruyere, Comte, strong Cheddar and Parmesan is ideal

Pre-heat the oven to 220C. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment or a silicon mat. Mix the grated cheese and lemon thyme together in a bowl.

Heat the water, butter, salt and cayenne gently in a saucepan until the butter melts. Add all the flour and stir quickly until the mixture forms a smooth ball. Turn off the heat and let this rest for 2 minutes.

Add the eggs and stir very quickly and constantly to make sure they don’t scramble. Keep at it – the batter will turn from lumpy to smooth after a couple of minutes.

Add ¾ of the grated cheese and thyme mixture to the dough and stir well to mix. Place the mixture in a piping bag (or a sandwich bag with a 1cm hole cut in the corner) and pipe the dough into small blobs about 1.5-2 inches in diameter, leaving at least 1.5 inches in between each to allow room for spreading out.

Sprinkle the remaining cheese over each blob of dough, then bake for 10 minutes. After this time, turn the heat down to 190C and bake for another 20-25 minutes, until they’re crispy and golden brown.

Remove from the oven and slice each gougère in half horizontally. Place a small slice of Affiné au Chablis between each half. Place the stuffed gougères on a plate, garnish with a little extra lemon thyme, and serve with a glass of lightly chilled Chablis J. Moreau & Fils 2009.

Blackcurrant cured salmon (serves 4)
(Recipe inspired by Diana Henry's version, here)

This recipe can easily be adapted to serve a greater number of people – you can use larger salmon fillets from a fishmonger and just increase the cure mixture in proportion.

2 fillets of good-quality salmon (around 200g each)
80g caster sugar
50g coarse sea salt or rock salt
1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
5 tbsp finely chopped fresh dill
120g blackcurrants
2 tbsp Cassis (optional)

Mix the sugar, salt, pepper, dill, blackcurrants and Cassis (if using) in a bowl, squashing the blackcurrants so they burst and release their juices into the mixture. Rub this mixture all over both salmon fillets.

Place one fillet skin side down (if you’re using skinless fillets, ignore that part) on a large piece of clingfilm and spread half the cure mixture left in the bowl over it. Place the other fillet on top, skin side up, and spoon over the remaining cure.

Wrap tightly in clingfilm then put in a dish. Find something that will fit inside the dish that you can place on top of the salmon – if using a round dish, a plate should work; if using a square dish, a small chopping board – then put it on top of the fillets and place several weights on top (you can use tin cans).

Place in the fridge and leave for 3 days. Liquid will seep out of the clingfilm – pour this away every day. By day 3 the salmon should have lost most of its liquid and firmed up. Unwrap from the clingfilm, rinse away the cure, then slice thinly and serve with your choice of garnish (cream cheese mixed with a little horseradish would be perfect), and a glass of Domaine Bois d’Yver Chablis 2008.

Wild rabbit and wild rice salad with mustard dressing, watercress and caramelised Russet apples (serves 6)

Don’t be put off by the longish ingredients list – this is pretty simple. You could use chicken thighs, or farmed rabbit. If so, use less mustard in the sauce – you can always add more at the end. You could also try replacing the wild rice with pearl barley or lentils. Any apples are fine for the garnish, but I like Russets because of their interesting flavour and because they’re less juicy than many other apples, so caramelise well.

2 tbsp olive or rapeseed oil
6 rashers streaky bacon, diced
1 rabbit, jointed, or 8 chicken thighs
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 celery stick, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
3 bay leaves
Sprig of rosemary
Several sprigs of thyme or lemon thyme
10 juniper berries, crushed
500ml cider
400ml chicken stock
3 tbsp Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper
4 tbsp creme fraiche or double cream
200g mixture of wild and brown rice
100g watercress (or a mixture of watercress, baby spinach and rocket)
3 Russet apples (or any other apple)
15g butter
3 tsp brown sugar
40g hazelnuts, roughly chopped and roasted in the oven for 10 mins until fragrant
Fresh thyme, to garnish

Pre-heat the oven to 160C. Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in an ovenproof lidded casserole dish and add the bacon. Once it starts to crisp, add the rabbit pieces (or chicken thighs) and brown well over a high heat. Remove and set aside, then turn the heat to medium, add the remaining oil, and add the carrot, onion, celery and garlic. Fry until golden and beginning to soften. Add the bay, rosemary, thyme and juniper, then pour in the cider and stock. Give the bottom of the pan a good scrape as the liquid bubbles away to release all the stuck-on caramelised bits, then return the rabbit (or chicken) to the pan and add the mustard and some salt and pepper. Put a lid on the pan and place in the oven, then cook for 1 hour and 45 minutes until the meat is tender and falling off the bone.

Remove the meat to a plate and put the dish on the hob over a medium heat to reduce the sauce. Meanwhile, once the meat has cooled slightly, shred it from the bones (be very careful as rabbit has lots of tiny bones which are deeply unpleasant to crunch down on unexpectedly). Once the sauce has reduced by about half, remove the bay leaves and tough herb stems, then add the creme fraiche or cream and check the seasoning. Return the meat to the pan and warm through gently, then set aside.

Put the wild and brown rice in a saucepan and add enough boiling water to cover by about 2 inches. Put a lid on the pan and simmer over a low heat for about 30 minutes until the rice is cooked but still slightly nutty. Drain and set aside.

Quarter the apples and remove the cores. Slice thinly. Heat the butter in a saucepan or frying pan then add the sugar. Saute the apples until golden and caramelised.

Divide the watercress between six plates and then top with the rice. Top the rice with a couple of spoonfuls of rabbit/chicken meat and sauce, then scatter over the apples and the toasted hazelnuts. Sprinkle with a little fresh thyme, then serve warm or at room temperature with a lightly chilled glass of Domaine Bois d’Yver Chablis 2008.

Chablis poached pears with hazelnut crumble (serves 4; makes enough crumble for more)

You don’t have to make both elements of this dessert – both the pears and the crumble biscuit are delicious on their own.

For the crumble:
140g hazelnuts, toasted in a hot oven and roughly chopped
150g plain flour
60g cornmeal or polenta
½ tsp salt
100g cold butter
30g brown sugar
20g demerara sugar
20g granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of 1 orange
2 egg yolks

For the pears:
4 conference pears, firm rather than ripe
1 bottle Chablis, Chardonnay or similar white wine
200g caster sugar
1 cinnamon stick
4 cloves
2 bay leaves
4 strips of orange zest
2 sprigs fresh rosemary

Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Grease a 20cm springform cake tin or tart tin with a removable base. Mix together the egg yolks, orange zest and vanilla extract.

In a large bowl, mix the flour, cornmeal and salt. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs, or blitz it all together briefly in a food processor. Add the sugar and chopped hazelnuts.

Add the egg yolk mixture and rub in with your hands until the mixture turns slightly sticky and crumbly. Pour into the prepared tin and press down very lightly around the edges, leaving everything quite uneven.

Bake for 40 minutes until crunchy and golden brown. Leave to cool in the tin.

Meanwhile, put the wine and sugar in a saucepan (taller rather than wider is ideal, so the liquid will cover the fruit) and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the cinnamon, cloves, bay, orange and rosemary and simmer very gently for a few minutes.

Peel the pears then place in the saucepan; the wine should just about cover them, but you can keep turning them if part is left uncovered. Simmer very gently for 15-25 minutes, turning the pears occasionally, until tender to the point of a knife (keep checking them – how long this takes depends on the ripeness of your pears). When done, remove to a bowl.

Boil the poaching liquid until reduced to about 200-300ml. Serve the pears whole or slice each in half lengthways, then sprinkle with a generous amount of the hazelnut biscuit (you can either break it into whole pieces and garnish the pears with them, or crumble it over the fruit). Spoon over a little of the poaching liquid, then serve either au naturel or with crème fraiche, cream or ice cream. This is ideal with a glass of Chablis J. Moreau & Fils 2009.