Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Porto's Finest: The Francesinha

Sometimes you visit a new place and find out about a foodie treat that you have never heard of before. This happened to us recently when we visited Porto. In this famous Portuguese city, they have a not so well known sandwich. We like to call it the "All The Meat" Sandwich, but they call it the Francesinha, the Little Frankie.

It truly is a wonder to behold. While there are some variations, it traditionally has steak, cured ham, sausage and the cured and seasoned LinguiƧa sausage. This is put in bread, which is covered with a thick layer of gooey melted cheese. This in turn is then covered with a thick tomato and beer gravy. 

Oh, and ours came with bacon on it also. Because you have to have bacon, right?

Since we ordered the Francesinha Especial, ours also came with fries and a fried egg on top. It's like the best combination of an English breakfast and mixed grill in the world. It's heavy, meaty and tangy. It fills your stomach and dribbles down your chin as you eat it.

Some people say it was invented in the 19th century, others say it originated in the 1960s. It really doesn't matter. Quite frankly, it's wonderful. I recommend heartily that you try it. I wonder if I can convince someone in Leicester to start making it....

It's served everywhere in Porto, with prices ranging from about 5-10 EUR. The best places are the slightly out of the way places where the locals eat, as ever. 

Monday, 28 March 2016

Five Facts about Quiche

Life's too short to turn your quiche while it's cooking. According to me.
We have an abundance of fresh eggs in the house today, and since it's a bank holiday I decided to do some baking with them, while free time is also in abundance. So, in celebration of that fact, here are five exciting facts about the humble quiche.

1. You can make them in a variety of sizes
Bitesize quiches make an excellent canape and you can really push the boat out on some fancy fillings to make them extra special. Caviar topping anyone? The world's biggest quiche was apparently made by a French chef in 1997. It used nearly 2000 eggs, was baked in a 16 foot dish and took 18 hours to cook.

2. You don't need to blind bake a quiche crust
In fact it's better if you don't, in my experience. Naturally you want a thin crust on your quiche to keep it light and moist, and blind baking this thin pastry can lead to the crusts overbaking and the base resisting the filling, which can lead to overcooking there. Which means quiches are super quick and easy to throw together. Fear thou not the soggy bottom, just make sure your oven is up to temperature when you put the quiche in.

3. Quiche was invented in Germany
Fair enough, it was invented in the Lorraine region of France. But when it was invented, that region was under the rule of the German kingdom of Lothringen, so German it is. The word come from the German 'kuchen', meaning cake. See, informative and entertaining. You'll never look at quiche the same again will you?

4. Quiche is a great anti-waste food
Pretty much anything savoury can go in a quiche, and you can even make sweet ones, even though that's more of an egg custard style affair if you ask me. Our one today used up lots of odds and ends in the fridge; a leek that was looking a bit tired, half a courgette, the end of an Irish white pudding, some lardons cut from cooking bacon and a bit more besides. Don't feel you need to stick to the traditional fillings, although I do recommend that egg is involved. Just fry everything off beforehand so that any vegetables don't leak additional water into your filling and your meat/bacony goodness is nice and crisp. This would be an awesome way to use up roast or Christmas dinner leftovers.

5. Quiche doesn't have enough meat in it for men?
Real Men Don't Eat Quiche was a satirical book on masculine stereotypes, written by Bruce Feirstein in the 1980s. It has since transpired that real men do eat quiche, as do real women. Another finely titled quiche-related book is Agatha Raisin and The Quiche of Death, by MC Beaton.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Exceptional Fine Dining with Lilu, Leicester

On top of me having the privilege of testing out some amazing Indian starters as a food pairing exercise with Rothley Wines finest sparkling offerings, and bagging you guys the chance to win some awesome takeaway from Lilu, on Leicester's Highcross Street, I was also invited along to a Vee Exclusive blogger's meal where we could try the best their menu had to offer for ourselves.

27/03/16 - One week to go on the competition 
Just click here, leave a comment with the correct answer and you're in the draw!

Lilu has been open for nearly 2 years, and under its present management for almost exactly a year. Owner, manager and deeply committed foodie Pratik gave us an extremely warm welcome and introduced us to the Lilu ethos - fine dining with the best local ingredients, with top notch service and a friendly atmosphere. Sounds too good to be true? It's not, they actually deliver.

Of course all the best gourmand's know that if you want the best meal, you don't just need a starter, but a pre-starter as well. We were treated to crispy potato cakes with a meltingly soft interior and poppadums with a selection of chutneys. I adored the cooling mint and mango chutney, as well as the tamarind sauce which was a perfect balance of sweet and sour.

Lilu Special Murgh Tikka
Once these were devoured, it was on to the actual starters - a kaleidoscope of dishes for us to sample. The Murgh Tikka was meltingly soft chicken, delicately spiced with just a hint of tandoor char on the edges. This was, like all of the dishes we received, beautifully presented and amazingly well cooked.

Paneer Shaslik
One of my favourites was the Paneer Shaslik, which was deliciously soft and moist in the centre, but with a delightful crust on the outside. The soft and sweet peppers which had been grilled with it provided good balance to the spiced marinade on the paneer. The way paneer should be, but so often isn't.

I also absolutely adored the Signature Punjabi Masaledaar Champein - lamb chops with a medium spicing that simply fell off the bone. And into my mouth. Lamb is a meat that I love, but rarely order in a restaurant because when it is done badly it is either fatty and gross or overcooked and dry as a bone. Although these chops were served dry, the meat itself retained it's moisture and this gave a beautiful texture to the dish.

Signature Punjabi Masaledaar Champein
My fellow bloggers all got a bit enthusiastic about the Salmon Dillwala starter as well - a great example of modern fusion cooking. The delicate pink of just-cooked salmon matched beautifully with the soft saffron coloured sauce and the dill brought out the best in the fish.

Look how nicely I arranged my starter.

Needless to say, it was important for me to try a little bit of all of the starters, purely for research purposes you understand. It was great to see each dish in its entirety and all be able to dive in and try a little of each. You could see that each starter was a great size and each would be really satisfying, and indeed the other guests in the restaurant that evening were clearly impressed with the food they were receiving.

The final dish that we had was the Chettinaad Jheenga, black tiger prawns which had the most heat and also the most char to them of all of the starters. They were served with a coconut chutney which really complemented the sweetness of the prawns and cut through the heat brilliantly. I could probably just eat a big bowl of those. Every day. Until I die.

On to the mains and if you thought we'd had a lot of food to try by this point, you ain't seen nothing yet! The table was quickly filled with incredible meat, seafood and vegetable dishes, along with plain and pilau rice, and a selection of delicious naan breads - some familiar, some not so much! Their two doughy triumphs for me were the Red Leicester naan (why have I never thought of that before??) and the multi-seeded naan. Total fusion of British and Indian cuisines creating something which is more than the sum of their parts.

Along with these super-tasty accompaniments came a delicious rainbow palette of main dishes. I cannot possible talk about anything until I've mentioned the Signature King Richard III Hiran Ki Kadhi - venison fillet sourced fresh from our own Bradgate Park (best venison there is, if you ask me), on a bed of slow cooked potato and red onion, and served with it's own sauce boat of a Punjabi yogurt sauce (and that Red Leicester naan).

This is how you treat local venison
Not only was it succulent, delicious and full of interesting flavours which all complemented, rather than overpowered the delicate venison meat, but this dish exemplifies what I really love about Lilu. They claim to be Indian fine dining and while they have peers who claim this also, what you generally get is something, slow cooked in sauce. What we often think of as the generic 'curry' but presented very prettily. 

Don't get me wrong, India has this, and it is a good thing. But there is so much more to Indian cuisine. And Lilu, thanks in the main to their award winning chef, Amardeep Singh Anand, know this and give you so much more than just 'curry'. If they give you carefully sourced venison, then the venison is the star of the dish. Every element is aimed to complement and support the star, and the cooking technique is selected to bring the best from the ingredients. So here you have perfectly seared meat, still tender and juicy, with a slow cooked ragout which gives a great contrast and then a sauce which adds another dimension of complexity - and you can add as much or as little as you wish. It sounds so simple as I write it, but it is not common. It is truly fine dining.

Writing this up is slightly tortuous. I have such beautiful memories of this meal, but I appear not to have any of the food here at my house right now. Sad times. Of course, if you live within 2.6 miles of the city centre, this is not a problem for you, because you can order Lilu through Deliveroo! Oh, how we love Deliveroo. When will they start delivering 3.5 miles from the city centre?

Chicken Goodness
On with the mains then, Frangho Vinha de Alhos up next - a Goan style chicken roulade, again moist and delicious, with cumin roast potatoes which had a superb crisp to the skin and a white wine vindaloo sauce which again came in a separate sauce boat for you to add to your taste. It was beautiful - spicy and full of texture.

A medium hot Beef Jalfrezi was our next treat. strips of rib eye steak with mixed onions and peppers topped with crunchy straw potatoes and accompanied by a warming jalfrezi sauce. Beware this one - I found it to be perfectly spiced, apart from when I chewed down on a massive piece of chilli that absolutely stopped me in my tracks! I am a bit of a wuss when it comes to surprise heat though...

King Prawn Moilee
More prawns next, this time sweet and creamy in their ginger and coconut sauce. I was a little bit obsessed with the prawn dishes we tried, as you might be able to tell and the King Prawn Moilee was definitely up there for me. Again, the quality of the prawns was really the star of the dish and the fact that they had been treated with such obvious care to retain their succulence.

Special mention for the Dal Makhni as well, which was the creamiest I have ever had. That and a Red Leicester naan without doubt must be the only true cure for a hangover that there is. Comfort food at its pinnacle.

As we were all gently slipping into food comas by this stage, naturally it was time for dessert. We were simply given the Chef's Choice - a light sampler to allow us to try a few puds without anyone actually exploding due to the sheer volume of amazing food we were trying to cram into ourselves.

A mind-blowingly creamy ice cream was served with crunchy flakes almonds. This sat next to the proud Halwa - a carrot pudding wrapped in crispy filo and served enticingly warm. These were all dwarfed by the mighty chocolate mousse, served with a pistachio companion and served with fresh berry compote in a decadant dark chocolate cup. My word. I managed to find one of those second dessert stomachs that you hear so much about on Twitter in order to fit it all in.

There you have it. Apologies for anyone who has drooled too much over their keyboard and damaged their laptop whilst reading this post. Pop down to Lilu and let me know how you get on. There's so much more to the menu even than you've seen here and, on the 1st of April they are launching a new menu with even more exciting dishes. Thanks to the Lilu team for inviting us along and being such wonderful hosts.
If you want to see more pictures of the delicious food we tried that evening, mosey along to Sugar Darling?, Behind the Scent and Biba Yusuf to read more!


Saturday, 26 March 2016

Halfpenny Green Penny Red

We had a little swig of Halfpenny Green's Rondo recently, and now it is time to turn our attention to their Penny Red, a slightly more pocket friendly red wine from the Staffordshire winery. Priced at £8.95 it is a very reasonable English wine that you may wish to try.

It's deep ruby, bold colour hints at some great fruit flavours. It carried a slight acetone ring on the nose, but the little acidic touch on at the start son mellows giving a quite ripe fruitiness with slight sweetness. Blackberry and slight black pepper notes arise from this artistically blended wine.

It's good tannin structure makes this medium bodied wine very drinkable. It is a lighter, fruitier red, much as you would expect from an English producer, but nicely balanced. There is a slight sourness on the finish but generally it fades away pleasantly. Certainly a wine that you might seek out to accompany your Easter roast this weekend. A 6 or perhaps a 7 out of 10 from me.

Friday, 25 March 2016

The Easter weekend is upon us! What you shouldn't miss!

Friday 25th March
Leicester at the Cross, Humberstone Gate
Well, Easter events couldn't really start off without a nod to the Christian remembrance of the Easter story. Apparently this year it will be accompanied by a rapper, Asian dancers, giant puppets as well as drama and singing. So that sounds like a lively beginning to the Easter weekend. And of course, it's free.

Saturday 26th March
Leicester Market
As well as the traditional Easter bonnet competition, Leicester Market will also be hosting a medieval fayre, to mark the anniversary of the re-interment of King Richard III in Leicester Cathedral. There'll be ye olde cooking, an interactive armoury and all kinds of fun activities. A free event that's great for the family and also a good chance to pick up some beautiful produce for that all important roast dinner!

Saturday 26th March
DIY Virtual Reality workshops! Make your own VR viewer - yes, it's a thing. The workshops are free, but naturally places are limited so get calling up and book yourselves a place. Sounds like a whole heap of actual, as well as virtual fun.

Saturday 26th March
The Cookie, High Street
The launch of By The River's new clubnight "For the People". Enjoy 'a diverse and immersive monthly dose of socially conscious dance music from around the world'. This time featuring Shanty and guest DJs. Dub bass and reggae rhythms for just £5 adv. per ticket. Surely these kind of beats are what Easter is all about!

Monday 28th March, 10.30am - 4pm
Cathedral Gardens
The programme celebrating the reinterment of Richard III one year on continues with free medieval food cooking and tasting in Cathedral Gardens. Get a slice of the medieval experience.

Monday - Friday 11.30am-5.00pm
Take the load off by treating yourself to lunch at Meatcure. A super burger from a choice of 4 or a salad, with side and a drink for £7.50. Since it's a bank holiday why not push the boat out and team it with a craft beer can for an extra two squid?

Monday, 21 March 2016


Well, things are going splendidly for Leicester City Football Club right now aren't they? 
Even if they don't win the league, it's been one hell of a season.

I'm just going to leave this here though. As a warning.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Vintage cava disgorgement with Recaredo

There are some event invitations that drop in your inbox that you just cannot ignore. Events so enticing that you will drop everything to attend them. So, the day before I left for India when I received an invitation from my old friends at the wonderful artisanal, organic and often biodynamic cava house, Recaredo to join them for a very special tasting at The Remedy in London I could not say no. I booked a day off work, procured travel tickets and then waited, almost too excited to speak.

A family affair since 1924, we were privileged to be joined by several members from the third generation of the family including Jordi Mata, who we had seen hand disgorging the bottles at the winery in May 2014.

The event was hosted in association with Les Caves de Pyrene, who are a fantastic distributor of more 'natural' wines, made with the minimum of chemical intervention. I definitely recommend you check out their website if you haven't already, it's a great place to find some awesome quality wines from smaller producers that it is usually really hard to source in the UK.

Anyway, our small band of intrepid tasters assembled in the intimate, but airy Remedy at the allotted time on a surprisingly pleasant February afternoon, It was immediately clear that this was no regular audience that had been invited, but that somehow I had been invited to an event to rub shoulders with some of the most knowledgeable wine folk in London. This was pretty intimidating for an amateur blogger like myself, but everyone was wonderfully friendly and it made for fascinating conversation over lunch.

To begin, we were welcomed with a glass of Celler Credo's Miranius 2013. Celler Credo is the name for the Recaredo family's still wine operation and you can see that just as much love and care goes in to these wines as goes into their cava. This was also one of the first biodynamic wines to be made in the DO Penedes.

Made predominantly with one of my favourite grapes, Xarel Lo tempered with a touch of Macabeu, this pale golden wine is rich on the nose, full of spring blossom. In the mouth this is a dry wine with a fresh acidity that is refreshing but rounded, rather than crisp or sharp. Notes of orange peel, but also a slight minerality all interplay to create an easy drinking but interesting wine. This scores an easy 7 in my book, which perhaps is a little low, but I knew I was going to need somewhere to go in the scoring stakes at this particular event!

We tried another Celler Credo Xarel Lo next, this time the unblended, biodynamic 2014 offering, Aloers. This was still a pale wine but had a slightly deeper colour than the Miranius. It was also punchier on the nose, with a slightly riper, more honeyed aroma, like a vineyard in the height of summer. It had great acidity, being much drier in the mouth than the bouquet promised. It was full of pear and stewed apple fruit, but not sweet or cloying, but instead with a great structure that fades out in the mouth with a light, breathy exhalation. A fabulous all rounder and just to my taste, although I would also give a 7 as I could not distinguish a difference in quality between the two.

Next we were on to the main event, a side by side tasting of two series' of cava. Instead of the usual second bottle aging process, these were extremely special wines that had not been disgorged but cellared on their lees. Recaredo uses corks rather than crown caps for the first bottle fermentation, believing that it gives the best conditions for the wine to age - although a higher oxidisation at first this then reduces over time, while a metal cap leads to slight, but continual growth of oxidisation over time. The really incredible thing is that of course the bottles were carefully turned over time to bring the lees to the cork end - and somehow they transported all of these bottles to London inverted! The mind boggles how they managed that and still kept the lees undisturbed.

Their grandfather had first produced the Reserve Pelicular in 1962, and was considered rustic for his respect of tradition, using mainly Xarel Lo, but was also keen to innovate by using some Macabeu. Of course they are all Brut Nature - a bone dry cava being what the Sant Sadurni makers value the most - but of course, dosage would occur after disgorgement in other sparkling production and therefore it was assured that no dosage could have been added.

The lees are just visible in the neck of the bottle
The vineyards are not irrigated and so each year takes on its own distinct character from the vagaries of nature in each year - 2003 for example being a particularly hot year. It demonstrates the absolute faith that Recaredo have in their wines that they were happy to disgorge the bottles right in front of us and allow us to taste them immediately. It is an honest representation of the wines, although they acknowledged that some of them could have been a little reduced. As another member of this wine-making dynasty, Ton Mata, told us, they simply wanted to show us a little bit of their soul. How beautiful.

So the wines were expertly disgorged, year by year, in front of us by Jordi while Ton gave a vivid description of the vineyards, the way the wines were produced and talked with obvious pride about the quality of the cava his family created. Although they are not keen on the word 'cava', they think of them as much a terroir wine as any other - this was certainly not the cheap mass-produced wine which some people can think of when cava is discussed. The bottles were expertly sniffed, tasted and then promptly poured for the rest of us to try. This hand disgorgement and checking of each bottle is the same process that each bottle goes through at Recaredo, showing a real dedication to fine quality and master craftsmanship. There is certainly no freezing of the bottle necks and machine disgorgement here!

So, the Reserve Peculiar was first, the 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000 and 1999 - still alive and fresh cavas that had been patiently waiting for up to 16 years to be tasted. I don't think there is value in writing tasting notes for each of these wines. They are exclusive and rare and in the main Recaredo will not let bottles out of their care. These are wonderful treats to be savoured and enjoyed. There are only 271 bottles of the 2001 for example. Well, 269 after our tasting was completed.

The 2003 was from their most difficult harvest ever, which you can taste in the roundness of this wine, it was much more full of honey notes than the other years which had much more crispness and acidity. This was the consequence of the intense heat of that year. However, there was still plenty of orchard fruit to be enjoyed (although more stewed fruit than the earlier vintages) and that slight biscuity, perhaps brioche-like note. 

All of them had incredible mousse - soft, light bubbles - stronger in the 2002 than the 2001 which was the most delicate and complex of all of the wines. With the 2002 I found more light aromatic, floral notes were revealed as you drank, whilst the 2002 had fresh green apple and beautiful salinity as well as a barely-there toasted flavour.

It was an absolute masterclass in tasting and understanding the effects of terroir on the same wine, year by year. They were so discernibly unique in their own character - the 2000 having more minerality on the nose, the 1999 holding its minerality in the mouth, to the point of having granite notes within it. The 2001 was hailed to be the finest vintage by both the group and the winemakers themselves but for me the 2000 was a close second, with an extremely subtle mousse, crisp apple flavours building a beautiful balance with the saline kick it gave - that one definitely grew on my.

Next up was the Turo d'en Mota - which means small hill and refers to the vineyard in which the grapes for this series were grown. This north-facing vineyard (as grapes for this wine are better without the sun to keep that acidity popping) was started in 1999 by our hosts, the third generation of the family, with the support of their parents. Ton Mata was 28 when this wine was first made, and 38 when the first bottle was sold, so it shows the dedication and confidence that must be had. This was one vineyard, one grape, one terroir so the only change between the wines was the year.

Again we worked our was back from 2003, that very hot year, down to 1999 - each bottle carefully disgorged, checked and then immediately sampled. I cannot stress enough how magical a side by side tasting is to really challenge your palette. The 2003 was amazingly crisp and sharp, but yet somehow well balanced with tight, expressive bubbles - incredible for such a hot vintage. The 2002 was a little reduced when opened which meant I did not score it as highly as the 2003, but the earthy, mushroomy dirtiness on the nose did fade slightly over time, although not completely. Was it just that bottle or the whole vintage? I don't know - I should have asked!

The 2001 had much more depth - a hint of old oak, dryness, minerality, a beautiful toasted note across the whole palate but the overwhelming flavour note being salt - which was much more wonderful than it sounds - a straight up no questions asked 9 out of 10 of a wine.

And finally, my two favourites of the day. This is where my note taking got difficult. The 2000 took my breath away and my wine notebook has the furtive scribble "IS THIS A 10?" written on it for this wine. I've never given a 10 before. It was rounded, creamy and fruity on the nose, all at the same time. When you tasted it, it had all of those elements but also toasted cream (I know, that doesn't make any sense, but that's what it was) and a very slight honey at the back. Beautiful texture, incredible wine. It makes me weep with joy to think of it.

And the 1999, I compromised with a score of 9.8. Suffice it to say I loved it. By far the most powerful on the nose, it was full of floral aromatics, light bubbles and a great explosion on the mouth with beautiful acidity and the benefit of amazing maturity. It made me a happy, happy bunny. 

After this, it was time for lunch. The Remedy provided beautiful food which we could experiment in matching the cavas to. Of course, the oysters won the day, but I also loved the texture and deeper flavour of the octopus along with the Turo d'en Mota. If you haven't popped along to The Remedy they do have an excellent tapas menu and an even better wine menu and I think an afternoon or evening of lazy food and wine pairing there would be a great way to idle away some time.

My thanks to Les Caves de Pyrene, The Remedy and of course to all the wonderful people at Recaredo for inviting me along to such a unique and memorable afternoon. I'm well aware that I'm gushing but I simply cannot overstate the quality of these wines and the utter joy that this side by side tasting evoked in me.

I think I'm going to have to go and have a little lie down now.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

English sparkling wine and fine Indian food pairing

The versatility of Rothley Wine's English sparkling wine has been proven yet again following a visit from the team at one of Leicester's newest contemporary Indian fine dining restaurants, Lilu. Open for only 18 months or so now, Lilu has already built a bit of a cult following with people reportedly travelling from all corners of the country to come and sample their food. They're currently Trip Advisoring as the third best restaurant in Leicester, so book in advance if you want a table!

Liz Robson of Rothley Wine and the Lilu team taking a tour of the vineyard
Anyway, they had heard that some great wines are being made in the area and so of course their passion for local ingredients meant they had to come and try it out for themselves. First they got the full tour, learning about the different varieties that are grown in the Kingfisher's Pool Vineyard and seeing the 2015 vintage in production in the winery. They even got a sneaker taste of what is bubbling away in the tanks ready for 2016. And of course, they had the chance to make friends with the resident chickens. I think they all fell as in love with the place as I had, way back in June 2015 when I first visited.

Lilu were interested in how Rothley Wine's sparkling offerings would pair up with their food and they had brought some tempting treats for us all to try it out. Not a bad evening's work, I must admit! First they tasted the Sparkling Orion and the Spirit of Freedom to get a feel for the base flavours we had to work with. The feedback was universally positive - after a gratifying measure of surprise that English Sparkling could taste so good. The English Wine revolution continues (no thanks to Mr Osborne and his bewildering attack on the industry on Wednesday).

And the verdict was as follows:

  • Lamb seekh kebab - This delicious, earthly and delicately scented starter paired incredibly with the dryness and crisp minerality of the Sparkling Orion.

  • Lilu Special Murgh Tikka - The light tandoor char and subtle spicing of the chicken also went incredibly well with the Sparkling Orion. This was an absolutely masterful pairing of two incredible components. Now you know which wine to choose with your Indian starter dishes!

  • Chana Masala - A mild chickpea dish with an incredible natural sweetness from both the high quality chickpeas and the slow cooked tomato sauce which went admirably well with the light fruitness of the Spirit of Freedom - the non-rose drinker's sparkling blush.

  • Paneer Masala - The most versatile of all the Indian ingredients (in my book), paneer is well known for going with everything and this dish was no exception. Spicy enough to work well with the Sparkling Orion, which brought out the subtlety of the spicing, but still with enough sweet notes in the sauce to complement the Spirit of Freedom, this is the Little Black Dress of the South Asian menu. It goes with everything.
A roaring success then, and let's hope we see a special English Sparkling tasting menu at Lilu soon. In the meantime, if this post has got your mouth watering and you fancy getting your hands on a Lilu takeaway for free, why not enter my competition?

Win a LILU SPECIAL murgh tikka butter masala with a Red Leicester naan and onion bhajis to take away!
Competition closed: @boatingfuzzy wins!

One randomly selected winner will get the above takeaway meal from Lilu on Highcross Street. All you have to do is leave a comment at the bottom of this blog post (Anonymous is fine if you don't have a Google account) with the following information:
  • Tell me what is the name of Lilu's Head Chef, Asian Chef of the Year in 2012? (Hint Hint)
  • For an extra entry follow me on Twitter and let me know your @username in the same comment.
  • For a second additional entry, follow Lilu on Twitter, and tell me your @username in your comment below.
  • If you haven't given a Twitter handle, don't forget to let me know how to contact you if you win!
Competition closes at midday on Sunday 3rd April 2016.
Valid entries must get the question correct and leave a method of contact - Twitter handle, email etc.
The prize will be provided by Lilu Fine Dining. Extreme Housewifery takes no responsibility for prize fulfillment.
Don't enter if you can't get to Lilu's restaurant to collect your prize!
Winner will be picked at random from all valid entries using Random.org so it's all fair.
In the name of the aforementioned fairness, employees of Lilu and Rothley Wine are not permitted to enter. And neither are me or The Boy. Boo! Damn my stringent sense of conscience.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Port wine tasting with Sandeman

We headed over for a long weekend in beautiful Porto, Portugal and courtesy of a lovely little competition win from Wine Tourism in Portugal we got a night's stay in a hotel and two port wine tours and tastings. 

The first of these tours was at Sandeman. I went out there knowing basically nothing about port. It's something that we will always have a bottle of at Christmas, but not really think about the rest of the year. This trip has definitely changed that!

Visiting Sandeman was a great introduction to port wine. It's a very slick tasting room and tour, a little bit more on the commercial side than where I would normally visit (although I usually give in in the end - check out my Freixenet post for example!) but I found it a great introduction to the different types of port and how they are made. I would definitely recommend it for people with a passing interest, a desire to be entertained and the chance to taste some decent port in a very pretty tasting room.

Much better than my photo of the guide!
You are taken on your tour by a guide dressed as the Sandeman Don - interestingly one of the oldest brand icons in the world and the first major icon in the wine industry. It was designed by George Massiot Brown in 1928. Not only that, but the name Sandeman itself was trademarked in 1877, making it one of the oldest brands in the world.

It's a little cheesy, but that's kind of what you want, it's all light hearted and fun. And of course you'll get the obligatory comment about taking photos being welcomed but taking a photo of the guide costing 5 euro, which you will hear on every tour you take... Anyway, on to the caves.

A unique aspect of the Porto tours is that you are not visiting a vineyard, nor a winery. They are essentially all warehouses, storing the wine. This doesn't sound very fun, but it is a crucial part of producing this delicious fortified wine.

The wine is made and the fermentation is stopped approximately halfway through, after about 3 days, through the addition of a high-alcohol young wine brandy - somewhere in the order of 70% or more alcohol. That is the fortifying bit.

After spending it's first winter in the Douro Valley winery, the port is transported to Vila Nova de Gaia - the town on the south side of the Douro opposite Porto itself.

As I'm writing this I kind of realise I'm probably spoiling the introductory tour for every port wine merchant in Porto because they are all, by nature, roughly similar in their method. So I'll try and give less detail. If you want your own tour (organised by Wine Tourism in Portugal no doubt, plug plug) then look away until my tasting notes...

So, the port is stored in the more constant micro climate of Vila Nova de Gaia. The Douro and proximity to the Atlantic brings consistency in both temperature and humidity, assisted by the historic stone buildings. Sandeman bought up an old convent in which to age their wine.

The three kinds of port are explained in detail - essentially the ruby port being aged in large barrels, mainly around 30,000 litres from what we saw but ranging up to 100,000 litres. This means a slower aging process with less exposure to the wood and resultant oxidisation and flavour change. Ruby ports retain their vibrant colour and full fruity flavours.

Next is the tawny port, aged in individual barrels, allowing for more oaky, tannic flavours, which, over time develop into delicious aromas of caramel and nuts. It also creates a lighter wine, in body and in colour.

Finally there is the vintage port. Vintage is made from the harvest of a single declared vintage year, rather than a blend of vintages like the others. It is aged in the bottle - they can only be barreled for up to 2.5 years maximum - and spend at least 10 years in those bottles, but usually much, much more. They are still full of their original colour and vibrancy but gain more and more complexity over time.

Then there's white port (made with white grapes, surprisingly), late bottled vintage (not bottled early enough!) and more besides...

We were treated to a short instructional video, information about the vineyard and the climatic conditions and more information about the maintenance of the perfect climate in the port house. Fascinating stuff, I was gripped. Everyone else on the tour seemed to have a passing interest and be keen to move on to the tasting. I was too busy trying to figure out what trellis system they used...

Sandeman White Port

White port was definitely my favourite new thing of the trip. For some reason I'd never had it before. Now I've had lots. This one was full of orange and dried currants, with lots of residual sugar. It was also tipping over into slight honey elements and a mini spice note. Uber drinkable on its own, but even nicer in the imaginatively names 'Porto Tonico' - white port, tonic, and a wedge of orange - served long over ice. Delicious in the beautiful Portuguese sunshine we enjoyed.

An easy 7 or 8 scored for me, but I'm not sure I'm an afficianado, I'm just a new white port convert!

Sandeman Imperial Tawny

This was much more subtle on the nose than the white port - the result of that barrel aging. 

However, it was surprisingly sweeter and more full in texture, with some lovely red fruit flavours - not really what I was expecting from what I had learned about a tawny port, but still nice enough. Probably a 6 on that one for me.

Cannot recommend Porto enough. Cannot recommend Sandeman more for a beginners guide to port wine. Keep your eyes peeled for something for intermediates - e.g. the tour and tasting we took immediately after we visited Sandeman. All that and more coming up on your favourite amateur wine blog.

Friday, 11 March 2016

The Salmon is back, and it's better than ever!

Despite having a pretty decent sun-catcher beer garden, The Salmon scored pretty poorly when we visited last April as part of our assessment of Leicester's Best Beer Gardens

This is due in no small part to me and my friends being treated abominably by the old landlord, and it turns out a lot of other people had the same experience. So, after a brief hiatus the old incumbents left and now The Salmon is back and, as the title of this post suggests, it truly is better than ever.

On one of Leicester's most amusingly named streets - Butt Close Lane - (which is where the town archery butts used to be set up when it was mandatory for men and boys over a certain age to practice their art, in case you were wondering). The Salmon is now part of the Black Country Ales family, the current licensee is John Davis of King's Head fame (written about extensively on this blog because of their fun beer garden slash terrace and Deliveroo possibilities, but notwithstanding his super awesome friendliness and well kept beer). 

Dear Reader, I have heard that this is but a temporary arrangement and already myself, The Boy and a whole host of other locals are up in arms at the idea that Black Country Ales would even bother looking for someone else when he can quite clearly competently (and awesomely) run both. Take note brewery folk! The local people have spoken!

Anywho, the beer selection is epic, and regularly changing, with plenty of local brews to try as well as some more exotic favourites. Indeed, this weekend you can enjoy the Salmon Beer Festival, running as a complement to our very own Leicester CAMRA beer festival and of course a concurrent event at the King's Head. In fact, why are you even reading this when you could be enjoying so many fantastic beers?

Happening RIGHT NOW!

What is more, you can head on over on the 16th of March for a super-duper extra exciting free pub quiz. Oh yes. As if the Leicester Pub Quiz Directory wasn't enough, now we have an extra one-off quiz to announce. But if it's popular, who knows, it might stay... After all, who doesn't want to win a gallon of beer? It starts at 7pm, we'll see you there. And we'll kick your bee-hind. So long as it's not all sports questions, we don't know anyone who can do sports.

It's back, it's friendly and it's open for more than a five minute window every day (which will only make sense if you tried to go to The Salmon about 10 years ago, but there you are). Another great real ale pub back in Leicester and friendlier than ever. I couldn't be happier. Plus I've been promised that they're getting rid of that terrible, terrible Jack Rabbit wine and getting something that comes in proper sized bottles. Now I couldn't be happier.

Get down there and let me know what you think. The beer festival is on until Sunday 13th March 2016. The pub quiz is on Wednesday 16th March 2016 at 7pm. Woop woop!

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Lazy Post

I have lots of blog posts that I should be writing, but I've figured out you can go abroad too much, too quickly. When that is interspersed with work then you don't really know what's going on. So I can't really use all the amazing blog fodder that I have stored up for you right now. Instead, I thought I'd share my evening with you. Pictorially.

I went to see Professor Wallace Hadrill speak at New Walk Museum. He talked about Herculaneum. He was a very engaging speaker, just as I remember from university. Now I want to go back to Herculaneum. But I need to not plan any more trips away right now.

Then I got home after a rather over-heating cycle home and The Boy handed me a glass of my very own wine. I made it myself (from a kit)! It's nicely innoffensive (although from a kit). And has a little bit of butteriness which I like in a Chardonnay (from a kit).

Next The Boy handed me tea. He not only made me lovely daal, but he presented it all nicely. What a lovely husband I have.

Sorry, usual blogging standards and whatnot will resume when we get back from Portugal. Oh yes, you can almost smell the next set of winery posts coming can't you...
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