October 2004 : There are more questions than answers!

Further to my column last month on organic wines, I received an email from ISM member Peter Brenton of Croydon who asked about the use of eggs (whites) for the clearing process in the production of wine. Mr Brenton was concerned about whether organic eggs were used. I am assured by our supplier Vintage Roots, that only organic eggs are used in the production of their organic wines. Failure to do so would result in official certification being removed.

On a different matter, I recently concluded a series of lectures on harmonising wines and foods and a few questions arose which I think will be of interest to you:

Q: What is the best drink to serve as an aperitif?
A: Usually something fairly dry. Never mix spirits with wine if you wish to avoid headaches! A simple aperitif is a long glass filled with ice, add a large dry (or medium) sherry and top up with tonic water and slice of lemon.

Q: What food should you serve with an aperitif?
A: Marinated olives or crudités which keep the palate clean and stimulate the gastric juices, anticipating the meal to follow. Crisps, nuts, Bombay mixes etc - or anything with any fat content - is a definite NO!

Q: Should cheese be served before or after the pudding?

A: Always before. You need to maintain a savoury taste, plus it gives you the opportunity to finish your main course red wine, or change to another wine e.g. Rhone/Shiraz for the cheese. Follow the cheese with a sweet wine to accompany the pudding.

Q: What is the most suitable wine to serve with Roquefort cheese?
A: This does cause some controversy! A light red wine will work well. However, because of the high salt content in Roquefort, a sweet wine also works well - think about the traditional pairing of Stilton and Port for example.

Any other questions from ISM members are gratefully received and will be answered in future columns.

Happy & Healthy Drinking!
Kenneth Harry Putt

This Month's Recipe : Apple and Pear Crumble with an Oat Topping

A few Saturdays ago I went to my local farmers' market in Barnes to do some food shopping. I love the Autumn time, when all the lovely root vegetables come into season (e.g. squashes), and all the different ranges of apples and pears. I buy my fruit from the organic stall. I'm now really trying to shop organic because the food tastes so much better and you feel that you are supporting the environment and local producers as well - I'm all for it!

Having bought my fruit, I made the crumble pudding using oats (instead of flour) as again they are fantastic to eat for us all. Delicious served with organic crème fraiche, the taste being so different, or ice-cream or a berry fruit compote if you wish.

Ingredients :

4 apples (your favourite variety), peeled and seeded - I recommend Cox, Braeburn, or Gala
4 pears, peeled and seeded
2 oz butter
a pinch of cinnamon (optional)
8 oz of rolled organic oats
4 oz of soft butter
3 oz soft brown sugar

Method :

Peel and pip the apples and pears, then cut into small bite-size pieces. Melt the 2oz butter in a pan and then add the apples and pears, coating with the butter, and leave to simmer on a gentle heat for about 10 mins or until soft but not completely broken and disintegrating.

Take off the heat, adding the cinnamon if wanted, and pour into your cooking dish. Ideally you want a dish that is shallow as this will mean that the topping will be crispy rather than soggy.

For the topping, place 3/4 of the oats into a blender and blend till smoother and more flour-like (if you have no blender then put the oats into a plastic bag and bash with a rolling pin!). Tip into a bowl and then mix the butter into the oats thoroughly so that all the butter has been incorporated into the oats. Then add the sugar and continue to mix - the mix should be "crumbly", for lack of a better word!

Flatten out the oat mix, then layer the apples and pears evenly, and then sprinkle the remaining oats over the top. If you like, you can dab with a little extra butter on the top.

Place into an oven at 180 Centigrade for 15-20mins or until the oats are brown and crunchy looking. Remember that the apples are pre-cooked so the crumble does not need that long in the oven. Once cooked, serve with any of the above suggestions, or enjoy on its own.

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