Event Review: Elwood Wines’ Summer Tasting

Elwood Wines Summer Tasting at Lighthouse

(c) Elwood Wines

Last month saw the showcase of Elwood Wines summer collection at Lighthouse. Wine-lovers and business folk from all over Brighton gathered to taste a fantastic range of 47 reds, whites, rosés, ports, sherries and cognacs – including some incredible home-grown wines from Sussex’s very own vineyards.

As well as a plethora of wines to suit every palate, La Cave au Fromage were there to showcase their sensational selection of cheeses; while the wonderful Hove-based Chocoholly brought a devilishly delicious table full of hand-made chocolate delights.

Adding an element of fun to proceedings – as if tasting almost 50 different wines wasn’t fun enough – Karl and Tracey organised the Vinolympics to inject a little healthy competition between attendees. Unfortunately this didn’t involve us performing gymnastics on the serving tables or swimming through pools of Pinot Grigio – instead we had to rank six wines out of 20 and guess which was the most popular of the evening.

Chocoholly

Chocoholly’s table of treats.

Alas I didn’t win the top prize, but did manage to pick out that the Stopham Estate Pinot Blanc 2010 – grown right here in Sussex – was well worthy of the gold. In fact, my personal picks of the evening were mainly English wines. Here are a few of the bottles which I enthusiastically circled on my list and ended up treating myself to:

Foxwood Dawn Picked Viognier, Languedoc 2010 (£7.95): Medium-bodied white with characters of summer flowers and citrus fruit – fantastic value at less than £8. Elderflowery and refreshing, I’m looking forward to cracking this one open.

Stopham Estate Pinot Blanc, West Sussex 2010 (£14.95): Served on board the Royal Barge during the Queen’s Jubilee flotilla, this is a wine deemed fit for royalty. Think pears, apples and crisp orchard fruits – perfect for summer picnics. Oh, and it was the Vinolympics winner!

Nutbourne Vineyards Bacchus, West Sussex 2010 (£13.75): If you like Sauvignon Blanc, you’ll LOVE this. With summery notes of cut grass and gooseberries combined with peaches and orchard fruits, this is a bottle well worth spending that little extra on.

Nutbourne Vineyards Sussex Reserve 2010, West Sussex, England

Nutbourne Vineyards Sussex Reserve 2010. My favourite!

Nutbourne Vineyards Sussex Reserve, West Sussex 2010 (£9.95): Blend of Bacchus, Huxelrebe and Schoenburger. Deliciously aromatic with zesty citrus notes on the nose, a supple creamy texture and racy acidity. Probably my favourite wine of the night.

The Exhibitionist Merlot, One Chain Vineyards, Western Australia 2008 (£9.00): Packed with super-ripe red berry flavours, this is one of the best Merlots I’ve tasted in a while. Easy-drinking and great value at less than a tenner, this is a red that benefits from being slightly chilled.

Mompertone, Prunotto 2008 (£12.95): Loved this wine from the second I tasted it. Great complexity on the nose with notes of plum, cherry, coffee and peppery spice with a deliciously plump taste. Will most likely be saving this for a tender, rare sirloin steak.

Lo Tengo Malbec, Mendoza, Bodegas Norton 2011 (£8.95): Being extremely partial to a good Malbec, this is a good value wine from one of Argentina’s most renowned producers. Full-bodied and spicy but still quite fresh, you can’t go wrong for this price.

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This year, we’ve mostly been celebrating how brilliant it is to be British. We’re excitedly gearing up for next month’s London 2012 Olympics, and we’ve spent the last weekend waving Union Flags with the utmost vigour for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. This week – from 2nd-10th June – the revelry continues as we prepare to raise a glass to some Great British wines during English Wine Week.

Preferring to escape to sunnier climes for our holidays, we Brits tend to favour something slightly more exotic when it comes to drinking too. But before you start reaching for your usual New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or favourite French Chardonnay, here at Elwood Wines we’re urging you to sample something that’s made a little closer to home… Sussex, to be exact.

We might live in Brighton, but our reason for selecting these Sussex wines isn’t (entirely) due to geographical…

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Recipe of the Week: Doves Farm Gluten Free Pizza

Yummy gluten-free pizza. NOM.

The thing I hate most about not being able to eat wheat is that I can’t just pick up the phone to Domino’s and be delivered a huge, melty, cheesy, doughy pizza. Not without it making me rather ill, anyway. When my boyfriend treated himself to Pizza Hut last night, it looked and smelt SO GOOD that I decided to have a go at making my own version this weekend. Whilst watching the latest episode of Glee and having a glass of wine, naturally.

I’ve tried to make gluten-free pizza dough before with various “quick ‘n’ easy” no-yeast recipes that don’t involve waiting for the dough to rise (I’m a very impatient baker/eater), but I haven’t yet found one that works that well. This time I decided to start dinner before I got mega-hungry, do it the “proper” way and follow the Doves Farm recipe on the back of the flour packet.

This recipe is for a veggie topping, but I don’t believe in pizza without pepperoni so I loaded mine up with that plus mushrooms, sweetcorn and grated mozzarella. For the tomato sauce base, I just spread with tomato purée then seasoned with salt, pepper, basil and oregano. Before going in the oven, I gave it a good sprinkle of Worcestershire sauce. Scrummy.

I decided to split the cooking times 50/50 (20 minutes for the base, then 20 minutes with the topping on) because I was worried about the base not cooking all the way through – a common problem with gluten-free baking as the dough doesn’t rise in the same way as wheat-based dough – or the cheese burning. It’s in the oven as I write this, so fingers crossed…

Served up with rocket, spinach and watercress salad.

The verdict? Pretty good actually. The dough cooked nicely all the way through and had that light, cakey kind of texture that you always get from rice flours. It’s not the perfect substitute for a take-away, but it certainly did the job of fulfilling my pizza craving. I’ll definitely be using this recipe again as it was an absolute doddle to make and relatively speedy. Plus, it made SO much pizza that I have ¾ left to eat cold tomorrow! Result. Although…. maybe I’ll just have one more slice..

NOTE: Just realised the ingredients on the packet of flour are slightly different to the one on the website, though the method is the same. Here are the measurements I used:

450g Doves Farm White Bread Flour
½ tsp Salt
2tsp Quick yeast
2tbsp Sugar
325ml Warm milk
1tsp Vinegar
2 Eggs
6tbsp Oil

Recipe of the Week: Harry Eastwood’s Parmesan and Paprika Scones

Harry Eastwood's Parmesan & Paprika Scones

 

It’s been a while since the baking bug last struck me. But a lazy Sunday afternoon with the rugby on telly persuaded me to get out my mixing bowl, pastry cutters and rolling pin and make something yummy. Time to re-kindle my love affair with Harry Eastwood’s Red Velvet & Chocolate Heartache. After baking my way through a fair amount of the sweet stuff in this book – my copy of which is now looking incredibly well-thumbed – I decided to try my hand at something savoury.

Made with butternut squash as a main ingredient, the Parmesan and Paprika Scones (page 134) are, like everything else in the book, a healthier way to enjoy the things we love. Having a body that doesn’t really agree with wheat, it’s fantastic that most recipes in this book are wheat or gluten-free. This particular one uses spelt flour. An ancient relative of modern wheat, spelt does contain an amount of gluten, so unfortunately it’s not suitable for those with coeliac disease. However, as it contains significantly less gluten than common wheat, most people with wheat intolerances are fine with it. Seeing as this is the first time I’ve baked with it, I’ll have to let you know if this is actually the case.

The recipe calls for white spelt flour, but because I like my scones with a bit o’ rough I opted for wholegrain (plus it was all that Sainsbury’s had). And although the book suggests you use a food processor, mine is teeny-tiny so I only used it to blend the squash, honey and cheese together. Then I shoved everything in a mixing bowl and got stuck right in with my hands – my favourite kind of baking.

If you do a lot of baking, re-usable silicone mats are a brilliant (and far less wasteful) alternative to baking parchment. You can pick them up for pretty cheap: here on eBay they’re under £3 including postage. Completely non-stick, you can cook anything on them and they’ll save you all that scrubbing at your baking trays. I just lightly rubbed some flour onto one and cooked the scones straight on top.

Being entirely impatient (and pretty hungry after neglecting to eat lunch) I decided to tuck right into mine while they were still warm. Slathered in plenty of cream cheese with a nice mug of Twining’s English Breakfast Tea proved the perfect means of enjoyment.

Slathered in plenty of cream cheese. Mega-nom.

 

If you think this recipe sounds totally delicious (and trust me, it is) you can pick up a copy of Red Velvet & Chocolate Heartache here. Massively recommended if you need a regular baking fix without the diet-related guilt.

Swishing is the new shopping…

Like most women, my wardrobe spends most of its time being 50% full of stuff that either: a) I’ve only worn once, b) I have never worn or c) I bought because it was a total bargain but doesn’t suit me OR go with anything I own. While a good number of these clothes end up at the local charity shop or in the recycling bank across the road, most are just too damn nice to give away.

The solution? Swishing! Not only does it mean I can get rid of the aforementioned articles safe in the knowledge that they’ll be taken home by someone who’ll cherish them, but I can swap them for stuff I actually DO want. It’s a total win-win, and fabulous fun.

Brighton’s My Swish was set up by Sarah Maddox and Leila McKellar in order to help women across the South East with the same dilemma as mine. As well as bringing swathes of fashion-loving women together to drink tea, eat cake and cleanse their wardrobes; these charity-linked events are good for the planet and the soul.

How it works

First, you need to collect up all of your unwanted clothes, bags, jewellery and shoes, then chuck away any that you’re pretty sure nobody would want. You know that diamanté-studded denim stuff that was cool in the ’90s? Yeah, that. The same goes for that well-worn Primark T-shirt.

When you check in your pre-loved bits ‘n’ bobs, you’ll be awarded either 10, 20 or 50 points per item depending on quality and label; so the better the things you bring along, the more swishing points you get to spend on new stuff. Result!

Once you’ve checked in your clothes, there’s around an hour-and-a-half before swishing starts as everything gets sorted – that means you can sit and enjoy a cup of tea or coffee and some cake (included in your ticket price) while everything gets sorted out and priced up.

As soon as the call to start swishing goes out, it’s an every woman for herself frenzy. Within minutes the rails are empty, but there’s no need to despair. As people try stuff on and reject it, it all goes back out there. The changing area is awash with women dishing out compliments whilst doing a remarkably good job of masking their jealousy at stuff they’ve missed out on – it’s also a great place to lurk if you want to nab the unwanted items before they head back to the public domain.

After the first My Swish event I went along to, I came away with two pairs of shoes, two dresses and a handbag; this time around the total went up to two more pairs of shoes, two more dresses, a cardigan and a golfing jumper. Much cheaper than a weekend shopping trip would’ve cost me, and I still got my “look at all my pretty new things” fix.

If you don’t spend all of your My Swish points in one go, just bring your little card along with you next time and carry your swishing currency over to the next month. So there’s no need to worry about not getting your money’s worth.

Sound like fun? Make sure you don’t miss out on the next Brighton swish at The Blind Tiger Club on Sunday 1st April. Tickets are only £6.50 in advance, 10% of which goes to the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. See you there ladies!

Recipe of the Week: Orlando Murrin’s Potatoes Dauphinoise

It’s easy to get stuck in a culinary rut with your evening meals. While my boyfriend and I are generally pretty good at eating balanced meals of protein-carbohydrates-vegetables, I can’t eat wheat, so nine times out of ten that carb element ends up being potatoes. Let’s face it: there are only so many times you can alternate roast-boil-mash before you start to get a little bit bored.

We’re both pretty busy people, so we’re huge fans of the various supermarkets’ two dine for a tenner offers which, if you hunt around, you can probably find for every day of the week. These are great because they offer something a little different in the way of side dishes, so we usually end up choosing something like Potato Dauphinoise as a change from our customary olive oil roasted new potatoes.


After inspecting the packet of the last lot we bought, I realised it was actually pretty easy to make, so set about finding a recipe to try it out for myself. After trawling through recipes that used so much double cream I could feel my arteries clogging up just thinking about it, or so much Gruyère cheese it would break my bank balance (seriously, that stuff is expensive), I stumbled upon this BBC Good Food recipe by Orlando Murrin, Masterchef veteran and ex-editor of Good Food.

Just a few things I did differently to the recipe – I used semi-skimmed milk as we never have full-fat in the house (I can’t stand the stuff) and I didn’t have any nutmeg, so I left that out too. Also, I blinkin’ love cheese so I used way more Parmigiano-Reggiano than 25g.

I used Rooster potatoes, because they’re fantastic to cook with and they were on offer in Sainsbury’s (result). Now, I don’t have such a thing as an 8cm brownie tin, so I just used a ceramic oven dish that was quite a bit bigger – but it worked out fine. Because I felt that there wasn’t quite enough liquid, I covered the dish with foil for the first 30 minutes of cooking, then uncovered it for the final half hour. As you can see, it turned out looking luscious and tasted so damn good that between two of us we polished off the lot.

Verdict: foolproof and delicious!

Bookstock Event: Ghost Stories at The Grand, Brighton

What? Ghost Stories at The Grand Hotel with Rob Marks, author of The Ghosts of Brighton’s Lanes

When? Sunday 12th June 2011, 7pm

Where? The Grand Hotel, Kings Road, Brighton

Come along to the stunning candlelit Regency Room at The Grand Hotel for an evening of ghost stories with Rob Marks – actor, entertainer, storyteller and author of The Ghosts of Brighton’s Lanes.

For many years, Rob divided his time between teaching theatre studies and entertaining. For seven years he ran the popular ‘Ghost Cruise’ in York, which is reputed to be England’s most haunted city.

Always a big fan of Brighton, Rob moved to the city in 2008 after researching and scripting ‘The Ghost Walk of the Lanes’. A familiar face around the City, Rob performs the walk around Brighton’s most haunted quarter for eleven months of the year in the guise of the mysterious, yet endearing Victorian character, Silas the Ghost Walker.

Rob also writes regular features and reviews for the Brighton Visitor magazine and is an active member of the Brighton Tourism Alliance. Last year Rob’s book, The Ghosts of Brighton’s Lanes, was published. This modest tome elaborates on many of the haunted places, buildings and taverns in the Lanes and has proved a popular seller with locals and tourists alike.

Rob is now moving into performing in-house candlelit ghost nights, a Jack the Ripper night, Victorian days for primary school pupils and is currently working on a book of ghost stories from England’s most haunted cities…

Rob’s book, The Ghosts of Brighton’s Lanes will be available to buy on the evening.

All profits from this event will go to The Variety Club children’s charity.