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What grows together goes together

What grows together goes together

Learning and teaching about food and wine and matching them together is Luci’s passion – here she continues with her journey through some of our regional delights.

This summer I have taken many food and wine tasting all over the Lot and Quercy region. On each occasion I have mainly served 6 wines with up to 10 different foods to help the wine tasters develop their tasting palates for wine and food. My tastings are not designed to tell people what foods go with which wines, we all have very different likes and dislikes in the food spectrum (I can’t stand Tuna, coriander, dill or tomatoes that have been quartered!) but a chance for people to experiment with different flavours to get the most out of the fabulous local food and the amazing regional wine that they are presented with and learn more about the Cahors, Quercy and The Lot Valley.

Either in pre-designated venues or travelling to holiday homes for parties of 6 or more, it has been fantastic season of wine and food pairings.

As we head towards Winter, the harvest of some of our best produce is upon us. Chestnuts, walnuts, saffron, prunes and wine! Of course.

Chestnuts are my particular favourite, Caroline at, the restaurant, Le Caillau made the most delicious soup this season for my tastings there. This recipe is one I have used many times adapted from an old Quercy cookbook I inherited from my Mother.

Chestnut soup

500 g chestnuts, tinned or fresh (If using fresh chestnuts, score a cross through the base and grill for 5-7 minutes. Set aside and when cool, remove skins) 50 ml extra virgin olive oil,1 onion, peeled and finely chopped,1 sliced leek, 2 slices of bacon chopped or 100g lardons (optional),1 bay leaf,1 tsp salt,2 tsp ground black pepper,5 fresh sage leaves, 500 ml semi-skimmed milk,500 ml water

Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the lardons, bay leaf and onions. Sauté until lightly golden. Add the chestnuts, salt, pepper and sage and cook for a few minutes. Add the milk and water and bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Empty the mixture into a liquidiser and blend until smooth. Return mixture to the pan and add extra water to taste. Pour in less water if you prefer a thicker soup. Can be served with a lovely crisp sauvignon blanc from Domaine du Garinet, unoaked chardonnay Mirliflore from Chateau Saint Sernin or as it is a celebratory few months ahead a crisp and light Champagne.

Another absolute must for the harvest season is duck. It truly is a winter feast, after a cull of ducks earlier in this year, the flightless birds are now plentiful again. Everyone has their favourite recipe for duck and this is mine. It uses the best produce from the region, duck, prunes and Cahors wine

Duck, with Agen prunes and Cahors wine.

12 pitted Agen prunes,4 duck breast fillets, with skin, salt and freshly ground black pepper,1/2 red onion - finely chopped, 2 bay leaves - broken in half, 10 juniper berries - slightly crushed, 225ml Cahors wine, 125ml chicken stock, 2 teaspoons demerara sugar, 1 pinch ground cinnamon (optional), 1 tsp butter

Preheat the oven to 200oC. Cover the prunes in boiling water from the kettle and let soak while you prepare the duck. Pat the duck breast dry on both sides with kitchen paper. Score the skin with a sharp knife. Season liberally on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat a cast iron frying pan over medium-low heat. Once hot, add the duck breasts, skin side down. Cook till the skin is golden brown and crispy, about 5 minutes. Turn duck over and cook the breasts for 1 minute on the flesh side, then turn back over once again.

Immediately transfer to the oven and cook for 4 to 6 mins for duck still pink in the centre (cook 2 mins longer for well done). Remove the duck from the frying pan and place on a warm plate and loosely cover with a piece of foil to keep warm. Pour all but 1 to 2 tablespoons of duck fat from the pan into a jar and reserve for another use, if you wish.

Place the pan with the remaining duck fat over a medium heat. Add the chopped onion, bay leaves and juniper. Cook and stir for 2 to 3 minutes, till the onion is soft and has taken some colour. While the onion is cooking, drain the prunes and roughly chop.

Pour in the wine, stock, sugar and prunes. Add the cinnamon, if desired. Increase the heat to medium high and bring to the boil. Allow to cook for 3 to 5 minutes, till the sauce is reduced by at least half and coats the back of a spoon. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and stir in the butter.

Serve the duck with the sauce spooned over top, wild rice and green vegetables make a delicious accompaniment. Wine that tastes fabulous with this is Hauts St Georges, Malbec.

After a rich soup, prunes and duck, I like to finish my meal with saffron ice cream. Figeac and Carjac are places well worth the visit to buy local. After spending a week harvesting saffron, I have great pride in using my own harvested saffron, each recipe is well worth the effort.

Saffron ice cream

100 grams sugar, 4 egg yolks, 250 ml milk.250 ml cream, 1 teaspoon saffron

Beat the egg yolks and sugar together until smooth and creamy. Grind most of the saffron in a mortar and pestle, and put half of the powder into the milk, and heat until boiling point. Pour the boiling milk into the beaten yolk/sugar mixture while continuously beating, and then return to the pan. Continue to warm on low heat until thickened, carefully stirring all the while. You probably measured the cream into a jug anyway, so pour the mixture into jug of cream, mix it briefly. Add the rest of the saffron powder. Follow ice cream maker’s instructions, or place in old ice cream tub and place in freezer, stirring occasionally before it sets completely. This is delicious with Chateau Gaudou’s La Charmeuse.

Wine tastings are available on request, please contact me Luci Cox on luci@tasting-the-lot.com for more information or follow me on Facebook - Tasting The Lot, Quercy.  www.tasting-the-lot.com                         

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