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Your Guide to Wines for Christmas (Chosen by Me, In Partnership with M&S)

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I recently worked with Marks & Spencer to come up with a selection of wines from their range to give you some inspiration for Christmas. From fine wines to eclectic tipples, some of them are bargains, all are priced well. After all, we want more than one bottle to get us in the festive swing, so I like to buy great value wines as well as something special. I suggest some food too, and as we will all be overwhelmed with Christmas by the time it comes around, something a bit different from the usual festive fare in some cases. It goes without saying, but I had complete free range to do whatever I wanted here, and I was quite impressed with the options. Enjoy!

The Novice – For someone who’s just starting to appreciate wine

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You like wine, but you don’t know too much about it (although I expect you probably know more than you think). You probably let others pick from the list when you are out for dinner, but you are hosting Christmas, and so you would like some lovely wine with it. For you, I recommend the Wine for Every Course (Mixed Case of 6) for £85. Here, Marks & Spencer have put in the leg work, and selected some excellent classic wines. I have also selected some individual bottles so that you could put together your own. Perfect for impressing all of those visiting Christmas relatives!

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Starting with a bright champagne aperitif from Louis Chaurey (perfect with the treacle smoked salmon, bresaola and parma ham I have included with this); Pouilly Foumé from Mathilde de Fouvray, a dry elegant white from the Loire Valley. With hints of lemon, it is 100% Sauvignon Blanc, but it will challenge your perceptions on this grape if you are used to the bigger brand alternatives. An elegant rioja follows, full of ripe fruit flavour and a little spice, Maison du Tastelune Burgundy Pinot Noir offers a very smooth fruity and mellow wine. To finish, two sweets, a Sauternes from L’Or du Ciron to enjoy with dessert and a single harvest Royal Palace Colheita port from 2001, to sip by the fire after dinner. Sweet wine is very under rated. I love to finish my meal with one, sometimes choosing it over a dessert.

The Parents – Your parents or your spouse’s parents, this bottle shows you have a little decorum and distinction!

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When I go home at Christmas, I like things to be simple and easy, but good, of course, and a little bit of a treat. For this selection, I moved up the wine list a little and chose more expensive characterful rich red wines, which we had with lovely dry aged steak (simply spiced with some Calabrian chilli and aromatic with sage). These wines are confident, warm and friendly, with a little spice, and they will keep everyone happy.

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From the new world, the Californian Joseph Swan Zinfandel (£30), a bolshy full flavoured wine with some pepper and fruit, perfect with steak. Also the Hay Paddock Harvest Reserve Syrah from New Zealand (£20), another powerful red but not jammy and overly sweet, which you may think lots of new world syrahs (shiraz) are. Moving up the wine list, for a special meal at home is the Chateauneuf-du-Pape Le Vieux Gres (£39), with lots of food, spice and pepper. I think with wine matching we tend to overthink a little, the best wine to drink with your dinner is the one you have (or want to drink). But also, it helps to think of it almost as a sauce.

The Connoisseur – The person who has their own carafe!

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Well, you are a connoisseur, so you don’t need me to tell you what to drink, but I feel that I need to point you in the direction of Marks & Spencer gold medal winning sparkling wines. Effortless Christmas fizz, for a fuzzy morning. You are welcome. I tried two, the first the Oudinet Cuvée Brut NV (at £25 a bottle, a great price for a good champagne).
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Chicken Rendang (In Partnership with Le Creuset)

Chicken Rendang Recipe

Chicken Rendang Recipe

This post was sponsored by Le Creuset. They asked me to write a one pot recipe and to choose one of their pots to cook it in. I fancied something spiced,  slow cooked and full of character,  so I settled on a rendang inspired by my travels to Malaysia. I chose a shallow pot that would aid evaporation, caramelisation and intensification of the sauce  (a 30cm shallow casserole, in lovely Marseille blue). 

Le Creuset Pot in  Marseille Blue

Le Creuset 30cm Shallow Casserole in Marseille Blue

I have been to Malaysia twice in the past year, to the tip of it in Langkawi, and the bottom, Sabah, Borneo. I love it there for many reasons. The monkeys (who can resist?), the rainforests and the gorgeous seas, the sandy beaches and the mangrove trees. Best of all is the food, seasoned with punchy aromatics and a little spice. Where India has spices, Malysia has aroma – galangal, lime leaves, lemongrass, lots of fresh turmeric – and slow cooked tender meats, bright fish, with sometimes funky undertones from fermented fish. For this project, I settled on a chicken (ayam) rendang, the perfect food for a chilly November.[Read more]

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[Preview] Sharing Stories: An Italian Dining Experience & an Exclusive 2-4-1 Ticket Offer for Eat Like a Girl Readers (In Partnership with Peroni Nastro Azzurro Alta)

This post was sponsored by Peroni Nastro Azzurro Alta. I attended the preview dinner of Sharing Stories: A New Italian Dining Experience, details of which are here.  The dinner is a once off, on Wednesday 26th November at Daphne’s in London, and includes 3 cocktails, complimentary Peroni Nastro Azzurro Alta, and a bespoke menu created by Daphne’s head chef.  A special 2-4-1 offer is available exclusively for Eat Like a Girl readers. Details are at the end of the post. The dinner is to celebrate the launch of Alta, a new sharing bottle designed to be enjoyed with friends. All photos were provided by Peroni, the editorial is mine.

To showcase the launch of the new Alta bottle, Peroni is hosting an exclusive supper club at Daphne’s in South Kensington. Sharing Stories: An Italian Dining Experience will be a multi course feast created by Daphne’s Head Chef, Michael Brown. It will bring to life the diners’ most memorable Italian experiences through taste, smell and sound. The entire night will be created from the diners’ impressions of Italy, with each course inspired by the guests’ memories. These will also shape the cocktails, décor and music for the evening giving guests an entirely bespoke experience.

Daphne’s, where Sharing Stories will be hosted, is a well respected and very popular restaurant which has been serving classic Italian food in Kensington for 50 years now. The food was very good and plentiful, seven dishes in total, including sensational gamberoni with chilli and garlic, an excellent mushroom risotto and beef carpaccio served with lots of fresh truffle. There was lots of Peroni, served in the new Alta bottle, and the cocktails were twists on classics, with – of course – some Peroni involved.
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A Big Brunch and a Recipe for Louisiana Crab Cakes with Poached Eggs & Tabasco Hollandaise (In Partnership with Tabasco® Brand Pepper Sauce)

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Brunch! Boiled Eggs and Tabasco butter soldiers; Feta, Corn & Tabasco Cakes; Tabasco Crab Devilled Eggs; Louisiana Crab Cakes with Poached Eggs & Tabasco Hollandaise

Brunch is my thing. I have brunch everyday when I am at home. I am a sleepy morning creature and my body is not ready for anything except coffee for the first few hours. I have always been like this. My body likes evenings and night time, and while early morning is beautiful and, increasingly, I do wish I was a morning person, it is not when I am at my best.

I am great at brunch though. I love it. My body is awake and hungry and eager to eat. Often eggs. Almost always with some chilli. I love a brunch dish that packs some heat (as you will have seen regularly on my instagram). Eggs never cease to amaze me with the amount you can do with them. Fried, poached, boiled, gooey, oozy, spread on toast soldiers. Eggs are brilliant when you force fat into them, as you do when you make hollandaise or mayonnaise. Eggs also love Tabasco, so when Tabasco asked me to come up some recipes and host a brunch for my friends to showcase them, it had to be an eggy one.[Read more]

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A Weekend in Rome & Where to Eat & Drink There (In Partnership with O2 Travel)

 

Despite four visits, Rome continues to surprise and remains one of my favourite cities to return to. It is utterly charming, from the free running nasones (water fountains, they translate as noses!) to the many fountains.  I always see new things, stay in new places, and discover great places to eat & drink. Well, that is why we go isn’t it? For carbonara, gelato, porchetta, Roman pizza, and that is just the start. I have my favourites, of course, that I return to all the time, but on this occasion, as I was there with O2 Travel to road test their internet and app, I used these to explore further.[Read more]

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Four Beef Recipes for BBQs in All Weathers (In Partnership with Grasstronomy / Irish Beef)

In the photos: Stout, Bacon & Beef Burger, Firey Beef Koftes, Low & Slow Spiced Ribs with Bourbon and Coffee Glaze, Miso Steak – recipes after the jump.

Irish Beef commissioned me to come up with 4 beef recipes, any that I liked, I just had to use the BBQ. The BBQ that I used is a fairly basic one, so these recipes should be good for all of you too. The grill can be moved up and down but that is all the heat control that I have.

Growing up in Ireland, the concept of free range was alien to me. Everything just was free range, and there was no need to declare it. There were cows in the field in front of and behind my house. Bullocks, too. Lots of dairy and beef farming, and also lots of potatoes.  Grass fed cattle work for their food, resulting in a leaner meat too. All of that lovely rain which we moan about but tourists love (for the first few days anyway) gives us terrific pasture. Our soil is rich too.

This is a lovely island we live on but we are on the wrong side of the Atlantic for consistently good weather. So, for a BBQ in all weathers, I have come up with four recipes: Stout, Bacon & Beef Burger, Firey Beef Koftes, Low & Slow Spiced Ribs with Bourbon and Coffee Glaze and Miso Steak.

If you fancy winning a Weber BBQ (I know, I do!), take a look at the Grasstronomy Facebook page and enter there. You can learn lots more about Irish beef there too.

Enjoy!

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Brazilian Pastel with Beef & Cheese (In Association with Magimix)

Pastels with Beef and Cheese

Pastels with Beef and Cheese

I was more surprised than anyone when I started getting very involved with the World Cup Columbia vs Brazil match last weekend. I was out with some friends and when one spotted it she yelled “Niamh, what the hell is going on?!”.

I didn’t know.

I figured that this must be a very good game if it had managed to suck me into it. Or I was having a mini stroke? You see, I don’t really get football, nor do I watch it, normally. I never have. That goes for most sports. There are exceptions – the Olympics, for example, especially when they were on in London, limited amounts of tennis, that kind of thing – but when everyone you know is watching the World Cup, you want to be involved, right? Somehow? Well, we can do the snacks!

4200XL Satin 18434Magimix challenged me to come up with a Brazilian recipe using their kit (a Magimix 4200XL), so that was a good start. I already have a Magimix, battered from love and use and melted on the side as I placed it too near the cookers gas flames when I moved flat, but it still chugs away perfectly, and is one of my most treasured pieces of kitchen equipment. It is compact and speedy and it chops, grates, slices and kneads. Essentially, it does everything that I don’t want to do or can’t do when I am rushing. Which is a lot. I quite like the serenity of chopping and slicing and kneading when I have time, but more often than not Mr Magimix does it. It is more patient with kneading than I am, and it makes great pastry, as my super warm hands destroy it when I allow my paws to do it (I believe that that might be my super crap super power).

Ok! A snack challenge. The game was on for me. A game I could enjoy, finally!

I have never been to Brazil – a big black mark right there – but I know food, and I am already familiar with a lot of Brazilian specialities. I wanted something that would be a great snack, that would taste great, and that would have the right amount of challenge to be different and delicious, but not be too challenging to prepare. I whittled it down to about five things, the others will probably appear here in the near future.

I opted for home made (from scratch, natch) pastels with beef and cheese. Pastels appear to be the Brazilian version of the empanada. Maybe it is the other way around? I don’t know which came first, most South American countries have something similar. It seems fitting that the Brazilian snack that you cook for the final could also double as an Argentinian snack (sorry Brazil, I wanted you to win too). You can pretend, or to be authentic change the filling a little (no cheese, add eggs and olives to approximate my favourite empanadas from Mendoza, still one of the best things that I have ever eaten), and use lard in the pastry in place of oil. Remove the vodka too.

I always try to make wrappers myself, whether for pastel, empanada, dumplings, spring rolls or any other little parcel of gorgeousness wrapped in something crisp or steamed. It is always worth the effort, as you get a far superior result and lots more satisfaction. I love the geekery of it, getting down to the nitty gritty and understanding where the recipe came from. Also, it is not always possible to source wrappers if you don’t live in an urban centre, or a particular country, so I always like to provide a recipe for those of you that can’t, as well as for myself.

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Ultimate Sandwiches [In Partnership with Hellmann’s]

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This list of Ultimate Sandwiches is a list of my favourite sandwiches, all of which you can reproduce at home. It is fairly international, as you will expect, with a leaning to the US, as they have come up with some of the best ones. This piece is sponsored by Hellmann’s, who have an interest in sandwiches, naturally!

1. Po’ Boy

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I have never been to Louisiana – and that is a dark mark on my travel history I know – but I am very familiar with their food, and the Po’ Boy is one of my favourite things to eat. Po’ Boy refers to the fact that this is what the poor boys would eat, more specifically striking workers in 1929. Made often with roast meat, Louisiana sausage or fried seafood (catfish, oysters, shrimp). Oysters are a real treat but I find this is delicious with some lovely sweet shrimp too, fried until crisp in a seasoned & light corn batter and served with a Cajun remoulade & some lettuce in a French stick.

2. Bahn Mi

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Bahn Mi is a term for bread, specifically the French baguette which was introduced by the French when they had colonised and termed Vietnam, Indochina. Like the Louisiana French stick, it tends to be lighter than what we get here than in France, and a Bahn Mi sandwich, as we know them, is this bread filled with all kinds of pork from pork meatballs to pate, pork belly, loin or pork floss (fabulous light and fluffy dried pork). You can get other meats too, but when I make Bahn Mi Thit (the most popular and usually pork centric form), I usually make it with seasoned pork belly or loin, which is served in a baguette with Sriracha, and finished with things like cucumber and coriander. I like to marinate my pork in fish sauce, honey, chilli etc, marinade overnight and then finish with coriander.

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