It may seem like stating the obvious, but to me the best wines are food wines, meaning those that should never be far away from a plate of something they match perfectly. A dish with the right wine is a meeting of two halves to make a whole experience that stays in your memory for ever. The best of British ingredients are very deserving in that respect. Who can deny the mineral flavours of salt marsh lamb a wonderful Languedoc red, or sweetly spiced Cornish crab a golden Pouilly-Fuissé? For this midsummer menu we matched the best with the best, kept it simple, and witnessed some very happy marriages.
Potted crab with fresh bay, lemon and mace
250g salted farmhouse butter
160g brown crabmeat
250g white crabmeat
½ teaspoon ground mace
1–2 pinches of cayenne pepper, to taste
Juice of ½ lemon
A few gratings of lemon zest
1 fresh bayleaf, to garnish
Put the butter in a saucepan and place over a low heat to melt. When it begins to simmer, let it bubble for half a minute, then remove from the heat. Line a sieve with kitchen paper or muslin and place over a bowl or jug. Pour in the melted butter and let it strain naturally — do not press or force it through. You will be left with a quantity of clarified butterfat. Keep it warm so the butter remains liquid.
Put the brown crabmeat in a bowl with half the white meat; add half the spices and seasoning, and all the lemon juice and zest, then stir to combine. Season the mixture with a little freshly ground black pepper, pour over half the melted butter then pack the mixture into a shallow pot. The meat should be about 2.5cm/1 inch deep.
Combine the rest of the white meat, spices and seasoning. Spoon it into the pot on top of the brown meat then pour over the remaining clarified butter. Place the bay leaf on top. Leave to set in the fridge for a few minutes, then serve with hot toast.
Wine match Pouilly-Fuissé ‘Margolliets’, Burgundy 2012 (£16.75). Golden, with passion fruit and pineapple on the nose. Buttery fresh fruit with a hint of lemon and nuts. Complex and full with a lush finish, perfect with the delicately spiced, buttery crab.
Oysters with pastis and watercress
1 stick of celery
Leaves from one bunch of watercress
Leaves from 3 sprigs of flat parsley
2 heaped tbsp fresh breadcrumbs
60g melted butter
1 tablespoon pastis (aniseed liqueur)
Preheat the oven (to its highest setting) or the grill. Fill an ovenproof dish big enough to fit all the oysters with 1cm depth of fine salt.
To open an oyster, place it in your palm on a folded cloth. The hinged end should be closest to your body and the flat half of the shell uppermost. Insert an oyster knife into the pointed joint of the shell, and wiggle it; if you keep the knife level with the flat half of the shell, it should slip in easily until it reaches and breaks the muscle holding the halves together. Don’t twist the knife aggressively, or it will fill the interior with shards of shell. When you feel the grip loosen, twist the knife once, then discard the flat shell. Inspect the oyster: it should look clear, and smell of clean seawater and fresh fish. Use the tip of the knife to cut the ligament that holds the meat to the shell and flip it over.
Use a potato peeler to pare the celery stick, removing the strings. Chop roughly then put in a food processor with the watercress, parsley leaves, butter, breadcrumbs and pastis. Blitz into a fine purée. Or chop by hand: you will get a rougher texture but it will still be lovely. Season with salt and pepper and put a heaped teaspoon on to each oyster then place on the baking dish. The salt will help them remain in position.
Put the oysters in the oven or under the grill and cook until the butter melts. The oysters do not need to cook through — they should be partly raw. Eat while still warm.
Wine match Domaine Bernard Fleuriet Sancerre white 2012 (£13.95). Pale and clear with a fresh, grassy nose. The wine is delicate, flinty, crisp and deliciously balanced. Exactly what you would expect from a really good Sancerre, and spot-on with the fresh, peppery pastis flavour of the oysters.
Salt marsh lamb, with samphire and lemon
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
2 celery sticks, finely chopped
1 kg half-leg of salt marsh lamb
A large pinch of dried thyme
400ml water or meat stock
100ml white wine
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
500g fresh samphire
Juice of 2 lemons
1 heaped tablespoon of quince or other fruit jelly (apple, redcurrant)
Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6. Heat the oil in a roasting tin on the hob and add the chopped vegetables and garlic. Stir-fry gently for a short while. Rub the lamb with a little more oil and place it on top of the bones and vegetables. Season with salt and pepper and scatter the thyme over everything.
Transfer to the oven and roast for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, tilt the roasting tin and spoon out any excess fat. Add the water or stock and the wine then return the tin to the oven. Reduce the heat to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 and cook for a further 50 minutes. Remove from the oven, put the lamb in a dish and leave to rest in a warm place for 20 minutes, covered with foil.
Strain the juices from the roasting tin into a separate pan and discard the vegetables. Add any juices that seep from the resting joint of lamb, along with the lemon juice and quince jelly. Bring to the boil, cook for a minute so the jelly dissolves, then set aside in a warm place.
Bring a pan of water to the boil and cook the samphire in it for 1 minute. Strain, then place in a bowl with a knob of butter. Serve the lamb with the juices and buttered samphire, plus some new potatoes.
Wine match Two reds, both complimenting the gentle salinity of the salt marsh lamb and samphire: Château de la Negly, Coteaux du Languedoc La Côte 2011 (£10.95) is dark ruby red in colour, an opulent, silky red, bursting with cassis and violet flavours, plus notes of liquorice and black pepper; and Domaine de l’Ermitage Menetou-Salon 2011 (£14.95), with a smoky and perfumed nose, precise cherry fruit and a fresh, lingering finish.
Apple and rhubarb sherbert
400g fresh rhubarb
2 heaped dessert spoons Demerara sugar
8 apples, peeled and cored
Juice of 1 lemon
If you do not have an ice cream churner, you can make this ice cream in a plastic container and freeze it, occasionally giving it a stir to lighten the texture.
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Cut the rhubarb into 2cm pieces. Line a baking dish with baking parchment and scatter the rhubarb pieces. Sprinkle over the sugar and bake until soft and sticky. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Cook the apples until soft, then add the lemon juice. Purée them in a food processor or mash with a fork then add most of the rhubarb (leaving some aside for serving). Taste and add a little more sugar to taste.
Place in the ice cream churner and process until you have a pale pink water ice. Serve in little glasses, with a lump or two of caramelised rhubarb on top.
Wine match Schloss Reinhartshausen Wisselbrunnen Auslese Rheingau, Germany 2009 (£19.95). The perfect balance of ripe stone fruit, crisp acidity and honeyed sweetness. Fresh and completely delicious, this is sweet winemaking at its very best and impeccable with the mellow flavour of the rhubarb and apple sherbert.