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Easter Food and Wine Treats

By Arfon Jones, Assistant Manager, Majestic Cheltenham

Easter Spring LambIt’s Easter weekend and not only is it a religious occasion, but it’s also a time of year for families to get together and enjoy the food that spring has to offer.

Why not try my alternative Easter Sunday food and wine menu and indulge with family and friends this weekend.

Starter: Fresh British Asparagus with Hollandaise sauce, topped with a free range poached egg

Ingredients (serves 6):
675g fresh asparagus
5 tbsp butter
6 eggs
salt and pepper

For the Hollandaise sauce:
2 egg yolks
1 tbsp lemon juice
115g butter
salt and pepper

1. Prepare the asparagus and add to boiling water, drain and add to a serving plate when ready.
2. Next make the hollandaise sauce by adding the egg yolks and lemon juice to a processor, and salt and pepper to taste. Next melt the butter and with the processor on slow, pour slowly into the egg mixture.
3. Fry the eggs with butter and place on top of the asparagus.Drizzle with the Hollandaise sauce and serve.

What better way to celebrate the arrival of spring asparagus than with a glass of Sancerre. An ideal Sancerre would have to be the Chateau de Sancerre. The palate is fresh with a lively acidity, ideal for cutting through the rich creamy hollandaise sauce. Green fruits and a herbaceous character intermingle with the apparent minerality adding backbone and body.  Perfect at £13.99* when you buy two or more bottles.

A cracking New World equivalent has to be the popular The Ned Black label Sauvignon Blanc, 2010 from Marlborough, New Zealand. Located on the banks of the Waihopai River in the Wairau Valley which contributes to the origins of the shingle based soil. This allows for the gun flint minerality to be subtly evident in the wine, and comparable to a Sancerre, adding great complexity. The nose eludes classic Marlborough herbaceous notes along with gooseberry and citrus fruits.  The palate like the Sancerre has a lovely acidity with the complex mineral backbone. On a fantastic deal at £6.49* when you buy two or more bottles.

Main: Ragout of Lamb Antonia

Ingredients (serves 6):
1.5 kg diced lean lamb
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
500ml orange juice
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
20g chopped mint & sprig of rosemary
2 large onions
4 cloves of garlic
1 red pepper seeded and diced
25g grated root ginger
25g cornflour
150g apricots, chopped
1 pot of natural yoghurt

1. Preheat Oven to 180°c.
2. Heat oil in a frying pan or casserole dish and fry off the lamb with the salt and pepper until golden brown.
3. Add all other ingredients except the yoghurt. Bring up to simmer then remove from heat.
4. Cook in oven with a tightly fitting lid for 1 hour min.
Remove from the oven and thicken slightly with the cornflour if required and simmer gently for 2 minutes.
5. Serve with fresh green beans and tagliatelli.

It goes without saying that Rioja has to be the perfect accompaniment to lamb. If you fancy treating yourself, why not try the Muriel Gran Reserva 1982 which was considered an excellent vintage in Rioja and produced outstanding wines across the board.

This example is nothing but outstanding when it comes to matching with lamb. Fully mature this Rioja has hallmark aromas of cigar box and cedar on the nose. On the palate, the drinker is rewarded with a soft mellow wine with the surprise of dried fruit, leather and sweet spice to finish, amazing considering the age of this wine. As an alternative and interesting food match, why not try with your chocolate eggs, or chocolate pudding – you may be pleasantly surprised!

With Spain currently on 20% off when you buy two or more bottles this is exceptional value at £18.00*.

With chocolate on the mind, as an alternative to Rioja why not try the rich chocolatey Viñalba Reserva Malbec, 2008/09 from Argentina to accompany your lamb.

Made by Bordeaux born Herve Joyaux Fabre in Lujan de Cuyo at the foothills of the Andes where the climate is well suited to growing Malbec grapes. This wine achieves perfect finesse and balance thanks mainly to the meticulous care and attention to detail in both vineyard and winemaking itself. It’s no wonder then that this wine has added so many awards to its portfolio, including a Decanter silver medal for quality.

Fillet SteakA deep red with aromas of rich berry fruits and hints of vanilla and chocolate. These characters are evident on the palate with the addition of mocha giving perfect smoothness and soft juicy tannins with an incredibly long finish, making a superb match to lamb or equally at home with a beef steak. £7.99* when you buy two or more bottles.

Dessert: Hot cross bun bread and butter pudding with an orange marmalade glaze

Ingredients:
6 x hot cross buns cut in half
9 eggs
140g caster sugar
500ml milk
568ml double cream
1 vanilla pod
4 tbsp Marmalade
For the spiced butter:
100g unsalted butter
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of cinnamon
zest of 1 large orange

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas 4
2. First combine the ingredients for the spiced butter.
3. Butter the hot cross buns with this and place in a buttered ovenproof dish.
4. Next separate the eggs reserving 9 yolks and 1 white, whisk these together with the sugar.
5. Gently heat the milk and cream in a saucepan with the vanilla seeds and pod, then pour into the eggs stirring continuously.
6. Remove the vanilla pod and pour over the buttered buns and leave to soak for 20 minutes.
7. Place the dish in a baking tray with water coming halfway up the dish and cook for 45 minutes.
8. Just before the pudding has been in for the 45 minutes, gently heat the marmalade and pour over the pudding and return to the oven for a further 10 minutes.
9. Allow to cool and set before serving with a good portion of custard.

A perfect match to the sweet spice and fruit of the hot cross buns has to be the Vin de Constantia 2005 from Constantia in South Africa. With a rich golden colour this aromatic dessert wine punches candied orange peel and peaches straight to your nose. Like the nose the palate is full and viscous bursting with stone fruit, nuts and vanilla spice, leading into luscious honeyed notes that linger in the mouth.  This will taste even better knowing that the Vin de Constance is included in the South Africa promotion at £23.99* when you buy any two or more South African wines.

Happy Easter & enjoy!

*Prices valid until 2nd May 2011