le tasting room

Loire wine tours, tastings, day trips from Paris & short breaks organised by experienced English wine trade professionals.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Mini Rosemary Shortbreads

These mini shortbreads are easy to make and keep for up to a fortnight in an airtight container. Alternatively, you can freeze them for a month, giving them a quick crisp-up in the oven the day you need them.

The recipe comes from a book called 'canapés' which we use frequently when doing Loire wine tastings at le tasting room. I often fiddle with recipes and this one is very adapatable, depending for example upon what herbs you have in the garden, in the cupboard.

60g (2oz) plain flour
salt, cayenne pepper
45g (1 half oz) cold butter, diced
60g (2oz) parmesan cheese, grated
1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary

Put the flour, a pinch of salt and cayenne, butter, parmesan and the rosemary (or any additional flavouring you are adding), into a food processor. Pulse to form a smooth dough (I find it stays in crumbs so bring it together by hand). Roll it out on a floured surface and cut into tiny rounds with a pastry cutter (I don't have a tiny one so use an upside down egg cup). Place them on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper/baking parchment and chill for half an hour before baking in the oven at 180C, 350F Gas 4 for about 8 minutes (or until golden brown).
Cool completely on a wire rack before adding your topping.

For the topping - you can use a variety of things depending upon the flavouring in the shortbreads. I use a parsley pesto made by taking a handful of parsley and hand chopping it before adding it to the pestle and mortar together with a large tablespoon of pine nuts, a small clove of garlic and a little salt. After crushing this I add a tablespoon of grated parmesan and just enough olive oil to slacken it without it becoming too loose (it needs to hold on the biscuits). A tiny teaspoon of this with a little morsel of goats cheese on top makes a great combination.

Other ideas for toppings
Roasted cherry toms and feta
Roasted peppers
Caramelised onions

For the shortbread biscuits - try adding a teaspoon of chopped black olives, sundried tomatoes, or fresh thyme to the base.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Le Thoureil

A few photos of our nearest village - a 10 minute stroll from the house, taken by Piers who spent the day with us here at le tasting room during Le Mans last week with a group of friends.

Our farming neighbours grow artichokes - we pass this field on our stroll down to the river.

Up the hill and we reach the view that always delights us - again our neighbours vines overlooking the Loire. Breathtaking at any time of year and always different according to the season.

A little further on and we discover the terraces running alongside the back of the beautiful houses of Le Thoureil. This terrace belongs to one of the most beautiful houses in the village and was Dutch owned for many years. Wealthy merchants based themselves in Le Thoureil and set up trading points, 'comptoirs' set high above their houses allowing them to survey all they owned.

Dropping down to the river itself we walk along the water side, admiring the arthitecture and boats on the river.

After a relaxing day's tasting and lunching in the cellar this is a perfect way to end the day, a walk in the late afternoon sunshine (stopping for a hard earned beer in the café along the way). Thank you to Piers for these fantastic photos.

If you would like to discover wine with us - why not come and join us for a day here at le tasting room, in the heart of the Loire valley only a 10 minutes stroll from this beautiful village.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Apricot & Hazlenut Tart - perfect with Faye d'Anjou

Several clients have recently asked for the recipe for this tart so I thought the easiest solution would be to put it up on the blog. I've been making tarts loosely based around this recipe for years, the inital inspiration coming from my mum's Bakewell Tart formula (which uses ground almonds not hazlenuts). It's incredibly easy to make and you can safely fiddle with it remaining confident that the end result will be great.

You will need:

Enough sweet pastry to line whatever tin you decide to use (I make a Marco Pierre-White sweet base but you could use any sweet pastry or shortcrust)
6oz ground hazlenuts
6oz unsalted butter (at room temperature)
6oz of caster sugar
2 eggs
Fresh apricots (enough to cover the base evenly spaced - last time I used about 10. It's best to choose ones that are firm and quite tart as this balances out the sweet filling)


Roll out and line your tin with the pastry - prick the base and chill in the fridge while you make the filling.
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy
Add the ground nuts and eggs and beat together until well blended
Spread evenly over the base of the pastry
Cut the apricots in half and evenly place on top of the filling pressing down lightly to secure them.


Couple of additional points - sometimes if I don't have enough ground hazlenuts in the cupboard I mix them half and half with ground almonds. If the mixture seems a bit firm, add a couple of tablespoons of cream to loosen it slightly.

Apologies for using ounces - this instantly ages me I know but the quantities are easier to remember that way.

Use ground almonds and fresh raspberries for great alternative.

If neither fruit is in season you can use a good quality fruit preserve in place of the fresh fruit. In this case, first spread a thick layer directly on to the base of the pastry and then spread the filling on top. Not so spectular to look at but delicious just the same.

Bake for about half an hour at roughly 180 C

The apricot and hazlenut option is sublime with Eddy Oosterlinck-Bracke's Faye d'Anjou Les Quarts de Juchepie 2004 (see previous blog for in-depth info).

Hope you enjoy it.