Get involved! Send photos, video, news & views. Text WILTS GAZETTE to 80360 or email us
Recipe is pie in the sky
Not that long ago, the Fence Gate Inn in Burnley concocted the world's most luxurious steak pie using some rather unusual and pricey ingredients.
First of all it used the finest cut of Japanese Wagyu beef costing around £500 per kilo. Then they flew in some even more rare Matsutake mushrooms at a cost of £2,000. On top of that there was also some gold leaf and winter black truffles to add to the shopping list.
But perhaps the piece de resistance were two bottles of 1982 Mouton Rothschild which were reduced down to make the sauce. I have often heard the refrain that if you are cooking with wine, you shouldn't just use cheap plonk. But surely this was going a bit too far?
I asked Raymond Blanc, the great chef-patron of Le Manoir Aux Quat' Saisons about his approach to cooking with wine.
He was absolutely appalled by the very notion of using one of France's greatest wines for a reduction sauce.
I cannot believe such ignorance,' he foamed. It is complete and utter sacrilege to use a wine of this complexity and stature in cooking.'' But what about the theory that the better the cooking wine, the better the dish, I asked? It's a complete myth,'' Blanc replied. Almost always a cheaper wine will be the better option in cooking I have done a lot of blind tastings on this, including using some very expensive red and white Burgundies such as a Montrachet and a Gevrey-Chambertin.
"And what I have generally found is that the higher you go in wine quality, the less you recognise the wine in the food. So in my view it is completely counter-productive to use great wines in a jus, sauce or marinade.'' Blanc has tried out his coq au vin with the Gevrey-Chambertin and also with a fruity, deep coloured Cabernet-Syrah Vin de Pays d'Oc.
"The coq au vin with the burgundy was okay but the marinade didn't particularly work and the flavour was merely mild and one dimensional. The dish made with the Cabernet Syrah was fantastically rich and layered with real intensity of flavour.
I am not saying that you should use bad wine for cooking. You just need to use the most appropriate wine. For instance, if a wine is too tannic, thin or aggressive for the dish then it doesn't matter how expensive it is,'' he said.
"I wouldn't use a wine costing more than £6 whether I am cooking at home or in Le Manoir's kitchens."
So how did the famous pie turn out? Fence Gate Inn owner Kevin Berkins assured me customers were more than satisfied with their dish, which cost them £8,000 - or £1,000 a slice. No wonder they washed it down with Louis Roederer's Crystal Rose Champagne rather than a few pints of mild.