My Night With Boris
Posted: 2nd March 2020
As regular readers of this blog are aware, in February I go down to the Domaine des Anges in the Ventoux region of Provence for a few days of R & R. It is a bit of a busman’s holiday in that there is a fair bit of cooking to do, but I am happy to perform that role when there is no shortage of good ingredients to be had.
February can actually be quite promising as you get close to the Mediterranean. The first spears of white asparagus are on sale as well as peppery little artichokes. There are blood oranges too. The butchers have tiny shoulders of new lamb and there is the last of the game. Truffles are also usually to hand, but the past few months have been too warm and too wet for them.
This year, my good friend Dave from Lucan had a mind to recreate what he said was an Italian dish called something like ‘volcanic tomatoes and eggs’. It sounded much like the sort of thing that I used to live on when I was hard up in Paris: tomatoes and aubergines cooked up in decent oil with a couple of eggs dropped in at the last moment. The slight difference here was the addition of a couple of fresh chillies, obtained like the tomatoes from the big vegetable shop by the war memorial in Carpentras.
The tomatoes were local, probably grown in a tunnel, but with plenty of flavour, and I dare say the eggs were fresh too. I just cut the tomatoes in half at the midriff, fried the open side in olive oil first and turned them over to add chopped chillies. Half a dozen eggs were accommodated in the gaps. ‘Dave’s eggs’ made a great light lunch.
Then there was the veal kidney. There was a call for me to devil that too, but it would have been a shame to add chillies to something as delicate as a veal kidney. As it was I mashed up butter with Meaux mustard and cooked the pieces of kidney pink in that, adding half a glass of white and a good big spoonful of crème fraîche at the last moment.
The kidney was a starter to a meal of sautéd rabbit. As it was I used a fair bit of the estate white to keep the bunny moist and threw in some whole cloves of garlic in their skins together the herbs that grow all around the mas. I then added some peeled baby turnips. I was pleased with this dish.
There is often a large bit of boar to deal with when I arrive. It is traditionally referred to as ‘Boris’. This year it was a proper haunch of Boris, which I committed to a bottle of red, oil and vinegar once I had wiped the dust off my boots and kept him marinating for a couple of days. Like that even an old boar can be tender. On his appointed day Boris was taken out of his bath which was reduced for the sauce with a lot of concentrated tomato paste and Madeira. Boris himself was roasted in the oven with a bouquet garni and came out soft and pink in well under two hours. He was served with a potato purée and the freshest of spinach.
Just three days after my return my neighbour Richard invited me to an all-star tasting of wines from the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer with one Pfälzer interloper. We started with a trio of sweet Kabinetts: 1993 Herrenberg from Maximin Grünhaus, 1997 Wehlener Sonnenuhr from Dr Loosen and a 2007 Abtsberg also from Maximin Grünhaus. The two older wines hardly even tasted sweet, although they must each have had thirty if not fifty grams of residual sugar. A stunning acidity favoured the first two, with the opening wine winning perhaps by a neck.
The next flight was the Spätlesen: the 2007 Abtsberg from Maximin Grünhaus, 2001 Piesporter Goldtröpfchen from Reinhold Haart, 2001 Brauneberger-Juffer Sonnenuhr from Fritz Haag, 2002 Wehlener Sonnenuhr from J J Prüm, 2003 Okfener Bockstein from Zilliken and the 2004 Wehlener Sonnenuhr again from Prüm. The 2001s possibly performed the least well and I expected the heat-wave year 2003 to be short on acidity, but it was not. The stars were the two Prüms and the Abtsberg. With some hesitation I think the Abtsberg was the best of the lot: interesting, when I had not been nearly so impressed by its Kabinett stablemate.
Then came Richard’s dinner and a trio of good German cheeses. We had some of the 2016 Maximin Grünhaus Pinot Noir with that, a wine born only a few years back, a decent Pinot Noir, but there are better to be had from elsewhere in Germany – even further north in the Ahr Valley. Many people opted to return to the Kabinetts which were not at all bad with the food. The super-sweet wines were served with raspberries and blueberries, or with cheese, according to taste. The third flight consisted of a 1998 Forster Ungeheuer Eiswein from von Buhl, a 2010 Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Beerenauslese from Selbach Oster and Daniel Vollenweider’s 2006 Wolfer Goldgrube Trockenbeerenauslese – an estate I had not encountered before. The Ungeheuer was a gorgeous wine without any shadow of doubt, but the Beerenauslese had a fresh apricot fruitiness that trounced it. The Trockenbeerenauslese was quite cloyingly sweet, more a miracle of nature than a wine.