Guest spot: Winning Combinations by Katherine Dodd and Paul ArguilePosted by Fiona Nevile in Vegetarian | 0 comments
Despite us eating up half a weekend – precious when you have schedules as hectic as theirs – Fiona and Danny generously welcomed us into their cosy, log-fire-warmed cottage with good cheer. Sitting around the table, with Min Pins at close quarters and the night closing in, we warmed ourselves with good stories, hearty wine and Danny’s deliciously melting slow-roasted lamb.
I’m sorry to disappoint those of you with fingers poised ready to email Fiona out of the blue with your self-invitations. I do know Fiona and Danny already; I’d met them once before when I visited their house with my father and Jocelyn, who are their friends.
Although it had been over a year ago, the flavour of that summer’s evening stayed with me a long time. The two of them are great raconteurs, lovely company. Fiona’s stories are often accompanied by descriptive sound effects and are frequently rib tickling. When Danny talks about anything delicious the warm burr of his voice almost conjures up the smell of the coffee, cheese, slow-roast casserole or whatever it is he happens to be describing.
Both of them twinkle, even when they’re tired. Their warm hug of a cottage is full of colour and objects, each of which look like they have their own story. They are two of that ilk that like to embrace life and everything it throws their way while enjoying all the good things in it to the best of their abilities.
I saw for myself what you read about in these blog pages; the blowsy garden with the chicken coop, the bursting larder, the kitchen garden with neat fences to keep The Contessa and Dr Quito from gambolling all over the lettuces. And I loved it, this winning combination. Take any of the ingredients away – cottage, garden, Danny, Fiona, chickens, Min Pins, stories, wine, bursting larder, gleaming rows of Kilner jars full of Belgian Pears (my favourite), chutneys and pickles – and something will be missing.
When Paul and I visited again last month, we took a different winning combination we’d discovered with us, in an attempt to go some way towards making up for our cheekiness. We really wanted Danny and Fiona to taste them together; a bottle of white Western Australian wine, a tub of marinated artichokes and a wrinkly grey goat’s cheese.
The wine in question is a 2003 Sauvignon Blanc Semillion from the Margaret River called Suckfizzle to take to Danny and Fiona. It’s rich, crisp and smoky and is luscious when accompanied with artichokes and goat’s cheese. The cheese we took was one of the French kind we prefer with the grey wrinkly bloom, often half-spherical or shaped like a ziggurat. This variety of goat’s cheese is creamy, fresh, tangy and quite pert and the one we like in particular with our Suckfizzle is called Taupiniere. The tub full of marinated artichoke hearts were from a deli. I know we cheated, but they were good.
The simplest way of experiencing this winning combination is to slurp mouthfuls of the gently chilled Suckfizzle in between forkfuls of marinated artichokes from a shared bowl, alternating with slices of the fresh goat’s cheese. But you can eat the winning combination in different ways, according to the season and your mood. Here are two other ways of experiencing it; the baked version is a soothing winter dish, with different textures and flavours waking up the palate while the pasta is a quick supper version.
As for the other winning Cottage Smallholding combination I mention here – well – we count ourselves lucky to have had the opportunity to experience the real thing. We can vouch for that one too.
Baked artichoke hearts with goat’s cheese and pitta crunchy bits recipe
One large fresh globe artichoke per person as a starter, or two as a main course
- About 250 grams marinated artichoke hearts if fresh ones are out of season like they are now
- One half of a French grey wrinkly goat’s cheese as described above
- Good quality olive oil
- Ground black pepper
- Half a pitta bread per person
- Blades from a sprig of fresh thyme or ? tsp dried thyme.
Pre-heat oven to 180?c or Gas Mark 4
Fresh globe artichokes are now out of season, but the olive oil marinated artichokes you get in delicatessens are equally good and taste somehow more wintry. If you have fresh artichokes, boil them in a panful with water (about 20-35 minutes, depending on the size of your artichokes), take off the outer leaves (saving the fattest ones to scrape of the fleshy base with your teeth later) and remove the choke to leave the dish-like heart. Lay the cleaned hearts in an oiled baking dish and lay slices of the goat’s cheese on top. If you are using the marinated artichokes, halve them horizontally and put the goat’s cheese slices on top as above. Sprinkle with thyme and season with black peppers. Goat’s cheese is usually salty enough without adding any extra but it depends on the variety you choose, so add some if you feel it needs it.
Put the dish in the preheated oven, along with the split pitta bread – just bung on the oven shelf alongside the dish. The pitta should be crisp and golden after about 10-15 minutes but keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn. Bake the artichoke and goat’s cheese for about 20 minutes, or until golden. Crush the baked pitta and scatter the crumbs over the top. Serve while hot.
To give this more wintry substance, add a layer of steamed or boiled potatoes drizzled with olive oil under the artichoke and cheese before baking.
Artichoke and goat’s cheese pasta recipe
- 1 shallot per person
- Goat’s cheese – ? piece per person
- Artichokes – one fresh heart (steam or bake) or 100g of marinated, sliced
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- agliatelle verde – two dried bundles per person
Gently fry the chopped shallots in the oil in a frying pan. When golden, add the sliced artichokes. In the meantime, boil the pasta until al dente, drain and toss with virgin olive oil. Add the fried artichokes and slices of goat’s cheese, mix together and serve hot with Suckfizzle or similar.
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