Delicious Vinos- Château Ksara Clos st Alphonse. Bekka Valley 2012.

I’m a true ambassador for the Middle East.  I would so love to see more wines being produced one day from the regions where I guess it could be embraced.  One thing is for sure, the terroirs and climates are wholly suitable. Naturally of course priorities in the region do not manifest in growing grapes. Lebanon however for me have just been getting better and better over the years and this year in particular there seems to be more awareness and penetration.  I was delighted to stumble on this particular wine in Marks and Spencer and snapped up a bottle at a very reasonable £10.  The 2012 Clos St Alphonse is a wonderful example of a well rounded and really beautiful wine.  All three grape varieties really shine through in equal measures, the silkiness of the Syrah, the warmth of the Cabernet Sauvignon and clay undertones of the Cabernet Franc. These grapes one can imagine being the best of friends as they gel wonderfully together. In all honesty this is going to be my midweek quaff from now on as it hits all my delighting criteria and très reasonable.  Mabrook!

  

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Chicken Boulangère with Cabbage,lardons and cream.

This dish sits firmly on my top five favourite and non stressful dishes to make.  One can use chicken or lamb, the lamb version takes much longer to produce falling off the bones lamb ( suggested 5-6 hours at 140 degrees centigrade).  The chicken version is still just as tasty and only takes around 2.5 hours in the oven plus 25 minutes prepping time.

This dish is an ambassador for slow comfort cooking as you can quite literally put it in the oven, go for a long walk, go to the pub or if with friends have drinks and nibbles before enjoying it later.  It’s a real hearty dish and the aromas are sublime.

This makes enough for for 6 hearty portions….

Take 4 kilos of potatoes, slice and line the base of a large relatively deep pan.  Add 3 sliced onions, mix with the potatoes, sprig some herbs, Tarragon, Thyme and Rosemary work well.  Place 2 medium chickens on top, drizzle with olive oil, season well with salt and black pepper and add 2.5 pints of heavy chicken stock.  Basically leave in the oven for 2.5 hours on 150 degrees centigrade and chillax.

Once cooked, take out of the oven for 20 mins to rest, in this time you can make your cabbage.  This cabbage dish is my daughter’s favourite thing in the world as its fabulously comforting and deliciously moorish.

Take 2.5 cabbages of your choice, shred finely and put into a deep pan with a generous dollop of olive oil.  Add 200gms of Olive oil and sauté for five minutes.  Add 200 grams of Bacon lardons and cook for a further 6 minutes or until cooked with a little bit of colour.  Turn the heat down, and add in 300 mls of double cream, simmer and season with some black pepper.  Finally stir in two tablespoons of whole grain mustard.

Enjoy with some crusty bread to mop up the sublime juices and of course a nice rustic glass of vin rouge..

   
 

Ten great reasons to stay at The Berkeley….

Last weekend the fam and myself treated ourselves to a petit getaway.  Due to dwindling funds caused by monster school fees, tutoring, paying for offspring’s post exam trauma holidays, a petit, petit minibreak most certainly had to be the order of the day.  So we decided upon an over night stay at The Berkeley and had the most amaze balls time.  Here’s why….

  1. Welcome- what a welcome, door men and reception staff deserve special kudos for their unbelievable attention to detail.  Extremely helpful with parking, rooming, knowledge etc etc.
  2. Floristry – quite simply the most beautiful flowers I’ve seen anywhere and they were everywhere ( girlie thing I know).
  3. Corridors- newly being refurbished, very swish, chic and full of grooviness.
  4. Lifts- very cute with a little sofa in them which my son took full advantage of.
  5. Bedrooms- love, love love….beautifully spacious      we had two connecting which we just left open and wandered about with a lovely lounge in the middle.  Nice touches, very cute goodie bags for the children, biscuits, macaroons, fruit and the all important champers    ( thank you muchly).
  6. Showers- I can only say that I’ve waited 43 years to have the best shower, oh my goodness you nailed it.  (Mention must also go to the peppermint toiletries that made parts of me tingle that I thought were dormant).
  7. Swimming pool- I did not hit the Gym or Spa but had two great swims.  Beautiful luxuries, perfect temperature, perfect size…    ( think the roof opens in the Summer), loved the little garden. Loved the teas handed to you as soon as you get out of the pool.  Fab robes and slippers, felt like a Greek Goddess swimming and padding around.  Read some great articles and found three new people to follow on Twitter.  Overall mind and soul top nourishment marks.
  8. Location- sadly did not dine in the hotel, we braved the Gorgeous English weather, and popped out for a light lunch, went to Soho for dinner. Harrods literally was a few minutes walk away, we took the children to look at all the things that if they study really hard, they may be able to afford one day. This  Actually has given my son a real kick, and he’s been  studying since we got back relentlessly so very educational me thinks.  Basically the location of The Berkeley is extremely convenient and when sadly finally departing, if driving literally you are out on the motorway really quickly.
  9. Good nights sleep- beds, pillows, duvets all wonderfully helpful in giving me a dreamy night of catching up on my sleep.  Next day the bags under my eyes had reduced significantly ( my eye bags are designer – just saying).
  10. Breakfast- for me the highlight.  Best buffet I’ve seen, loved it loved it.  My omelette was amazing, loved the fact I could see Pierre Koffman in the kitchen actually prepping with his chefs and cooking.  Bravo for breakfast! Those flowers again…..

I loved my stay, cannot wait to go back again maybe in the Summer.  Want to test out Marcus Waring’s culinary offer and swim with the roof off! I also picked up a bargain coat from Zara which was a real added bonus…