Friday, 29 January 2016

South African Wineries; Snigdha’s selection

South African wines are capable of turning the head of the most hardened European wine buff. Producing utterly world class wine, the wines of the Rainbow Nation can give the greatest producers from anywhere in the world a run for their money. Whether you love rich reds, young light reds, mineral whites, fruity whites, method traditionelle sparkling wines, Summery roses, ripe raisiny dessert wines, there is something for your palate to find delight in here.

There are hundreds of great wineries in South Africa, so I do not pretend to have visited them all or have sampled all their wares. I have my liver to think of! But these are my picks of the wine estates I visited recently. There were others which were fun to visit or where I had great food, but do not make the cut on their wines. I hope that these are representative of the best large and small producers, but further research will be necessary. I will be going back for more one day!

If you are visiting South Africa with a view to sampling the viniculture, then Platters wine guide is a great reference for you. Updated annually, it has a helpful writeup on each winery, with reports and ratings of their best wines. A five star review in this “wine bible” is a very big deal in South Africa, and an indicator of a very special wine.

Groot Constantia, Cape Town

The Groot Constantia estate is the oldest in South Africa, dating back to 1685. Its wines have been world famous for centuries and legend has it that Napoleon’s final request was a glass of Constantia wine. Now run as a wine farm producing excellent wine but with emphasis on preserving the heritage of this estate, you get a sense of history without being trapped in a museum.

The beautiful estate is a pleasure to walk around and you can take in views of Table Mountain as well as the vines. 

Wine tastings and meals are available, but why not try something a little different? A bespoke chocolate and wine tasting is available, where the white, milk and dark chocolates and their flavourings have been developed to match with Groot Constantia’s white and red wines.

Clos Malverne, near Stellenbosch

Making wine since 1986, this winery was one of the first to make a “classic Cape blend” wine, making use of the grape varieties which are more characteristically South African.

The grapes have their juices extracted by an antiquated and labour intensive process; the basket press. This method, done completely by hand, does not denigrate the grape skins, vital for adding colour and tannins to their red wines. 

The Auret red wine is spectacular. As is the food in the superb restaurant with vineyard views. Very popular with locals, you need to book. If you want a table on the veranda looking directly over the vines and mountains, you should book early.

Warwick Estate, between Stellenbosch and Paarl

This is a family run winery, famous for its prizewinning “The First Lady” unoaked Chardonnay. Norma Ratcliffe is the “First Lady” of Warwick; the first woman to become a member of the Cape Winemakers Guild and the first to be its Chairperson.

The First Lady Unoaked Chardonnay is a revelation to those of us who convinced ourselves we didn’t like New World Chardonnay in the 1990s due to the industrial strength oaking of these wines.
Research, naturally!
I had a super picnic here at Warwick, carefully selected, locally sourced light bites, cold cuts and salad (grown in the gardens) in the sunshine looking over the lovely scenery, washed down by the wonderful “Professor Black” Sauvignon Blanc.

Aaldering, Devon Valley, Stellenbosch

Fons and Marianne Aaldering set up this wine farm in 2004 with big ambitions to be one of the best in South Africa. This very small, almost “boutique” winery is punching well above its weight, having won awards in both Europe and China. 

The red wines are the star here, with their Pinotage and their Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot blend being some of the best I tasted. 

The peace and quiet of Devon Valley are another draw for this cute little wine estate.

You can stay in one of three traditional Cape Dutch lodge houses if you plan on spending time in the vicinity of Stellenbosch.

Bramon, Plettenberg Bay (near Knysna), The Garden Route

Most of the wineries of South Africa are in the Stellenbosch/Paarl area. However, this winery is located on the “Garden Route”; the expanse of woods and greenery you reach as you leave the Karoo, sandwiched between the hills and coast. 

“Bramon” is the conflation of the names of brother and sister owners Bram and Manon Thorpe, the winery being a real family concern. 

The proximity to the sea adds coolness and sea breeze to the superb “MCC” wines. MCC? Methodé Cap Classique, the same method used to make Champagne (being a protected region, no-one outside of the Champagne region can use the word “Champagne”, which is why you may see “method traditionelle” used elsewhere in the world).

Bramon run an eatery with great house-made tapas, inspired by local ingredients. The Bobotie cigars are a novel spin on a quintessentially South African dish.

Snigdha has not received any incentive, financial or otherwise for posting these recommendations. 

Thursday, 21 January 2016

January 2016 Favourites List

Happy New Year, readers! Please forgive me for expressing this wish fairly late in January. I have sadly had little time for blogging this month, which I hope to correct as the year progresses.

For me, 2016 started excellently. I was travelling around the Western Cape area of South Africa, enjoying Cape Town, the Wine Country and the Garden Route. Beautiful places, full of natural beauty, with wonderful food, world class wines and fantastic people.

Coming home to the cold is always a bit of a shocker. But I returned to the cold (and the arduous commute from South East London to the centre of town) and then was struck the blow of discovering that David Bowie, a musical hero of mine and an undoubted legend, had passed away. I hope I won't be ridiculed, but I cried real, large, heartily sobbed tears on the day his death was announced. I don’t intend to write a eulogy or obituary here. Many have already done so, and in better fashion than I can manage. I simply trust that this disclosure may explain the unifying theme to the music section of this month’s Favourites List. 

To cheer you up, since I know many of you have been mourning the loss of David Bowie, Alan Rickman and Glenn Frey, I thought I’d share some fun and colourful pictures of Cape Town’s Bo Kaap area. This is a Muslim neighbourhood of Cape Town where the residents celebrate their heritage and nationality by painting their houses in vivid and vibrant colours. In the intense and bright sunshine of the Western Cape, the colours appear more pure and searing. I hope you like them.


Spicy, marinaded pork belly you can cook indoors in the cold Winter but can be upgraded to grill cooking outdoors later in the year.

Sea bass is in season, try Cyrus Todiwala’s Indian stuffed sea bass with a tomato patia, influenced by his Parsee heritage. Don’t fear cooking fish!

Seasonal persimmons baked into a fragrant cake by Lisa at Cookwitch Creations:

Risotto reimagined: pearl barley is the star here, in place of risotto rice.

Wahaca's Thomasina Meirs' new recipes: chicken in fragrant broth and udon noodles with spring greens, for post festive season light eating:

Finger food is always more fun! Minted lamb lollipops with mint sauce dip:

Articles/Know How:

As the temperature drops, a mug of hot chocolate is like a warming hug. Here are some tips on making fab hot chocolate:

Jay Rayner nails what goes wrong in restaurants. Only a couple of weeks ago, I had my order taken "sans notebook". Him Indoor's dish was forgotten by our waiter. Unless you are a memory champion, write my order down!

A very different view on the food trends for this new year. Restaurants you can hear your conversation in? South Indian/Sri Lankan hoppers? I like what I see!

Diana Henry on stir frying, including seasoning a wok (only works with steel woks with no non-stick coating):

Other lovely stuff:


Mr Holmes

Testament Of Youth


The Martian


Sherlock (New Years Day 2016 Edition)

Luther (Season 4)


David Bowie – Hunky Dory

David Bowie – The Next Day

David Bowie - The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars

David Bowie – Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)

David Bowie - Blackstar

The Maccabees – Marks To Prove It

Please note: as with every monthly Favourites List, all of these items have been selected by me simply because I love them. I do not receive any money, benefits in kind or other incentive for posting these links or recommendations.

Monday, 21 December 2015

December 2015 Favourites List

Last month I shared my pictures from the beginning of 2015 where I found enjoyment and inspiration in the street art of Penang, Malaysia. 

(If you didn't see it before, you can see that earlier instalment here:

But the energy, free expression and beauty of their heady and superbly creative art scene cannot be encapsulated in just the one set of photos. 

As a result, I am going back to Penang to bring you some more amazing street art images, encompassing humour, romance, whimsy, technique and soul.


Lentil and apricot pilaf with spiced cauliflower:

Crap at baking like me? How about making a mug cake! With either a creme egg or Lindt choc ball melty middle?

Fantastic collection of the key dishes of my parents' amazing culinary heritage. Remember many of these dishes with great fondness.

Sprouts are not just for Christmas. Don't take my word for it, here's Cookwitch Lisa with a mushroom and sprout salad for Winter:

Comfort food vegetarian supper from Nigel Slater - butterbean mash with sauteed mixed mushrooms:

This Chinese style stir fry recipe is vegetarian, using cauliflower. I might add some king prawns.

For Christmas dinner accompaniment or just a side for Sunday lunch, the flavours of the Eastern Mediterranean make this original and exotic:

Hot rum punch - Rum, cognac and sherry, with cinnamon

Angela from Patisserie Makes Perfect posts a gorgeously festive Christmassy bake recipe - Raspberry and white chocolate kugelhopf:

Articles/Know How:

Baking hacks and tips, for those of you who are baking competent:

Food, drink and cooking Christmas present inspiration from Kavita:

Good Things magazine selects its top restaurants for the Winter; Sexy Fish, Orange Elephant, Smith & Wollensky, among others.

The best new restaurants and bars in London according to the Telegraph:

The best cookbooks for Christmas and the New Year as selected by Kavita at Kavey Eats:

Obviously the *only* (ie my way!) is white br
ead, lightly buttered, tartare sauce (mayonnaise if you've run out) and a slice of cheddar cheese. The fish finger butty is a British food classic!

What you might have missed at Snig's Kitchen:

Planning for 25th December? Let Waitrose wines help you choose your wines for Christmas:

Recipe blog post - creamy pork and mushroom pasta for cold Winter evenings, "Woodland Pasta":


Les Revenants (The Returned) Season 2

Sounds of the 70s


Pet Shop Boys – Actually
Mogwai – Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will
FKA Twigs – LP1
Billy Bragg – Tooth and Nail

Please note: as with every monthly Favourites List, all of these items have been selected by me simply because I love them. I do not receive any money, benefits in kind or other incentive for posting these links or recommendations.

Friday, 11 December 2015

Woodland Pasta

We have almost made it to the end of the year, and we are well and truly in the big run up to Christmas. It's a hectic time. Shopping needs to be done, plans made for the big day, presents to be wrapped. Some of us who still bother to send Christmas cards have to get them written out and sent in good time. Then there's the Christmas party season, work shingdigs with employers old and new, the spouse's work party that you HAVE to go to, the overdue catch up with friends "before the New Year starts". It's easy to fall into the takeaway and microwave meal pattern of evening dinners when life is so chaotic.

What I have here is a simple dish which is relatively quick to make. It is warming and rich. Although I dislike Autumn and Winter weather, something I put down to feeling the cold very intensely, the food of the late seasons I enjoy very much. And I love cooking them as much as I enjoy eating them. Winter calls for comfort food, and this is comforting and satisfying.

This is food which should reassure and relieve the lack of sunshine and complete lack warmth of the season, providing the necessary "central heating" for the body when not indoors.

Pasta provides the base to many simple dishes for post-work suppers. The immense versatility of pasta, its ease of cooking make it perfect for quick and easy dinners. It is also perfect for Wintry dishes, whether served with a simple sauce or baked into a sumptuous, hot, bubbling comfort dish made in heaven!

My "Woodland Pasta" is inspired by the Italian dishes Pasta di Bosco (pasta of the forest) and Spaghetti di profumo di bosco (spaghetti with the smell of the woods). The common thread between these dishes being mushrooms, raw pork or ham and cream. Mine is luxuriant and indulgent through the addition of beautiful and fragrant fresh herbs, grated parmesan cheese (for extra rich umami flavours) and truffle oil for richness.

This is a simple dish, despite the list of ingredients, and as long as you soak the porcini as soon as you get in from work, is a very achievable worknight supper dish.

Woodland Pasta

Serves 3 people (or 2 very hungry/greedy people)


350g Minced pork

5g Dried Porcini mushrooms

3 Chestnut mushrooms, finely sliced

200ml White wine

150ml Double cream

3 cloves Garlic, very finely diced

1.5-2 tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

1 sprig fresh rosemary, leaves removed and finely chopped

3 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped

5 tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese

150g pasta (I used De Cecco fusilli)

Olive oil

Truffle oil


You need to rehydrate the porcini first. In a large mug, soak the porcini in boiling water for at least 20 minutes to half an hour. 

Put a large pan of unsalted water onto the heat for cooking the pasta.

Drain the soaked porcini and chop finely.

Cook your pasta in boiling water until al dente. In the meantime, you will need to work on the steps below.

In a non-stick frying pan, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and mix for one minute.

Add the rosemary, sage, porcini and chestnut mushrooms. Stir occasionally and cook for 5 minutes.

Remove from pan and put aside on a plate.

Heat pan, and fry the pork until it has changed colour. Drain away excess liquid.
Put the mushroom mixture and pork back into the pan.
Add the white wine, parsley, salt and pepper, turn up the heat until you cannot smell the wine strongly. (Until the harshness of the alcohol has gone). About 5 minutes.
Now add the double cream, continue cooking for about 5 or so minutes, as you are trying to get the sauce to thicken a little.
When the pasta is cooked, drain. Reserve 3-5 tablespoons of cooking water, just in case.
Mix the pasta with the sauce, combining thoroughly.
Serve up into bowls. 
Top with a drizzle of truffle oil, adding as much as your taste prefers. Sprinkle the grated Parmesan cheese on top.
Enjoy immediately.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Waitrose Wines - Christmas picks

It is the first of December, the first day of the Christmas season. It's the first day you can put your Christmas decorations up, open the first door of your advent calendar and generally start feeling festive. 

Some of you might be beginning to plan your Christmas dinner, and so I thought that it might help you to identify some fab wines for the big day.

I recently attended a tasting at Waitrose's Cookery School in London for Waitrose's seasonal drink selections. There was a bewildering array of booze available. I knew I would need some help. 

Thankfully, Cat Lomax, an experienced, knowledgeable wine buyer for Waitrose specialising in Bordeaux, Rhone, Alsace, Austrian and Sparkling wines noticed my confused expression and decided to give me a guided tour of the selections.   

I was very lucky that Cat took me under her wing to help choose these wines, they are the pick of the wines I tried with her help.

Sparkling wines

Most of you are likely to kick off the shenanigans of Christmas day with some bubbly and a toast to a fabulous day of celebrations. Fortunately, there are ample choices for varied budgets and varied party sizes.

San Leo Prosecco Brut, NV, Italy, 1.5l £20.99

Prosecco is a word fast becoming synonymous for party. You'd also be hard pressed to beat the "wow factor" of a Magnum, a full double size bottle! But is the wine inside any good? Cat, my guide to the new range is so enthusiastic about this Prosecco, she had it at her recent engagement party. That's quite a big endorsement. I tasted it and thought it was wonderful frothy fun; highly drinkable, round, soft, yet fresh. Cat highlighted the fresh tones of pear as another standout feature of this Prosecco. Suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

Nyetimber Classic Cuvee 2010, West Sussex, England £31.99

Cherie Spriggs grows her grapes on the Lee of the South Downs, in the shelter from the coastal winds. The chalk seam in West Sussex falls deeper underground, leading all the way to the Champagne region across the Channel, a clue as to why England sparkling wines made by le method traditionelle are giving bona fide Champagne a run for its money. This wine won a prestigious IWC Silver Medal, proving its quality and refinement. Good sparkling wine, particularly Champagne, needs acidity in the grape alongside ripeness, which our climate is ideal for achieving. Made of 51% Pinot Noir, 36% Chardonnay and 13% Pinot Meunier, the Nyetimber is crisp and clean with toasty brioche flavours.

Pol Roger Vintage 2004 Champagne £56.99

Still a family run concern, Pol Roger is different from many of the other Champagne houses. It is a far smaller producer than its better known rivals.  This Champagne consists of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay. Cat advised me that 2004 was a good year, which is why Pol Roger considered it worthy of a single vintage. I would describe it as an elegant and fine Champagne with lemony citrus flavours, well above the level of ordinary supermarket Champagne. This wine is for a special celebration. Cat noted freshly made bread dough, yeastiness and praised its refined, precise character and crisp, refreshing flavours. Suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

White wines

The early courses of your Christmas dinner are likely to be seafood or fish. Dressed crab, smoked salmon, lobster, pan fried fish. You will want white wines which go well with food, but are not too overpowering. Cat guided me towards white wines which, whilst having different characteristics, are great for food pairing.

Domaine Saint Amant La Tabardonne 2012, Cotes du Rhone Villages, France £14.99

Made from 90% Viognier and the relatively unknown Rousanne grape (making up the other 10%), this wine is made in the Phone region, not known for their white wines. Made by a husband and wife team, grown on small chalky clay terraces, this wine deserves notice. Hand picked, the grapes are crushed by gravity and fermented on oak barrels. I thought after 1990s New World hyper-oaking that I didn't like oaked wines. I avoided them wherever I could. I have learned that you can't hold rigid opinions with wine; techniques change, seasons, weather and geography xast their spell. This wine had richness and body with a long plead finish.

Le Crocher d'Amelie 2014 Sancerre, Loire, France £17.49

100% Sauvignon Blanc as all Sancerre should be, this is a wonderful wine for food.  Sancerre has long been a go-to wine for me when food matching owing to its brilliant balance of flavour, sweetness and acidity. Jean-Max Roger and his sons Thibault and Etienne grow the grapes in the village of Bue and hamlet of Amigny on clay-limestone soil of Jurassic origins. But don't worry, this wine is no dinosaur; it is elegant with herbaceous garden aromas. The flavour and finish are refined and restrained. A fabulous wine for all palates. Suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

Red wines

Some people eschew the traditional turkey dinner for something more substantial, demanding the depth and fruit of red wines. There were plenty of great red wines available in the Winter selection, these being my favourites. 
Domaine Lucien Muzard 2013 Santenay, Premier Cru Maladiere, Burgundy, France £19.99

Burgundy, France is the home of the iconic beef stew Boeuf Bourguignon, traditionally made with Burgundy wine. The region is not as reknowned as other French wine regions, and can be intimidating for the wine novice because there are so many small appellations. This wine, made by brothers and small producers Herve and Claude Muzard is 100% Pinot Noir and is aged for 12 months in oak barrels. This wine is for the Pinot Noir sceptic (as I indeed am). I found it aromatic and earthy, with red currant fruit. It is not too high in tannins and has a slightly gamey flavour. I enjoyed this wine as it was balanced with a fresh finish. I sometimes find Pinot Noir harsh, so this was a real find. It is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

Villa Antinori 2012, Tuscany, Italy £14.99

Made from a blend of Sangiovese grapes with small quantities of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah, this wine is made by a respected producer in the trade. The post-picking treatment of the grapes was devised to give good colour and aroma. It smells fruity, full of black cherry and red fruits. The 12 months spent in oak barrels gives a spiciness. The finish was fresh and balanced. Cat recommends this as an ideal wine for complementing fatty, rich dishes, owing to its soft, ripe tannins and fresh acidity.

Sweet/dessert wines

It may well be that you make it through the grazing and snacking of Christmas morning (with ritual present opening!), the rigours of a full Crimbo dinner and have some space left for pudding. If so, you might be looking for a dessert wine to finish a memorable day with. Cat has a doozy for you!

Crociani 2010 Vin Santo di Montepulciano Tuscany Italy 37.5cl £19.49

With its attractive Medieval label, this Vin Santo would round off Christmas dinner a treat! Made of 90% Malvasia and 10% Pulcinculo (Grechetto Bianco) grapes by Susanna Crociani. Deep coloured, this wine has flavours of caramel and honey. Cat encouraged me to taste the subtler toasted almonds and slightly burnt marmalade tones she found. If you're generous, you might leave a wee glass for Father Christmas to have with his Christmas Eve mince pie. Otherwise, it would be great with Christmas cake, or with the cheese board after dinner. It goes particularly well with hard cheese served with dried fruits and apricots. Comte cheese is a fabulous partner!

If you are interested in any of these wines, you can check them out at the Waitrose Cellar website:
You can order wines to collect from your local branch if you do not want to order for a full delivery. 

I would like to convey my heartfelt thanks to Cat for her time and trouble in helping me find these wines. These are only a small selection of the wines she picked for me. Her knowledge and expertise is truly impressive and inspirational.

I would also thank Waitrose Wines for inviting me to their tasting event. I attended as their guest. 

Snigdha has not received any incentive, financial or otherwise for writing this blog post.