Roasting Reds

If you can wipe the tears from your eyes after watching James Martin’s last ever Saturday Kitchen, you’ll be ready to prepare for the Easter Sunday celebrations! And never has the Sunday roast been more important to the enjoyment of the weekend than on Easter Sunday. The morning is like Christmas Day present opening wrapped in chocolate, so a good savoury meat fest is vital.

Lamb has long been the traditional Easter meat of choice but this year I fancied hogget as I am a huge fan of the flavour and texture. This slight variation had me very excited as I had memories of slow roasted hogget from many years ago on Saturday Kitchen. It was Leticia Dean’s heaven if I remember correctly and it was sooooooooo good! The joint of meat that left the studio as just bones on the roasting tray. But when I spoke to our local butcher here in Malahide, Barry Kerrigan (who happens to be one of Ireland’s finest butchers) he told me that by Easter weekend he’ll have the first of the new season Irish spring lamb in – ready for Easter Sunday. I have often wondered whether the fuss about spring lamb is ever worth it. I have never been convinced that the meat has the depth of flavour I want from a roast. But we’re going for it and I will see if it is as sensational as I want it to be.

So whatever your roast of choice, I’ve got some red wines that’ll put a smile on your face whether you’re eating or not.

I posted my favourite lamb shank recipe last week and recommended a fantastic Rioja Gran Reserva which sums up how much I love rich, slow cooked lamb with an oak aged beauty like that:

But I’m well aware that a) Not everyone will be having lamb and b) There are many more great red wines out there than Rioja. Some of the wines here will go so well with the lighter, more delicate flavour of spring lamb.

imageAsda have a gem that would be a welcome guest on any Sunday roast table. The Atlas Range is a beautifully labeled group of exclusive, specially selected wines that are easy on the pocket and the tongue. The wine that I fell in love with at first sip is the Atlas Frappato. This sunny grape variety is from Menfi in Sicily is made by one of the largest wine co-operatives which apparently employs the entire population of Menfi (Over 2,300 people). What this wine provides is an instant flavour hit of jammy blackcurrants mingled with chocolate covered raisins – And you get all this for under a fiver. If you have £4.97 in your pocket you can buy a bottle of this wine which will go fantastically with new season lamb, roast beef or indeed pot roasts. If you were cooking a wild boar stew, this wine would be amazing!

imageA little French number worth uncorking for the Easter Sunday roast is Marks & Spencer’s Lirac, a wine that is named after a village situated in the low hills on the right bank of the Rhône river in France. Apparently wines have been produced in the region since pre Roman times, and the wine producers have used their time to get this wine just right. Yes, it needs to breathe before you get the aray of flavours that make this wine shine in the glass but it’s worth the wait. The wine is made from Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cinsault grapes which are unoaked in the bottle. There’s a red berry flavour with a spicy finish with a tabaccoey hint which is smooth to the last drop. At £10, you can proudly show this off on the table and as I mentioned in my previous post, M&S have an exclusive online only 25% deal if you buy 2 or more bottles.

imageTesco have a fun little number in their Finest range which will be great this weeknend. Their Chilean Merlot from the Colchagua Valley has a really interesting fragrance which is like fresh blackcurrants and sun ripened raisons in a fresh breeze. In the glass it’s soft and juicy. It’s a 2015 vintage so it’s quite young so let it breathe – It gets much sweeter the longer you leave it so be patient. It’s softly tannic and there’s a lovely dryness to the flavour. After the blackberries at the start, there’s a savoury finish with a seriousness like some medium bodied Burgundies. It’ll be a treat with rich, dark gravy – so lamb and beef will love this wine. At £6 a bottle you’d be forgiven for buying loads of it. But as it’ll last in the wine rack for a couple of years, it doesn’t matter if you overload your basket!

imageAnother cheeky French number is Pic St Loup. It’s a fantasticly priced offering from Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference range. The wine is from France’s Langoudoc. The mount of St Loup is around 30 kilometres from the Mediterranean coast and is the perfect place to grow the grapes for a sophisticated red wine like this. A blend of Syrah and Grenache, this rich red is a snip at £6.50, down from £8 until 5th April. It’s herbaceous on the nose and has a hint of sweet almonds. When you taste it, it’s instantly tannic with a hint of tangy damsons and a soft finish. Not only will this wine be a fantastic partner for your roast, but it’ll be great with a cold cuts sarnie if you’ve got room on Easter Monday!

imageOn my first visit to California in 2006, I fell in love with some of the rich reds made in many of the wine regions around the state. Alan took me around great wineries and we travelled the state’s wine regions. The rich plumy wines with a twist of plack pepper were exciting and moreish! I still have the same enthusiasm for these wines today, even though it’s often hard to get good examples in the UK. Brazin 2013 is a wine made from the Zinfandel grape near the city of Lodi. The vines are between 40 and 100 years old and give a small amount of grapes that give a fabulously unique flavour. It’s pummy nose with with a tobaccoey licorice edge leads you to a dark and juicy sensation on the tongue oozing ripe black jammy fruit. Warm days and cool nights allow this grape to ripen and shine when eventually in the glass. Rich lamb or beef will LOVE this wine. It’s exclusive to Waitrose and is reduced from £12.99 to £9.69 until 12th April.

imageBut if after all that, you do fancy a drop of Rioja, a consistent good’n is Marqués de Riscal’s Rioja Reserva. The 2011, available in Majestic Wine Warehouse. It’s made from Tempranillo, Graciano and Mazuelo by a veey well respected wine producer. Majestic’s website tell’s the story very well. “In 1858, Don Guillermo Hurtado de Amézaga, the Marqués de Riscal brought groundbreaking winemaking techniques from Bordeaux and transformed the face of Rioja. The Reserva is one of their iconic wines, widely regarded as one of the top examples of traditional Rioja.” What this means in real terms is that you have a traditional and tasty wine! With a whiff of plums and toasty oak and the taste of full bodied ripe red fruit and a smooth vanilla finish, this wine is a great and reasonably priced at £9.99 on their mix 6 deal or £14.99 for a single bottle.

So, if you’ve left enough room for a good old traditional roast, open the wine, enjoy your meat and all the trimmings with a delicious drop of red….. Then you can go back to the chocolate for desert perhaps! Just finish the wine first. It won’t quite taste the same with your chocolate egg.