Sophie Davenport’s best bits of Bucks!

Liz Nicholls

Food & Recipes

For our May vox pop, Sophie Davenport, managing director of Widmer End-based SFE Services, shares her favourite things about local life

Q. Hello Sophie! Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
“I am a mum of two daughters aged 13 and eight. We’ve lived in Holmer Green with my husband Grant for five years now. I’m originally from Maidenhead, and Grant is from High Wycombe.”

Q. What does your company do & what do you have on the horizon?
“SFE Services Air Conditioning & Refrigeration Ltd serves commercial and residential clients in Bucks. This year we’ll be sponsoring and attending the Holmer Green Sports Association Beer Festival, continuing our sponsorship with Wycombe Wanderers Football Club and supporting events for Rennie Grove Peace Hospice Care charity.”

Q. What do you most love about where you live?
“Holmer Green has a lovely village feel. The common has a fantastic playground and is great for the kids to play and for a picnic in the summer. Having shops in the village and close by in Hazlemere is so convenient and saves trips into town.”

Q. What pets do you have?
“A British Bulldog, Lola, a Boerboel called Kion and my daughter has a pony, Jim. Our favourite places to walk or ride are the fields in Little Missenden, Penn Woods and West Wycombe. We take our dogs to Posh Paws in Widmer End and I recommend The Barking Barbers in Stokenchurch.”

Q. What are your favourite restaurants or pubs?
“Old Oak in Holmer Green for the best Sunday roasts! The Hit or Miss in Penn Street, Old Queen’s Head in Penn. Browns & Prelibato in Beaconsfield and Zaza in Amersham.”

Q. What about star businesses?
“Nathan’s fruit & veg in Holmer Green; the staff are super-friendly, and it has a great selection of quality produce. Hildreth Garden Centre in Prestwood is my go-to for a mooch and has a lovely café. The Square café in Holmer Green has the best hot chocolate. I go to Mulberry’s in Beaconsfield when I need pure relaxation! B2 Chalfont Clinic also deserves a shout-out: acupuncturist Kate is second to none.”

Q. Any hidden local gems?
“The bluebells in Penn Woods and Common Wood are a must-see. And the trip wouldn’t be complete without a stop at The Squirrel or Hit or Miss.”

“The bluebells in Penn Woods and Common Wood are a must-see.”

Q. What highlights are you looking forward to later this year?
“Holmer Green Sports Association’s beer festivals in May & August and garage night in September. Hell Fire Caves at Halloween is great fun. Then, at Christmas, visiting Waddesdon Manor with the family.”

Q. Are you a member of any groups?
“BoB [Business Over Breakfast] Club in Wycombe, run by Tina Duggan from Oven Loving. I’ve met so many talented local business owners.”

Q. If you could make one wish for the world, what would it be?
“Id wish for a world free from judgment and full of empathy, where individuals are celebrated for their uniqueness rather than condemned for their differences.”

Spring Reds

Round & About

Food & Recipes

Wine columnist Giles Luckett gives us his recommendations for spring red wines. From Pinot Noir to Malbec, these red wines will put a spring in your step

Hello. Having delved into some spring whites last time, I thought I’d plump for some spring reds as, like wine, I’m all about balance. As the weather continues to break all records for all the wrong reasons, I’ve plumped for wines that will work as well with cool evening suppers as sunny day solo sippers. So, whatever the weather brings, with these you’ll be full of the joys of spring.

First up one of four Pinot Noirs. I could happily have filled this, and several other columns, with recommendations of great Pinots. But out of concern for R&A’s bandwidth, not to mention my liver, I’ll stick with these pretty Pinots for now.

Hurrah Pinot Noir

I’ve often said that Chile is a vine’s idea of heaven; not too hot, not too cold, with ocean views and poor, well-drained soils. OK, so it’s not my idea of heaven, but I’m not a vine. Put its location together with one of the most talented winemaking teams in the southern hemisphere and you have somewhere that even this notoriously fickle grape can feel at home.

The Errazuriz Reserva Pinot Noir (Amazon £11.90) is a great example of how good Chilean Pinot Noir can be. Mid-red, the bouquet offers fresh strawberries and raspberries with a hint of jam, rose petals, and mint. Medium-bodied, but with good intensity, there are plenty of red berry fruits with highlights of citrus and underlying oaky creaminess that’s punctuated by pepper and spices. This was lovely with lamb, but I can see it working well with everything from pizza to pasta, or as a solo sipper with salty nibbles.

I’ll stay in the southern hemisphere for my second choice, the Vila Maria Private Bin Pinot Noir (Tesco £13). This hails from Marlborough, a region best known for its thrilling Sauvignon Blancs, and while this is a very different kettle of fish/bottle of wine, the region’s signatures are in evidence. Rose petal red, the nose is zesty, fresh and positively leaps out of the glass in its eagerness to please. On the palate, this energy continues to show as an abundance of summer berries, rhubarb, and cherries burst forth, followed by pepper and savoury minerals. This is great fun and for the money, it’s great value. Serve this with red meats, pork or pink fish – the acidity means it will work as well as a white.

Staying in New Zealand but heading south we come to Central Otago. Central Otago was the world’s most southerly wine region for many years, but that crown’s been lost to Chubut in Argentine Patagonia. What hasn’t been lost is Central Otago’s ability to craft world-class Pinots such as the Central Otago Pinot Noir 2019 (Adnams £19.99). Getting a Pinot of this quality with some bottle age at this price is a real find. Deeply coloured with a nose that’s dominated by brambles, with touches of black cherry and vanilla smoke, it has a lovely mouthfeel with plenty of glycerine. The dominant tones are blackberry, and boysenberry, with sour cherries and spices coming in at the finish. They’ve not tried to force the extraction, and that gives it a lovely flow and a refined, elegant profile.

France knows a thing or two about great Pinot Noir. And while the wines of Burgundy can fetch eye-watering sums – Leroy’s Musigny 2015 is £144,000 a bottle – brilliantly compelling examples can be enjoyed by us mortals too. Take the Château de la Terriere Pinot Noir Sauvage 2019 (Edencroft Fine Wines £24.35). This full-throttle Pinot Noir, with great depth of flavour that comes from the Coteaux Bourguignons (Burgundy Hills). Strawberries, black cherries, loganberries and savoury-tinted raspberries are all on show, as is a touch of liquorice, spices and cream to the finish. It also contains no added sulphur, which is good for people for whom red wine can give them headaches.

Marvellous Malbec

It was world Malbec Day on the 17th April – so I thought I’d suggest a couple of Malbecs that have recently brought a smile to my lips. The first is the Adnams Malbec (Adnams £8.49). The thing I like about this is that it’s a stripped-down, fresh honest representation of Malbec. It’s not been oaked into submission, they haven’t tried to over-extract it or do something clever, rather they’ve let the grape do the talking. Plump black cherries, damsons, blackberries and an overtone of violets make for a joyful glassful.

My second Malbec is the Los Olivos from Malbec masters, Zuccardi (Taurus Wines £13.75). The weighty bottle is a forerunner of what’s to come. Very dark and inky, the nose offers classic Malbec aromas of blackcherries, damsons, and white pepper. The powerful palate is saturated with stewed black fruits with lowlights of prune and mulberry, given a lift by cranberry, raspberry liqueur, vanilla, and a long, smoky finish. I had this with a steak and it was excellent, but it would be lovely with cheese or roasted vegetables.

Old and New World Classics

As you may know, France is quite a big place. I looked it up on Google Maps the other day, and it completely filled the scree, it’s that big. Being big it can fit a lot of wine regions into it, some of the lesser known of which can yield fantastic wines for sensible money. Take the Château de Sabazan 2018 (The Wine Society £16.50). This hails from Saint Mont – turn left at Toulouse, you can’t miss it – and is made from Tannat, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinenc. The light, sandy soils give elegant wines full of refinement and nuance which need some time to open up. This is just starting to blossom and is showing blackcurrant and bramble fruit with a touch of leaf tea and brown spices. Give this a couple of hours open and serve with the Sunday joint, mushroom roast, or a cassoulet.

I’ll end with a vintage of a wine that’s become a staple in our house, it’s the Yalumba Old Bush Vine Grenache (Latitude £18.50). Australian Grenache has come a long way in the past few years. Once planted for its love of heat and ability to produce abundant harvest, by giving this noble variety the respect it deserves, quality-focused producers such as Yalumba have unlocked Grenache’s fine wine potential. Mid-red, with a lovely, intricate bouquet of red cherries, raspberries and cedar, this soft, yet rich wine, is full of cherry and strawberry fruit, with violets and almonds adding complexity. As good on its own as it is with dishes such as spaghetti Bolognese, falafel salad, or a pizza, it never fails to impress.

Well, that’s it for now. Next time out I’ll be talking fizz with a producer profile of the mighty Graham Beck.


Green & easy! Wonderful watercress recipes

Round & About

Food & Recipes

May brings us the start of British watercress season, thanks to The Watercress Company’s recipes

Watercress is packed with over 50 vitamins and minerals, including exceptionally high levels of vitamins C, E and A, folate and calcium.  It is also rich in iron (nearly twice as much as spinach) that’s more easily absorbed, making it an essential addition to any vegetarian or vegan diet.  

Another little-known fact about watercress relates to amino acids; compounds that play many critical roles in the body, including regulating the immune function and building muscle. The best sources of essential amino acids are animal proteins like meat, eggs, and poultry but, unusually for a plant, watercress has a full complement of the nine essential amino acids.

Hot honey salmon  & watercress salad


• 80g watercress

• Two salmon fillets

• One lemon, quartered

• One avocado, sliced

For the hot honey:

• 50ml honey

• Two garlic cloves, halved

• 1-2 tsp chilli flakes

For the quick pickled red onions:

• ½ red onion, thinly sliced

• 2tbsp vinegar – white wine
or apple cider

• ½ tsp salt

•1tsp sugar

“Watercress has a full complement of the nine essential amino acids”


1.        For the hot honey, warm the honey gently in a small pan. Add the garlic and chilli flakes and allow to infuse. Once fragrant and spicy, remove from the heat.

2.        For the red onions, in a bowl or jar with a lid, add the sliced onion. Pour over the vinegar before sprinkling
in the salt and sugar. Give it a mix, or shake, to combine and
let it sit while you prepare everything else.

3.        Brush one side of the salmon with the hot honey. Lay it coated side down in a hot pan and cook for five or six minutes. Brush the topside with a little more of the honey, flip and repeat.

4.        To assemble the salad, split the watercress between two plates. Add ½ the avocado to each plate. Top with the salmon fillets and a spoonful of the red onion. Drizzle everything with a little more of the hot honey.

5.        Serve with the lemons, squeezing fresh lemon juice over everything.

Ä Roast broccoli, Parmesan & watercress salad


• 140g broccoli florets, about half a head of broccoli

• 40g watercress

• 30g Parmesan, shaved

• 15g pomegranate seeds

•Oil, salt & pepper


1.         Preheat the oven to 180°. On a baking tray, arrange the broccoli florets. Spray or drizzle a little oil over the broccoli and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for about 10-12 mins, until the broccoli is cooked.

2.         In a bowl, toss the cooked broccoli together with the watercress and arrange on a plate. On top, shave the parmesan over the salad. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds for a pop of sweetness.

For these and other inspiring watercress recipes, visit or find LoveWatercress on Facebook and Instagram

Recipes from Gennaro’s new Verdure cookbook

Round & About

Food & Recipes

We’re sharing a taste of Gennaro’s Verdure: Big and bold recipes to pack your plate with veg by Gennaro Contaldo (Pavilion Books).

Arancini di funghi; filled mushroom balls

(makes eight)

These filled mushrooms may seem a little fiddly to make but, believe me, they are well worth the effort! Once filled, the mushrooms are pressed together to form a ball or, as I’ve called them in Italian, arancini (little oranges). I like to serve them with a selection of salads and pickles. You can easily make these vegetarian by omitting the pork and Parmesan by substituting with extra breadcrumbs and chopped mushrooms.


16 small-medium chestnut or white mushrooms (approx. 500g/1lb 2oz), wiped clean

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

knob of butter

100g (3½oz) minced pork

Two sage leaves, finely chopped

4 tsp white wine

50g (1¾oz) ricotta

30g (1oz) grated Parmesan

plain flour, for dusting

Three eggs, lightly beaten

abundant dried breadcrumbs, enough

to coat the mushrooms

abundant vegetable oil, for frying

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Remove the stalks from the mushrooms and, using a small spoon, very carefully remove as much of the interior (gills) as possible without tearing the mushrooms. Finely chop the stalks and combine with the gills.

Heat the olive oil and butter in a small frying pan, add the chopped mushrooms and stir-fry for a couple of minutes over a medium heat until softened. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Replace the frying pan on the heat, add the minced pork and sage and stir-fry until the meat is well sealed. Season with salt and pepper, then add the wine, stir and allow to evaporate. Add the cooked mushrooms to the pan and cook for a minute, then take off the heat, allow to cool, then stir through the ricotta and Parmesan.

Fill the mushrooms with this mixture. Join two mushrooms together, pressing well, then coat in flour, dip in beaten egg and repeat to double-coat. Finally, coat in breadcrumbs.

Heat plenty of vegetable oil in a deep, heavy-based pan over a medium/highheat until hot, then deep-fry the mushroom balls for about four minutes until golden brown. A deep-fat fryer is ideal for this if you have one!

Using a slotted spoon, lift the mushroom balls out of the oil, drain well on kitchen paper to soak up the excess oil and then serve immediately.

Recipe 2:

Torta di carote e mandorle – carrot & almond cake

(serves eight)

Delicately light and healthy, this easy carrot cake would be perfect with a morning coffee or at teatime. I like to use the Italian raising agent known as Paneangeli, with its delicate vanilla flavour, and it should be obtainable from Italian delis and international shops. Otherwise, regular baking powder will work just fine.


Four eggs, separated

225g (8oz) caster sugar

130g (4¾oz) plain flour, sifted

2 tsp Paneangeli baking powder, sifted

(or regular baking powder)

150g (51/2oz) ground almonds

275g (9¾oz) carrots, grated

a little icing sugar, sifted

handful of flaked almonds

Preheat the oven to 160°C fan/180°C/ gas mark 4. Grease a 20cm (8in.) round springform cake tin and line it with baking paper.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together for about 10 minutes, until nice and creamy.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff. Fold the flour, Paneangeli (or baking powder), ground almonds and grated carrots into the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the stiffened egg whites.

Pour the mixture into the lined cake tin and bake in the oven for 55–60 minutes, until risen and cooked through. If you insert a wooden skewer, it should come out clean.

Remove from the oven, then leave to cool completely before carefully removing it from the tin. Place on a plate and dust the top with icing sugar and a handful of flaked almonds, before serving.


This cake is best eaten fresh but will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days.

Taken from Gennaro’s Verdure: Big and bold recipes to pack your plate with veg by Gennaro Contaldo (Pavilion Books). Images by David Loftus.

Who ate all the pies?

Round & About

Food & Recipes

Turns out we did…

It’s British Pie Week soon! 4th to 10th March to be precise. It’s an annual event to celebrate a popular icon of British cuisine. That said, when you learn that Brits are estimated to eat £1billion worth of pies each year, it would appear that every week is British pie week. That figure doesn’t even counting those that are home-made, which is a somewhat incredible fact.

To celebrate British Pie week, the good folks at Denby have shared some mouth-watering pie recipes with us. They’re a bit different to the traditional pies you might be used to, but we still think you might be tempted!

Crunchy Topped Leek and Broccoli Fish Pie – Serves 4 -6


  • 200g fresh sourdough breadcrumbs
  • A good handful of fresh tarragon leaves, roughly chopped
  • 150g unsalted butter, melted
  • Freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste
  • 2 leeks, white part only, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 300g broccoli, cut into small florets
  • A splash of extra virgin olive oil
  • 800g firm white fish (we used cod) cut into medium sized pieces
  • 1 tablespoon of plain flour
  • 2 x 300g tubs of sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
  • 250ml warm water
  • Lemon zest, to serve


  • Heat the oven to 400°F / 200°C and prepare a shallow casserole dish with a splash of olive oil.
  • Place the breadcrumbs, half the melted butter, half the chopped tarragon, salt and pepper into a large bowl and mix to combine. Set to one side.
  • Heat the remaining butter in the shallow casserole on a low to medium heat on the hob. Add the leeks, garlic and broccoli florets and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until softened.
  • On a small plate, season the flour with salt and pepper and coat the fish pieces. Place them in the shallow casserole dish.
  • In a small bowl, add the sour cream, tarragon, mustard and water, mixing well.
  • Pour over the ingredients in the casserole dish and stir gently to combine. Top with the breadcrumbs and cook in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through.
  • Serve the fish pie into bowls with seasonal greens such as kale or Swiss chard. Enjoy!

Apple Pie with Blackberries & Clementine – Serves 6


  • 250g plain flour
  • 110g cold, cubed butter
  • 4 apples
  • 150g blackberries
  • Zest & juice of 1 clementine
  • 1.5 tsp cinnamon
  • 1.5 tsp ground ginger
  • Handful of brown sugar


  • Pre heat your oven to 170c. Rub the butter into the flour until a crumb has formed then add 3-5 tbsp water until you have a moist dough but still with a bit of crumble. Cut in half and roll one half out to 0.5cm thick. Place into an over proof medium size dish or small oven proof ramekins if you’re making individual portions.
  • Trim the edges of the pastry, prick all over with a fork and blind bake for 7 minutes. Whilst that’s cooking peel and chop your apples into small cubes. Add to a bowl with the blackberries, clementine, sugar and spices. Mix well.
  • Fill your pie crust to the brim and cover with the other half of your pastry. Roll out the off-cuts and decorate as you like! It looks stylish to plait around the edge or have fun making leaves.
  • Egg wash and bake for 15-20 minutes until the pie is a rich golden brown.
  • Serve with double cream, vanilla custard or caramel ice cream to elevate the flavours. 

The Barn relaunches at Coworth Park

Round & About

Food & Recipes

New menus, new open kitchen and grill set to entice diners

The Barn has relaunched at Coworth Park near Ascot with a brand-new kitchen and produce-led, ingredient-focused menu.

Housed in the original barn frame, the new open kitchen and grill takes pride of place in The Barn. Guided by seasonal ingredients from the UK’s best producers, the menu features Executive Chef Adam Smith’s take on British classics, and encourages a convivial, relaxed style of dining.

Fresh and preserved ingredients from the Coworth Park estate feature on the menu, as seen in the elderflower vinegar and cordial used as a dressing for the Scallop crudo starter. Adam also works closely with leading British producers, such as Beal’s Farm Charcuterie for English mangalitsa coppa, and small-scale suppliers for English wagyu and wild venison.

Main courses on the new menu include classics such as Smithy’s chicken pie, alongside simple meat, fish and vegetable focused dishes, including Hereford côte de boeuf (to share); Spatchcock quail with rosemary and lemon; and a selection of day boat fish from Cornwall that can all be served either grilled or beer battered.

From Garden herb chimichurri and Tarragon Hollandaise to 50/50 mash and BBQ broccoli, the tempting array of sauces and sides will see guests ordering generously for the table, for a relaxed, sharing style of dining. Chef Adam’s playful approach and a touch of nostalgia can be seen through the dessert menu, which includes The Barn Trifle; Baked cheesecake with Yorkshire rhubarb; and Soft serve ice cream with flake and sprinkles.

On Sundays, guests will be able to enjoy perfectly executed traditional roasts, with starters such as Prawn cocktail followed by Waterford roast sirloin of beef or Whole roast Devon White chicken (to share), served with all the trimmings. Decadent British classics rule the Sunday dessert menu, with options including Sticky toffee pudding and Apple & cinnamon crumble with custard and ice cream.

The Barn welcomes groups of all sizes and generations to experience its relaxed, rustic charm. Feasting menus, for groups of 10 or more, feature many of The Barn’s signature dishes and are served family style down the table for everyone to share. There is also a kid’s menu, designed to include young guests in The Barn’s ingredient-led relaxed approach to dining.

For locals, hotel guests and diners from further afield, The Barn is a perfect restaurant for all occasions and seasons. In winter it is the height of cosiness with the roaring fire, in summer the floor-to-ceiling windows flood the space with natural light, and guests can also choose to sit on the large outdoor terrace.

March recipes: Sweet somethings

Round & About

Food & Recipes

We’re sharing a taste of The Sweet Polish Kitchen: A celebration of home baking & nostalgic treats by Ren Behan.

Wuzetka – chocolate cream sponge

The wuzetka cake originates from Warsaw, and it was said to have first been baked in a bakery along a road named the ‘W-Z route’ in Warsaw shortly after the Second World War (the road connected the eastern parts of the city to the western, the Wschód-Zachód areas, hence ‘W-Z’). It is a classic chocolate sponge cake, baked in a square tin, filled with cream (the line in the middle of the road) and topped with a cherry. If you are baking this for adults or a party, you can add a little cherry vodka to your soak.

Serves nine

• 120ml vegetable oil or mild olive oil & extra for greasing
• 200g soft light brown sugar
• Two eggs
• 1 tsp vanilla bean extract
• 240g sour cream
• 200g self-raising flour
• 75g cocoa powder
• 1 tsp baking powder
• 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
• 240ml fresh hot black tea

For the soak:
• 50ml cherry vodka or fruit tea

Optional jam layer:
• 250g cherry jam or plum jam

For the cream filling:
• 250g mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
• 800ml double cream
• 3 tbsp icing sugar

For the chocolate glaze:
• 2 tbsp butter
• 100g quality dark chocolate
• 100g icing sugar
• 1 tbsp runny honey
• 2 tbsp boiling water

To serve:
• Whipped cream for piping
• Fresh or canned cherries

Preheat your oven to 180°C/160°C Fan/Gas Mark 4/350°F. Grease and line two 20 x 20cm/8 x 8in square baking tins with baking paper.

In a stand mixer, beat the oil and sugar until it starts to thicken. Add the eggs, one by one, and the vanilla bean extract. Stir in the sour cream. Next, sift in the self-raising flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda and stir until there are no lumps. Finally, pour in the hot tea and mix again thoroughly.

Divide the batter evenly between the tins and tap them gently on a work surface. Bake for 30–35 minutes until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Cool slightly in the tins, then carefully turn out onto a wire rack and leave the sponges to cool completely.

To assemble, place one layer of sponge into the bottom of a lined tin and brush liberally with the soak. If using jam, spread a layer evenly over the soaked base. For the cream filling, whisk the mascarpone, then add the cream and icing sugar and whisk until the mixture becomes firm. Spread the cream over the base and flatten slightly with a spatula. Place the second layer of sponge on top and place the tin in the refrigerator, ideally overnight.

When you are ready to serve, make the chocolate glaze by melting the glaze ingredients together in a non-stick pan over a medium heat until thick and glossy, then leave to cool slightly.

Remove the cake from the fridge and carefully take it out of the tin onto a serving plate. Pour the glaze over the top of the cake and smooth out. Cut the cake into squares. Serve with some piped cream and a cherry on top.

Blueberry & almond Babka loaf

The babka seemed to have something of a resurgence over lockdown and, of course, it is a well-known staple treat within New York delis. The original recipe is said to have originated in the Jewish communities of Poland and Ukraine. This type of babka (a sweet braided bread, as opposed to a fluted bundt) was likely taken by the diaspora to Israel, and beyond, establishing itself as a ‘yeast cake filled with chocolate, cinnamon and sometimes fruit’. I was interested to learn that in the early 19th century, challah dough was rolled up with jam and baked as a loaf and that the addition of chocolate and other spices was a much later incarnation.

Some say the word babka comes from the Yiddish bubbe, also meaning ‘grandmother’. A babka made in this way, of twisted strands of dough baked in a loaf form, is different to my earlier recipes for a more cake-like babka, baked in a bundt tin and reminiscent of a grandmother’s skirt. Rather than using chocolate, I like to make mine with either a home-made preserve or, in this case, with a wild blueberry preserve. There are Polish and French versions of such a preserve in most supermarkets. Ground almonds add a little additional texture and another layer of flavour, but you could use finely chopped hazelnuts, instead. Poppy seed paste also makes a good alternative filling to jam.

• 350g plain flour, plus extra
• 14g fresh yeast, crumbled (or 7g active dry yeast)
• 75g caster sugar
• 75ml lukewarm milk
• Two eggs, plus one egg yolk, beaten (save white for glaze)
• 1 tsp almond extract grated zest of one orange
• 1 tsp salt
• 75g butter, cubed, room temp
• Sunflower oil, for greasing

For the filling:
• 300g wild blueberry preserve or any jam of your choice
• 50g ground almonds
• 50g soft light brown sugar

For the streusel:
• 25g cold butter
• 40g plain flour
• 25g caster sugar or soft light brown sugar

In a jug, combine 1 tablespoon of the flour with the yeast, 1 tablespoon of the caster sugar and half of the lukewarm milk. Stir with a whisk, then set aside in a warm place for 10–15 minutes.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the remaining flour with the rest of the caster sugar and mix well. Pour in the yeast mixture and keep mixing. Switch to a dough hook and add the eggs and egg yolk, the rest of the milk, the almond extract and orange zest, and mix well for around 5 minutes. Finally, add the salt, followed by the butter and keep mixing/kneading for at least 10 minutes. It should form a lump of dough.

You will need to stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl a couple of times. If the dough is still sticky at this point, add up to 2 tablespoons of extra flour.

Brush the inside of a clean bowl with a little oil. Transfer the dough to this bowl and cover with a clean cloth. Leave somewhere warm for at least hours, but ideally four hours.

When you are ready to bake, line a loaf tin, measuring 30 x 11 x 7cm/12 x 4¼  x 2¾ in, with a single sheet of baking paper, so that a little hangs over the long edges.

Tip the dough out onto a board sprinkled with a generous amount of flour. Punch the dough to get rid of any air pockets and knead for a couple of minutes. Roll out the dough to a 30 x 20cm/12 x 8in rectangle. Spread the preserve/jam for the filling all over the dough, leaving a couple of centimetres clear around the edge, then sprinkle over the ground almonds and the brown sugar. Roll the dough into a log, starting from one of the longest edges. Take a sharp knife and cut down the centre of the log, dividing the whole length. You will then have two long pieces and be able to see the filling on the inside.

Starting at the top, join the two pieces of dough, then cross them over each other. Keep going, as though you are making a braid. You can trim both ends to neaten them up. Carefully transfer the whole piece of twisted dough into the lined loaf tin. Cover with a clean cloth and chill in the refrigerator for up to 2 hours.

Meanwhile, make the streusel topping. Place all the ingredients in a bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the mixture resembles a crumble or a sandy texture.

Preheat your oven to 180°C/160°C Fan/Gas Mark 4/350°F.

Brush the top of your loaf with the lightly beaten egg white, then sprinkle over the streusel topping. Bake in the centre of the oven for 50 minutes, checking after 35 minutes to see whether the top looks golden.

Once it is golden, cover with foil and continue baking for the remaining time. Remove from the oven and leave the babka to cool in the tin.

Serve warm, with a little unsalted butter.

For the love of wine

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Food & Recipes

In this, the month of love, our wine columnist Giles Luckett picks out his current top ten passions.

It’s February and love is in the air. Well, it’s in the card shops, the supermarkets, and, somewhat incongruously, my milkman’s van. It’s amazing what you can have delivered with your silver top these days! Anyway, what’s definitely in the air, in my house at least, is the love of wine, and here are my current top ten passions.

I’ve often struggled with New Zealand Chardonnay. Far too often they seem to have taken an oak-first, last, and always approach to winemaking, so you end up with a glassful of ghee. This isn’t the case with The King’s Legacy Chardonnay (Majestic £12.99). Wine, like life, is all about balance and this walks the tightrope between under and over-oaked brilliantly. Mid gold, the nose has plenty of vanilla and honey, but the apple, peach, and melon fruits also shine through. It’s the same story on the palate, which is generous, and plump and balances spicy oak with clean white and green fruits.

“Wine, like life, is all about balance.”

Riesling is arguably the greatest of all white grapes. “Born” in Germany in 1435 (13th March if you fancy sending it a card) it’s capable of creating breath-taking wines, some of which are breathtakingly expensive – Egon Muller’s Trockenbeerenauslese 2003 will set you back just under £23,000 a bottle. Back in the real world, sensational dry Rieslings are also available such as the Pewsey Vale Eden Valley Riesling (Ocado £18.95). This Australian Riesling hails from the cool Eden Valley and is simply stunning. Ghostly pale, the nose is an arresting blend of grapefruit, peach stones, apple blossom, and honey. It’s taut, precise, mineral-soaked, and complex in the mouth. Green and red apples, grapefruit, stone fruit, pears, and citrus come together in a wonderfully refreshing way. This is perfect with food – we had it with salmon pesto and spinach roulade – but it will be delicious with white meats and green vegetables and will age well over the next few years.

Mention Rioja, and most wine lovers will think of red wines. This is fair as the reds are more famous, and black grapes account for about 90% of plantings. The whites, though, can be just as splendid, especially when made by top producers like C.V.N.E. – their Contino Blanco (Noble Grape £23.99) is an absolutely lovely wine. The one that I keep coming back to at the moment, however, is the Ramon Bilbao Limite Norte Rioja Blanca.  Produced from an unusual blend of late-picked Maturana Blanca and Tempranillo Blanco, this is a wine of freshness and depth. Golden yellow, the nose is soft and fresh with lemon and lime notes backed by honey. On the palate its tangy and immediate, offering quince, white peach, and green grape flavours, with something deeper, smokier, and fatter toward the finish. Idiosyncratic and utterly unlike any white Rioja I’ve tasted before, this is well worth trying, especially when partnered with creamy cheeses, white fish, or seafood.

And to so the reds, and I’ll start in South Africa with the excellent Spier Creative Block 3 2018 (Slurp £21.95). Being a blend of 94% Shiraz, 5% Mourvèdre, and 1% Viognier, this is very much in the mould of the Rhône Valley’s famed Cote Rotie wines, but this is no wannabe homage; it’s much better than that. Inky black, the bouquet melds heady spices with crushed plums, black cherries, and brambles. In the mouth, the Shiraz leads the way with intense, fresh blackberry and blackcurrant tones. Then there are subtler, earthier tones of tobacco and smoke from the Mourvèdre and a peachy lift from the Viognier before chocolate and cloves come in at the end. This is a great (big) wine that’s fantastic with red meats, strong cheeses, and tomato-based dishes.

Stepping back into Rioja we have the LAN Crianza 2019 (Hay Wines £15.49). 2019 was a stunning vintage for Rioja, but even taken in that context, the LAN is a little bit special.  Very dark, with plenty of spicy vanilla, blackberries, prunes, and earthy spices to the nose. This medium-full-bodied beauty has an arrestingly rich texture that reflects the excellent levels of extraction. A complex composite of black fruits, cherry kirsch, black figs, raspberries, and charred wood, this is an awful lot of wine for the money. Buy a case and enjoy this over the next five to seven years.

When I was learning the ways of wine, I was given to believe that Beaujolais was a light, nothing to get excited about wine. Indeed, only Beaujolais Nouveau seemed to attract anyone’s attention, and not always for good reasons. Fast forward and Beaujolais is once again an exciting, dynamic region that’s producing some of France’s best-value fine wines. Take the Chateau des Jacques Moulin-A-Vent 2021 (Ocado £19). Moulin-A-Vent is one of Beaujolais ten “Cru” villages, and as this is owned by Burgundy’s great Louis Jadot, it’s not surprising that it’s excellent. Deep purple with a crimson rim, the nose is a classic mix of black cherries, strawberries, and raspberries with a background of crushed rocks. Generous on the palate, cherries and fruits of the forest are kept in check by a dry, savoury loganberry acidity.

If you fancy taking on something truly mountainous, then get a team of sherpas/some good friends, whichever you have to hand, and try the Amarone Tedeschi Marne 180 2019 (London End Wines £36.99). Amarone is one of Italy’s greatest reds and is produced using dried grapes. Drying the grapes increases the concentration of the juice and allows wines like this to attain great power (it’s 16.5%), depth, and complexity. Open and let it breathe for a couple of hours and you’ll be rewarded with a fragrant nose of vanilla-tinted dried cherries, cranberries, and blueberries. Despite its heady power, it’s sophisticated and nuanced. Red and black cherries, damsons, toasted almonds, roasted meat, and chestnuts come together to make a mighty mouthful. Try this with full-flavoured dishes such as lamb shanks, blue cheese tarts, or slow roast pork belly.

And so, to the fizz. Regular readers of this column will know I have a bit of a weakness for sparkling wines. A weakness that’s about the size of the San Andreas Fault, truth be told, but as I get to try things like the Graham Beck Cuvee Clive 2017 (Frontier Wines £44.95), is my weakness to be wondered at? All of Graham Beck’s sparkling wines are exceptional, but the Cuvee Clive is in a different class. 60% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir from premium cool sites in Napier, Robertson, and Durbanville, fermented in champagne barrels and stainless steel before ageing in bottle for over four years, this wine gets regal treatment. Mid-gold, the nose is a joyously complex blend of ripe autumnal fruits, red berries, yeast, and citrus. In the mouth its mellow, succulent, and packed with flavour and diversion. Peaches, apricots, honey-drizzled melon, dried pears, a tangy, saline-tinted green apple acidity, and a hint of liquorice spice make for a glorious wine that offers something different with every sip.

Champagne remains the greatest sparkling wine in the world, and recently, I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy two brilliant but very different examples. The Gosset Grand Blanc de Blancs (The Champagne Company £55.50) is made from 100% Chardonnay and is as beautiful as the bottle it’s presented in. White gold with amber highlights, there’s richness behind the fresh white fruit and pear nose, with notes of apricots and creamy yeast coming through, thanks to the four years it spent resting in Gosset’s cellars before release. The palate has some of Gosset’s customary intensity but is far more delicate. Citrus – especially grapefruit and lemon – are present alongside quince, green apple, and custard apple. This is sublime wine that, for me at least, is best enjoyed as a soloist.

I’ll finish with a rosé Champagne, the Dom Ruinart Rosé (Majestic £79.99). The Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs Extra Brut 2010 (The Finest Bubble £220) was my wine of 2023, and this is a contender for 2024’s crown. Deep pink, the bouquet is suffused with fresh red cherries and black and red berries, with a vibrant, slightly perfumed note. Give this some time to breathe or even better decant it, and you’re in for a treat as fruits of the forest, cherries, cherry sherbet, orange zest, and plump plum notes assail the palate. This is a wine that I’ve had on its own and with dishes such as rack of lamb and pheasant, and I think it’s even better with food.  It has the weight and intensity to cut through, and the food brings out the deeper, darker tones of this great wine.

Right, well that’s enough love for one day. Next time out some new season wines to put a spring in your step.



A celebration of Australian wine

Round & About

Food & Recipes

Our wine columnist Giles Luckett brings you sunshine, toasting the best wines from the land Down Under

Hello! And a belated happy new year.

January & february may be associated with the blues, but for me, they’re months of red-letter days, with few bigger than the Australia Trade Tasting. This annual celebration of Australian wine is packed to the gunnels with a mixture of unbeatable classics and innovative creations. This year I’m looking forward to tasting a Coonawarra Savagnin, though I may give the Hollick Sparking Merlot (!) a wide berth.

In the run-up to the event, I’ve been doing a spot of training. I’ve been popping, pouring, tasting, spitting, pouring and repeating and here are my current recommendations for those looking for some Australian wine brilliance to banish their winter blues.

First up, a sparkling wine, and not just any sparkling, but one of the best in the world, the Jansz Premium Vintage Rosé 2017 (Wine Direct £31). The first time I tried this tremendous Tasmanian sparkler was at the winery on a press tour where we were treated to a tasting of over 30 wines. I must confess, little spitting was done and the afternoon ended in a contented, if sleepy, blur. I had the 2017 rosé recently and was blown away. Pretty pale pink, and the nose is full of savoury raspberries and succulent strawberries with a floral edge and a background of freshly baked bread. The wonderfully complex palate boasts everything from piquant red berries to sweetly toned fruits of the forest preserve by way of almond croissants, and citrus. This is undoubtedly one of the world’s greatest sparkling wines, yet it remains affordable.

My next recommendation is a new wine from an old friend. I’ve expressed my admiration for Yalumba’s wines before and the new GEN Organic Sauvignon Blanc (Ocado £11) is another winner. Demonstrating this family-owned winery’s longstanding commitment to sustainable winemaking, it’s certified organic and it’s quite delicious. Australian Sauvignon and I haven’t always seen eye-to-eye, but this is excellent. The nose is soft and ripe, with a noticeable peachy tone. On the palate, it offers rounded, pear, peach and melon fruit, a ripe texture with the classic green pepper and gooseberry adding interest from the wings rather than taking centre stage. I had this with a chicken risotto and it was a great pairing, but it’s also lovely as a solo sipper.

Australian Chardonnay is rightly loved around the world. With its dazzling array of sites and soils, Australia produces a glittering lineup of Chardonnays that range from big and buttery to elegantly reserved. Penfolds Max’s Chardonnay (Waitrose £19.95) sits somewhere in the middle of this spectrum. Mid-gold, with a smoky, nutty, apple and guava nose, in the mouth it combines generosity with refinement. It opens with a fresh-tasting wave of green apple, pear and white peach before fatter notes of honeydew melon, crushed nuts, vanilla spice, and minerals come through. Interestingly – well interestingly to me as I’m dull like that – this is a wine whose character is transformed by decanting. Pop and pour and it’s lively and bright. Let it breathe for a couple of hours and it’s much, much richer, fuller, and indulgent.

My next choice is a wine I discovered at the Australia Trade Tasting a couple of years back, it’s the Jim Barry Assyrtiko (Strictly Wine £22.14). Jim Barry is one of the great names of Australian wine – the Armagh Shiraz (Laithwaites £235 is a legend) – and across the range, their wines deliver the goods. The Assyrtiko is a beguiling wine that has the piercing intensity that, like Poly Styrene’s vocals, ‘Could drive holes through sheet metal.’ Lemons, limes, grapefruit, minerals and rhubarb all come through on the nose and in the mouth, but there’s weight, softness, and delicacy here too. This is one of the best Assyrtiko’s I’ve had outside of its homeland of Greece, and it goes brilliantly with poultry, pork, white fish, or stir-fried vegetable dishes.

And so to the reds. When most wine lovers think of Australian red wines, their minds turn to Shiraz. Shiraz certainly helped put Australian wine on the map, and as winemakers have learnt more about site selection, it too now comes in a range of exciting styles. The Robert Oatley Signature Series Shiraz (The Co-Op 10.50) is from the McLaren Vale in South Australia. Shiraz grows well here in a Mediterranean climate that allows a long growing season and gives grapes that are full of complexity and aroma as the Oatley demonstrates. Inky blue-black with a crimson rim, the nose is a joyously heady mix of black berries, black cherries and Oriental spices. In the mouth it’s full but refined, the bold blackberry and blueberry fruit offset by sweet oak, charcoal, chocolate and mint. Put this with a cheeseboard and the long winter nights will fly by…

When Hollick isn’t doing odd things with Merlot, they make excellent Cabernet Sauvignon like their 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon (South Down Cellars £19.95). Cabernet is often referred to as the king of black grapes, and there’s a real breed to this example. Very deeply coloured – there’s virtually no give at the rim – a quick swirl reveals a complex bouquet of crushed blackberries, candied mint, green peppers and a whiff of black pepper. Well-extracted and with plenty of body, there’s a savoury undertone to the crisp blackcurrant fruit, as tones of toast, fresh herbs, cocoa and pencil lead seamlessly intermingle. Give this an hour or two open and serve with fine red meats or a vegetable lasagne.

When it comes to Australian wine classics, they don’t come much greater than the Yalumba Signature Series Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz (Majestic £41.99 a bottle or £34.99 on a mixed 6). Legend has it that pioneering Australian winemakers blended Cabernet with Shiraz as they didn’t have any Merlot to create a Bordeaux blend. Personally, I suspect they were saving the Merlot for Hollick to make into fizz.

Whatever the case, it’s a marriage made in heaven. This hails from the Barossa Valley and is everything you could want in a Cabernet-Shiraz. Massive, exceptionally well-fruited, juicy, complex, and compellingly delicious, it fully deserves its iconic status. The combination of crisp blackcurrants, spicy red berries, plums, morello cherries and tangy loganberries make for a show-stopping glassful. Wine Enthusiast magazine gives this 93/100 calling it ‘Classic Barossa’. I couldn’t agree more.

I’ll finish with a flourish with a wine from another great family of Australian wine, Henschke. The Henschke Mount Edelstone (Hic! £135) is a wine that deserves to be on every wine lover’s bucket list, well, bottle list, at least. One of Australia’s most renowned single vineyard wines, some of the vines in Mount Edelstone are over one hundred years old and give tiny quantities of incredibly concentrated fruit. Predictably inky in colour, the nose is a heady mix of spices, blueberries and blackcurrants with a hinterland of bay and sage. The gorgeous palate is packed with dark fruits – mulberry, blueberry, blackberry, and black currant – warm spices, pepper, chocolate, and grilled meats. The finish is long, silky, and fresh, and the ripe tannins and minerals bring harmony to this extraordinary wine. One for now and the next decade or so.

Well, that’s it from me for now. Next time out as it’s Valentine’s, love will be in the air. The love of wine that is.



Hard & Fast

Round & About

Food & Recipes

We’re sharing a taste of The Fast 800 Keto recipe book, as seen on Channel 4’s Lose A Stone In 21 days by Dr Clare Bailey who is on tour with her husband Dr Michael Mosely this month

Creamy broccoli, ginger and coriander soup

A light soup with the warming qualities of coconut, ginger and coriander running through it. The recipe makes enough for four but it keeps well in the fridge or freezer.

Serves 4, Prep 5-7 minutes, Cook 15-20 minutes.


1 small onion, peeled and roughly chopped, 40g fresh root ginger, roughly chopped (no need to peel)

1 and half tbsp oil

1 head of broccoli, roughly chopped

1x 400ml tin coconut milk

Vegetable stock cube

15g fresh coriander

40g flaked almonds, toasted, to garnish

Cook’s tip:

Add a protein top-up if you like. Fried diced bacon or feta cheese would go well

1. Place the onion, ginger and olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat and saute for three or four minutes until softened

2. Add the broccoli, coconut milk, stock cube and 800ml water (simply refill the empty tin twice). Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

3. Remove from the heat, add the coriander and blitz with a stick blender until completely smooth. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and serve, topped with flaked almonds.

Persian love cake

Loosely based on a Persian Love Cake, this enchantingly exotic concoction lives up to its name. not sure I do it justice, but it certainly goes down well, with its tangy, orange-flavoured topping, and rich, nutty base. High in protein and nutrients, it has no added sugar, is low-carb and feels like a real treat… Enjoy

Serves 8, Prep 30 minutes, Cook 30 minutes


100g dried figs, finely chopped

60g coconut oil or butter

Two medium free range eggs

60g shelled pistachio nuts, roughly chopped

Two medium oranges, zested and juiced

100g almonds

1tsp ground cinnamon

1tsp bicarbonate of soda

2 tbsp free-dried raspberries

1 tbsp cider vinegar

For the icing

60g cream cheese

1tsp honey

1tsp lemon zest

Cook’s tip:

This freezes well (so you don’t need to eat it all at once, as Michael is frequently tempted to do). You could use a loaf tin liner if you have one.

1. Preheat the oven to 180C / Fan 160C/ gas 4. Line the base of a 20cm x 10cm loaf tin with parchment paper.

2. Place the figs, coconut oil and eggs in a bowl and blitz with a stick blender for about a minute, until creamy but retaining some texture.

3. Stir in 40g of the pistachios, the orange juice, half the orange zest, the ground almonds, cinnamon, cardamom, bicarbonate of soda, half the dried raspberries and a generous pinch of salt. Mix well, then add the cider vinegar and mix again.

4. Pour the mixture into the loaf tin and bake for about 30 minutes until cooked through and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Turn out of the tin and leave to cool on a wire rack.

5. To make the Topping, mix the remaining orange zest with the cream cheese, honey and lemon zest in a small bowl. Spread it on to the cooled cake, then sprinkle the remaining chopped pistachios and dried raspberries on top.