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Wine & Veg for Winter

Nibbles for Festivities 

Nibbles are perfect for the festive season.  If serving dinner afterwards, I tend to do 'heavy nibbles' and skip the starter so that people get a chance to mingle  before sitting down.  And remember, it is so much better to eat something with a glass of wine.

If you are trying to fill hungry mouths, then veggie rolls are a must - think a veggie version of sausage rolls  that Sally makes - inspired by Jamie Oliver's recipe. Another tummy filler is a cheesy tear and share - the Hairy Bikers have a fab recipe and you can use any 3 cheeses you might have in the fridge.

A rather different and sexy nibble are sumptuous festive dates filled with goat's cheese then sprinkled with a walnut, orange & cinnamon crunch. Another easy one with goat's cheese is to form small balls in your hands  (eg softish cheese from a log)  then roll them in chopped cranberries and toasted, chopped walnuts or pecans and spear with a sprig of rosemary. Easy peasy and very effective.


We love the classics and then add a twist so that prepping doesn't become a nightmare of trying  new recipes all at once. For example  homemade hummus (see our recipe - it has tips for being the lightest you will ever taste) - easy to make a day or so ahead. Sally serves this several times a week  with her platters. Make a batch, put a bowl of the classic version to one side and turn the rest into variations by whizzing through:

-  cooked beetroot (decorate with  a spice blend such as dukkah)

- sun-dried tomatoes (drained) or roasted peppers from a jar (drained again)

- pitted kalamata olives

Do a couple of versions - serve 1 or 2 during drinks on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day and keep another one for the buffet table a couple of days later.

An alternative is this amazing Cauliflower Dip which more than passed the delicious test when Sally prepared for friends. Again, it can be made a few days in advance and served with a different selection of accompaniments to ring the changes

Nibbles for Healthy Eating

 January  doesn't mean we want to hibernate,  we need to still see friends, have fun, laugh and beat any winter blues. Saving the pennies and getting together with a 'bring a dish' brunch or evening ticks all the boxes.

- Hummus  and Cauliflower dip (see above) are super healthy especially when made from scratch and can be accompanied by piles of colourful crudités such as broccoli florets and chicory in addition to the obligatory carrot sticks instead of pitta bread and breadsticks!

- The host can make soup and serve small cups ( large espresso cups are ideal)

- Make fresh Spring Rolls (with rice paper and raw ingredients rather than the cooked ones). Dip the rice paper in warm water to moisten, lay on a tea towel and then fill with a selection of juliennes of carrots and cucumber, spring onions, strips of red/white cabbage, fresh coriander) then roll up tucking in the ends, slice on the diagonal and serve with a simple dipping sauce such as soy or sweet chilli.

Veganuary doesn't have to be a hardship and instead of cutting wine out completely, save it for special occasions and get-togethers so that you really savour the glasses you do have - see below for more suggestions.


And to Drink With That?

You'll need a good all rounder as you'll be serving different things . For the festive nibbles make it bubbles. We love Crémant de Bordeaux, fresh, citrusy with enough body thanks to lees aging to bring mouth feel and depth of flavour. If the night is rich of course you can reach for the Champagne but we're happy to share the affordable secret of Bordeaux Bubbles. Another classy festive option would be a white Pessac-Léognan, these Sémillon Sauvignon blends vinified and aged in wood have fabulous notes of citrus, light spice and toasty notes thanks to the influence of the oak and lots of fresh acidity. 

 Rosé is always a crowd pleaser - it's not only for summer! Find a Clairet, a darker more fruitier alternative with a depth of flavour to match to any food. Why not serve two options and allow your guests to experiment which nibbles go best with which wine - gamify your evening!

Vin Chaud - the French equivalent to mulled wine is popular this time of year putting guests in the mood and making the house smell beautiful. The French recipe is similar to most hot wine versions: cinnamon stick, clove , star anise, nutmeg, orange and lemon zest or slices added to the equivalent of a bottle of red wine. Add sugar to taste if needed. Don't use your best wine, leftover wine will do. Heat until just simmering then take off the heat  to let the spices infuse and serve while warm.

“Eating the colours of the rainbow is possible in winter too.”

What to do with Cabbage

Red cabbage is more purple than red, and  purple pigments mean antioxidants, the same anthocyanins we find in black grapes. Buy really fresh and then red cabbage keeps really well in the fridge - so an easy staple for last minute meals and it is  versatile and easy to prepare, raw, stir fried, braised or even fermented, adding extra probiotics to our diet.    

Raw cabbage keeps those vitamins intact. It‘s a  great base for a winter salad or slaw mixed with sliced onions, grated carrots or white and green cabbage to make it all more colourful. Throw on nuts or cheese for some added protein.  For example, serve topped with toasted walnuts or almond flakes and some crumbled blue or feta cheese. Like the vinegar used in cooking, the slightly acidic cheese is a great compliment. Pomegranate seeds – especially good with a winter salad. These little jewels look really festive.  


Red cabbage also makes a delicious, colourful and nourishing soup. With vegetable stock, cook until tender and whizz up with a blender. Serve with a swirl of mixed crème fraiche (more probiotics) and horseradish to give it some zing. 


Versatile healthy and colourful, what is there not to love?

Fresh Cabbage
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Stepping from the Side into the Spotlight

Wonderful as side dishes but how do you elevate veggies into the main event?  Here are  some ideas:


Instead of chopping your veg, cook them  whole. Cabbage or cauliflower can be stuffed or served whole with a sauce - sliced and served at the table like a meat centrepiece. Ottolenghi's whole cauliflower in chilli butter was the first I tried. To roast a whole  medium-sized cauliflower,  cook in boiling water for 5-8 mins, drain and leave to air dry for 10 mins before  basting with olive oil and seasoning mixture (this can just be salt but I like the version in the pic with turmeric and cumin by Sandra Valvassori). Roast for 20-30 mins in a hot oven 200°C, baste again and put back for 20-30 mins until slightly charred and cooked through. The accompanying sauce will determine your wine choice. A fave is tahini based with lemon and garlic then loosened with some ice cold water. Fresh herbs finish it off or chopped nuts such a pistachios . I drink a textured white with this - mine or another sauvignon/semillon blend that has seen a touch of wood for body. 

Add ingredients 

 Add in protein such as beans and pulses for 'meaty' texture and a more satisfying dish. Nuts work too for texture and taste  - toasted preferred . Spices and herbs of course, but why not add stuffing balls onto a tray bake which turns it into a full main dish?

Classic sage and onion made with breadcrumbs work and I like the sourdough stuffing recipe with leeks, celery and lots of chopped fresh herbs (sage, parsley, rosemary, thyme) that Loveandlemons suggest.  Adding 'meatiness' will move wine choices to a red with medium body.

Say Cheese 

 A cheesy topping adds texture,  flavour and protein. And who can resist the smell of grilled cheese coming from the kitchen? Ring changes with parmesan, mozzarella, brie or blue. Try  Sallys's cheesy crumble topping from the Squash Velouté recipe - a winner on soups but also sprinkled over a tray of roasted veg.​​

Special Occasion Bordeaux

On the subject of taking centre stage, the festive season might be just the excuse you’re looking for to splash out on a special bottle to serve with the main dish - vegan or otherwise. Perhaps you’ve heard of some of the top wines of Bordeaux, the classified growths. These are the best known and some of the most expensive wines of the region.

Why? What does classified mean?  And are they worth the money?

To learn more check out our guide to Bordeaux classifications.


Winter Warmers

As the festive season fades and the new year kicks in, we might be watching what we eat and drink as well as our pockets. One of the wonderful things about plant-based food is the amazing array of warming dishes for winter that are so tasty, healthy and cheap. It gets cold in Bordeaux in the winter and very rainy (very very rainy) so even if it isn't freezing (and we like the frost to kill off bugs in the vines) the rain always makes us feel colder than it actually is.

Here are a few of our favourites that we eat all winter but especially in January and February. 

- Chickpea curries - yum and yum. I love one with a tinned tomato based sauce and tons of spinach added in to wilt through at the last minute. But this Tropical Chickpea Recipe recipe will remind you of warmer climes in the dead of the Northern Hemisphere winter.

- Sweet potatoes Lynn's recipe came to me because she tried it with Château George 7 Fronsac (red wine) loved it and shared it with  me. 

- Bean Stews Try our easy store cupboard recipe. Cheap, easy and nourishing.


A go-to in winter aren't they? I must admit I get excited as I kick my wellies off at the kitchen door, that in just a minute or 2, I can be warming up with a bowl of steaming soup. Based on the ingredients (eg cream or not) then it will keep for a few days in the fridge, or you can freeze specific portions to get out to defrost the night before. Here are some ideas for soups using seasonal vegetables:

- Parsnip and Apple. Love this combo - for every 2 medium parsnips, I use one granny smith apple (ie a tart apple). You can jazz this up for a dinner party with the nut topping we shared back in Autumn. 

- Minestrone - easy and can even be made using the bean stew recipe as a base and go mad with the cabbage !

Carrot & coriander or Carrot & Orange  - bbc good food have a lovely recipe which includes coriander and lentils too so very filling.

- And not forgetting........French Onion bien sûr ! Try the veggie version using mushroom stock instead of beef, topped with a sourdough croûton oozing with cheese. 

Winter Warmer Wines?

How to choose a wine to go with soup? Is this your main meal or is it a starter? Is it spicy ? If very spicy then maybe don't have wine and enjoy the soup without. Earthy flavours? Nutty topping? With mushrooms or a mushroom stock such as the French Onion Veggie version? Then a lowish tannin red wine would be perfect - probably an AOC Bordeaux or Bordeaux Supérieur (Sally would say Prince de George 7 of course) with mainly Merlot or some Cabernet Franc. Parsnip and Apple?  In other words with a fresh bite to it, then here a creamy white with some acidity but plenty of mouthfeel would be lovely - so a semillon-heavy white perhaps, or even one with some muscadelle. Plenty of these around Bordeaux, an AOC Entre-deux-Mers, for example. 

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Winter Warmers

Heading into a healthy new year 

Did we overdo things a little during the holidays and feel your liver needs a rest? You are not alone. Tempted by dry January? Taking some time out from drinking isn’t a bad thing, we really shouldn’t be drinking every day.  We believe moderation, rather than total abstention, is a better and more realistic longer term solution.  If you're choosing a really delicious wine to go with the food you’re serving, one glass, or maybe two, might be enough. 
Is there a safe alcohol level?
Talking  safe levels of alcohol consumption is a mine field. Some experts don’t think there is any safe level. UK guidelines are 14 units of alcohol spread over one week.  A small glass of wine (125 ml) is considered 1.6 units so that’s less than nine small glasses of wine per week or one and a third bottles. Over the week is the key, drinking of moderate amounts over the course of the week is better for you than being virtuous all week and overdoing it at the weekend. They also recommend a couple of booze free days a week. This is also what the British Liver Trust recommends. These levels appear to pose few health risks for most adults who choose to drink in a sensible manner as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle. 

Everyone metabolises (breaks down) alcohol differently. It’s why some people flush, while others get tipsy quickly. A normal liver will break down alcohol at a rate of about eight grams (one unit) per hour. Time is a great healer!Other factors include our general health, our age and gender, our body mass and our fat to muscle ratios. Fitter, healthier bodies break down alcohol more efficiently. It’s off to the gym then – another new year resolution! Of course the alcoholic strength of what you drink and how quickly you drink matter.

Your life, your body, your health : take charge 
Post the festivities is a good time to look at our drinking habits and make a conscious decision to raise that glass. Guilt, stress, and shame don’t work as motivators. So we can stop all that right away then—great news! Remove the self-loathing that many women have for not having enough self-control. Sound familiar? It’s all about paying attention and being in the moment and making deliberate choices, rather than running on autopilot and reaching for glass through habit. You can find more on this in Wendy's The Drinking  Woman's Diet. 

Food and wine.  We know eating  slows down BAC (Blood alcohol Concentration),  you also drink more slowly in between mouthfuls, increasing the pleasure, giving you time think about the wine as the flavours of the food and the wine change with different pairings. Anything that calls for a little introspection and even discussion is going to slow down consumption and increase pleasure - a win win!
 Our philosophy  heading into the  New Year is  ‘We savour a couple of glasses of wine, paired with delicious healthy food and shared with friends’.

Wishing you a Happy and Healthy New Year!

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