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Week 33: Curry and Naan bread

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We saw the naan breads being made on the Saturday Kitchen on TV and it looked so easy we decided to give it a go. We followed the recipe from the BBC web site but needed to add a few extra tablespoons of water to get the dough to come together properly. We also found that gas mark 1 was a bit low so turned the oven up to 2 and gave them a few more minutes.

The naan bread tasted like 'proper' bought ones. The black onion seeds are vitally important and give the bread most of its familiar flavour.

Curry and Naan

We served the naan breads with our chicken korma, and washed it down with a glass of Indian wine. The wine was an Indage 'The Grey Count' chenin blanc and went rather well with the curry. The wine was ok on its own but the spiciness of the curry seemed to bring out more flavour if you take a sip immediately after a mouthful of curry.

Don't tell the Welsh...

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... but Waitrose thinks they are in England.

English Welsh Wine

On a related note, we have just finished drinking a bottle of Asda Premium Gin. We first tried it in a Gin & Tonic but were disappointed with the flavour. When drunk on its own, it actually tastes really good but as soon as you mix it with something, the flavour completely disappears. Even adding a splash of soda water is enough to destroy the flavour.

Fruit Cider

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I made a fruit cider last month, using standard winemaking techniques but using apple juice instead of grape juice. I decided to flavour it with some 'autumn fruits' to make it a bit more interesting.

For the fruit flavours I added the syrup from one tin of blackberries and one tin of blackcurrants. I also had 200ml of of extracted juice leftover from the plum and blackberry wine I had made earlier. I added 4l of apple juice. There was no added sugar - the sugars in the juice were sufficient to give a cider of about 6.5% alcohol.

When I bottled it, the cider was tasting over-dry. I wanted a sparkling cider so when I syphoned it into plastic bottles I added 2tsp of sugar and a few grains of dried yeast. After a week the bottles were feeling nicely pressurised so we tried a bottle tonight. It had a nice crisp flavour and was just 'off dry' enough for us.

Plum and Blackberry Wine

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Last week I started picking blackberries. By early this week I had gathered over 1.5kg, which was enough to make a gallon of wine. I had also picked just over 1kg of plums so I decided to combine them. I used my electric juicer, poured the juice into the demijohn along with 1 litre of apple juice and 1 litre of grape juice. I also added 700g of sugar. I put the remaining pulp in a fermenting bucket with a litre of water. I will use this to top up the demijohn after I have syphoned the wine off the thick sediment which I always get when I use real fruit to make wine.

Other wine tasting notes:

Tonight I finally got around to tasting the 'berry and ginger' wine I made last year. This was made using odds and ends in the kitchen - mainly jars and tins of slightly out of date fruit in syrup. I added several tablespoons of powdered ginger and some sugar (sadly I failed to record how much I added). The bottles have been sitting in the shed since I made it. The ginger flavour is much stronger than my first attempt a couple of years ago. I think I can only have one glass in a sitting. It might be more appreciated in the winter, when a warming glass of wine would be quite welcome.

Back in february, I tasted my rhubarb wine and noticed that it was very sweet. Last year I made a carrot and orange wine which I didn't like at all - it was fairly unpleasant on tasting but was improved upon sweetening. A few weeks ago I decided to blend the two together. A bottle of carrot wine blended the same amount of rhubarb gives a decent medium white wine. The flavour is a bit nondescript. I prefer wine to be a bit drier so I'll blend the rest of the wine with a higher carrot:rhubarb ratio.

Blackberry Time

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I should probably start looking out for ripe blackberries about now. I need to have another go at making Blackberry Wine. My last attempt had a fairly light flavour so I'll try again but with more fruit.

Back when I worked in Birmingham I would regularly walk past bushes full of the things during my daily commute but I don't walk past any bushes in my normal day to day travelling any more. A couple of years ago I mentioned two different types of blackberry. I was reading another website and it looks like they might have been Dewberries.

Elderflower Wine

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I started this wine on June 1st. The recipe was based on one I found on a homebrew forum.


elderflowers: 2 handfuls
white grape juice: 1 litre
apple juice: 1 litre
sugar: 500g
lemon juice: 2 tbs
tea: 1 bag
pectin enzyme: 1tsp
bakers yeast: 1tsp
yeast nutrient: 1tsp

The juice was simply cheap supermarket cartons of 'shelf juice' rather than fresh unpasteurised 'fridge juice'.


  1. Remove and discard the stalks from the flowers.

  2. Put the elderflowers in a fermenting bucket and pour over a couple of pints of boiling water. Add a crushed campden tablet and leave for 48 hours, stirring occasionally.

  3. Strain the elderflower water into a demijohn. Add the juice and a cold cup of tea (no milk!).

  4. Dissolve the sugar in boiling water and add to the demijohn when it has cooled a bit.

  5. Add the enzyme, yeast and nutrient and leave to ferment.

  6. When it has finished fermenting, optionally clear with finings and rack into a clean demijohn. If a still wine is desired, add a campden tablet and stabiliser.

  7. (Optional) To make a sparkling wine, do not add stabiliser. Syphon into pressure bottles (e.g. plastic 1 litre lemonade bottles). Add 1 tsp sugar and a small amount of an active yeast starter. Keep in a warm room for a couple of weeks then store somewhere cool to mature.

Tasting notes

Serve chilled, this is the nicest white wine I've made so far. The flavour is light and refreshing. I attempted to make a sparkling wine by following step 7. The bottles pressurised but the resulting wine wasn't fizzy. The wine still tasted good so I consider the experiment to be a success. I still have some elderflowers in the freezer so I might try again but add slightly more sugar and yeast in step 7.

The recipe only used 500g of sugar because I was aiming for a sparkling wine with a low-ish alcohol content of around 9%. For a more traditional still wine, a higher alcohol content might be preferred so increasing the sugar content to 750g would increase the alcohol to 13-14%.

Rustenberg Roxton Viognier, 2007

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This bottle came from a case bought from Virgin Wines. We were surprised to find it was 15% alcohol - I don't think I've seen a normal non fortified wine at this strength. It didn't taste strong but after drinking a glass, I could certainly tell that I'd had a drink. It was a dry pleasant tasting wine.

Tasting notes: Rhubarb wine

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The rhubarb wine has been sitting in the shed maturing for a few months so I thought it was ready to taste. It is a bit on the sweet side. I deliberately aimed to let the wine finish of slightly sweet - rhubarb needs some sugar to bring out the flavour and I thought a bone dry wine wouldn't work so well. It isn't as sweet as a dessert wine but it also doesn't have the depth of flavour of one either. It was a fairly cheap wine to make (the rhubarb was reduced at the supermarket) so it wasn't an expensive experiment. I think it's worth trying again with more rhubarb and less sugar.

Blackberry and Elderberry wine

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I've bottled our Blackberry and Elderberry wine. I started fermenting it back in October and it's been sitting in the demijohn since then, maturing.

After filling 6 bottles there was about a glass left over so we sampled it tonight. It's fairly light flavoured, unlike my first attempt at this wine which was really full bodied. It has a reasonable fruity taste. I'll leave it in the shed for a few months to mature, to see if it improves with age.

I used 2.4kg of fruit in total. I can't remember (and didn't write down) whether I used any grape concentrate or raisins. Next time, I'll either use more fruit or supplement it with some grape or apple juice to give it more body.

Rhubarb Wine

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I bottled our rhubarb wine tonight. It was a fairly simple recipe:

  • 1.5kg Rhubarb
  • 1.25kg Sugar
  • 1 small tin of grape concentrate
  • bakers yeast

I managed to get just over 5 bottles. I'll give it a few weeks to begin to mature before tasting.

On a related note, I've ordered an electric juicer. This should make future wines easier to make. It's blackberry season at the moment and hopefully I'll have time to go and pick some soon. A friend with a grapevine has promised to give us a load of grapes, so the juicer will definitely come in handy there.

Wetherspoons Wine Festival

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The Wetherspoons pub chain is trying to break the world record for the most people at a wine tasting. They are having simultaneous wine tastings at all of their pubs throughout the country.

We went along for our free tasting (a tiny 50ml glass) and stayed to eat. The actual wine tasting was a bit disorganised. It was a while before we managed to get our tasters. For a world record attempt, it was very low key, almost to the point of being half-arsed. The free samples were only their ordinary house wines, rather than any of the 'festival' wines.

They don't seem to handle the wine festivals as well as the beer festivals.They don't promote them as well and the staff don't always seem aware of what's on offer.

Birmingham Wine Festival

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The Birmingham German Winefest started today, in Victoria Square. There are stalls selling German food and drink, with wines from most parts of the country. Unlike the rubbish sold in most supermarkets, most of this isn't sweet Liebfraumilch but proper stuff, with a wide range of whites (dry to sweet), reds, rose and sparkling wine.

I've never tried a german sparkling wine before so I bought a bottle of medium-dry sparkling reisling. It was sweeter than I am used to (mainly the excellent but very dry Lindaur) but it was impressive stuff. It's a mystery why supermarkets can't sell stuff like this. It was better than most Cava wines.

Wine Tasting Notes

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Apricot Wine
It was drunk at room temperature rather than chilled but it was good. Quite light flavoured but you could make out the apricot taste. If I tried it again I might try more apricot or leave the dried apricots to soak for longer.

Jam Wine
Quite light in flavour. Served chilled it worked well as a mixer. Tried it with white rum (ok), gin (worked well), Tropical Sourz (worked well) and Grenadine (just seemed to make it taste sweeter).

Berry Wine
This is the strongest flavoured of our wines so far, and with (in my opinion) the right balance of sweetness and depth of flavour. Also works well in a turbo purple

Apricot Wine

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  • 600g of dried apricots.
  • 500g pears.
  • 1kg sugar.
  • 1 small tin of white grape concentrate.

Wash the fruit in a dilute sodium metabisulphite solution, then chop and put into a large pan. Add the sugar, cover with water and bring to the boil. Turn off the heat and leave to cool.
Pour into a sterilized fermentation bin. Add 1tsp of pectin enzyme, 1tsp of yeast nutrient and the yeast. Leave for a few days, occasionally mashing the fruit to get more juice out. Strain into a demijohn, add the grape concentrate and top up to 1 gallon with water. Fit the airlock.

When the fermentation has stopped (or the wine has reached the desirable sweetness), add some wine stabiliser. The wine will need to be clarified either by adding finings or syphoning into a 2nd demijohn and leaving to settle. Or both if the wine is quite cloudy.

Cheese and Wine Night

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We went to a Cheese and Wine night at Warwick University, jointly hosted by the Cheese and Chocolate and the Wine and Whisky societies.
There were 6 wines paired with 6 cheeses for us to sample, and 2 experts from shops in Leamington to talk about them. It was in interesting evening, the wines and cheeses varied in quality and flavour and some of the pairings were less successful than others but most of what was available was good. There was a particularly good blue cheese there, whose name escapes me but it was very soft and creamy. There was also a Warre's 10 Year Old Tawny Port which was possibly the star of the show as far as the wines were concerned.