Cambridge Food and Wine Society passed on this Jancis Robinson recommendation to me some months ago.
I do not think I have ever bought a bottle of wine from Asda before, but when the First Lady of Wine gives it the thumbs up, then it's definitely worth a try. Jancis was impressed with its "rich spiciness and the fact that it is not overburdened with dry tannins, while being unmistakably from this beautiful rocky, lavender-scented western corner of Provence".
Priced at under a fiver, this is very much in "everyday wine" territory and as an everyday wine, or even something for a Sunday lunch with the family, it is very good, but (in our household, at least) not necessarily something to impress guests with. Smooth, fruity and complex, it is not quite as well made as the two previous red wines I have reviewed here and which I was able to buy for just a few pennies more (albeit, seriously discounted from their full list prices).
However, as it would be a shame to use up either the Californian Merlot or the New Zealand Syrah-Viognier in a casserole (not least because they were available in only limited quantities), and since Asda's stocks of this wine are plentiful, I put half into a beef casserole and we drank the rest with the meal.
There are two main herbs in this recipe and both will grow easily in a pot in a sunny aspect of the garden (in Cambridge, at least) - rosemary and thyme. The rosemary leaves need to be finely chopped and the stalks discarded; the thyme should tied in a bundle with cotton and removed at the end of cooking.
Beef casserole with red wine and Mediterranean herbs, served with creamy mashed potato and green beans - serves 3/4
It should go without saying that good quality beef is the key to this recipe; Cambridge and its surrounding villages have plenty of good butchers, but for this I used beef from Waitrose.
A little sunflower oil
500g braising / stewing steak or similar
1 large onion
2 stalks of celery
2 large carrots
1/2 bottle Asda Extra Special 2007 Côtes du Rhône-Villages
Chopped rosemary (1 stalk or to taste)
Bundle of thyme, tied tightly with cotton
2 bay leaves
Crushed garlic (1/2 clove - 2 cloves according to taste)
Creamy Mashed Potato
5 large potatoes
Salt and pepper
For the stock:
You can of course buy stock, but the easiest way is simply to simmer the left-over bones from a roast dinner in a pan of water seasoned with salt, pepper, bay leaf and an onion for an hour or so. Alternately, some butchers will give away bags of bones for stock-making (try Andrew's on Burleigh Street).
For the casserole:
Wash the meat, pat dry with kitchen roll and season generously all over with salt and pepper
Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and brown the meat in small batches, transferring each batch to a dish once browned; the meat should be crispy on the outside with caramelised juices
Having removed all the browned meat, add the onion, carrot and celery to the pan, a little more oil if needed and cook through for 5 - 10 minutes, then turn the heat right down and continue cooking very gently for a further 10 minutes to bring out the sweetness of the vegetables
Add back the browned beef and pour in the wine, bring to the boil under a high flame for around a minute to boil off all the alcohol
Add the stock, crushed garlic and herbs, cover and simmer on the gentlest of flames with bubbles barely breaking the surface for 2 - 3 hours
If you can afford to wait, this dish will improve significantly if left to stand overnight and a good heavy-bottomed pan will keep it gently cooking for many hours after you have turned off the heat.
For the creamy mashed potato:
Peel the potatoes and cut into 8 along the same axis to give long, thin strips, rather than cubes
Simmer very gently in unsalted water for around 20 minutes until the potatoes are almost falling apart
Strain, put into a bowl add a generous helping of butter, milk, salt and pepper and mash thoroughly until a deliciously smooth creamy consistency is achieved
Serve the casserole and mash with green beans and plenty more of the Côtes du Rhône-Villages.