After watching Spain beat the boring French in the Euros, my wife decided that the only way to celebrate the win over Les Bleus was for some Spanish food the following evening.
We were due a break food-wise as on match night we’d loaded up at a fantastic local vegetarian Indian restaurant called Saravana Bhavan, part of a global chain that boasts nearly 70 outlets. It was mind-blowingly good. I was reminded of my friend Frank’s disgust at not seeing meat on the menu at a veggie curry house we went to once for ‘boys’ curry night’. He would’ve hated it, but out here, meat can be of dubious quality, so sticking to veg is often a safe bet and boy did we cash in.
We had a small selection but here’s the role call of dishes:
Gobi-45 – morsels of deep fried cauliflower heavily spiced and well seasoned was like a nutty tandoori chicken, but better.
Kadhai Paneer Punjabi – cottage cheese and spicy masala-type curry, but more delicate than the meat version.
Aloo ‘pepper fry’ – onion and curry-leaf fried potatoes with a hint of coconut, the sweetness complimenting the heavy spice of the other dishes.
All accompanied by divine methi paratha and mango lassi to damping the tingling senses.
Total cost, £15…. what’s that? bargain you say? Yes indeed sir.
So having consumed a fair amount of ghee, the deliciously moreish, sweet refined butter so loved by Indians, our Spanish effort was altogether more holy; gazpacho
Gazpacho is a pretty acidic dish – depending on your chosen recipe, essentially tomato juice, red peppers, cucumber and spring onion – and is of course watery, so in my mind hard to pair with wine. Incapable of going with gut instinct, or trying to work it out myself, some bloggers I read were suggesting very dry Spanish Rioja rose, or Sancerre.
My choice of wine was made for me. The selection of rose in our local deli is pitiful – either offensively pink Ernest Julio Gallo ‘Blush’ imitations or Provencal wines in weirdly-shaped bottles that I wouldn’t poke with a barge-pole. This Sancerre “Les Maulins Bales” 2010 bottled by some French dude called Leon Vatan, was the only option given that the next nearest was nearly double the price at £35.
On its own this was a pretty plain example of a Loire Sauvignon Blanc – I didn’t get any steely, gunpowder, citrusy aromas and in the mouth it was nothing to rave about (I can’t say I agree with this review – one of only a handful I could find on the internet). I love French Sauvignon – to me so much more refined and subtle than new world expressions (except some extremely interesting flinty, pungently vegetal examples I’ve had from South Africa) – but this was a bit underwhelming…
…however…we’d paired it not just with the soup, but also some goats cheese, and it was with the food that it suddenly came to life.
Goats cheese and Sancerre are a match made in heaven – the creamy, funkiness of the cheese cut by the acidity, and then accentuated by, the grass and fresh hay of the wine. But it was the gazpacho that brought out a more unusual experience. Each slurp of soup and gulp of wine brought about a distinct flavour of watermelon. WOW! Weird. Did I like it? Seems I did. What a bizarre twist that the combo of ingredients in the soup and the wine should bring out such an unexpected taste.
The French might have played boring football that night, but this ‘boring’ wine showed a different touch of class.