Monday 1 October 2018

Celebrate Vegetables, & Vegetarian Wine on World Vegetarian Day

You don't have to be a vegetarian to make the most of World Vegetarian Day.

But allow your eyes to be opened, even if it's just for a day, to the wonderful flavour explosion that vegetables can bring, without an animal's help in sight.

Take the humble mushroom, or aubergine. Every bit as 'meaty', yet without any need for an animal to have suffered in any way in the making.

Add vegetarian wine, both to the warming Aubergine Bourguignon and in your glass, and you've the perfect autumnal treat.

Vegetarian wine? What's that all about?

It comes down to how wines are created. Once all those grapes have been crushed and completed fermentation to make wine, there's a hazy cloud of bits left floating around in the wine. The solution is 'fining' the wine, which can also reduce bitterness and astringency.

And, if you're planning on fining your wine, some things work quicker and more effectively than others, giving a raft of options to choose from. So, albumen (found in the whites from eggs), gelatine (derived from animal bones), casein (from milk), and isinglass (from fish swim bladders) all found themselves high on the list.

Even dried Ox blood was once found to be an effective way of cleaning up wines with lots of bits floating around in it, but it's rarely used today.

Whilst these wouldn’t necessarily be evident in the final wine, their very use would cause vegetarians or vegans to pause for thought before drinking them.

Or at least it would if it were clearly stated on the wine's label. But that's not obligatory (unless one of those products is an allergen).

Fortunately for vegetarians, and those that care about how their wine is made, other things can accomplish the same result. Betonite (a dried clay), carbon, and PVPP (a synthetic polymer) are all widely-used options that'll result in a vegetarian or vegan wine.

Celebrate World Vegetarian Day with this sumptuous recipe. Easy to make (only 20 minutes or so prep), and brilliant with a Pinot Noir like the Domaine de Casssagnau 2016 from the Languedoc, down to £8.99 from £11.29, just for this week only.

Aubergine & Mushroom Bourguignon
Serves 4
4 tbsp Olive oil
250g Chestnut mushrooms, sliced
1 Medium aubergine (about 450g), cut into cubes (about an inch square)
1 Small onion, diced
1 Medium carrot, peeled and sliced
2 Garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp Plain flour
50ml Cooking brandy
1 tbsp Fresh thyme (1 tsp if using dried)
2 Bay leaves
250ml Vegetable stock
400ml Red wine (Pinot Noir ideally, but a Spanish Tempranillo or Bobal would make a cheaper alternative)
2 tbsp Tomato paste
300g Button onions or shallots
½ tsp Sea salt
1 tsp Paprika (smoked if you have it)

Serve with tagliatelle or other ribbon pasta, creamy mashed potatoes, or polenta

1. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a heavy-bottomed casserole pan and put on medium heat. When hot, add the sliced mushrooms in an even layer. Cook for about 5 minutes, then brown the other side of the mushrooms. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and put to one side.

2. Pour the remaining tablespoons of olive oil into the casserole, allow to heat before adding the aubergine, carrots and onion. Fry until the aubergine is nicely soft (it’ll soak up the oil) and the onion translucent (about 10-12 minutes). Add the garlic and cook for another minute.

3. Put the mushrooms back in. Stir the flour in, coating the vegetables, and cook for a further minute. Add your brandy, and the herbs. Bring to a simmer and let bubble until most of the liquid has absorbed and evaporated (around 2-3 minutes).

4. Now pour in your stock, wine, the small onions/shallots, salt and tomato paste. Give a good stir, up the heat and bring it all up to a simmer. Then reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer for around half an hour. The sauce will thicken as the vegetables cook. When they’re tender, you’re there.

5. Take off the heat, remove the bay leaves if you can spot them and adjust the seasoning to taste (a good grind of black pepper is advised).

6. Now you’re ready to serve with your pasta, mash, or polenta.

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