May is the end of spring, the garden has fully come to life. You have to start mowing the lawn again regularly. It’s also the month of the Chelsea Flower show. I asked Wine Trust 100’s Master of Wine Nick Adams which wines he recommended with floral dishes. He suggested summery rosés and whites.
I lived in France for seven years; six in Paris and one year near Saint Tropez in Provence, the rosé region. People drink literally gallons of the stuff, starting at about 11am, and the ex-pat community living there are no slouches in this department. During the winter, there isn’t much to do except drink: the shops, bars and restaurants are closed out of season.
A little west of where I was living, towards the Pyrenées, is the Pays D’Oc, from whence we get the fruity Pasquiers, £7, Grenache/Cinsault rosé which is a wonderful midday lunch wine.
One of my favourite wines from the Winetrust100 list is an Australian Pink Moscato, £6, sold in the half bottle, so easy to transport for a picnic. It is a light sweetish sparkling rosé, totally girly, totally fresh. It also has a very pretty label.
Sweeter is the apricot hued Orange Muscat, £12, a perfect summer dessert wine. Orange muscat is different from orange wines, often from Eastern Europe and part of the ‘natural’ wine movement, where any intervention or additions to wine are frowned upon. This can often mean a slightly rough but low sulphate wine, hence less hangovers.
I love to cook with flowers: the classic fried courgette flowers, squash flower soup, hibiscus flower sorbet, and of course, as a pretty garnish. The flowers from borage, runner beans, violets and herb flowers all add colour and freshness to dishes.
In this recipe, we have a light refreshing soup using the peppery leaves and flowers of the nasturtium. Both are edible, although people tend to use the flowers in salads and forget about the leaves, which are reminiscent of rocket.
Nasturtium courgette and buttermilk soup
- 50ml olive oil
- 1 large banana shallot, thinly sliced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 large courgettes, cut in half lengthways and sliced
- A few mint leaves
- 500ml vegetable stock (marigold)
- 1 tbsp of sea salt
- 300ml buttermilk
- A large handful of clean nasturtium leaves
- Nasturtium leaves
- Nasturtium flowers
In a large saucepan, soften the shallot and garlic in the olive oil over a medium heat. Then add the courgette half moons and the mint, stirring.
When the courgettes start to tinge golden, add the vegetable stock, the salt and the buttermilk.
Stir for a few minutes then add to a blender (start slowly, then raise the speed, you don’t want hot stock everywhere) or use a stick blender to pulverise the soup. Then add the nasturtium leaves.
Serve garnished with the leaves and flowers. The leaves look like mini waterlily pads.
What I’m drinking this month with my floral dishes:
From Austria: A fabulous dry Riesling by female wine maker Sybille Kuntz, £16.
I love all Marlborough wines: Lawson’s Dry Hills, Sauvignon Blanc, 2012, £15 a bottle, has won tonnes of prizes.
From Italy: Branko Collio, Friulano, £19. I think this would go well with a curry too.
From the great stretch of desert that is Northern Chile: Viognier Tabali, £9.50