Books Recipes Wine articles

Drunken cookery competition

One of my favourite ways of spending a rainy weekend is to cook a time-consuming though not particularly complicated dish whilst slowly getting drunk. Something like a Bouef Bourgignon with one bottle of wine for the dish and one for the chef. I’ll put some jazz on in the kitchen, Hank Mobley or Mose Allison perhaps, and get chopping and drinking. Hopefully there’ll be enough left in the second bottle for my wife and I to have a glass with the finished dish.

In my student days, I did things rather differently. We had blackened saucepan in the kitchen filled with old oil and after a night at the pub, we’d make chips. Not just chips, pretty much anything would go into that vat of boiling oil, onion rings, sausages, parsips, sometimes I’d spit beer into the oil and watch the explosions. It’s a minor miracle that no one got hurt. I did, however, get quite chubby so there was a consequence to my irresponsibility. When I was sent the Drunken Cookbook (sequel to the best-selling Hungover Cookbook) by Milton Crawford, I immediatly looked for the deep-frying section, nothing tastes better when drunk than deep-fried food. Mr Crawford is, however, a lot more responsible than I was, and warns against deep-frying when drunk. Happily there are lots of other great recipes to try when hammered or even just mildly tipsy. In fact the recipes are graded as to how drunk you could be to attempt them. He’s also mixed in some stories from well-known booze enthusiasts such as Kingsley Amis. It’s fun to cook from or would make a great present for the drunkard in your life.

Square Peg, the publishers, have very kindly offered me three copies to giveaway. Simply let me know your favourite thing to cook when under the influence or even a good anecdote about drunken cookery. I will be consulting with the author and anything that makes us laugh or salivate stands a chance of winning. You can answer below or email me at henry g jeffreys at gmail dot com.


Beer Spirits Wine articles

I’m bored with wine

Of course I’m not! I love wine. I’m just bored of ordinary wine. As a wine columnist for the Lady I get sent lots of samples. It sounds very exciting but the truth is that most of them aren’t very good. The whites in particular are desperately dull. My wife doesn’t even try them anymore. During this bout of sunny weather it has dawned on me that I would rather drink a gin & tonic, an Aspalls cider or even a bottle of Heineken than almost any sub £7 wine. There was an article in the Spectator  that got a lot of flack called Why Does Anyone Drink Wine by top advertising guru Rory Sutherland:

“But wine drunk on its own is often a terrible drink, usually consumed for appearances’ sake, or because the drinker lacks the confidence to complain, or for want of any alternative source of alcohol.”

You can read the whole thing here. I don’t agree with everything he says; he makes the mistake of conflating two types of wines, ordinary stuff, which is drunk by the undiscerning drinker or drunk by the discerning drinker when he’s not being discerning, and the more interesting stuff. But broadly, it’s hard to disagree with him. If you want something delicious, you’re almost always better off having a non-wine drink.  

The problem with cheap wine is that producers are trying to make a consistent product out of a an inconsistent annual crop. Wine doesn’t take well to industrial production. Grapes lose flavour when over-cropped. Rivals to wine: beer, cider, gin etc. don’t have these problems. They’re not aiming to be vintage. The big brands are industrial products and they’re not ashamed of it. Yes there’s an awful lot of bad beer and cider around, but most pubs, supermarkets and corner shops offer a few interesting beers, a decent cider and a superb selection of spirits for the same price as the not-so-good stuff.

This summer we’re drinking cocktails and my wife is happier than ever. The only problem is what to do with all those leftover samples. I could give them to my neighbours but the best thing to do with a cheap white is to add Aperol or Campari, fizzy water and ice to make a Bicyclette. Or you could party like its 1979 by adding Creme de Cassis to make a Kir.