If you find the prospect of choosing the correct wines to serve with specific dishes mildly terrifying, then wine writer Victoria Moore's new book, The Wine Dine Dictionary (Granta, £20), may be just the thing to get you out of a hole.
It's hard to understand why nobody has produced a book such as this before now, as it does a mean job of demystifying the hocus-pocus around wine and food matching, and delivering its information in a hugely readable and accessible fashion.
Whether you're wondering about the perfect wine to serve with the mackerel you're having for supper, or confused as to what to eat with a special bottle that you've been saving, The Wine Dine Dictionary has the answers. The book is arranged A-Z by food, and also A-Z by wine, either grape or region of origin. Victoria Moore's aim is to help her readers "make more informed, more creative and more delicious choices about what to eat and drink". An expert in the psychology of smell and taste, she doesn't just explain what goes with what, but why and how the combination works. The book is written with authority, warmth and wit, and emanates from the starting point that putting food together with wine is supposed to be fun. "There are a handful of quick tricks you can use to help you pick a wine without fuss," writes Moore. "Here they are...
"Picking by mood - some wines and foods evoke certain moods... barbecued meat with heavy reds, summer salads with pristine, chilled whites. If you can imagine the wine and the food in the same setting, then you're off.
"Picking by weight: think about texture and weight - look for an even balance so that the food does not drown out the wine (or vice versa).
"Picking by place: go local. That is, local to the food, not to wherever you happen to be. Putting place with place, region with region, is a trick that works partly because food and wine cultures grow together."
These are just two of Moore's recommendations: Indian dhal with dusty, dry reds, the flavours of which align with the lentils - look for inexpensive reds from Turkey; the Dão in Portugal; Lebanon; Carménère from Chile; or Sangiovese or Montepulciano from central Tuscany. Strawberries without cream go with Saumur-Champigny, but with cream they become a full-blown dessert best accompanied by a properly sweet wine such as Jurançon Moelleux or a floral Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise.
SIDE WITH VEGGIES
Ed Smith, the ex-lawyer-turned-food writer behind the very readable blog Rocket and Squash has written a "sourcebook of inspiring side dishes" which will put vegetables firmly to the fore of your everyday cooking. On the Side is published by Bloomsbury at £20; rocketandsquash.com
Paul McNamara's food gets better and better. At a recent lunch (€20/€25 for 2/3 courses) rose veal carpaccio with artichoke and Parmesan; pea and nettle spelt risotto with taleggio and hen of the wood, and the signature red wine prunes with vanilla mascarpone were faultless. See etto.ie
MAGICAL FOREST & MARCY
The little sister to Forest Avenue won big at the recent RAI awards, taking home Best Newcomer and Best Emerging Irish Cuisine, with chef Ciarán Sweeney named Best Chef in Dublin. Now taking bookings, the small restaurant is one of the capital's must-visits. See forestandmarcy.ie