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July 2008

Please note that the Vino Cellar will be closed this Saturday July 5th as well as Saturdays July 19th and 26th.

Vino will, however, be open on on Saturday July 12th (tomorrow week). As always, if you would like to purchase any of wines at club members' prices outside of our limited Saturday opening, please simply email me at marc@vino.co.uk to arrange a mutually convenient time to meet, taste, discuss. I'm happy to deliver locally (Topsham, Exeter and surrounds).

While we are away, Freddie Dudbridge can arrange any off-sales for Club Vino members - see Freddie in the Pebblebed Tasting Cellar or email freddieduds@googlemail.com

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Amalfi lemons!
Any who have visited the Amalfi Coast, south of Naples, will know what a special, colourful and fragrant paradise this is. Even in winter, beautiful lemons are grown outdoors in the mild climate, their thick, unwaxed skins full of intensely flavoured and scented oils. Amalfi lemons are quite unlike lemons from almost anywhere else, a fact recognised by the granting of select European IGP (indicazione geografica protetta) status (a system somewhat similar to AOC or DOC status for French or Italian wines).

For me, Amalfi lemons are the taste of summer. Unbelievably, I've found a source for them, and just this morning took delivery of a gorgeous couple of dozen, vividly yellow, smelling of the sun, seemingly just picked off the trees of Positano.

The company that sent them to me (for an article we're writing and photographing for Italy Magazine) is called www.nifeislife.com, and they will despatch other excellent Italian products, too, including some great, very fresh mozzarella di bufala and excellent Italian cured meats and other cheeses.

What will we do with these amazing Amalfi lemons (after Kim has first photographed them)? Two wonderful things: we'll make some Limoncello, the vividly yellow lemon liqueur that is the speciality of the Amalfi Coast. And with the juice of the lemons remaining after we've stripped them of their fragrant and precious zest, we'll rustle up some spaghetti al limone, one of the simplest - and one of my all time favourites - of all pasta dishes.

Here are the recipes. Enjoy the summer!

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Limoncello

About 15 lemons, preferably Amalfi lemons (make sure and use the best lemons available, look for thick skinned, unwaxed and organic if possible)

2 x 750ml bottles of 100 proof vodka

500g sugar

500ml water

Clean bottles, labels

1. Wash the unwaxed lemons and carefully peel off all the zest, taking great care not to include any of the white pith. If some of this is attached to the peel, scrape it off with a knife as it will impart a bitter taste.

2. In a large, clean jar that can be sealed, add all the lemon zest and peel, then top up with 1 bottle of either grain alcohol or vodka (Italians will use grain alcohol, but this is not widely available. Vodka is a good alternative and makes a somewhat smoother drink.) Cover the to keep out the light or store in a dark place for at least a month or longer, stirring from time to time. The colour and all the essential oils and flavourings should leech out of the zest so that the pieces eventually turn white and brittle.

3. When you reach this stage, boil up the sugar and water to make a simple syrup. Leave to cool.

4. Strain the alcohol and lemon mixture through a fine sieve, pressing hard against the peel with a ladle to squeeze to get out all the goodness of the lemons. Strain again through a cheesecloth to remove any impurities. Return to a large, clean jar, and mix with the sugar syrup to taste. Top up with more vodka to get the balance right between the essence of lemon, the sweetness, and the kick of the alcohol (I don’t like Limoncello too cloyingly sweet – it should be bright yellow, fragrant, and deliciously powerful).

5. Leave to mature in a dark place for a further month, then bottle into clean, attractive 50cl bottles, seal with corks, and label with your own handmade labels.

6. To serve, bottles of Limoncello should be kept in the freezer. Pour out ice cold servings to enjoy at the end of a meal. Or drizzle over homemade vanilla ice cream.

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Spaghetti al limone

This dish reminds me of a special time on the Sicilian island of Alicudi a few years ago, balmy evenings enjoying simple foods from our friend Elda's terrace, overlooking the the sea to the pale outlines of the neighbouring islands of Filicudi, Salina, and sometimes even Stromboli. The lemons we'd use would be picked fresh from a tree in the garden. Here in Topsham, we may not quite have that luxury, but the view across the wide stretches of the Exe estuary and Exminster marshes to the Haldon Hills is no less stunning.

1 lb spaghetti

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, peeled but left whole

1 whole dried peperoncino

1/2 bottle dry white Italian wine (preferably Sicilian)

3 unwaxed lemons, juice and zest

Handful of freshly and finely chopped flat leaf parsley

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.

2. Meanwhile, in a wok, heat the olive oil over a moderate flame. Add the whole garlic clove and the whole peperoncino, and sauté briefly for five minutes of so, until the garlic just begins to take on colour and the chili to release its oils. Remove and discard. Add the white wine to the flavoured olive oil, and reduce by half over a brisk flame. Reduce the heat, add the lemon juice and about half the lemon zest. Keep the sauce at a bare simmer.

3. Cook the spaghetti until al dente. Drain and toss in the wok, together with the remaining lemon zest and finely chopped parsley; season with salt and plenty of coarsely ground black pepper. Serve at once.

Suggested wine: Something simple and forthright, like our excellent and inexpensive house white Statua Sicilian bianco, a perfect easy-drinking wine for summer.

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Best to all,

Marc and Kim

 
 
 
 
 

Copyright Marc Millon 2005-2009 All rights reserved
Images copyright Kim Millon 2005-2009 All rights reserved

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