Anna's Pebblebed harvest soup
Ebford, Devon October 22, 2006
As per Geoff Bowen's Pebblebed
harvest report, the last of the Pebblebed grapes are all now
in. Once picked, they were transported to Juliet White's Yearlstone
winery, crushed and are now slowly fermenting as natural grape
sugars are transformed into alcohol. In Piedmont, Mario
Fontana's deeply coloured classic red wines of Le Langhe - Dolcetto,
Barbera, Nebbiolo and Barolo - continue to slowly ferment. Soon
it will be time to draw off the first jugs of tooth-staining Dolcetto,
brought to the table direct from the cellar below, still foaming
and raspingly acidic, to enjoy with bagna caoda, the pungent anchovy
and garlic hot pot that is a characteristic and delicious autumn
food of the region.
Last Sunday's harvest in Ebford, as harvests
are everywhere, was a quite joyous event. The forecast was dire,
with torrential rain and high winds set to pass through in the morning.
A good turnout, however, ensured that the last of the Seyval grapes
were harvested by mid-morning. Then, just as the last crates were
loaded on to John Pyne's horse trailers for transport to Yearlstone,
the heavens opened. Everyone huddled under the marquee as the rain
lashed down. The weather may have been horrid, but there was a real
feeling of satisfaction at a job well done. Harvesting grapes is
hard physical labour, bending down or stretching up to carefully
cut the bunches, carrying the heavy crates down the rows, back up
to start all over again. Yet there are rewards: at the finish, hands
sticky from the sweet grape juice that ran down our arms, Geoff
passed around most welcome tumblers of of Pebblebed white 2005.
Now normally - Geoff I'm sure would concur
- we consider Pebblebed white to be a light summer wine to enjoy
on balmy evenings, perhaps beside the river. On this day, the weather
by contrast was positively wintry as the rain, driven by the near
gale force westerlies, lashed horizontally into the marquee, drenching
and chilling us all. Yet that Pebblebed white, supped or glugged
with gusto and real thirst worked up from labour and anticipation,
enjoyed within the actual vineyard from which it was produced, tasted
as full and delicious and as right for the occasion as any glass
of wine you are ever likely to taste in your life.
And, finally, this year's much awaited
Harvest Feast! Anna, Gail and friends carried out from the Leaders'
house immense, steaming pots of the most delicious and warming soup,
a real, hearty, rib-sticking affair, made with bacon, Savoy cabbage,
beans, leeks, potatoes. It was awesomely good, piping hot, and it
positively demanded a tumbler or two more of that delicious Pebblebed
to wash it down. To finish, Bill Barnes
then turned up with some schiacciata con le uve - a sort of Tuscan
inspired flat pizza-like sourdough bread based topped with Seyval
grapes from the vineyard, baked briefly in a very hot oven. The
chewy, sourdough crust and the sweet, crushed grapes again demanded,
well, what else, yet more Pebblebed white as the perfect accompaniment...
Bravo, Geoff, brava, Anna, bravo Bill.
Let's raise a glass to Geoff and to all our Vino winemaker friends,
Mario of Cascina Fontana, Giuditta of Loretello, Donatella of Casato
Prime Donne, Gianluca of Prosecco Bisol and others. Your considerable
efforts bring great pleasure to us all!
Anna's Pebblebed harvest soup
Last Sunday, Anna made enough soup to
feed an army of hungry grape pickers. This recipe is scaled down
to feed just a hungry family or two.
4 large onions, roughly chopped
4 leeks, cleaned and roughly chopped
8 slices thick cut smoked bacon, diced into cubes
1 large glass Pebblebed white wine
2 tbs tomato puree
1 tin baked beans (!)
1/2 Savoy cabbage
500 g new potatoes
Generous dash of Tabasco sauce
In a separate pan, par-boil the new potatoes
until just tender.
Fry the onions and leeks in a generous
knob of butter. Add the bacon and cook for five minutes or so. Add
a glass of white wine (one for the pot, one for the cook), stir
in well and let bubble for a couple of minutes. Add tomato puree,
baked beans, new potatoes and cabbage and top up with water so that
all the contents are just covered. Bring to the boil and simmer
until the cabbage is well cooked. Add a generous splosh of Tabasco
to give that final Pebblebed kick. Enjoy - either around the table
or, if you really want to be authentic, standing outside in the