Food matching: The de-cyder

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Alcoholic beverage, Apple, Cider

There's something I've been meaning to get off my chest for some time - the word 'fare' does not have a 'y' in it. Any menu which tries to tempt me...

There's something I've been meaning to get off my chest for some time - the word 'fare' does not have a 'y' in it. Any menu which tries to tempt me with 'traditional pub fayre' is, quite frankly, on a hiding to nothing.

I only mention it now because Aspall likes to describe its apple-based fermented beverage as 'cyder'. So when I rolled up for lunch with Henry Chevallier Guild to discuss cider and food matching, I was all set to take him to task on the issue.

However, charming and disarming as only an eighth-generation scion of one of the country's most venerable cider-making families can be, Henry politely put me right. Back in 1725 when his ancestor Clement Chevallier began production at Aspall Hall in Suffolk, cyder-with-a-y was an accepted spelling, "and seems to have been used to designate a stronger than usual cider, which is what Clement was making," says Henry firmly.

So, that's that, and if anyone else wants to argue - well let's just say that the Chevallier family were big noises back in the Crusades, and so no strangers to a scrap.

Having lived on Jersey, with its strong connections to the cider-friendly culture of Normandy and Brittany, Clement set about producing cider at Aspall mainly to keep himself and the household happy. "Enjoying a glass of cider with food was second nature to him. We're now trying to bring that tradition back ," says Henry.

While the family has been producing apple juice, vinegar and cider commercially for many decades, Henry and his brother Barry have used their stewardship of the business to create a premium cider brand which is a success in both the on and off-trade. The next step is to reclaim the gastronomic roots of cider.

Which is why Henry and I are meeting at the North Pole in Kensington, London - run by Phil Strongman, the 'Pub Doctor' - to see how well the Aspalls range matches with Phil's menu.

We start with pork and chorizo meatballs with squid ink pasta and parmesan cream. Served with Aspall Premier Cru. Premier Cru goes well with charcuterie and mild cheeses. As Henry points out, it also provides a very harmonious partnership with spicy foods, such as curry or, in this case, chorizo sausage.

For the main course, we move on to lemon and thyme garlic roasted poussin with pesto crushed new potatoes and samphire - served with Aspall Organic Suffolk Cyder. This has a higher bittersweet content than Aspall's othet ciders, so is the closest in style to the cyder which would have been made by Clement back in the 1700s.

It goes well with strong cheddars, blue stilton and pungent, ripe French cheeses, as well as the burst of fresh, herby flavours in this dish.

For pudding, the pub serves up apple and blackberry crumble, which Henry matches to Aspall Perronelle's Blush. A twist on the classic Kir Royale, this is made with cider and crème de mure - blackberry liqueur. It's named after Henry and Barry's grandmother.

Although this makes a great aperitif, or a match with dishes such as smoked salmon, it's undoubtedly with desserts that it comes into its own. While it worked well with the sweet crumble, it would also complement sharper puds such as tarte au citron or gooseberry crumble with fresh cream.

All Henry's matches were excellent calls, and the Aspall's range certainly deserves a place in the drinks matching repertoire of pubs. Next time someone asks for the wine list, suggest a decent cyder instead, However it's spelt.

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