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Pork! (August 7, 2008)

Fergus Henderson's The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating is a cult classic for a whole lot of very good reasons. Henderson, an internationally adored chef, has two restaurants in England – the French House Dining Room, established in 1992, and St. John, opened in 1995 – that have become destinations for people who love to eat "on the wild side." His recipes, many based on the odd parts of the beast, hark way back to a strong rural tradition of thrift, and literally represent Henderson's motto, "Nose to Tail Eating." You'll be as intrigued as we were over Pig's Trotter Stuffed with Potato; Rabbit Wrapped in Fennel and Bacon; Lamb's Tongues, Turnips and Bacon; and his signature dish of Roast Bone Marrow and Parsley Salad. These and much more make the recipe for Haggis sound almost mainstream!

Henderson's second book, Beyond Nose to Tail, expanded the repertoire to include even more variations on Pig's Head and other meats and, we're delighted to say, an expanded chapter on Puddings. So you'll probably never do a Braised Squirrel or Eel, Bacon and Prune Stew... you will do his Sticky Date Pudding, Apple and Blackberry Cobbler and all the sinfully rich ice creams! Mostly, however, Henderson celebrates offal classics from appetizers and soups to entrées and pies and in these books he explains why, in the hands of a patient and talented cook, nearly every part of the very thing we eat is a delicious treat.

Fergus Henderson

Henderson trained as an architect before becoming a chef; his two restaurants have been named both the Best British and Best Overall London Restaurant. Anthony Bourdain said, "I want Fergus Henderson to cook my last meal. He is my favourite chef and (he runs my) favourite restaurant in the whole world." Jamie Oliver stated, "A fantastic book, wonderful stories with nostalgic and inspiring recipes... an essential book for honest cooks."

Honest cook or otherwise, you'll love these two wildly adventurous books!

In the same vein, a few months ago we enjoyed a Pork Marketing Canada sampling of yummy dishes from different cuts and breeds and, after sampling everything, found our hands-down favourite was juicy, flavourful and, yes, wickedly fatty Berkshire Pork. Curious about this breed, we found out from and that three hundred years ago – so legend has it – the Berkshire hog was discovered by Oliver Cromwell's army, while in winter quarters at Reading, the county seat of the shire of Berks in England. After the war (1642–1651), these veterans carried the news of the wonderful hogs to the outside world; they were larger than any other swine of that time and producing hams and bacon of rare quality and flavor.

The eating quality of the Berkshire hog made it an early favorite with the upper class of English farmers, and for years the Royal Family kept a large Berkshire herd at Windsor Castle. A famous Berkshire hog of a century ago was named Windsor Castle, having been raised within sight of the towers of the royal residence. This boar was imported to the United States in 1841 and created a huge stir in the rural press as it weighed around 1,000 pounds at maturity. Some pig, indeed!

By now hooked on pork parts, we went looking for more, and came across It's a trove of fabulous recipes from Australia's top chefs as featured in The Age, Sydney Morning Herald and NZ Cuisine magazine. And here was just what we wanted: Crisp Pork Belly with Caramel Vinegar by one of our favourite chefs, the very dishy Bill Granger.

Chef Granger is as famous for his sunny disposition as he is for his sublime food that has people queuing round the block to indulge at his three Sydney cafés. Born in Melbourne, Bill moved to Sydney when he was 19 to study fine art. However, working as a waiter, his focus shifted from art to food with a bang; he was only 22 when he opened his first Sydney café, and never looked back.

Seemingly still with time on his talented hands, he's written five cookbooks and regularly contributes to newspapers and magazines, appears on both Australian and international TV and radio; you can catch his television series, bills food, on BBC One; he regularly appears on BBC Two's Saturday Kitchen as well.

Make a date with your cardiologist, order more Lipitor... these recipes are worth every single sinful bite!

On today's menu:

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Roast Bone Marrow and Parsley Salad

(from The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating)

Fergus Henderson says, "This is the one dish that does not change on the menu at St. John. The marrowbone comes from a calf's leg, ask your butcher to keep some for you. You will need teaspoons or long thin implements to scrape your marrow out of the bone at the table."

This is possibly the most sinful dish we've ever had; it's right up there with foie gras; you can only eat it once in a while, but oh my, what a pleasure. We had such fun imagining that centuries ago, diners in huge drafty manor houses were enjoying the same dish, while the whippets below the table finished up those bones.

P.S. The marrow bones photograph was taken by Gary Wiviott of Chicago, IL, while at a friend's in Naples, Florida. Gary told us that they were then lustily consumed as part of a delightfully lengthy New Year's Eve celebration, and added, "I will say the marrow bones tasted as good as they looked." Oh, Gary... thank you! And please put us on your party list!

Serves 4. Oink

  • Twelve 3-inch pieces of veal marrowbone
  • A healthy bunch of flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked from the stems
  • 2 shallots, peeled and very thinly sliced
  • 1 modest handful of capers (extra-fine if possible). We guessed about ½ cup.
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • A pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • A good supply of toast
  • Coarse sea salt

Put the marrowbone pieces in an ovenproof frying pan and place in a hot 450°F oven. The roasting process should take about 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the bone. You are looking for the marrow to be loose and giving, but not melted away, which it will do if left too long (traditionally the ends would be covered to prevent any seepage, but I like the colouring and crispness at the ends).

Meanwhile, lightly chop your parsley, just enough to discipline it, mix it with the shallots and capers, and at the last moment dress the salad.

Here is a dish that should not be completely seasoned before leaving the kitchen, rendering a last-minute seasoning unnecessary by the actual eater; this, especially in the case of coarse sea salt, gives texture and uplift at the moment of eating. My approach is to scrape the marrow from the bone onto the toast and season with coarse sea salt. Then a pinch of parsley salad on top of this and eat. Of course once you have your pile of bones, salad, toast and salt it is diner's choice.

Tony's wine recommendation:
New Zealand or Ontario Sauvignon Blanc or chilled Beaujolais or Gamay


Crisp Pork Belly with Caramel Vinegar

(Chef Bill Granger,

Aussie Bill Granger's food philosophy is built on uncomplicated recipes and uncluttered dishes perfectly suited to the times. It also helps that the food looks as good as he does – casual and carefree. This pork belly recipe is obscenely delicious and, compared to many other versions, quick and easy.

Serves 6

    Pork Belly
  • 1.5kg pork belly
  • 2 tbsp sea salt
  • olive oil
  • freshly ground black pepper
    Caramel vinegar
  • 1/2 cup (115 g) brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup (80 mL) red wine vinegar
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 cup (250 mL) chicken stock
  • juice of 1 orange
  • 4 wide strips of orange peel
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper


Pork Belly
Score the skin of the pork belly in a criss-cross pattern with a sharp knife (a Stanley knife works well). Rub the sea salt into the pork skin and set aside for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 220°C. Wipe the salt off the pork skin with kitchen paper and dry well. Drizzle a large roasting tin with olive oil. Put the pork belly in the tin skin-side down, drizzle with a little more oil and season with salt and pepper.

Roast for 30 minutes. Reduce temperature to 190°C and roast for another 1½ hours. Carefully turn the pork over and roast for another 20 minutes, or until the skin is crisp.

Remove the pork from the oven, cover loosely with foil and set aside to rest for at least 15 minutes. Slice the pork and drizzle with the caramel vinegar (recipe opposite). Serve with steamed rice, a steamed Asian green vegetable and some freshly chopped red chili.

Caramel vinegar
Put the sugar, vinegar, star anise and cinnamon in a small saucepan and cook, stirring, over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes, or until syrupy.

Stir in the chicken stock and simmer for another 5 minutes, or until slightly reduced. Add the orange juice and peel, reduce the heat to low and simmer gently until thick and syrupy. Season to taste.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Riesling Kabinett from Rheingau or Semi-Dry Riesling from Ontario, or Viognier


America's Cut Berkshire Pork in Ginger Marinade

(Berkshire Meats, Inc.)

We wanted a Berkshire pork recipe, and found this one on the net from Berkshire Meats, Inc. It's oh so good: rich, juicy and, we dare say, almost unctuous! Best of all, it tastes like the pork we all remember! This pork is made for the BBQ; the extra fat cooks off, but adds an extra luxurious dimension to this crowd pleaser! No Berkshire pork at your butcher? No problem, Berkshire Meats, Inc., is happy to ship it out to you! (See below).

Serves 4

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes

  • 4 1½-inch-thick, boneless centre cut Berkshire pork chops
  • 2 cups dry white wine or distilled vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onions
  • 4 Tbsp minced fresh ginger or 1 Tbsp dry ginger
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

Combine all ingredients in a ziplock bag; seal bag and refrigerate 2 to 24 hours. Remove pork from marinade; discarding marinate. Grill chops over indirect heat in covered grill, for 12 to 15 minutes, turning once.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Alsace Pinot Gris or dry Muscat, Riesling Kabinett. For red wine lovers, Chilean Merlot, Oregon on New Zealand Pinot Noir


Burnt Sheep's Milk Yoghurt

(From Beyond Nose to Tail)

This is the tamest of Fergus Henderson's recipes; it goes almost without saying that it's unusual and drop-dead wonderful. Kind of a shepherd's crème brûlée, sharp, pungent and sweet all at once, and worth the effort for you at home. Come on; you know you you'll dazzle your next dinner party with this one!

Serves 6

A little musk of farmyard in your pudding! (Thanks Fergus!)

  • 10 large egg yolks
  • 100 g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling (3.5 oz)
  • 150 mL full-fat milk (5/8 cup)
  • 500 mL sheep's milk yoghurt (generous 2 cups)

Place the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl and whisk for about a minute, until well combined. Pour the milk into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Pour the boiling milk over the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly to prevent curdling. Then add the sheep's milk yoghurt and whisk well.

Pass the mixture through a fine sieve and pour into 6 ramekins or china moulds. Place them in a roasting tin and pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the dishes. Place the tray in an oven preheated to 160°C/325°F and bake for 30–45 minutes, until the custards are set around the sides and still wobble a little in the middle. You must take them out of the oven with the wobble, as the residual heat will finish the cooking. Take the ramekins out of the roasting tin and let them cool for 1 hour, then place in the fridge for 2 hours.

Just before serving, sprinkle caster sugar over the top of the custards – just enough to cover the surface – then caramelize the sugar with a blowtorch or under a grill (a blowtorch gives a better result).

Tony's wine recommendation:
Riesling Auslese, Late Havest Vidal, sweet Vouvray


We wish to thank:

Raincoast Publishing, Vancouver, and HarperCollins Publisher, New York, for permission to publish material and photographs from The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating by Fergus Henderson. © 2004 Fergus Henderson. Introduction © Anthony Bourdain.

Raincoast Publishing, Vancouver, and Bloomsbury USA, New York, for permission to publish material and photographs from Beyond Nose to Tail: More Omnivorous Recipes for the Adventurous Cook by Fergus Henderson and Justin Piers Gellatly. Photographs by Jason Lowe. © 2007 Fergus Henderson and Justin Piers Gellatly. Photographs © Jason Lowe. "Fabulous recipes from Australia's top chefs as featured in The Age, Sydney Morning Herald and NZ Cuisine magazine." Author: Bill Granger. Photo: Natalie Boog. Source: The Age, Tuesday, January 29, 2008.

Bone Marrow photograph with permission from Gary Wiviott, Chicago, IL. Gary is the site administrator for, a terrific Chicago based culinary chat forum!

Berkshire Meats, Inc., for permission to publish recipes, material and photographs. Box 183, Clarks Grove, MN 56061. For more information on 100% Berkshire Natural Pork, go to

Pork Marketing Canada,, and the Ontario Pork Producers' Marketing Board,, for their help and information.


Happily enjoyed by Helen Hatton and Ron Morris.

Download this article in printable form as an Adobe Acrobat PDF (119 KB)




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