5 questions for … Fiona Beckett, award-winning food and wine writer

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Written byClaire Hunte

Fiona Beckett is an award-winning writer, one of the world’s leading experts on food and drink matching, wine columnist for ‘The Guardian,’ and the author of 25 books on food, wine, beer and alcohol-free drinks and blogs at www.matchingfoodandwine.com

She is appearing at the Ludlow Food Festival on Sunday, 12th September 2021 from 12:00pm to 12:45pm. In just 5 questions, Fiona talks about the pleasure of cooking during lockdown, ease of wine pairing with food and shares a favourite tipple from her new book, How to Drink without Drinking.

1. With lockdown came the not so surprising interest in food, with reams dedicated to sourdough starters and finding pleasure in cooking, how has this translated to food and wine pairing?

“Think about the way something is cooked rather than the basic ingredient. It’s not that helpful to choose a wine to go with chicken”

In the early days of the pandemic I was so sure that food and wine pairing would be the LAST thing on people’s minds that I suspended my match of the week feature because I thought there would be nothing to write about. Far from it. Food and drink kept us all going didn’t it? And, we were only too keen to have something to distract us from the boredom of staying in all the time.

2. What trends do you see enduring?

While we might not be making sourdough any more I think a lot of us have rediscovered the cooking mojo we lost when we were rushing around all over the place so I hope that’s back for good. I’m certainly cooking more than I did pre-lockdown.

3. I know you have a website and book to guide people when it comes to matching up wine to food, but where do you suggest someone starts? How essential is it to have a passion and deep understanding of wine when it comes to pairing?

Curiosity — and a willingness to experiment is more important than a deep understanding to be honest. If you enjoy cooking and having friends round, it’s great to be able to offer them something interesting to drink with whatever you’re making — and that could just as easily be beer or cider as wine.

My advice in a nutshell? Think about the way something is cooked rather than the basic ingredient. It’s not that helpful to choose a wine to go with chicken — there’s a world of difference between a chicken salad, a Thai chicken curry and a coq au vin. Check out my website matchingfoodandwine.com and you’ll hopefully find suggestions for all three!

3. You’ve just published a new book, How to Drink without Drinking, which offers some tantalising and seasonal non-alcoholic drinks recipes for those looking for alternatives, it’s inspirational! Can you share one or two of your favourite non-alcoholic tipples perfect for autumn?

Well it’s an-anytime-of -year recipe but one of my favourites in the book is a breakfast ‘martini’.

Breakfast martini

An alcohol-free version of one of my favourite drinks, British steakhouse and cocktail bar Hawksmoor’s marmalade cocktail. A couple of drops of orange oil or bitters really boosts the orangey flavour.

For each person

Make mine a —-breakfast martini Photo: HAWKSMOOR

Make mine a —-breakfast martini Photo: HAWKSMOOR

1 tbsp seville orange (i.e. bitter) marmalade

50ml Seedlip Spice 94 (or another citrussy alcohol-free gin alternative)

50ml freshly squeezed orange juice

20ml freshly squeezed lemon juice

15ml sugar syrup (gomme)

A couple of drops of orange oil (optional)


Spoon the marmalade into a cocktail shaker, pour in the Seedlip Spice 94 (or other gin alternative) and stir. Add the orange and lemon juices, the sugar syrup and a handful of ice, put the lid on the shaker and shake vigorously. Taste, adding a couple of drops of orange oil or bitters if you want to intensify the orange flavour. Strain into a frosted — or unfrosted — martini glass

Bucks Fizz

You can use the Breakfast Martini base to make a great Bucks Fizz. Make as above, divide between 2 champagne flutes and top up with chilled alcohol-free sparkling wine.

4. For 25 years now, Ludlow and the Ludlow Food Festival has been twinned with the idea of bringing people closer to the food producers in the region, how do you see the trend towards buying local shaping up in the near future, is it a sustainable trend?

I really hope so. If the pandemic has taught us anything is that we’e all interconnected and it’s up to us to support the businesses that are part of our communities. Besides shopping locally is a joy — you see the same faces, you get to chat to people. What could be nicer?

5. Finally, can you recommend a seasonal autumn dish and wine pairing that we can source locally?

Well, you’re basically in cider country as I am down in Bristol so I’d suggest this West Country chicken casserole with cider, apple and celery. Delicious with cider too — I really like the fact that you can buy full-size bottles of cider now to share.

The LUDLOW FOOD FESTIVAL takes place on 10th, 11th & 12th September 2021, to book your tickets and find out more click HERE

To book tickets for Fiona’s talk on Sunday 12th September at 12pm, click HERE.

You can also find Fiona on her website Matching Food and Wine or on Instagram and Twitter


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