Monday, 30 January 2012

For Everyman

Over done, error laden, we all have exploits in the kitchen that we are shamed by.  There are other times though where I'm sure fate and chance or whatever you like to call it have been kind.  Even with the acquisition of technical skills I've been saved by fortune, so I thought I'd create a bit of a post taking the piss out of food, showing some of the "unexpected" highlights

Prompting me to this was also some cooking I did that made me ponder what's fashionable, and by default what's considered passe.  How do I put this?  I like to try new things.  I don't feel bound by some ill defined tradition.  Sometimes I fancy myself the best of some narcissist stylists...  Yeah right, who cares!  By way of confession:

Sometimes I like overcooked meat, and this T Bone was F*&k Off good, cooked for 45 mins+ due to a malfunction of the bbq.
Like, yeah!

I've been known to drink excessive amounts of cheap beer and wine. (No one remembered to get a photo)

3am is the best time to demonstrate your kitchen skills.   

What this actually went into I'm unsure, it is believed to be the first stage
of a toasted omlette sandwich.  Unfortunately again, memories are
hazy amongst those who were present...

I take food and wine seriously, it's the best of fun, just look at this next label! To close, a lot of rubbish is written and I may play my small part in this but really a sense of humour and self deprecation must be retained at all times. 
Thanks to Jamie Goode's wine blog for the photo.  d'Arenberg have excelled themselves.

Monday, 16 January 2012

The Old And The New

Finally I got round to writing up a few wine notes, seriously you have to watch it, else you're surrounded by small scraps of paper with illegibly scrawled adjectives.  Happily for now crisis has been averted, or atleast stalled for a while.  I've popped these up together as one spurred me to tidy up the notes and both of these made me think about things a bit.  Anyhow make of it what you will and I hope it's slightly less bland than some esoteric naked tasting notes.
These two bottles are worlds apart, literally, but I think that's good in both the drinking and in terms of discussion.  Depending on what part of the world you source most of your wine familiarity with either locales will vary accordingly, though each region hardly needs an introduction.  The Gigondas appellation is in the southern Rhone region of France and the Tyrrell's comes from the Hunter Valley in Australia. 

Domaine De Longue Toque Gigondas 2008
Hailing from the Rhone, the wine is a GSM blend though I'm unsure of the exact breakdown of the various components.  Deep ruby purple hue.  Tight perfumed nose with hints of rose, spice, red fruit and meatiness, also a vegetal and flinty mineral note.  Firm in the mouth, but with some generosity, there’s red fruit and herbal note of rosemary to accompany the initial features.  A hint of violet, then flintiness comes through towards the back of the palate with firm but svelte tannins which frame the wine nicely.  Medium bodied, savoury with some persistence, interesting and structured.  89-90.

Tyrrell’s Vat 11 Shiraz  1995 Hunter Valley NSW
 On opening a little flat, smelt like old shiraz (well duh!) but it came alive after being open for an hour or so.  The intensity surprised me, lovely ripe fruit and strength came through over the elegant aged characteristics of dusty shiraz spice with straw, leather and earth.  The overwhelming thing in the mouth was how blended and harmonious all these features were along with the tannins, oak and acidity of the wine; the complexity was pleasantly challenging. To elaborate, all the features were nice, but you wouldn’t say for example there was a distinct red or dark fruit component such as blackberry and raspberry, rather they were there and so subtly integrated that you were grappling in your mind (in the best possible way, struggling!) to identify and separate different elements, rather like in a fine perfume.  Rich texture in the mouth and tasty savoury qualities with fine but present tannin and acidity driving the tremendous length.  Fine stuff in the bottle and pretty classic Hunter Valley.  I didn't want to score it. 

The exciting thing about a wine like the Tyrrell's is how ephemeral an experience it can be.  One moment not much is happening and then the wine blossoms, delivering a moment in time and beauty as a heady flash, but then gone just as rapidly.    

 These two wines also got me thinking about wine and the differences between places and approaches to vinification.  Both of these wines are pretty high quality, but I suppose my next point is looking at the lower end of the market for the obvious differences these days.  The Rhone wine, whilst still having fruit presence is enjoyable for it's secondary characteristics being more to the fore than similar Australian wines.  While I think there's a lot of cross pollination and changes in winemaking the world over, this is indicative of one of the main differences in appoach between Australian and Old world wines.  Many Australian wines are driven by primary fruit and often fresh and bright, but perhaps lacking the savoury quality aimed for in the french example.  Let me be clear I'm not saying one is inherently better than the other or that either place confound what I've just said and produce an opposite sort of wine to the stereotype I've mentioned.  If only it were that simple, but I do rather like the fact that there is this stylistic difference and obviously individuals enjoy different wines just as different occasions and situation demand diverse wine styles.  The contradictory factor to this as well is at the higher end of the market here in Australia, (I think) now having surpassed much of the world market in the way we have the complexity, but with the beautiful fruit quality integrated.  Simultaneously there has been a move to a less austere style from the French, so perhaps we're all learning from each other.

Of course I feel slightly silly writing all of that because to me it would seem pretty obvious that, stylistic considerations aside, you want both qualities of fruit and secondary characteristics in your wine.  The Tyrrell's really embodied that for me and set off that little rant... 

Saturday, 14 January 2012

La Dolce Vita

Sweet Orange Cake

Cakes and sweet baking are not something I do all that often, indeed this may in fact be the first post in that genre.  Rectifying that imbalance I thought I might put this recipe up.  Originally coming from a newspaper clipping, my mother raves about this recipe and makes it often; I’d be fibbing if I told you I wasn’t a convert! 

Apart from being a deliciously moist cake it has a few points which make it a good one to have in the repertoire; very easy to make, particularly if you have a food processor, versatile enough to serve with coffee or as a dessert, also is gluten free.  The gluten free part is also one of the strengths even if you can eat it. The absence of gluten makes such a delicate recipe!  Having friends and family who are intolerant and ceoliac, it’s great to have wonderful recipes to share with them.
No doubt the recipe owes more than a little to the masters of sweet aromatic delicacies in the middle east,  I actually added a tiny tweak to the recipe in that vein this first time I made it.  I have a few further suggestions for variations, but to the recipe…

Roughly shot in a hurry, but you get the idea, YUM!
2 oranges, washed
250g slivered almonds
8 dried Apricots, chopped
1 cup caster sugar
5 eggs
1 tsp baking powder


1 orange
½ cup caster sugar
A few drops of rose water essence

Preheat the oven to 150 C.  Put the oranges in a freezer bag loosely sealed and microwave on high for 12 minutes, I’d also pop that in a bowl to avoid leaks! Set them aside for a few minutes to cool.  Grease a 22cm round cake tin and line it with baking paper.  This cake is a big softy so make sure you line with the paper or getting it out may be a hard ask!  Open the oranges up and get any seeds out, also remove any stem remnants.  Pulse the almonds a few times in the food processor to roughly chop, throw in the torn apart whole oranges and apricots and give these a whizz to finely chop and combine.  Caster sugar can be added now and mixed through, finally add the eggs and baking powder and mix for 10-20 secs to combine.  Pour out into the baking tin and bake for 1hr, or until deep golden brown and a skewer comes out cleanly.
For the syrup, take the zest off then juice the orange, combine these and add the sugar in a saucepan, stir vigorously, bring it to the boil and then simmer for 10 minutes without stirring.  Take it off the heat and let it cool down.  My tweak from the original was to add the rosewater essence once the syrup was cool, I think it lifts the citrus aroma and flavour and adds such a lovely note to the cake.  
Now at this point the original recipe says to pour over the syrup at serving with cream, ice cream, thick yogurt etc.  This is absolutely fine, however (thanks again mum!) I think the cake is even better if you pour over the still warm syrup and leave it to soak into the cake, and it gets better over a day or two.  Obviously it can still be served with ice cream etc.
As for other variations in the recipe, think about dried figs (possibly soaked in liqueur of some sort) with or instead of the apricots, a little cinnamon in cake or syrup, nutmeg and possibly slivered pistachios over the top with the syrup. Mmm!    

photo of a photo aka "serving suggeston" thanks to the Daily Telegraph.

Pour Yourself A Glass

Lowe Reserve Shiraz 2006, Mudgee NSW

Pulled from an overnight holiday in the fridge

Interesting little wine this, and should develop over time.  It’s really the antithesis of the big aussie Shiraz that many may be familiar with, which is no bad thing.  In terms of the winemaking process, a third of the fruit was wild fermented; the rest was inoculated with a Rhone yeast and whole bunch fermented.  The wine was matured in both old and new French oak and is 100% organic.  Of course the main point here is how has this shaped the wine?  With some wines, for all the label babble you don’t really get much of it happening in the wine.  Happily this wine bucks that trend.
So a bit of a note…
Bright ruby red colour with a similarly bright nose, predominantly red fruit initially, then a hint of flowers and minerality, followed by a touch of violet and plum.  Palate has the red fruit along with some shiraz spice and funk, darker notes peek through temptingly.  Tannins provide shape and backbone, being firm but supple they finish this nicely.  Well structured.  90.
I tried this with food and then again the next day when I wrote an actual note about it.  Certainly this will age well and this would bring out further dimensions in the wine, perhaps along the” darker notes” which are hiding a little bit.  On opening it really is quite lean and bright, I‘d say you could mix this up with a Cotes du Rhone or similar GSM style wine if you tasted this blind.  The next day though the wine was overall darker and more “shiraz” if that makes sense; the floral had dissipated, more black fruit was present and there was more of a classic shiraz nose.  It suggests to me a wine which would really be great in five or even ten years.

***A little update, I left the wine in the fridge and tried it again 3-4 days after opening, only about a third left in the bottle.  Even better, and it made me think my 90 was stingy, seriously!  Thus I'm tempted to go 92+  Sometimes it's nice to be a little off the mark.  Comments are along the lines of the 2nd day tasting, things really opened up even more, multi dimensioned, depth and really integrated.

A high quality producer, well worth checking out so have a look Lowe Family Wine   

Friday, 13 January 2012

Countryside Adventures

So here's another post coming to you from the Mid North Coast of New South Wales; I was charged with minding the dog for a few days as others embarked on a few side trips and this is a dish I cooked up to amuse myself and the dog.  He enjoyed it in rather more of a raw form it must be said!  I like this style of cooking the meat and have made this quite a few times with variations in the marinade.  This edition, I guess because of the Sumac, preserved lemon and general spice profile, takes some inspiration from North Africa via the South of Italy.  Quite Australian in it’s multicultural mixture of influences.  You can also use a dash of sweet vermouth in a marinade as variation.   

Preserved Grapefruit, an in house product,
but as you won't find that at the shops I suggest lemon!
Seared Kangaroo Fillets

Kangaroo Fillet (roughly two medium sized pieces per person)

Garlic, 2 large cloves crushed and diced
Olive Oil, 50ml
White wine, 50 ml
Balsamic Vinegar, 1 dash
Sumac, large tsp
The Kangaroo, Sizzling along in the pan, prior to the oven
Dash of finely diced chilli
Lemon thyme, 3-4 sprigs
Bay leaves, 2 fresh
Preserved lemon, 2-3 pieces, finely sliced
Cumin, ½ tsp
Cardamom. A pinch

Black Pepper
White Pepper

Throw all the marinade ingredients together and give it a good mix.  To this, add the kangaroo and make sure all the meat has a good covering of the liquid.  This can all be prepared the day before if you want, or on the day you cook it.  If you do it earlier, cover and throw it in the fridge but give the meat a turn every now and then.  Make sure you get it out of the fridge to get it up to room temperature prior to cooking.  Prepared a few hours before cooking it can just be left out of the fridge, but again give it a mix and stir occasionally.

To cook, remove the meat from the marinade and get rid of any big lumps of garlic, herb etc from the meat.  Reserve the marinade and set an oven to 220C, also heat a pan with a little oil until very hot.  Sear the meat until coloured and browned on all sides.  This might be 30 seconds or so per side, but use your judgement.  Place the meat into a baking dish and pour over the marinade.  Cook in the oven for 5-10 minutes.  The aim is to keep the meat rare in the middle but combine the lovely flavours of the marinade, so don’t overdo it!  If you do like the meat a little more well done, bake for 5-10 minutes longer but at about 180 C.  (Though I think  Kangaroo is at it’s best rare to medium rare!)

Give the meat a rest under foil for 10-15 minutes then serve with a Salad or your favourite roasted vegetables.  Here I’ve done some oven roasted potatoes and a tomato, avocado and cucumber salad.    We enjoyed this with a delicate and lighter Cabernet, but a rich and spicy Shiraz or the classic game companion of a Pinot would also work.