Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Canberra: wine food & more!

© Commonwealth of Australia
Canberra is seldom seen on television over here. This may now change as my friend of many years agreed to a special guest post. He is well known in Canberra for his wine pairing dinner parties. I am most grateful for the details he sent me.

By an antipodean correspondent:

I first met the Cockroach Catcher when he and his wife Bee and two daughters became our new neighbours over 35 years ago.  My wife Pauline and I and our two sons were visiting England while I served on exchange with the Royal Navy. When we were first introduced we followed the Chinese tradition and called him by his surname: Zhang.

Here is Pauline’s recent quick note about Zhang’s book: The Cockroach Catcher

I have finished reading The Cockroach Catcher and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Zhang, I particularly liked the juxtaposition and paralleling of your travel stories and observations with your case studies, Of course, I could appreciate it even more, knowing the author and hearing your voice in the text. Because I’m dealing with anorexia, ADD and ADHD students I was very interested in your experiences with patients and parents and your treatment. Amazing how many parents are the underlying causes of their offspring’s angst. It was an eminently readable text for the medically uninitiated like me. Keep writing, Zhang.

We were introduced to Chinese cooking and Dim Sum style food all those years ago and I still remember the Duck in Soy Sauce recipe.

This is my first blog attempt and I have chosen, a mutually held love of food and wine with Zhang, to form the basis of my writing.  I will discuss Australian wine and food matching based on my own experiments as an enthusiastic amateur cook who has taken up the study and collection of wine as a hobby to ward off the boredom of retirement in suburban Canberra. This is a menu for a birthday dinner I cooked for my wife, Pauline, for one of her birthdays:

Pauline’s birthday Dinner Party
Pacific oysters with salmon roe,
dressed with lime juice & soy and mirin, garnished with lime leaves
Hunter Valley Semillon
Oven roasted salmon with kumera skordalia and salad greens,
with an infused oil and herb ring
2005 Best’s Great Western Riesling
Braised pork belly on a vegetable pancake
2003 Hardy’s Tintara cellar release Tempranillo
Grilled duck breast with mushroom risotto and snow peas
2002 Coldstream Hills reserve Pinot Noir
Beef fillet on an eggplant round with a peppered beef reduction sauce
Houghton’s Jack Mann 1994 Cabernet blend
Chocolate mousse surprise
De Bortoli’s Noble One 2004


The salmon roe is a great accompaniment to oysters with soy, mirin and lime providing the sweet/sour/salt balance. 

Cockroachcatcher: Peter suggested aged Hunter Valley Semillon which would be a change from the more traditional Chablis or Champagne. In fact, I may look out for one this weekend.                                                              More>>>>
Oven roasted salmon is a favourite at our house.  Kumara skordalia was a construct replacing the traditional potato or bread with sweet potato for this dish.  The level of garlic and vinegar had to be reduced so as not to fight with the delicate fish flavour and the accompanying white wine.                   Details>>>

Braised belly of pork:                                Details>>>
Seemed like a great combination at the time.  By cooking the pork belly ahead of time and allowing the pork and some of the juices to sit, covered, in an oven set to keep warm at 70oC for a number of hours, I produced a dish which was exquisitely tender and rich.  The pikelets could also be made up early and kept warm between layers of kitchen paper.  The chosen wine is one of the emerging popular varietals in Australia.  I always remember my first tour of Spain in the late 1960s when I felt at home among the browns and olive colours of the countryside after over a year in verdant England.  These climate and rainfall similarities have attracted Australian winegrowers to experiment with grapes such as Tempranillo, Graciano and Albarino [though we found out that a lot of what we thought was Albarino is Savignan].  Tempranillo is very popular and an excellent food wine.  My favourites are from a wide range of areas, though higher country seems to produce the better wines, such as a local winery near the Canberra airport.

Grilled duck breast with mushroom risotto and snow peas

Like many wine enthusiasts, I am doomed to seek out the best Pinot Noir I can afford.  All my reading suggests a matching of Pinot Noir with either duck or mushrooms. My one regret is that we can’t get fresh porcini mushrooms in Australia.  An all too short holiday in Tuscany last October allowed me to indulge; but I digress, the wine chosen is from the Yarra Valley to the east of Melbourne.  Our Pinot Noir is getting better every year but possibly not as quickly as those produced by the crowd across the swamp in New Zealand.  I have several bottles from Tasmania in the cellar and I expect good things when they’re ready to crack in a year or two.

Beef fillet

For the fifth course I chose fillet of beef.  A round of fried eggplant is a good foil for tender beef but the real effort goes into the reduction which can be made over a number of days leading up to the occasion.  As a general rule I make a stock of roasted beef bones, mirepoix vegetables [carrot, celery and onion], fennel heads, star anise, juniper berries, dry porcini mushrooms, peppercorns, parsley stalks, bay leaves, a chilli pepper and, after a while, a measure of red wine [say a bottle or two, remembering that life’s too short to use lousy wine].  For the ten people for this dinner party, I was looking to produce about 300ml of reduced sauce.

Houghton’s Jack Mann is from the Western Australian wine regions, an area famous for big red cabernet blends.  I could easily have chosen a wine made by one of our legion of great female wine makers, Vanya Cullen’s Diane Madeline, but those in my cellar are too young right now.

Chocolate mousse surprise…the surprise was that I found a number of chocolate miniature shoes in a local department store which I could mount on the dishes of rich mousse.  
 De Bortoli’s Noble One 2004
Bright golden in colour

Bouquet Captivating aromas of apricot, nectarine, citrus, almond and vanilla 
PalateThe wine displays a complex array of botrytis flavours together with peach, nectarine, zingy citrus and almond with vanillin oak character adding complexity. Luscious and lingering, the wine nevertheless finishes with balanced fresh acidity.

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