Ingredients (serves eight):
- Seven friends and yourself
- Eight dishes
- Eight bottles of wine
- Gorgeous house on a farm in the hills
Last Saturday saw my first ever degustation. It saw it, then gaped, then drooled, then ate more than it could stand and still wanted more. It's a fairly simple plan, really. Each person brings along a dish and a matching bottle of wine, and someone clever arranges it all into a course by course degustation.
We licked off with Tim's divine duo of soups: truffled cauliflower and scallop, then pea soup with mint, bacon and tomato confit. You'll have to wait for him to post the recipe here, but be quick- the second he does, I'm memorising it then destroying the entire internet so no one else can make it. Truffle is still a slightly peculiar taste for me- quite pungent on the nose and almost rotten with richness in the mouth- but I'm liking it more and more. It was a fantastic addition to the cauliflower, as were the scallops hiding at the bottom. The pea, mint and bacon was a brilliant (if unexpected) combination- the mint added a welcome spark to the peas, and the slightly crispy bacon did wonders for the sheer physical pleasure of eating. Tim matched this with a chardonnay from the Clare Valley, which worked wonderfully: the buttery roundness of the wine complemented the soups without overpowering them.
After Tim having set the bar so high, I was certainly glad I wasn't the second act. To her credit though, Sophie's Spectacular Seafood Stack superceded 'spectations. (I'm sorry. I promise I wont do any more alliteration at all, alright?). This was smoked salmon, prawn, avocado and tomato salsa wedged into a teacup and upended to form an Eyeful Tower of Tastiness, which was then drizzled with a chive and dill dressing. This elicited a chorus of NOM NOM NOMs around the table and though we were worried how we'd finish the rest of the six courses, no one could bring themselves to leave any of this uneaten. The matching wine was a big Barossa shiraz, and purists may say that this is a poor choice for seafood. Well, phooey to the purists. The dish was delicious, and the wine was divine. 'Nuff said.
Perfect peppers, tasty tarts, rabbit ragouts, mighty meats and chompy chocolates await after the jump. There may even be some recipes!
Rob, our Italian import, followed Sophie with Metaphor Peppers- they were stuffed, just like us. Instead of being stuffed with soup and seafood though, these were stuffed with home-made pesto and ricotta and topped with a roasted cherry tomato. The sweetness of the peppers was a perfect foil for the creamy cheese and fragrant pesto, and this dish was quickly gobbled with gusto. Rob served up an Italian sangiovese which had the right balance of fruitiness and mildness to help the peppers deliver.
The next offering was Tarte Ronane, which is french for 'the tart that Ronan made'. Caramelised onions, fig, walnuts and goats' cheese baked in pastry to produce flavour to the power of fifteen. The cheese was so tasty I had to restrain myself from just pinching it off the top, which was fortunate because it was a fine partner to its friends en tarte. A Magpie Springs (southern Adelaide Hills) pinot noir kept this dish company, but there's no point talking about how well it matched because you could serve this wine with regurgitated McDonalds and it'd still be fantastic.
The next to step up to plate was the Hen, the only one among us with professional cooking experience. This certainly came in handy for his magnificent rabbit ragout, and I'd be lying if I said I had any idea how he made it. There was definitely some slow cooking, some white wine, and about a kilo of Awesome Flavour (I wish I knew where he gets it from). The rabbit was soft and not too dry, and the sauce was fantastic served with tagliatelle. He paired it with a late harvest riesling from Jim Barry, which is a lovely drop but was a little too sweet for me.
Our resident economist, Simon, rounded out the mains cooking herbed veal with a tomato and olive salsa. The veal was thinly sliced and suffused with the taste of its herby skin, and the accompanying salsa had just the right touch of spice to lift it on the palette without dominating the other flavours. Simon had us all guess what his wine was, and the bets ranged from shiraz cab merlot to sangiovese malbec. In the end, it was a D'Arenberg (from McLaren Vale) Laughing Magpie Shiraz Viognier. This is always a lovely blend, with the softer flavours of the viognier balancing the power of the shiraz. A perfect wine for flavoursome red meat.
We all got our just desserts next with Lucy at the helm. She made Tarte Tatin (it means apple tart. Thanks, Google!) that was a product of hours of slaving over the stove, served with vanilla ice cream that was a product of seconds of scooping out of a tub. The tart was served steaming , with pastry crumbling and ice cream melting at its side. A winning combination. The apples hadn't been cooked all the way to textureless mush, and were spiced with just enough cinnamon [1/4 teaspoon of chinese 5-spice powder, actually. - Tim]. She served this with a botrytis semillon from Howard (again in the Adelaide Hills) that was a sublime partner to the tart.
I rounded out the night with a trio of chocolates: chocolate coated raspberries, strawberry coated chocolate, and a crème de menthe chocolate cup. I'm a little hesitant to put the recipes here, because the truth is that they're all ridiculously easy and make you feel a little like a cheat whenever someone praises you for them. Still, they do taste great- the chocolate cups are decadent and rich, the raspberries are soft and juicy in their chocolate shell, and the strawberries (after marinating in Cointreau and sugar) love their chocolate injection. All in all, a lovely way to round out a night of feasting. I served these with a Pedro Ximinez from Turkey Flat in the Barossa. I figured the warm kissy caramel of the wine would match the chocolate without crossing the line into the sovereign territory of Sickly Sweet.
Crème de Menthe chocolate cups
- Chocolate (best quality you can afford)
- Crème de Menthe
- Caster sugar
- Vanilla essence
Firstly, an admission- I have no idea what amounts and ratios I used, but the beautiful thing is that with ingredients like these, no matter how you mix it it'll still be tasty.
So, put your chocolate and Creme de Menthe in a blender. Blend it until the chocolate has been ground down to tiny pieces.
Boil the milk and, while blending on a low speed, pour it in slowly. Again, I don't know how much. The chocolate will melt into a shiny liquid, and you want to add enough milk that it'll stay soft when refridgerated but not so much that it wont solidify at all. But hey, why not just add too much and ruin it? You're just going to have to eat a whole lot of delicious minty chocolate milk. Damn.
Pour this concoction into shot glasses, fillled to about 3/4. Leave them in the fridge for an hour or so until they've solidified as much as they're ever going to.
In the meantime, whip the cream with the vanilla and caster sugar. Just a touch of sugar, and as much vanilla as you want. Whip until you get the oft quoted 'soft peaks', and put aside until the cups are ready.
Dip a finger in the creamy deliciousness, and suck it. Do this again. These steps are critical.
When the chocolate's ready, spoon the whipped cream into the top of the glass. I like to fill it completely and then scrape the back of a knife across the top to get a perfectly flat surface, but you can do whatever you like here.
Eat. And eat and eat and eat. Enjoy.
Melt the chocolate.
Put the raspberries in it.
Yep. That's it. Tricky, huh?
Strawberry Coated Chocolate
- Strawberries (fresh as possible)
- Caster sugar
Make a slit in each of the strawberries about halfway through, from top to bottom. Put them in a tupperware container with a liberal amount of Cointreau and some caster sugar, then let them roll around in that for a day while you go wine tasting.
When you're ready, make a second slit in each strawberry so you can pull out roughly a quarter of the fruit while still leaving it connected at the stem. Drop a dollop of chocolate into the space, and leave in the fridge or serve immediately if you want it warm and melty.
Done and done.