Men are like wine — some turn to vinegar, but the best improve with age. Pope John XXIII
Most cooks will agree that it’s wise to cook with a wine that you would be happy to drink. But that doesn’t mean you have to select a wine from the top shelf. Just choose a good one that fits the budget.
Wine adds a little magic to many a recipe. The complex combination of flavours of the wine provide body and depth to dishes as well tenderising and adding moisture. Wine’s acidity softens the tissues of tougher cuts of meat, and marries well with herbs and spices.
Simmering wine for sauces — such as a red wine sauce for steak — intensifies the delicious flavours and removes any alcoholic acidity present before it has been reduced. Once the steak has been removed from the frying pan, add a slosh of wine to the pan, sizzle it, season it, then serve. Add a little cream or butter for extra yum.
If you like cooking with wine but don't consume it often enough to warrant opening a bottle every time, pour the wine into an ice cube tray, freeze, then store the cubes in a container. Use a couple when required and return the rest to the freezer.
LAMB LEG IN RED WINE
Great served with baked kumara and steamed broccoli tossed in a little butter, lemon juice and finely grated lemon rind.
1 large red onion
2 large bulbs garlic
6 sprigs rosemary
2.6kg leg lamb
1 tablespoon flaky sea salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
750ml bottle red wine eg cab sav or shiraz
1 cup beef stock
Preheat the oven to 170°C.
Cut the onion into quarters — no need to peel. Cut the bulbs of garlic in half crosswise — no need to peel.
Place in a large roasting pan to form a bed for the lamb. Top with half the rosemary. Place the lamb on top. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper and top with the remaining rosemary. Add the wine and stock to the pan. Cover the pan with foil.
Cook for 2 hours. Remove the foil and bake for another 1 1/2 hours or until cooked to your preference, basting occasionally.
Remove the lamb to a warm platter. Cover with foil and a heavy towel to keep warm.
Mash the onion mixture in the pan to extract as much flavour as possible. Pour through a strainer into a saucepan. Simmer for 5 minutes. If preferred, thicken with 2 tablespoons each of flour and soft butter creamed together. Serve with the lamb. Serves 8-10.
WINE-GLAZED GRANNY SMITH CAKE
Serve this divine not-to-sweet dessert with whipped cream, ice cream or plain yoghurt.
Base: 150g butter, chopped
2 tablespoons sugar
2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Topping: 1kg Granny Smith apples
juice 1 lemon
3 tablespoons cornflour
375ml late harvest white wine
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
Place the butter and sugar in a food processor and mix until smooth. Add the egg and mix again, scraping down the sides. Combine the flour and baking powder and sift in. Mix until a ball forms. Remove the dough and pat into a disc. Wrap in film and chill for at least 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, peel, core and dice the apples. Place in a large bowl and toss together with the lemon juice.
Combine the cornflour and about 1/3 of the wine in a bowl. Mix well.
Bring the remaining wine, water, vanilla and sugar to a simmer in a saucepan. Gradually whisk in the cornflour mixture, stirring until just thickened. Place aside.
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Lightly grease a 23cm springform cake pan. Line the base with baking paper.
Roll out the dough and press evenly into the pan. Prick with a fork. Bake for 5 minutes.
Drain the apples and spread over the base. Spoon the wine glaze evenly over the apples.
Bake for 1 hour or until completely cooked. Cool completely on a rack before removing from the pan.
Great served dusted with a little ground cinnamon and garnished with finely grated lemon rind. Serves 8.
MUSHROOM & WHITE WINE SOUP
Flavoursome and ‘easy as’.
1 medium leek, white and pale green part only
800g button mushrooms, sliced
3 tablespoons plain flour
3-4 cups chicken stock
1 cup white wine eg pinot gris
1 cup cream
Melt the butter in a medium-large saucepan on medium heat.
Wash and thinly slice the leek. Sauté for 5 minutes in the butter, until softened. Add the mushrooms, stir well and cook until they start to soften. Place a few aside for the garnish.
Add the flour to the saucepan and stir well. Slowly add the stock and wine. Simmer for 5 minutes.
Remove from the heat and purée with a stick blender. Return to the saucepan and slowly bring to the boil. Stir in the cream. Garnish with the reserved mushrooms. Serves 4-6.