Wine is the elixir that can remedy many a cooking problem — besides providing a pleasurable sip while you’re preparing dinner.
As a marinade, wine softens the tissue of tougher cuts of meat. Wine can add liquid pizzaz to casseroles and some cakes and desserts. And it adds flavour to a variety of dishes enhancing but not overpowering them.
To make the most of the flavour, ensure the alcohol is burnt off. It evaporates at about 78 degrees Celsius. When it is included in a casserole it will take longer to evaporate than when added to a frying pan to deglaze it or to make a sauce. So, add the wine while there is still plenty of cooking time. If stirred in at the end it could add a raw harshness to the dish.
Heating concentrates the flavour of wine, which is why it's important to choose the right one. It should blend in and complement the other ingredients.
In general, choose a medium-dry wine for cooking such as a pinot noir or pinot gris. If a recipe calls for a robust red then choose a shiraz or a cabernet sauvignon. Dry wines suitable for cooking include sauvignon blanc, chenin blanc or a dry riesling.
MULLED WINE PLUM COBBLER
Mulled wine makes a great cooking medium for sweet and savoury dishes.
Mulled Wine: 1 1/2 cups red wine eg shiraz
1/4 cup caster sugar
2 tablespoons blackcurrant or raspberry jam
2 each: star anise, small cinnamon sticks, whole cloves
thinly peeled skin 1 orange
Plums: 8 large red plums, halved and stoned
1 1/4 cups self-raising flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup plain Greek-style yoghurt
3/4 cup (70g) flaked almonds
To make the the mulled wine, combine the wine, caster sugar, jam, spices and orange peel in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes until the sugar dissolves. Cook for a further 10-15 minutes, until thickened. Cool completely then strain. Discard the solids.
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
To prepare the plums, place cut-side up in a 4-5-cup (30cm x 15cm approx) baking dish. Bake for 10 minutes, until softened.
Meanwhile, sift the flour and cinnamon into a bowl. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. (Use a food processor, if preferred.) Stir in the brown sugar, egg and yoghurt, until combined.
Remove the plums from the oven. Drizzle with a 1/2 cup of the mulled wine then drop heaped tablespoons of the dough over the plums. Scatter the almonds evenly over the top.
Bake for 30 minutes or until golden. Great served with the remaining mulled wine and whipped cream or ice cream. Serves 6-8.
VENISON WITH CHILLI & CHOCOLATE
Rich and flavoursome. Excellent served with mash, polenta, rice or pappardelle.
1 tablespoon olive oil
freshly ground black pepper to taste
750g stewing venison, cut into 3-4cm pieces
1 each: long red chilli, red and green capsicums
2 onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon each: cumin seeds, tomato paste
400g can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 cups good red wine (shiraz or cab sav)
400g can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
50g dark chocolate, finely grated
Heat the olive oil in medium-high heat in a large casserole suitable for the hob and oven. Season the venison well. Sauté in batches until really browned on all sides. Remove to a plate.
Seed the chilli, if preferred, then chop. Discard the ribs and seeds from the capsicums and cut into 3cm squares.
Reduce the heat slightly and add the onions and capsicums to the casserole. Cook until softened. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, then add the chilli, cumin seeds and tomato paste. Cook for another minute. Add the tomatoes and wine and simmer for 5 minutes.
Return the venison to the pan. Cover and cook on low heat for 2 hours either on the hob or in a 180°C oven.
Add the kidney beans and cook gently for 15 minutes until thickened and the venison is very tender. Stir in the chocolate.
Spoon into bowls. Great topped with sour cream and coriander leaves. Serves 6.
TIPSY OLIVE OIL CAKE
Excellent served with coffee or tea, or with fresh fruit and whipped cream for dessert.
3 large eggs
3/4 cup caster sugar
finely grated rind 1 each: large orange, lemon
1/4 cup each: extra virgin olive oil, pure olive oil
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1/2 cup late harvest white wine
icing sugar to dust
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Lightly oil a 20cm round cake pan and line the base and sides with baking paper.
Whisk the eggs and caster sugar in a large bowl for about 3 minutes, until pale and thick. Add the orange and lemon rinds and both the oils. Beat until well combined. Fold in the flour alternately with the wine, until combined.
Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 30-40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Dust with icing sugar to serve. Can be stored in an air-tight container for 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months.