RedbankJames WineBlog – Lunch

Colleagues from Wellington over for lunch yesterday and when they asked what could they bring, I said, “Just hungry tummies”. I love cooking for people – I’m addicted to collecting recipes and trying them out. But when push comes to shove, you can’t go past a roast.

We started off with wild mushroom soup – Mum’s recipe from the farm at Wanstead days – made from field mushrooms we gathered in the autumn and froze. It’s very easy to make, and delicious. Chuck the mushrooms in the food processor and whizz til finely chopped. Then toss in melted butter and panfry until well sizzling. Add about one tablespoon of flour (if it’s one tablespoon of butter you’ve used) and cook well. Any roux like this, with flour, needs to have the guts cooked out of it. Add milk slowly until the right consistency is achieved. I keep powdered milk in the pantry, and mix it with cold water first. It’s cheaper, and better for you – not so fatty. Add lots of salt – mushrooms need quite a lot of salt – and heaps of black pepper. That’s it! This soup tastes better if made the day before.

I served it with little homemade dinner rolls made from a recipe a chef at Baron’s Craig Hotel in Scotland gave me. They’re sort of like brioche really – flour, melted butter, yeast, eggs, salt and sugar – and I cook them in little mini-muffin tins. Man, they’re so delicious – you can see them behind the beef in the photo, peeking out from the serviette.

Then we had roast fillet of pure prime Angus beef – I buy it from Moore Wilson’s in Masterton because they have such good meat. The New Zealand Cook’s Bible, which came out before Christmas, recommends for every 1kg of beef, for rare, roast at 180 degrees for half an hour plus 15 minutes, but I think that’s too long. This was about 1.23 kg and I roasted it for half an hour, then rested it, wrapped in tinfoil, for 15 – 20 minutes, while I faffed around making the salad, putting out the bearnaise sauce (which I buy ready-made, the Kato brand), and my home-made quince jelly. Then Colin carved the filet and it was melt-in-the-mouth delicious. Before roasting it, I’d massaged it with a bit of olive oil, and draped it in anchovy fillets.

Then for dessert we had Martin Bosley’s Pear, Ginger and Chocolate Crumble, taken from the Listener, July 19-25, and I’ll reproduce it here for those who don’t read this mag (you’re missing out on some good writing).

Crumble Topping: 150g soft brown sugar, 1 tsp baking powder, 60g unsalted butter @ room temp, 150g flour. Mix all ingredients together rubbing butter into dry stuff until resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in 50g of roughly chopped dark chocolate. There is no quick way to do this – don’t use the food processor. Just have a nice little dream time while you rub it in with your hands. Think loving thoughts, and this will come out in the pudding.

Fruity Part: 5 ripe pears, peeled, cored and roughly chopped; grated zest of lemon; 3cm piece of ginger peeled and grated; 2tbsp soft brown sugar; 50g dark chocolate roughly chopped. Combine all, put in baking dish, cover with crumble topping, pop in 180 degree oven for about 35 minutes, serve with vanilla bean icecream dusted with cinnamon.

We then hauled our stuffed bodies away from the table, having washed all this down with a lovely Reisling – Neudorf 2005, Moutere, then a Magnum of James 05 which was fantastic, and another bottle of Winebox Red. With dessert we had a bottle of Nectar, which is a vouvray – and went for a walk around the vineyard. Of course, Taja, Kete and Smitty had to tag along – until Kete got bored and went back to the verandah and Smitty showed off by prancing away like a Ferrari.

One of our friends was surprised at the size of the vineyard – he thought we had a few little vines in the back yard, not a serious proposition. Then we went into the winery and tasted the Syrah – one sample from our new barrel, and you can really taste the oak, another sample from an older barrel we bought off John Porter. This syrah, I think, is going to be very damn good – it’s got a helluva long way to go, at least another 12 months in barrel then that again in bottles, possibly, before release, but you can taste the complexity and the same pepperiness that our vineyard gives to our Pinot Noir. Our biggest satisfaction, however, and relief, is that the syrah was ripe and picked at exactly the correct time. Big thanks for that go to Nick Hoskins, John Porter, and Larry McKenna.

Finally, we staggered back to plonk down on couches in front of the fire while I served coffee with chocolate covered preserved ginger – easy to make, you just buy the ginger from the bulk section at the supermarket, melt cooking chocolate in a bowl over bubbling water, then coat the ginger in the choc and allow to dry. Also, I’d made Ray McVinnie’s (Cuisine food editor) Sticky Chocolate, Coconut and Prune cakes which he wrote about in the Sunday Star-Times magazine July 13. I didn’t have prunes, so used dates, and I think there might have been some misprints in the recipe because the icing didn’t really make sense. But that might have been my idiocy so I’ll reproduce the recipe here as she was writ:

100g butter, softened, beaten til pale and fluffy with 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar. Add one egg and beat well. Sift dry ingredients – 1 1/2 cups self-raising flour, 2tbs cocoa – and add alternately with 1 cup long-strand coconut and 1 cup chopped prunes (or dates). Place well-spaced, large dessert-spoons on papered trays and bake in 180 degree oven for about 12-15 minutes. Ice when cold.

Icing – 1 1/2 cups icing sugar, 1 tbs softened butter, 3 tbs cocoa, put everything except the coconut (yeah, I know, there is no coconut, but this is what the recipe said) into a bowl and add just enough hot water to make a thick but smooth spreadable icing. Beat well so no lumps and spread a little on top of each cake.

Needless to say, I felt a little sick that night, but a great day was had by all.

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