Posts Tagged ‘Turning Leaf’

What happens when a talented chef and an adventurous winemaker bring their heads together? In most of the cases they come up with innovative ways how to pair food with wine, in others they engage their diners and ‘winers’ into a heated conversation about what they would drink with what.

The later was the case on an event I have attended recently in London. A winemaker of a Californian brand Turning Leaf Stephanie Edge can perhaps be crowned a queen of adventure. At least if it was measured by the number of countries a single winemaker has visited in search for inspiration. During a six-year period she travelled to 73 countries. I wrote about her and the wines she created for Turning Leaf earlier in her another quest for food and wine matching, at that time it was about Christmass food and perfect wines to go with it.

Ester Roling, the chef

This time though, she has paired herself with a young and talented dutch chef Esther Roling and their common female passion for discovering new flavours gained some unconventional results. Ester Roling worked at London’s Les Trois Garcons, a two-Michelin starred Pied a Terre and finally founded her own catering company Sugar & Salt. Her thirst for fresh produce sourced from various farmers markets and specialist grocery outlets confirms her love for quality.

Beef Carpacio a la Ester Roling

The beef carpaccio she used with parmesan mayo, baked tomatoes and cress not only perfectly accompanied Turning Leaf’s Cabernet Sauvignon, but it melted like a slice of ice infused with beef consomè. Ester disclosed me her source – The Natural Kitchen, an organic grocer on Marylebone High street in London. I am jealous of Londoners now that I have moved out. It seems that I will have to fly to Argentina in order to get a piece of beef like that. Feeding the cows with grass and using only the meat from the young cattle is perhaps the secret that the Argentine and organic producers elsewhere share.

Turning Leaf Discover The Taste Of Colour masterclass

She went into even more exotic corners of the world as she pan-fried red mullet with spicy couscous and paired it with Chardonnay. Chorizo, saffron, chilly, paprika, mint, cinnamon, cardamon and rose petals in her couscous creation were magic with a slightly oaked and warmly spicy Chardonnay. The recipe looked so good, that I had to offer my hand to help her to mix the ingredients together.

I have to give you the recipe here so you can try it yourself. It looks a bit complicated, but it is not. Definitely, it is a very interesting dish with wine and you will impress anyone you will be serving it with to.

Turning Leaf Chardonnay with Red Mullet and Moroccan spiced couscous

This recipe serves four people.

Ingredients: 175g diced chorizo; 3 cloves of garlic; 20 saffron threads; 25g breadcrumbs; cayenne pepper; paprika powder; 2 eggs; salt; olive oil; grapeseed oil; 1 onion; 150g couscous; 240ml boiling water; Ras el Hanout*; 20 parsley leaves; 20 mint leaves; 1 courgette – yellow or green; 4 fillets Red mullet (around 150g each); 20g butter

For the Chorizo crumb: 100g diced chorizo; parchment paper

Preheat the oven to 160°C.

Place a sheet of parchment paper on an oven tray and spread the chorizo. Cover the chorizo with another sheet of paper and place a baking tray on top and bake for 15 minutes or until the chorizo is crisp.

Allow it to cool and then break into crumbs. Set the chorizo aside until needed.

For the Rouille: 3 cloves of garlic; 100 ml boiling water; 20 saffron threads; 25 g breadcrumbs; a pinch of cayenne pepper; a pinch of paprika powder; 2 eggs; ½ teaspoon salt; 50 ml olive oil; 50 ml grapeseed oil

Keeping the skin on the garlic, wrap the cloves in tin foil and roast in the oven for 20 minutes at 160°C. Set aside to cool then push the flesh of the garlic out of the skin. Using a medium-sized bowl, pour boiling water over the saffron threads and add the breadcrumbs. Boil the eggs and once boiled drop them into iced water to stop the cooking process.  Peel the eggs and separate the egg yolk, discarding the egg whites. In a food processor add the egg yolks, garlic, breadcrumb mix, a pinch of cayenne pepper and paprika powder and salt and blend to a creamy consistency. Gradually add the oils until you get a smooth emulsion.

For the Moroccan couscous: 4 tbsp olive oil; 1 onion, finely sliced in rings; 150g couscous; 240ml boiling water; 1 tsp  Ras el Hanout; 20 parsley leaves, finely chopped; 20 mint leaves, finely chopped; salt to taste; olive oil; 75 g good quality Alejandro chorizo, cut into small dices

Heat the olive oil in a heavy based frying pan and add the onion rings. Cover the pan allowing the onion to sweat over a low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until golden.  Add a teaspoon of salt and remove from the heat. Put the couscous in a bowl and pour over 240ml boiling water. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave for 5 minutes to allow the couscous to absorb the water.  Remove the cling film and with a fork, loosen the couscous.  To make the couscous burst with flavour, add the cooked onions, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, a teaspoon of Ras el Hanout, parsley, mint and a pinch of salt. Over a medium heat add a splash of olive oil to a frying pan. Add the chorizo and stir until the oil runs out of the chorizo. Add the chorizo and oil to your couscous to give it a golden-yellow colour.

For the Courgette: 1 Yellow or green courgette; olive oil; salt & pepper

Using a small melon baller, scoop out a small ball of courgette, if you don’t have a melon baller use a peeler to slice the courgette length-ways.  Place a frying pan over a medium heat and add a splash of olive oil.  Sauté the courgette for 1 minute. Cover to keep warm until needed.

For the Red Mullet: 4 fillets of Red Mullet – around 150g each; 2 tablespoons of olive oil; 20g butter; salt; pepper

Season the fillets on both sides with salt and pepper. Place a large non-stick pan over a medium heat and add a splash of olive oil when hot. Place the fillets skin down into the frying plan for about 2 minutes. Add the butter then carefully turn the fillets to fry on the other side for another 2 minutes.

If you try this let me know how did you like it with an oaked Chardonnay. I am curious about any other wines working wonders with this dish. Perhaps you would prefer a Pinot Noir from Turning leaf with it?


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If you are pondering about  how to surprise your dearest family members during this Christmas I have a tasty tip for you – learn how to multiple the pleasure from a Christmas meal by pairing it with the right wine. A bonus is on its way as well – you can multiply the pleasure and it doesn’t need to cost you a fortune.

Turning Leaf

Turning Leaf winery from California makes lovely wines for affordable prices. The winery’s senior winemaker Stephanie Edge travelled to London to introduce the heavenly combinations of the Turning Leaf’s wines with Christmas delicacies such as roast turkey, goose and of course with a Christmas pudding (for US speakers – a dessert).

During an informal event at The Assembly in the London’s edgy East Ms Edge with her warm attitude encouraged everyone to forget about fear and instead be adventurous and experiment. She said: ‘I know that there are thousands of wines out there, but you’ve got to find the one that fits best to you.’

An intimate setting at The Assembly

And we all found one. After tasting five wines from the Turning Leaf’s range one’s favourite was a creamy Chardonnay, another’s a jammy Zinfandel and Ms Radka’s (me) a juicy Pinot Noir. I really like their Pinot, very different from the Pinots from Burgundy. Nevertheless, it is less complicated for many casual drinkers.One of the reasons might be that the Turning Leaf’s Pinot wasn’t really a 100% Pinot Noir although this fragile grape prevails (77.6%). It was blended with Tempranillo and other lesser known grape varietals in small amounts.

The wine was nice and light as the grape has very thin skin so it is never very bold and heavy. I savoured some cloves, spices, bright red fruits (light black currants, blackberries). This Pinot is ideal for these who are not usually keen on red wine as it is low in tannins – so your mouth won’t be ‘shrunk’ by their astringent effect.

Colourful world of wine and food

FOOD PAIRING: Ms Edge surprised us saying: ‘Christmas roasted turkey would go very well with it.‘ And she explained why: ‘The crisp acid will be nice with the poultry.’

Here we go – red wine and turkey! Forget about the white with fish and poultry and red only with powerful red wine. It is not as straightforward as many ‘shortcut devotees’ would claim.

I would add: ‘As world is not just black and white, the same applies to wine and food.  Pairing them together results in a colourful palette of flavours.’

Turning Leaf wines


But, I have jumped to the main course already, mind my taste buds getting too excited about the Pinot. Every Christmas meal starts with starters (now I know where they got their name from) and I quite agree (more often than not) with the turning Leaf’s winemaker as she said: ‘I think a natural progression of the meal is to start with something lighter and it is the same with wine.’ So our tasting commenced with a light bodied Pinot Grigio. You really don’t want any heavy meal with this wine.

Ms Edge emphasised that: ‘The wine should enhance the taste of the food or the food should enhance the taste of wine.’

FOOD PAIRING: With Pinot Grigio you won’t go wrong if you drink it with a smoked salmon, lighter cheeses like brie, but also with a very salty blue cheese as the Pinot Grigio cuts through the saltines, celery with houmous, salami – it’s quite fatty so it cuts a bit the fat in your mouth. A roasted goose will taste less salty and more delicate with it.

From light bodied we jumped right into an intense Chardonnay. In California perhaps the most popular white grape variety. It was a very interesting wine with primary fruits such as pineapple, peach and apples and with secondary powerful oaky and creamy flavours. It tastes like a butterscotch, apples and cloves. Someone  said: “I don’t’t know what it is but this wine reminds me something that my grandmother does, just I am not sure what it’s.” For me it’s simply a great Christmas wine as it feels wintry.

FOOD PAIRING: Ms Edge said: If you have a creamy food and a creamy wine than the fruit in the wine will be more expressed.’ Therefore, if you want the creamy taste of Chardonnay you don’t eat it with creamy food. An intense Gruyere cheese or pate enhance the fruits in Chardonnay especially the ripe pear and pineapple.

The king of reds

The powerful Cabernet Sauvignon deserves to be called the king. If you know about any other grape which would conquer with a more flair most of the world’s top wine regions, please let me know. The line up of red fruits, vanilla, mocha and chocolate, spice and a hint of oak tells it all. Pairing this wine with food needs to be well-considered. It needs something at least as big as the wine itself.

FOOD PAIRING: roast beef, lamb, duck. The wine cuts through the fat in the meat and enhances the meat or gamey aspect in the duck.

Yoghurt and wine? Our fantasy doesn’t have boundaries

We couldn’t end differently than with a quintessential California grape – the mighty Zinfandel. It has a very dark and intense colour. The body is rich,  jammy, bursts with fruit. The Turning Leaf winemaker added her subjective experience as she said: “It reminds me a blueberry yoghurt”

FOOD PAIRING: Perfect with minced pie, with roast beef, pate, foie gras, dark chocolate. Ms Edge summed it up: “Zin goes well with anything.” confirming that her taste buds have already adapted to a Californian taste. (She grew up in Australia)

As you have been just browsing though my yummy notes you probably spotted it – I had a really lovely evening, just eating all these Christmas delicacies at the end of November transferred me to the atmosphere of December 25. Perhaps, I shall pair festive food with wine all year-long and I will be eternally happy.

NOTE: All of the wines from Turning Leaf are blends, however, the US guidelines allow the presence other grape varietals in a wine in which one dominates to be called by the name of the prevailing grape.

Oh, and in the Czech Republic we don’t say that we are “pairing” wine with food but we are “engaging” wine with food – what an intense relationship!

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