Wednesday, July 01, 2015

This Week's MENU - Aegean Odyssey Part 4, Athens & Diakofto, Simonsig Vertical, Fork, Pears in red wine with choc ganache

Trees on the shore of the Gulf of Corinth
In this week’s MENU:
* Pears in Red Wine with a Chocolate sauce
* Learn about wine and cooking
We write about our experiences in MENU, not only to entertain you, but to encourage you to visit the places and events that we do. We know you will enjoy them and we try to make each write up as graphic as we can, so you get a good picture of what is on offer at each place, restaurant, wine farm, festival we visit. To get the whole story with photographs, please click on “Read on.....” at the end of each paragraph, which will lead you to the related blog, with pictures and more words. At the end of each blog, click on RETURN TO MENU to come back to the blog version of MENU.
How are you coping with winter and the power cuts? The temptation is to hunker down in front of a fire or just stay in bed and eat comfort food. But out we must go and enjoy what the Cape has to offer. We seem to get most of our power cuts between 4 to 6.30 or 6 to 8.30 and Lynne now has a strategy worked out. A long hot bath with a gin and a good book wearing a head torch, then into the kitchen to cook a complicated but healthy meal on our gas hob and oven. John has enough battery power on his computer to last through almost the whole 2 and a half hours but he also enjoys reading. We will not let this get us down, but it is affecting friends and colleagues in business badly and we do wonder how long the country can tolerate this disruption.
To Simonsig to try on Tiaras       We had an early start to our trip to Simonsig, as we had the offer of a very greatly appreciated lift. Some events are hard to resist and the opportunity to taste through 7 vintages of this iconic Bordeaux-style blend, Simonsig's flagship wine, was indeed irresistible. Simonsig made their first serious red wine in 1984 from Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. In 1990, they made the first Tiara (released in 1992) and planted Merlot and more Cabernet. Cabernet Franc was added in 1992 and in 1997 Petit Verdot, after tasting Walter Finlayson's Grand Classique blend. Finally, in 2009, they added Malbec. Not all these grapes are used in each year's Tiara; the blend does vary according to their quality and what they add to the blend, and there have been some years when they didn't produce any. When Johan Malan took over as cellarmaster in 1998, he started to make classic red wines, having seen what Jan Boland Coetzee, Etienne Le Riche and other Stellenbosch wine producers had produced. He likes the style that Pauillac makes, and wines with the potential to last a long time.
Winemaker Debbie Thompson is also passionate about quality wines. Her first vintage was in 2000. They leave the grapes hanging longer on the vine these days, it doesn't give you more sugar, just more depth. When to pick and press is critically important. She says the most exciting part of her job is making the blends. You play with the tannins which give the wine its longevity, search out quality, know the characteristics of all the blocks and the put the best to barrel. And they do vary the wood used: Mainly French oak, with small amounts of American. She says it's like starting with Cabernet and then adding the salt and the pepper.
Following the tasting we had an excellent lunch in their restaurant Cuvée paired with more Simonsig wine. Read On....
Simonsig are having a Vintage day on the 15th of August and you can buy tickets to taste and buy these vintage wines. Go to the web site for more details.
Ed Saunders’ Fork restaurant has been refurbished     So, on Saturday night, a small crowd of his loyal guests, suppliers and also friends joined him at a cocktail party to celebrate the new space, introduce his new chef "Aristotle" and his new manager Emma Farquharson. Fork, which is a tapas bar, has been open now for 10 years and he felt it needed a fresh approach. It was a very social evening with lots of people we know, the Krone bubbly flowed like water and there was also wine from Beaumont, Elgin Ridge, Rustenberg and Warwick, with just a few canapés circulating overhead. Read on....
The Greek Odyssey continues ...
...with our last day in Athens and then our arrival in Diakofto on the Peloponnese and our visits to a local winery and restaurants
This week's recipe is Pears in Red Wine with a Chocolate sauce
Apples and pears are in season so it's one of the instant things to reach for when thinking of a dessert. This is simple to prepare and you can make it the day before to save time. If you can, use pears that have their stalks on. And use a nice easy drinking wine, nothing too sharp. You can use a corked wine as the taint disappears when it is cooked. Great if you have a really good wine that you can’t drink because its corked. This is for 4, double up if you need to.
4 firm pears - 1 bottle of red wine - 50g of sugar - 2 cloves - 3cm piece of cinnamon - 1 cardamom pod, crushed - a vanilla pod - 20g of chopped walnuts or pecans – 1 or 2 T sweetened chestnut purée or Nutella
Peel the pears carefully, leaving the stalks on. Remove the cores from the bottom, but do not break through to the surface of the pears. Take a small deep pan and arrange the pears in it, standing up if possible. Add the wine, which hopefully will cover the pears, sugar and the spices. Stir and add more sugar if you need to, it will depend on the ripeness of the peas and the wine. Simmer until the pears are soft but not falling apart. If possible, leave them to cool overnight in the wine. This will give them a lovely dark red colour. Mix the nuts with the chestnut puree and stuff the pears.
Strain the wine and reduce it until you have a syrupy sauce. Put a spoonful or two of the syrup into a pretty glass dish and top with a pear. You may serve these warm or cold accompanied by a jug of the red wine syrup, and the chocolate sauce, or with fresh cream if you prefer. If you want to decorate, you could add a mint leaf next to the stalk of the pear.
Easy chocolate ganache sauce
1 bar of 70% dark chocolate - 250 ml of fresh whipping cream
Break up the chocolate into a heat proof mixing bowl. Heat the cream in a pan until it reaches boiling point and, before it boils over, pour it directly onto the chocolate. Mix very well with a spoon and then, with an electric whisk, beat it until it begins to thicken slightly. Serve warm or cold.
Saturday, 11th July at 11:30 am "Old oak vs new oak" Tasting & Barrel Lunch at Beaumont, Bot River. An informal tasting and discussion with Sebastian on the influence of old & new oak on wine. Taste some of Beaumont's finest wines from barrel. Zest will be firing up the Oak Barrel Smoker for their delicious hot smoked salmon starter. A selection of special wines from the cellar will pair with this delicious seasonal menu. Menu & Wines @ R415 per head. Book online at or email
Saturday, 11th & Sunday, 12th July  Franschhoek Bastille Festival Food & Wine Hall, situated at the Town Hall. Entry is R120 per person, which includes a complimentary tasting glass, a booklet of tasting coupons as well as a R20 wine voucher to be used on the day. Additional coupons can be purchased on the day. Live entertainment will add extra flare and fun Children under 18 enter for free. Visit the website at for more info. Terms and Conditions apply
Saturday, 11th & Sunday, 12th July  Franschhoek Bastille Festival, Food & Wine Marquee, situated at the Huguenot Monument. Entrance tickets to the Franschhoek Bastille Festival Food & Wine Marquee cost R200 per person, which includes a complimentary tasting glass, a booklet of tasting coupons as well as a R20 wine voucher to be used on the day. Additional coupons can be purchased on the day. Live entertainment will add extra flare and fun. Visit the website at for more info. Terms and Conditions apply
Sunday, 12th July  Long Sunday Lunch with Bertus Basson at Vondeling, Voor-Paardeberg. Cost: R245.00 per person. Booking is essential. Contact Mariaan Harris on 021 869 8595, or email 
Learn about wine and cooking We receive a lot of enquiries from people who want to learn more about wine. Cathy Marston and The Cape Wine Academy both run wine education courses, some very serious and others more geared to fun. You can see details of Cathy’s WSET and other courses here and here and the CWA courses here. Karen Glanfield has taken over the UnWined wine appreciation courses from Cathy. See the details here
The Hurst Campus, an accredited school for people who want to become professional chefs, has a variety of courses. See the details here
In addition to his Sense of Taste Culinary Arts School, Chef Peter Ayub runs a four module course for keen home cooks at his Maitland complex. Details here
Nadège Lepoittevin-Dasse has French cooking classes in Noordhoek and conducts cooking tours to Normandy. You can see more details here
Emma Freddi runs the Enrica Rocca cooking courses at her home in Constantia
Nicolette van Niekerk runs baking courses at La Petite Patisserie in Montague Gardens
George Jardine will be running a series of winter cooking courses and other activities at Jordan. Details here

1st July 2015
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