I bought a little bottle of black truffle oil a few months back. I wanted to make make a simple pasta and make it even more delicious with a bit of this glorious oil. 

1. Chop the mushrooms, garlic, shallots and parsley.
2. Boil a large pot of water for the pasta (high heat), and add salt to the boiling water.
3. Add a generous amount of olive oil to a large pan and warm the garlic and shallots until they're shiny and golden, then add the chili flakes, parsley and white wine. Let it simmer on a low heat, so all the flavours combine. 

4. Add the mushrooms to the garlic mix. 
5. The pasta must be al dente, or even a little less cooked than al dente. Once this is ready drain the pasta and add it to the mushroom mixture and make sure all the ingredients are spread equally throughout the pasta. Put on a low heat and keep stirring it around. 
6. Meanwhile, toast the pinenuts. 
7. Before serving, add two splashes of cream, pepper and salt to taste, and a good spoon of truffle oil, stir once more. 

8. Plating up: first the pasta, a bunch of rocket, grated parmesan, pine nuts and some extra chopped parsley on top. 
I generally really like this type of pasta,  a simple pasta with little ingredients made more special with a few drops of truffle oil.

Wine wise; we tried two bottles: a New Zealand Pinot Noir and an Italian Bardolino. The Pinot Noir was the definite winner and was seriously delicious with the pasta.


wine tasting 2

Another wine tasting!

This time me and a colleague organised a session for the team and their other halves. Most of my colleagues are wine drinkers or even afficionados. Which made it somewhat of a challenge to come up with a particular type of tasting session that would be interesting for all of us. From all the possible options I chose to compare French wines with 'New World'-wines. Eight wines in total: four white, & four red; four French & four 'New World'. Four rounds of wine tasting, two at a time, those two being made from the same grape variety but a different country (thus different soil, climate et al.)

I chose French wines because, for me and I suppose for a lot of people, France is the wine country. Of course not everyone would agree, but for the sake of this wine tasting I chose France. 

There were 13 of us, and as I said, I believe they all enjoy a glass of wine. But not all of them might be just as into it as I am, while there were others that have far more knowledge on the subject than I have.
I wanted to make it interesting for everybody, I wanted everyone to join in on the wine-madness that has been occupying me for the last couple of months. Taking into account the different interest & knowledge levels of all the attendees. 

I made little booklets for everyone, where they could note down their observations. I was hoping these bookies would inspire them to give more thought to it, and not just drink :). In the back, I added a tiny aroma wheel, to help describe the wine. 

I also added a few little jokes to lighten up the matter, because it wasn't suppose to be all that serious, while at the same time, I was hoping everybody would take it seriously..

I bought the eight bottles at two wine shops in the area, I knew what kind of wines I wanted but I needed some professional advice. Also, I wasn't able to taste all the wines in advance (I was willing), so their opinions were decisive. To make the tasting session more interesting and 'useful' I researched the wines and the grapes they were made of, so that I could actually tell something about it. I was quite nervous about that, felt like a school girl talking to my peers. And in the end I even forgot my notes. 

Sauvignon Blanc
A delicate and citrusy Menetou Salon from the Loire and a New Zealand white, full of tropical fruits with strong asparagus aromas.

A light and fruity Chardonnay from an onorthodox origin: the Beaujolais. And a slightly oaked one from South-Africa with aromas of toast & nuts (and fruit of course).

A classic Merlot from the Languedoc; with pepper & berries and a stronger & more fruity bottle from Chili.

GSM (or GMS or SMG)
It's almost impossible to find two blends with the exact same balance between grapes. Thus the two wines we drank in the last round weren't exactly the same. A Grenache - Syrah - Mourvedre from the Southern Rhone-Region (Vacqueyras). And an 2007 Australian Shiraz - Mourvedre - Grenache. Both rich wines, with spices, a bit of fruit and subtle tannines. 

To avoid people from getting too giggly from the little sips they were getting (which is entirely possible) we had to have food to go with the wine.  Pairing wine and food is easier said than done and it's not something I know a lot about, so we went with the suggestions that we could find on the internet, the back of the bottles and the notes provided by the wine shops.

Sauvignon Blanc
A tiny cheese platter consisting of two types of goat cheese: a soft brie-like one and a flavorsome hard type. Salty cheese with with fruity wine. 

Both our bottles of Chardonnay asked for fish. It just said fish. That didn't really help us in choosing the right type of cannape / snack... But we figured everybody loves smoked fish! We dressed the fish up a bit with a little sauce and garnish to make it a bit more special. 
- Smoked salmon and a creamy avocado, creme fraiche & dill mixture. 
- Smoked eel with a teaspoon of fromage blanc and sliced green apple.

I marinated a few steaks the night before in red wine, tarragon, thyme, garlic and honey. We cooked them just before pouring the wine and served everyone a few slices with a drop of bearnaise-sauce (best steak sauce ever). The Chilean Merlot specifically stated to combine it with either Cheddar or Gruyere, we opted for the latter (although I didn't know at the time what gruyere tasted like, but this was an extremely tasty cheese, and one of the better wine & food combinations of the evening).

Both the French as well as the Australian blend were good to drink on their own (as stated on the back of the bottles) but could also be combined with game, spicy sausages & lamb. We didn't really go with any of the suggestions as they were time-consuming, so instead we chose a selection of cold cuts and some spicy sausages. They weren't all equally suitable for the wines, but they were nice nonetheless.

And of course we had bread, dips, olives and water to enjoy throughout the evening.

All in all we had a great evening. I was pleased to see that everybody enjoyed the wines, and that they were taking the tasting quite serious. Almost all noted down their thoughts for each wine in the booklets, although with the last two wines this was no longer happening, haha!

The evening left me with plenty of ideas and points that I could have done differently.
Maybe tasting eight wines was too much? Maybe the stories I told about the wines bored the hell out of everybody? Maybe the wines weren't quite the right pick? Was the food good enough? I feel really responsible for everybody's happiness throughout an evening like this, and I thoroughly hope they enjoyed it just as much as I did.

Anyway, there will be another wine tasting, I'm sure of that! I enjoyed the preparations; picking the wines, deciding upon the appetizers, researching the wines etc. Can't wait to dive into it again.

So while everybody gets on with their stuff, you'll find me reading about grapes, watching Jancis Robinson's slightly outdated but very useful documentaries, dreaming about vineyards, reading Ilja Gort's books on France & wine and drink the occasional glass (or twothreefour)



club sandwiches

I love it when my sandwich is too big to hold in one hand, when all the ingredients fall out, because I was greedy and wanted to stuff it with too much good stuff. And I love to have crisps with my lunch, which is only allowed when eating a club sandwich (well, in my book). Most of the time we make a classic club, but I was feeling adventurous the last couple of weeks and stuffed them with other foods. 

The recipes below serve 2. 
Club Nicoise
Bread - 8 slices
Tuna - 1 can
Black olives - two handfull (one regular, one kalamata)
Tomato - two small ones
Iceberg or romaine lettuce - handfull
Egg - two
Capers - one tablespoon
Anchovies - 6 slices, chopped
Dill - one tablespoon
Mayonnaise - as much is needed to make it less dry)

Layer 1 - Tuna salad (tuna, capers, anchovies, dill, mayonnaise)
Layer 2 - Black olives, chopped and mixed
Layer 3 - Lettuce / tomato / egg

Club Sweet Salmon
Bread - 8 slices (small though)
Salmon - 2 filets (I didn't use fresh ones, that would make it a bit expensive).
Cucumber - half
Yellow paprika - one
Coriander - handfull
Dried chili - one teaspoon
Soy sauce - two tablespoons (or more)
Honey - one tablespoon
Sesame seeds - one tablespoon

Layer 1 - Marinated & fried salmon (with honey-soy sauce, coriander & sesame seeds)
Layer 2 - Chopped yellow paprika & cucumber with a little bit of soy & dried chili
Layer 3 - Same as layer 1

Club Parma

Bread - 8 slices
Parmaham - 6 or 8 slices
Pepper (paprika) - one
Black olives - handful
Buffalo mozzarella - one
Salt & Pepper

Layer 1 - Roasted red paprika
Layer 2 - chopped black olives
Layer 3 - Mozzarella & ham