I have a great passion for discovering new wines and I love cooking for friends. I am going to introduce to you some fantastic new wines and then take you through the dishes I love to prepare with them. The dishes will be simple, the ingredients readily available and hopefully the results very memorable.
So lets kick off with a real favourite of mine at the moment.
THE WINE: Semillon, Mendel Winery – Mendoza, Argentina 2013 (13% alc. – €20.99 RRP – Available in the Celtic Whiskey shop, Dawson Street, Dublin 2).
THE RECIPE: Wild Irish Salmon, baby courgettes and homemade pesto.
Semillon is a white grape variety with its natural home in the region of Bordeaux and with a growing reputation around the world. Semillon wines range from wonderfully complex dry wines to luscious sweet wines with incredible depth and energy. After being a very popular variety and then loosing ground to other grapes such as Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, some producers are turning back to Semillon.
During the 1980s, Roberto de La Mota, currently one of the most famous wine makers in Argentina, was helping his father produce Semillon wines at his Weinert winery in the Uco Valley. Roberto had a great passion for Semillon wines and truly believed in its potential. He was fortunate enough to acquire his own plot with old Semillon vines in the Uco Valley at an altitude of 1100 meters above sea level. It is a very cool area with calcareous soil which allows for an outstanding expression of the grape. I believe that he is now producing one of the best expressions of Semillon, in its price range, anywhere in the world. Semillon is an incredibly versatile wine and accompanies a variety of cuisine brilliantly.
So let me take you through a dish which I love preparing and which I believe mirrors that beautiful bright vibrant nature of the wine.
ROAST FILLET OF IRISH WILD SALMON, BABY COURGETTES WITH HOMEMADE PESTO
– 4 yellow baby courgettes
– Leaves from 1 sprig of Lemon-thyme (available in many garden centres as a potted plant)
– Maldon sea salt and fresh black pepper
– 50g of pine nuts, toasted in a dry pan till lightly coloured
– 4 portions of wild salmon loin with the skin on and scaled
– 1 lemon
For the homemade pesto
– 60g basil leaves
– 1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped
– 50g of parmesan or pecorino, freshly grated
– 125ml of good quality extra virgin olive oil
Make the pesto
1. Whiz the pine nuts, basil, garlic and Parmesan in a food processor to a rough paste, stopping to scrape down the sides a few times.
2. With the motor running, slowly trickle in the olive oil until you have quite a wet mixture. I like to think of it more as a dressing than a dry condiment. Avoid blitzing for too long as you don’t want to reach a puree texture. Also the heat from the motor will start to affect the flavours of the final product.
3. Season to taste with salt and pepper and a small squeeze of lemon juice.
4. Set aside in the fridge while you prepare the rest of the dish to cool down. Ensure there is enough oil to cover the surface of the pesto to avoid the basil oxidizing.
1. Thinly slice the courgettes by hand or with a food processor.
2. Sauté them briefly over a medium high heat with a little olive oil until they start to soften (3-5 mins, depending on thickness). Season with a pinch of sea salt when they go in the pan. Add the Lemon thyme leaves, a generous pinch of freshly milled black pepper and a good squeeze of lemon juice to bring a little touch of acidity.
3. If you are comfortable doing it at the same time as cooking the fish, great! If it’s less stressful, then tip them into an oven proof dish, cover with tin foil and keep warm in a low temperature oven for few minutes.
Cook the fish
1. Put a non-stick pan with olive oil on a medium high heat.
2. Pat the skin of the fish dry.
3. Season with fine sea salt on both the flesh and skin side just before cooking.
4. When the pan is hot, place the fish in the pan, skin side down.
5. When the fish is in the pan, avoid moving it.
6. Most of the cooking will be on the skin side, lift it occasionally to ensure that the skin is not burning
7. When the flesh has changed colour and looks cooked about 90% of the way through (4-7 mins depending on thickness), turn off the heat and flip the fish over onto the flesh side.
8. Leave to rest for 2 minutes in the pan away from the heat.
9. While it is resting you can spoon a little of the olive oil back over the skin to ensure a nice crispy and glistening finish.
10. Before dressing the plate, squeeze a few drops of fresh lemon juice over the fish.
This wine has a beautiful rounded, silky texture that matches perfectly the meatiness of the wild salmon. However, that fantastic natural acidity of the Semillon keeps the experience of eating a rich, oily fish lovely and light and more digest. The sea salt in the pesto, courgettes and Salmon will reflect the salty mineral notes found in the wine.
Aromatically, this Semillon has quite a lot of ripe citrus fruit, a touch of wild herbs and smokiness which compliment brilliantly the basil and the touch of nuttiness brought by the toasted pine nuts. This pairing works really well as both the wine and the dish really complement each other’s vibrant character.
– Try to use some good quality pine nuts which you can find in the health food store or in smaller food outlets. They make a huge difference.
– Use a good quality Parmesan or Pecorino as it does make a big difference to the taste of the pesto.
– Often buying a plant of basil offers better value than to buy it pre-cut and packaged. These basil plants are also generally more fragrant and will keep for a few weeks if you water them regularly and keep them indoors.
– Wild Salmon can be expensive and not always readily available. Wild Sea Trout or a good quality Organic Salmon will also give good results.
– I haven’t given any instruction on dressing the plate – have a little bit of fun, be creative and you are welcome to send me your photos to email@example.com.
Since then Julie’s passion for wine has grown immensely. She has been a sommelier for over 12 years. In April 2016, Julie represented the Irish Guild of Sommeliers at the Sommelier World Championship and finished 3rd overall and was the highest placed woman.
Julie is currently working part-time at the Greenhouse restaurant as well as running her own consultancy business called down2wine.ie.