Thursday, June 7, 2012

Vineyard Hotel - Wine Paired Dinners

What a privilege it was to be invited to help create the four course dinner for the Villiera Tasting Experience at The Vineyard Hotel.

It was one of the most exciting moments I've had to date. I met amazing people, such as the wine maker, Jeff Grier and the chef at the Vineyard Hotel, Chris Law. The wines and MCCs we tasted were exceptional and the way we unravelled the flavours in the wines and the foods, in order for Chris to use his mastery to come up with something unique and spectacular was in effect, "a paint-by-numbers-extravaganza."

Seeing our bantered-efforts come to life in actual dishes, on the night, was priceless.

Smoked salmon orzo with wild rocket, apple, toasted almonds and citrus emulsion
Paired with Villiera Tradition Brut Rose NV

Chris surpassed all my expectations with this first plate - the flavours were singing in my mouth! Such a beautifully executed and well balanced dish. The saltiness from the salmon, the slight sweet tartness from the apple, the toasted creaminess from the almonds, all brought out the flavours in the Brut Rose, but the textures of the apple, orzo and almonds were a delight. I was taken on a journey in this dish and I didn't want it to end!

Homemade blanc fromage, deep-fried with dukkha, artichoke, mango, pineapple salad and korma dressing
Paired with Villiera Tradition Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc 2010

The gentle curry flavours of the korma married perfectly with the Villiera Barrel Fermented Chenin as did the sweetness from the mango and pineapple and the nuttiness from the dukkha. Once again the textures in this dish and the balance of flavours made me happy: the crunchy salty exterior with the oozing richness of the cheese ball, accompanied by the crisp sweetness of the salad, a perfect combination.

Peppered beef fillet with rosti potato, creamed spinach and a bitter chocolate jus
Paired with Domaine Grier Crusade 2006

Whenever I see chocolate and steak together on a menu, I get nervous because the balance is very rarely right. But this bitter chocolate jus was delightful and a faultless accompaniment to the Domaine Grier Crusade, one of Villiera's overseas offerings. The earthiness of the spinach also complimented the wine well as did the umami from the steak, which was cooked to perfection!

Apple and pear tart tatin, roasted rhubarb ice cream and honey rooibos gel
Paired with Villiera Inspiration Noble Late Harvest 2010


I could have eaten bucket loads of the roasted rhubarb ice cream; its slight savouriness cut through the sweetness of the tart and worked wonderfully with the Noble Late Harvest. As did the honey, which was mirrored in the wine.

I would highly recommend treating yourself to one or more of these wine paired evenings, which are very reasonably priced at R265 for the four-course and R315 for the five-course. A wonderful night out with a group of friends or if you are wanting to be romantic, why not indulge and stay over. Exclusive stay-over packages have been designed specifically for these evenings, at a greatly reduced price.

The wine flows, live music sets the mood and the food is a treat for the taste buds. I couldn't think of a more enjoyable way to spend a Friday night.

 For more info go to The Vineyard Hotel's Website, or contact 021 657 4500 or e-mail

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Beef and Lentil Soup

There is nothing more comforting than coming home to the aromas of something hot and delicious bubbling away on the stove or in the slow cooker.

This, for me, is the true essence of winter and instantly makes a home more cosy.

I had this unctuous beef and lentil soup cooking in the slow cooker all night and waking up to the rich, savory smells wafting around my flat was just the way I'd like to start every day.  

I even had some for breakfast - I just couldn't wait! :)

Put a pot of deliciousness in the slow cooker before bed and you will have delicious dreams.

Beef and Lentil Soup
(Serves 4)


125g bacon diced
500g beef shin, bone in - excess fat removed
2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp paprika
1 large onion, diced
1/2 cup red wine
1 litre NoMU beef stock
3 large carrots, sliced
2 sticks celery, sliced
1 tin whole tomatoes and juice
2 sprigs rosemary
1/4 cup lentils (I used red split lentils)
1 tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste


Fry bacon until golden
Add the beef shin to the pot and brown
Add in the dried thyme and paprika to flavour the beef
Add in the diced onion and fry until translucent
Deglaze pan with the red wine
Add in the beef stock
It is at this point that I transferred everything to the slow cooker. If you don't have one, just add everything to your original pot.
Add in the carrots, celery, tinned tomatoes, rosemary, lentils, sugar
Bring soup to a boil
Add salt and pepper
Check for seasoning and adjust where necessary
Cook on low for a minimum of 3 hours, or preferably over night, until the shin literally falls apart
Remove shin from the pot
Remove bones and any unwanted fat from the shin, but add the marrow to the soup for extra flavour
Flake the shin back into the soup
Simmer for another 20 to 30 minutes to allow all the flavours to merge
Serve piping hot with bread, if desired.

**Please note that some people who are gluten intolerant may struggle to digest lentils
*Red wine contains yeast