Pairing wine and food doesn’t have to be expensive
06 June 2016
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Welcome to Old Mutual Live Wine Edition, I’m Jenny Crwys–Williams. Did you know, Anna Trapido asked me recently, that it’s a good idea to pair wines with food you wouldn’t normally think of? Like wines with food in troubled times, just like our own. When there might not be money enough to go around to buy luxurious steak, for instance, but you might be able to afford fish and chips.
That’s the road we’re going down with Anna Trapido. I do think it’s wonderful sometimes to be able to pair a really great wine with something that is inherently simple. What is wrong with having a great bottle of champagne with beautifully cooked fish and chips?
Anna Trapido: Exactly, in fact all the posh combinations of champagne and caviar or whatever, what they’re essentially saying is that a brute sparkling wine. So a crisp, dry, sparkling wine, works very well with something a bit fatty, something a bit salty. That they compare and contrast with each other in a nice way.
Champagne and potato chips
You can do that with caviar, absolutely, that’s a fantastic combination. But you can do it, frankly, for a lot cheaper and differently delicious rather than more or less delicious. With a packet of Simba chippies, the salty potato crisps.
JCW: It still works.
AT: It’s got the same fatty, rich, mouth filling quality. It’s got that salty thing that the acid, it cuts the fattiness and in fact, in The Seven Year Itch that Marilyn Monroe movie, it’s one of the things that she suggests; is dipping a potato crisp into champagne and she’s completely right. That works very well, you’re absolutely spot on that fish and chips would work well. because again, it’s got the fattiness, it’s got the mouth filling quality –
JCW: It’s got the saltiness as well.
AT: It’s got the saltiness, it’s got the generosity of that kind of carbohydrate thing with the chippies and the batter. I think fish and chips with a really good bottle of sparkling wine could be a really glorious. If you’re sitting, I don’t know, on a beach with really nice fish and chips and a good bottle of sparkling wine. I can think of nothing better.
JCW: And beautifully chilled. I’m thinking of rock lobster or something like that.
Chardonnay and lobster
AT: I think once you move onto the sort of buttery, the way that lobster and crayfish and even prawns have a kind of, there’s an interesting firmness that also gives. The feel in your mouth, it’s quite meaty, but then it kind of melts in a way that meat doesn’t. It’s a different sort of animal.
There’s a butteriness about it and in that case I would think, if you didn’t have a lobster to hand, obviously a lobster with lots of butter. A chardonnay would be glorious and that’s the sort of posh-nosh option. But I think popcorn with lots of butter has much that same mouthful.
If you think about popcorn, it’s firm and then suddenly it kind of evaporates, it disappears. In that same way that a really nice mouthful of lobster has. I’m not remotely saying that popcorn and lobster are the same, they’re just a different lovely experience to have with a chardonnay. They are working on the same principles of the mouth feel and the taste and the smell and all of that stuff.
JCW: A Sauvignon Blanc, wouldn’t that work, because it would cup that buttery taste from the popcorn?
AT: I think the buttery thing, I think a Sauvignon Blanc would be maybe better. A good Sauvignon Blanc with anything is a jolly nice thing, and with a lobster would obviously be a lovely thing. But I think, if you think about classic combinations, it’s about really kind or rich, creamy, mouth filling goats cheese.
In that case, you know, goats cheese is very nice. But A, a lot of the goats cheese we get in South Africa is not very good. Or its been stored in ways that means that, I think a lot of South Africans struggle to know the difference between what is a valid farmyard kind of taste and what’s just vrot goats cheese. But a nice tub of maas from the supermarket would do much the same thing.
What I like to do with Amasi, because it really does make the world’s most delicious, world’s cheapest fresh cream cheese. Is if you simply put it through a muslin cloth and you strain it so that the whey drips out. You are left with the most magnificent soured curd cheese that is much nicer than most of the goats cheese you get in South Africa away. I think that, with a Sauvignon Blanc would be damn fine!
JCW: Let’s talk about other food that people regard as junk food. I suppose popcorn is like movies and you’re thinking movies and things. But there’s lots of other foods that I think would be fantastic.
The perfect wine to go with your KFC
AT: I know that actually now the modern thinking on what you should do with curry has at least moved on in certain ways. That it’s moved beyond Gewürtz as an obvious, but Gewürtz is still a very nice. That spicy, floral, slightly sweet thing, is very nice with a curry.
So you could have a glamorous Moghul butter chicken, that sort of thing. Then the buttery rich, spicy, slightly sweet in the savoury thing would work very well there. But the same is true of Kentucky Fried Chicken that the Colonel has his 11 secret spices. Really, I promise you, I once had a birthday where we had a bucket of KFC and you always need to be worried about food served in a bucket. That in itself suggests greed.
But with a really nice Gewürtz and that works beautifully. Because it is again, it’s about the same things. There’s lots of fattiness, there’s lots of richness, there is a combination of secret spices. The Moghul empire and the Colonel Saunders have more in common than you’d think.
JCW: What about bunny chow, a real Durban bunny chow. Because that is, I hesitate to say it’s junk food. Because it is and it isn’t. It’s wonderful and if you get Jan Hendrick in his restaurant in Nice, serves the most sophisticated bunny chow that you’re ever likely to come across. But I’m talking about hard man’s working bunny chow.
Put the wine away for Bunny Chow
AT: I’m a bit of a purist with bunny chow and I believe that the only thing to drink with bunny chow is Cane and Coke. So I wouldn’t serve, obviously all of those wines that work well with spicy foods, would work with a bunny chow. But I honestly think that God invented bunny chow and Cane and Coke to be paired.
That Cane and Coke is disgusting on its own, but in the presence of a bunny chow, it is suddenly so wonderful. Because the sweetness, those Durban curries are seriously hot. They’re properly fiery and you need something gentle to cut that.
The combination of the sweetness of the Coke and that sort of fluffy white bread that isn’t terribly nice; other than in Nik Nak sandwiches where it is very nice. It isn’t all that good bread, but it is wonderful as a foil for those very harsh sort of South India via Chatsworth curries.
I would say there, you want to throw away the wine list and order a Cane and Coke. I’ve got a friend who, she says you know when you’re in a good restaurant, if you’re in a very poncy restaurant. You want to work out if it’s just poncy or whether it’s actually really proper fine dining experience.
You go in and you order the most vulgar thing you can think of, as you step in the door. You say ‘I want a Brandy and Coke’ and if the sommelier looks down his nose at you, you know that you’re not actually in a fine dining restaurant.
Because the point about being a really good service professional is you make everybody feel wonderful in the space at all times and that their decisions are completely valid. I would say yes, you want to order a Cane and Coke if you’re having a bunny chow.
Pepper steak pie and Pinot Noir
JCW: Okay, so let’s think about other junk food that could happily be paired, it’s interesting that we haven’t mentioned a red wine at all. We’ve stuck to the whites and to sparkling wine, really.
AT: I think, for instance, that a Pinot Noir with beans on toast would be lovely, I really do. I think that that sort of generous, almost earthy, nutty sweetness, I think could be really nice with a fruity Pinot Noir. Of all the combinations that would work, those kind of Bordeaux blend style combinations that would work with various beef dishes. So Steak Au Poivre or even just something like beef bourgignon and those kinds of things. They will all work equally well with a pepper steak pie from the garage at midnight because you’re drunk and hungry frankly.
JCW: You’re eating donkey probably!
AT: Well, donkey –
JCW: No don’t!
AT: I think it’s probably free range donkey. It’s probably had an infinitely nicer life than the chicken from Kentucky, or a packet of biltong and those kinds of things. What you’re looking for is to make the taste and mouth feel comparison. So that the wine either strongly contrasts or strongly complements those things. You can do that with pies from the garage. They’ve also got that kind of fatty flavour –
JCW: They’ve got that glutinous, all the jelly.
AT: That if you’re not in the mood for it, can be so disgusting. But if you are, I see absolutely no reason why you couldn’t do some sort of Merlot Cabernet combination with a pepper steak pie from the garage.
JCW: Let’s look at, you see, I’m just trying to think of some of the junk food you get in France and I immediately can’t think of anything!
AT: You know what, the French are such filthy liars because they claim that they spend all day eating croissant. If you wander around a French supermarket, all the mummies trollies are filled with all the same rubbish that our trollies are filled full of. Instant fish fingers and French children eat all sorts of rubbish, no matter what the PR machine says. The Parisian McDonald’s are all packed, the French teenagers eat just as much crap as the rest of us.
Can you drink wine with ice-cream?
JCW: Let’s just talk about something that unfortunately happened in my house last night, which was a tub of very, very good handmade ice–cream. Chocolate chip ice cream and it was absolutely magnificent. But it was downed completely, it was finished. If you had to put a wine with that? It was buttery, it’s full of just wonderful cream and whatever, could we do that? If you’re getting over a love affair or something like that, you may well eat a whole tub of ice cream.
AT: My vices are all about fat and carbs rather than sugar. In extremeness I would eat an entire loaf of bread with Nik Naks or a lump of cheese or something, but were I to down a thing of ice-cream, I think I’d go with something like a Chardonnay. I’m not good at that very rich creamy sort of custard base, so I’d want something that would cut that. That left me feeling slightly less like I’d downed an entire type of ice-cream. I’d want a strong cup of coffee, frankly.
JCW: Yes, coffee with maybe whipped cream or something like that.
AT: No, I’d want it black, but ice-cream is not desperately my thing. You could make some sort of really glamorous ice cream floats by putting sparkling wine, you could put your chocolate ice-cream into the sparkling wine.
JCW: It sounds so repellent. I know I’m not going to try that. But I love these ideas and I love the fact that you’re drinking gorgeous wine with very simple food. But actually the wine is working with the food, be it salty. Once a year I sort of take my lot off for chips and we go to a certain restaurant in town where I’m convinced they do the best chips ever. Just a packet of chips with a wonderful wine. Anna Trapido, thank you.
AT: Thank you.
Thanks for listening to this episode of Old Mutual Live Wine Edition. If you’d like to get in touch with comments, questions or suggestions, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.