Some people feel guilty about things they have or haven’t done in life – the big stuff.
Me, I feel racked when I realise the last of the peaches fell to ground, there were figs I missed spotting or the birds beat me to a particularly succulent bunch of grapes.
My confession – I adore filling jars, and everything that goes with preserved food – safe from decay, wildlife or neglect. Squirreling.
This weeks race against the sin that is waste (Aunty Isabel lived through the war and “Waste is Sin” was one of her favourite sayings) has had me drying figs, jellying crabapples, jamming plums, relishing tomatoes and roasting peaches.
My Grandmother (and Aunty Isabel) would have been horrified at the use of such perfect fruit as these peaches in crostata, pies were a place for less than perfect fruit.
I roast fruit in a single layer sprinkled with sugar and dotted with butter, cooking in a moderately hot oven until just bursting.
The restaurant menu also saw hour old kipflers simply dressed with olive oil, fresh mint, basil and parsley, a little seeded red chilli and salt. Yum with fresh curd cheese and black olive tapenade.
A salad of rocket, endive and sorrel had tiny barely ripe port grapes scattered through – the effect like balls of vejuice bursting in the mouth.
A rainbow of colours in the heritage tomatoes not only looks pretty but presents a spectrum of flavour, every variety having different levels of sweetness and acidity.
Spinach went into a savoury crostata with three types of cheese and eggs collected that day.
Seasonal cooking begs for restraint. Kind of ironic when nothing else is showing any.
Make a syrup by boiling 1 litre of water (or wine) with 1 kg of sugar.
Pop the whole figs (stalk intact) in this syrup and simmer very gently for about an hour.
Remove from the syrup and lay figs, allowing a little space, on trays. Place in the sun to dry for three days or until dried to your liking.
Keep the syrup and reuse for this purpose or reduce and pour over ice-cream.
My favourite spot in the vineyard is the patch of muscat vines just below the restaurant, to the side of the dam.
It’s also the first to bud up in spring and usually the last to be harvested at vintage. For several weeks I have magnificent bunches of drool worthy muscats (and a number of port grape varieties) to use, mostly and best just as they are.
I ask David how he came to plant the muscats. He replies, ‘Every great vineyard has a plot of table grapes close to the house’. I silently give thanks to people of vision everywhere.
In a few weeks I will make dolmades but right now is the perfect time for a fine tempura batter made simply with white wine and flour to dunk the leaves in, fried till crisp and served with a little sea salt – and more white wine of course.
Tempura battered vine leaves
Self raising flour
Enough white wine to mix to a thin batter consistency
Vegetable or olive oil for frying (I prefer olive oil but this is a bit indulgent)
Maldon or Murray River salt flakes to serve
Whisk the flour and white wine until the consistency of pouring custard. Two cups of flour will make sufficient tempura for a number of people as a starter.
Our vines are organic so I use the leaves straight from the vine, but if you’re not sure if your vine leaves may contain spray residue wash them well first and then ensure they are completely dry before use.
Dunk the leaves in batter and wipe on the side of the bowl so only a thin coating is left.
Fry in hot oil, turning to brown on each side. Drain on paper towel and serve sprinkled with salt immediately.
Use any left over batter to tempura anything else – young peas, shoots of any sort, flowers – whatever.
You can only eat two food items for the rest of your life? For me easy – bread + butter.
Last week we flavoured Pepe Saya butter with truffles and this week I’m adding some herbs along with the truffle.
Pierre Issa is the man behind the Pepe Saya cultured butter and is sooo good at what he does, if you haven’t tried his butter you’re holding him up on his mission to ensure everyone in Australia has. They do a truffle butter using Duncan Garvey’s truffles and our own version uses those from Borrodell on the Mount in Orange.
This spot overlooks the Towac Valley and I think the best views in all of Orange. Great wine, lovely restaurant, and right now fresh truffles and all sorts of truffle value added products. If you have a chance visit Gaye, Borrie and Louisa and see what a vision and a green thumb can achieve.
Truffles are expensive but a little does go a long way. You don’t need fancy equipment, I just used the kitchen grater.
But truffles are just one, luxurious, end of the flavoured butter spectrum. Butter is the best flavour carrier for everything from the intensity of chilli to the subtlety of a herb like chervil or the lemony taste of sorrel (pictured). It was such a 70’s thing to use flavoured butters that they may have dropped from favour as a flavour for being passe rather than passed on.
We will serve our flavoured butter this weekend with bread (of course), soft boiled quail eggs and olives marinated and then warmed through with some mandarin and red onion slices. Herb butter on a simple dry roasted potato or tossed through steamed veges is just as good.
We’re so used to being able to buy butter cheaply that it takes a little re-focus to realise that even luxury butter is good value for the pleasure and simplicity it provides.
500 grams good quality butter
2 tablespoon mixed fresh herbs, finely chopped (use whatever is best at the moment, I’m using sorrel, parsley and chervil)
a little cracked pepper
sea salt if your butter is unsalted
a little grated lemon if you wish
Combine everything. Roll into a log shape if you wish to be able to slice easily. Store in baking paper and then foil. If you cant use it in a period of a couple of weeks place it in the freezer and use from there whenever you want to add a flavoured butter to your cooking.
To make garlic butter add a few chopped cloves or roast a whole head of garlic then squeeze the soft centres of the cloves into the butter. Dont be restrictive – what’s in season, what do you like, what are you cooking?