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Our new Blog is now part of The Zin House.
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Even a biodymanics sceptic would have to think twice at Lowe Wines at the moment. Not only is the vintage crew harvesting amazing fruit from completely unirrigated and healthy vines, two days after the first worthwhile rain in months the ground has bounced back with incredible health.
Fresh vine leaf growth, pumpkin flowers and just picked soy beans went into tempura for a starter at Winemakers Table on Saturday. The batter was simply seasoned self raising flour and white wine. A toss up whether it was better with the Riesling or the Pinot Grigio.
Outside the winery the heavily mulched and composted garden is bursting. [The rhubarb and spinach are both getting my standby contents of garden custard tart treatment, the savoury version for vintage lunch today and the rhubarb for Friday tapas]
Still the birds are as hungry as we’ve ever seen them. Ring in crows move about in flocks that blacken the horizon, mostly listening to Lowie’s whispered advice that the neighbour’s grapes are sweeter. In reality the nets on Tinja are all that’s saving much of the fruit from these guys who team up with the starlings and give the native birds hell as well. The person who named a group of crows ‘a murder’ must have been a grapegrower.
While they say a crow can remember a person whose behaviour they don’t like forever, it’s the cockatoos who are currently outwitting us. Not content with just feasting on the hens feed they now fly low under the bottom gate of the chook palace and eat the eggs as the hens lay them in their nesting boxes. Next week Morrie will net the top of the enclosure. This cute little trainer egg from one of the pullets didn’t rate obviously.
There are baby chickens in the chook tractor at the moment. Baggy Pants and Wilma spent three weeks in a trance like state protecting those eggs and look proud as punch with what they produced. In reality if gestation involved these kinds of sacrifices for humans I for one would have made a greater contribution to population control.
[When it looked like the girls weren’t going to hatch out the remaining fertile eggs I popped them amongst newspaper in an electric frypan at home and promptly forgot about them. Alas my incubating efforts were not only fruitless but very smelly when Lowie decided I’d left him breakfast.]
Our apiarist Grahame has been really worried about how hungry the bees are. Even though they can travel up to 7 kms (that’s to town from here) he’s laying off taking any honey as the hives need it all for themselves at the moment. Grahame is also building them little verandas to provide extra protection from the extreme heat.
Hot and cold, wet and dry. Hungry creatures and produce to burst. Even the wisteria is so confused it’s flowering profusely. Thank goodness my job is just to cook, at least in the kitchen everything is as it should be. Pie fixes everything…
Spinach and cheese pie
Combine the following:
Use as a filling in puff pastry and bake until well browned and just set. I overlap the pastry on the bottom to form a simple partial top, as per the photo.
Alternatively bake without the pastry as a frittata.
Rhubarb custard tart
Combine the following:
Finely chop rhubarb and toss in castor sugar to coat. Place this in the bottom of a pre cooked tart shell and top with the egg mixture. Sprinkle with nutmeg and bake in moderate oven until custard is set.
When we were in San Sebastian to study tapas (true story – just ask the tax office) I was underwhelmed by much of what was on offer.
Food in the mainstream bars around laneways in the old part of town was pretty average. The habit of covering a drink with bread (tapas = cover or lid) that eventually led to an entire cultural eating style hasn’t fallen far from the glass.
The eating and lifestyle is hard to beat but the largely commercial bread topped with lots of mayonnaise based foods sitting around bar tops isn’t universally wonderful.
Twilight Tapas at Lowe Wines, Mudgee NSW. 6pm t0 9pm each Friday night during January and February.
With the gardens and views over vineyards, Lowe Wines is just the spot to settle in on a Friday evening for a spot of Spanish food matched to the wines of one of Mudgee’s favourite wineries.
For the first Friday of the year (and every subsequent Friday in January and February) Lowe Wines popular Twilight Tapas menu will be available in the courtyard between 6.00 and 9.00pm
The food comes in waves of small courses plattered to share with wine able to be purchased form cellar door by the glass or bottle.
Kim Currie will be preparing her third year of tapas menus and promises popular dishes like whitebait and aioli, pancetta roast mushrooms and spiced lamb rump will be back along with some new dishes.
The interviewer said ‘And what will you be having for Christmas?’ The perfect opportunity to wrap up my annual Christmas rant about how we eat, drink, shop and worry too much. I should have said:
‘I’ll be taking my own advice from today’s show and have on hand homemade mayonnaise to use on the perfectly glazed ham, dab on barbequed seafood or to toss through a potato salad. I’ll make homemade custard – half for the pudding and the other half to churn into ice-cream (layering berry, vanilla and chocolate) so Christmas day will be cool and no fuss. And I’ll do all of this with the egg yolks left over from whipping up the perfect pav for the family!!!’
What did I actually say? ‘I haven’t a clue, leftovers I suppose.’
Stuffing vine leaves to create dolmades is one of the classic ‘seemed like a good idea at the time’ dishes.
It strikes me about once a year, when the lure of bright fresh green leaves and the desire to eat herby zesty food are both peaking. I don’t think I have ever done it twice in the season.
The Greeks reckon Zeus and other Gods sat around Mount Olympus munching on dolmades accompanied by nectar and ambrosia. It was clearly before Lowe Wines time; we would have recommended a Nullo Mountain Sauvignon Blanc, Tinja Pinot Grigio or Headstone Rosé.
If you’re the cook and not the grape-grower caution may be needed in gathering your leaves. These were my texted instructions:
All that earlier stuff was talk really, not about the fun and revelation of foraging but about the role in that of us being a couple of Kiwis. Then a few strange things happened.
This was one of them.
Jared created a grown up edible version of one of my enduring childhood memories.
As a littlie I would sit in the vege garden with a cup of sugar and dunk rhubarb stalks in and out. I also learnt then that despite the leaves having a reputation as being poisonous it must take an awful lot of leaves because my father constantly tried to knock off our pet sheep by feeding them too him.
Lowe Spring Long Lunch, Sept 2013 at the winery.
Take two Kiwi chefs out of the kitchen and into the paddock…
The outcome is anything but certain but our 10 mile challenge is in the most part about a 500 foot challenge.
I’ve come up with a list of ingredients and thrown to Jared for the first shot at putting them in a figurative pen. ‘Na’, he says, ‘Let’s just freestyle it’. Well that might not be exactly what he said but something that meant ‘Why do we need a menu, why don’t we just cook what we feel like as we go?’
Fair enough, there’s a reason surely New Zealand is the land of people who jump off tall dangerous things for fun. Welcome to extreme menu planning Lowe style.
Lowie of course can’t stand to be upstaged by anyone let alone a couple of foraging chefs who can’t even write a menu. ‘I’ll take your no menu and up you one no wine list!’ He triumphs.
So see as follows what will be presented to guests on Saturday. Jared and i will tell them just before they eat each course (of course we don’t know how many courses!) which ingredients we have used and then David will ask the guests to choose from the wine list which they will drink with it.
The trick is that there are 10 wines on the list and they can only choose each wine once.
I will report back…
The ingredient menu vs the menu list…