Cooking At The Creek: Interview with Chef Veronica Zahra

Wine Pairing and Recipe Tips From the Chef at Jacob's Creek



Veronica had an interest in food from a young age, cooking Mediterranean before it ever became popular in restaurants. She even remembers being at school and other students wanting to swap her “exotic” tomato paste and olive oil sandwich for their plain jam sandwich.
 
Today, as Executive Chef at Orlando Wines (the winery that makes Jacob’s Creek) Veronica’s responsible for hosting the VIPs that visit the brand’s heritage site in the Barossa from all over the world, be they consumer competition winners, wine buyers, journalists or dignitaries.
 
Given the global scope of Jacob’s Creek, Veronica enjoys learning and applying international food styles and techniques in her fusion style of cooking, with a particular emphasis on  regional Chinese food.  And because she’s chef at a winery, Veronica is regularly caught up in deep discussion with the winemakers, exploring the nuances of each dish to ensure it matches perfectly with a particular Jacob’s Creek wine for a menu she is preparing.  

1.     From a chef's perspective, what is the most exciting thing happening with Australian wine today?
 
That matching wine with food has really become part of popular culture.  It’s at the forefront of a lot of people’s minds when they choose wine, and there’s greater awareness of the way different wine styles suit different foods. As a result there are more wine styles available that are food friendly. Australian winemakers are playing more with Spanish and Italian varieties such as Tempranillo and Sangiovese to make wines that really suit oily foods and strong, salty flavors.
 
There‘s also a continued pursuit of dry Australian Rieslings which I think is one of the most food-friendly wines. It suits a lot of Asian foods, such as the hot, sour and spicy flavours of Thai and Vietnamese cuisine.
 
2.     When pairing food and wine, what are your main considerations when it comes to wines that can be similar, say,  Cabernet vs. Shiraz?
 
The key consideration is the protein of the dish – how strong is its flavor, how fatty is it, what texture [does it have] in the mouth and how that goes with the wine. In general, I like to serve beef with Shiraz and lamb with Cabernet Sauvignon.  Lamb is a sweeter and generally fattier meat but also has a very strong flavor. Where Shiraz can be overwhelmed by lamb, Cabernet has the backbone to stand up to it.  The complex astringency and acidity cuts through the fattiness of lamb beautifully, and the persistence of Cabernet Sauvignon on the palate means it lingers as long as the flavor of the lamb. Another critical consideration is the sauce, as this really determines whether the flavor of the food is harmonious with or in contrast to the wine.
With Shiraz I like to serve the Beef with sauces such as simple ‘jus,’ which matches the Shiraz in richness and silky texture, while the juiciness of Shiraz clears the palate of any lingering cloying aftertaste of the jus.  Shiraz is actually very versatile and goes with many different sauces: earthy mushroom sauces, sweeter fruit sauces like plum, etc.
 
With Cabernet I often serve the meat with herbs either in the stuffing or as a crust, or with pesto as I like the way it harmonizes with the herbaceous notes of Cabernet Sauvignon.











3.     When not drinking Australian wines, what are some of your favorite wines? Do you find some wines easy to pair with a wide variety of dishes?
 
When not drinking Australian wines, I like Spanish Tempranillo and Italian Sangiovese. But the wines I find easiest to pair with a very wide variety of dishes are Riesling and Shiraz.  For Riesling, I recommend Jacob’s Creek Reserve Dry Riesling. In relation to Shiraz, I was recently having a bit of fun looking at salmon, pork, beef and lamb dishes prepared various ways, and we were quite astounded that, while some of the wines suited only one of these dishes, Wyndham Estate BIN 555 went readily with all of them.
 
4.     What is your favorite autumn food and wine pairing?
 
I really enjoy warm salads in Autumn. The days are still warm but there is that slight crisp edge to the air that makes you start to move away from cold summer meals. Perhaps a crisp, fresh Chardonnay with a salad of pan-fried chicken strips with roasted carrots, oranges and some glacé ginger, dressed with orange rind, mustard and some pistachio nuts or candied walnuts sprinkled over the top.
 
5.     What is the most challenging wine to pair with food and why?
 
Very acidic wines can be a real challenge! You really need to get the balance of acid, sugar and seasoning just right and it’s something that can really only be done by taste. It’s difficult to write such nuances into a recipe for someone else to cook. You can match acidic wines to acidic dishes to an extent. If the wine is very acidic you want to bring some sweetness to the dish, but it still needs to have an acidic backbone, such as sweet and sour sauce. I quite like using fragrant herbs such as lemongrass and chili with acidic wines as well. It’s all an adventure.
 










Chili Prawns paired with Moscato Rose 2012

Ingredients:
 
½ red capsicum, cut into chunks
½ green capsicum, cut into chunks
2 cloves garlic
1 white onion
2 teaspoons oil
200 grams (7 ounces) green prawns
1 tablespoon rice wine
1 tablespoon chili sauce 
¼ cup stock
1 lime
 
 
Method:
 
Fry the red capsicums, green capsicums, onions and garlic in a hot wok with the oil. Once cooked, add the prawns and cook until opaque. Pour in the rice wine then the chili sauce. Add the stock and reduce slightly. Add the lime to taste.
 
Serve with rice. 
 
 
 
Beef Ragout paired with Reserve Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon
Serves 6
 
Ingredients
 
4 slices of pancetta, diced
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tin diced tomatoes (400 grams)
1 teaspoon rosemary, finely chopped
5-7 sage leaves, chopped
1 bay leaf
700 grams shin beef, cut into cubes or a cut from the shoulder, such as blade chuck or brisket
225 grams lean pork, cut into cubes (use all beef if you prefer)
Olive oil
150 milliliters dry white wine
300 milliliters red wine
1 tablespoon flour
 
Method
 
In a large, heavy-based casserole dish, sauté the onions until soft and golden. Add the pancetta and sauté until the it renders some of its fat. Add the carrot and continue to sauté for about 3 to 4 minutes, then add the celery. Add the tomato paste and fry for a further 2 or 3 minutes.
 
Preheat the oven to 170°C (330°F). Place the diced meat in a large mixing bowl, season with salt and pepper and dust with flour. In a separate fry pan, heat a little of the olive oil and fry the meat off in batches. Add the meat to the casserole dish as you go. Deglaze the pan with the wine and pour over the top of the meat. Add tomato, rosemary, sage and bay leaf and bring to the boil on top of stove.
 
Cover with a lid and place in the preheated oven. Cook for 2 ½ hours.  
 
Serve with pasta such as pappardelle, bucatini or rigatoni.

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Comments

  • OK, what's a 'green' prawn?
    I've never had a moscato rose' but being a long time dry tavel person, you've sparked some interest to give that a try. thanx.
    Sedrick








    i

    Feb 01, 2013 at 6:23 PM


  • Snooth User: grostern
    650101 2


    Lamb pairing can be tricky. On a recent trip to Buenos Aires, I had some slow roasted lamb with some Sauvignon Blanc. Unusual pairing but was quite unreal as the sweetness of the meat blended perfectly with the citrus taste of the wine. Never be afraid to experiment.
    Mort G - Montreal Canada

    Feb 02, 2013 at 1:03 PM


  • Snooth User: Ali
    1185395 15

    Sedrick - A green prawn is a raw prawn. Not cooked yet.

    Feb 05, 2013 at 7:50 PM


  • Snooth User: BeniciaCA
    707009 68

    One of the great pairings for lamb is a classic firm red like a Tempranillo from DOCa Rioja. I prefer those wines from Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa. Look for a Reserva (1 yr in the barrel and 2 in the bottle before release) from Haro, El Ceigo, Laguardia, and Logroño. The typical price point for these wines can be in the $22 to $29 range. The Grand Reservas kept longer in the barrel and bottle (aged 2 yrs in the barrel and 3 bottle) are $15 to $20 more and of coarse some even more from the famous "bodegas".

    The Reservas and Gran Reservas represent some of the greatest values in the wine world; no other regions offer similarly aged wines at these prices. Compare an upper tier Classified French Bordeaux or upper-end (Silverado Trail, Oakville, Stags Leap AVA's etc) )Napa Valley Cab to the Spanish Wines I describe and the price value is very evident.

    This medium bodied Spanish wine, with it's well balanced (leathery aroma) raspberry and blackberry is suitable for most meats like pork and beef, but it pairs particularly well with lamb. The wine will enhance the meat's taste on the palate and will linger for the next bite.

    Ribera Del Duero also produces beautiful wines with a more international finish that is very compatible with the typical American palate.
    Mark Salazar, CS

    Mar 01, 2013 at 8:28 PM


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