Match winners

BY JAN BILTON
Last updated 08:41 30/09/2010
Food and wine
JAN BILTON
Sticky chocolate pudding: Great topped with whipped cream and served with a glass of merlot.

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Exploring the Adelaide Hills on a recent trip to South Australia, my husband and I indulged ourselves in Hahndorf Hill Winery's ChocoVino experience – a unique concept that matches the vineyard's wines with chocolates from the world's top chocolate houses. The concept is based on the idea that gourmet chocolate, as with fine wine, reflects the terroir.

The team of 10 at Hahndorf Hill sourced more than 40 international chocolates and spent six months testing and tasting before sharing the experience with the public. A tough task, but somebody had to do it!

For me, wine should refresh the palate after the sweetness of the chocolate. Ideally, both should be in harmony. Having always enjoyed cabernet sauvignon with rich chocolate desserts, I was amazed that, when paired with the chocolate pudding recipe that follows, it was a total mismatch.

In an effort to find the perfect choice, my husband and I opened an Australian shiraz, followed by a relatively inexpensive local merlot. To our surprise and delight, the latter was an absolute humdinger. The pudding, although prepared with Equagold's bittersweet Dutch cocoa, was softened and masked by the hazelnuts and the sugars.

The fruitier the chocolate, the fruitier the wine match can be. A sauvignon blanc with a hint of passionfruit, for example, is excellent served with a sauce prepared from a raisin chocolate and poured over ripe pineapple.

Chardonnay makes a great match for a milk chocolate with coconut or caramel undertones.

Last but not least are the ever-popular chocolate-dipped strawberries served with bubbles. However, remembering that wine should be sweet enough to be in harmony, it's best to choose a demi-sec. Or you may like to experiment with a fruity, effervescent red.

STICKY CHOCOLATE PUDDING

1 cup flour

2 tsp baking powder

Pinch of salt

3 Tbsp dark, bittersweet Dutch cocoa powder

1/2 cup icing sugar

1/3 cup hazelnut meal or ground hazelnuts

50g dark chocolate, finely chopped

1 Tbsp canola oil

1 egg

1/2 cup milk

1 tsp vanilla essence

Sauce:

1/3 cup brown sugar

3Tbsp dark, bittersweet Dutch cocoa powder

1 1/2 cups boiling water

Preheat the oven to 180C. Lightly grease a 19cm x 6cm round deep baking dish or similar. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, cocoa powder and icing sugar into a bowl. Stir in the hazelnut meal and chocolate.

Whisk the oil, egg, milk and vanilla essence. Stir into the dry ingredients. Pour into the dish.

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To make the sauce, combine the brown sugar and cocoa powder. Sprinkle evenly over the pudding. Carefully pour the boiling water over the top of the pudding. Bake for 35-40 minutes. The top should be tender but firm and there should be plenty of sauce underneath.

Great topped with whipped cream and served with a glass of merlot. Serves 8.

WHITE CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE WITH ROASTED PEARS

This could be served with the choice of a medium riesling and an unoaked chardonnay.

Base:

250g packet digestive biscuits

125g butter, melted

Filling:

250g good white chocolate, chopped

4 tsp powdered gelatine

3 Tbsp cold water

397g can sweetened condensed milk

400g cream cheese

1/2 cup cream, lightly whipped

1-2 Tbsp lemon juice

Roasted pears:

4-5 pears, peeled, cored and quartered

4-5 Tbsp sugar

To make the base, finely crush the biscuits and add enough melted butter to hold the biscuits together. Press into the base and sides of a 20cm springform cake pan. Refrigerate to set.

To make the filling, melt the chocolate over hot water. Soak the gelatine in cold water for five minutes, then dissolve over a low heat or in the microwave. Beat the condensed milk into the softened cream cheese until well mixed. Add the dissolved gelatine and melted chocolate. Fold in the cream and add the lemon juice to taste.

Pour the filling into the biscuit shell and refrigerate for 6-8 hours before serving.

To prepare the pears, place in a baking dish and sprinkle with the sugar. Refrigerate for several hours until the juices have formed.

Preheat the oven to 190C. Roast the pears until just tender. Cool. Serve with slices of the cheesecake. Serves 8-10.

CHICKEN, HERBS & PASTA

For those people who don't enjoy chocolate here is an option. Great with a powerful sauvignon blanc.

1/4 cup flour

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1kg skinned and boned chicken thighs

1-2 Tbsp olive oil

3 rindless rashers of smoky bacon, chopped

2 cups tomato-based pasta sauce

3/4 cup sauvignon blanc

1 tsp each: fresh thyme, chopped rosemary

1 bay leaf

1/4 cup each: chopped basil, parsley

2 cups penne, cooked

Combine the flour, salt and pepper. Cut each chicken thigh into two equal portions. Toss in the flour to coat; shake off any excess.

Heat the oil in a heavy pan and saute the chicken in batches, until well coloured. Add the bacon and saute until browned. Pour in the pasta sauce and wine. Add the herbs and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for about 45 minutes, until cooked. Place the penne in bowls and top with the chicken and sauce. Serves 4-6.

TOFU & CHILLI PEANUT SAUCE

Another non-chocolate option – best served with a glass of well-chilled gewurztraminer.

Chilli peanut sauce:

1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tsp each: finely grated root ginger, curry powder, lemon juice, dark soy sauce, sambal oeleck

3/4 cup water

Tofu:

2 cloves garlic

1/2 teaspoon salt

300g firm tofu

2-3 Tbsp rice bran oil for frying

2 medium onions, sliced

200g mung bean sprouts

2 leeks, well washed and thinly sliced

To make the sauce, combine all the ingredients until smooth. Heat, stirring constantly. Simmer for 3-4 minutes, until thick.

To prepare the tofu and vegetables, crush the garlic and salt to a paste using the flat blade of a heavy chopping knife. Cut the tofu into 1cm slices and brush with the garlic paste. Heat a little oil in a frying pan. Fry the tofu until golden on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Fry the onions until brown. Remove to one side.

Meanwhile, steam the bean sprouts for 1-2 minutes. Steam the prepared leeks until tender. Stack the onions, sprouts, leeks and tofu onserving plates. Reheat the sauce and drizzle over the stacks. Can be served with rice or noodles. Serves 3-4.

Copyright Jan Bilton

- The Marlborough Express

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