The Barossa Vintage Festival kicked off over the Easter weekend and the weather gods have smiled on us – actually they have positively beamed in our direction. As part of the Festival, Yalumba hosts a two day local Harvest Market and they couldn’t have had sunnier, mild days – not even if they’d sat down and designed them. The lawns of Yalumba were covered with happy picnickers, many of them with full shopping bags as they took advantage of the outstanding local produce on sale in the market stalls. And what stunning local products – Careme pastries, Steiny‘s smallgoods, Four Leaf grains and milled products, Schulz’s sausages, Weich‘s noodles and loads more besides – all demonstrating the ongoing food culture which enriches the Barossa Valley and has done continuously since it was settled.
Yalumba is clearly committed to sharing and exploring the relationship between wine and food and, as part of the Vintage festivities, also hosts a cooking school and long table lunch. Over the years the cooking school has been conducted by some of the most recognisable names in Australian food including Bill Granger, Greg Doyle and Stephanie Alexander. This year the much loved Stefano de Pieri was our teacher and chef and, in this age of glitzy culinary concoctions and flash in the pan fads, he grounded us all by demonstrating simple techniques and ingredients to produce honest, classic regional dishes.
Using an intense stock, stale bread, squab meat (that’s pigeon) and cheese he showed us how to make a stunning dense soupy kind of dish called Sopa Coda. An authentic regional dish from Veneto, this is traditionally made in relatively large amounts – for 6 or more. Stefano stressed that it is a fairly unattractive dish to look at, but that is more than made up for by the stunning flavours that are deepened by slow cooking and, even better, a later reheating.
He followed this with a dish of such simplicity that it could be easy to be dismissive of it. Bollito Misto is a traditional dish of boiled, mixed meats from the north of Italy. This kind of protein-rich feast is a hearty meal to serve in winter and the real secret to the success of this dish is the quality of the ingredients and the variety of sauces that are served with it. Our experience of it included chicken, ox tongue (a first for me), cotechino and brisket.
The meat is simmered for varying times in water which has been flavoured with peppercorns, salt, cloves and some celery sticks. We enjoyed ours with a salsa verde and mustard fruits – two condiments that are always served with Bollito Misto, although there are many other options that can be used including a selection of mustards.
Dessert was, again, simple but stunning. Demonstrating that the old standby dishes still have a place in modern cuisine, Stefano produced the lightest of light Creme Caramel imaginable and one of his tips for getting it that way was to break the egg yolks before mixing in the sugar. Apparently the membrane that holds the yolks together will tend to “grab” at the sugar. Once this is broken the sugar will combine much more readily. His other tip was to mix some of the sugar with the egg yolks and some with the warmed milk/cream and to be sure to strain the milk as you combine it with the yolks. He obviously knows his Creme Caramels – these were sublime.
Each of these dishes was presented to us with a selection of Yalumba’s fine wines carefully chosen by Yalumba’s Chief Winemaker, Louisa Rose, to compliment the meal. Loiusa Rose walked us through each of her selections, generously sharing her knowledge and passion.
Conducting it’s cooking schools since 1982, Yalumba has proven it has a focus on developing and enhancing our experience of the natural partnership of wine and food. I can’t wait to see what they come up with for the next Barossa Vintage Festival Long Table lunch.
Lamb’s Ears and Honey was a guest of Yalumba.