Well hello there, and welcome to another instalment of Fancy Plans and Pants to Match. This is where I contritely admit that yeah, sometimes really nice things happen to me as a result of being a food blogger and published cookbook author, but try to do it in a way that isn't entirely insufferable and doesn't make you want to hate me. The name of this segment is a quote from Jimmy James, a character from the much slept-on 90s sitcom NewsRadio. It just felt right.
So here's the thing: Nautilus Estate got in touch with me and asked if I'd like to develop some recipes for them to go with their fancy fancy wines. Oh my gosh yes, said I. I love wine, I love thinking up recipes, I love receiving a butt-tonne of wine in the mail, and honestly it's just nice to be thought of as someone who could do this, right? And then a whole lot of stuff happened in my life. Finally though, I got around to actually completing my original task. So thanks Nautilus, not only for the wine itself, but for your infinite patience and your "hey it's cool we can wait the wine will probably be kind of useful right now anyway" attitude.
The pitch: Nautilus Vintage Rose 2011 and Cuvee Marlborough NV Brut. Both fizzy and fizzing with deliciousness. All I have to do is come up with some recipes to complement what they've already got going on. Important note: I cannot get a swishy little accent on the 'e' in rose/cuvee for some reason so when you read it please pronounce it "rose-ayyyyy" and "coo-vayyyy" in your head.
What happened: Okay, so I really know very little about wine. I am your house-sav, eight-dollar-bottle-of-merlot-from-the-dairy, zero-brand-loyalty-because-I-don't-know-jack wine drinker. All of which makes me an excellent, ideal candidate for drinking your flashy wines and thinking up recipes for them, because my palate is unjaded. I am an innocent fawn stumbling through a meadow, I am a blank canvas, I am able to talk like this and convince you that it's a good idea to send me wine even though I don't have the faintest idea of what I'm talking about. All your wine has to do is make a good impression on me. I don't know why I can't get my head around wine, by the way. I also couldn't get my head around driving a manual car or the cash register at the German bakery I worked at for an entire year.
brunch: it's the most wonderful time of year
For the rose I wanted to complement the strawberry flavours bursting through each tiny bubble (admittedly, the tasting notes said there were strawberry notes but I honestly did taste them myself independently of this) and also liked the idea of using it in a luxe brunch kind of way rather than just thinking of dinner and pudding recipes. Like, if I'm going to have a mid-morning drink, fizzy glamorous rose is totally on my top five list of ideal drinks. I also felt like pairing it with lemonade. I thought that would be kind of fun since lemonade costs about a dollar, but also to boost the sweet, bubbly lemony fragrant elements of the rose itself. And I wanted to see if I could make pancakes largely composed of lemonade. Okay, so now that you have the story of my life up until this point, did they taste good? You bet your $9.50 corner dairy Shiraz they did!
Pink and white on pink and white.
lemonade pancakes with strawberry sauce
wine match: Nautilus Estate Vintage Rose 2011
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups lemonade (not diet) although be prepared to add more
2 cups frozen strawberries (or actual strawberries, should it be summer when you read this)
3 tablespoons icing sugar
1/2 cup lemonade (or thereabouts)
Place the strawberries in a bowl with the icing sugar and let the former defrost while the latter absorbs into them while you get on with the pancakes.
Whisk together the flour and baking powder, then stir in the egg, and finally slowly add the lemonade, whisking more thoroughly as you go. You should end up with a rather pale, thick-yet-liquidy batter, the consistency of, well, pancake batter.
Heat up a large pan, throw in a tablespoon of butter and let it sizzle, then use a 1/2 or 1/3 cup measure to scoop out quantities of pancake batter to tip into the hot pan. Once bubbles start to appear on the surface, flip the pancake carefully to the other side, making sure it has browned decently, then transfer it to a plate and move onto the next one. Maybe cover the done ones with a paper towel or something to absorb any steam.
Once you're done with the pancakes, blitz the strawberries and icing sugar in a food processor and slowly pour in the lemonade till it forms a bright, thick, smooth sauce. Pour liberally over your pancakes along with plain Greek yoghurt or whatever else you want, really. Serve with a glass of rose because it's 11am and you're a grown woman who can do whatever you want. (You may not actually be a grown woman, this unexpectedly turned into a self-pep-talk. Either way, you can still have rose.)
Um, this doesn't work as well IRL as it does in cartoons
Despite knowing little about wine I fortunately have a good instinct for flavour and texture and...basically everything except wine. And so. The lemonade made the pancakes light and gently sweet, which, along with the fragrant summery strawberries and thick, tangy yoghurt, was rather perfect with the rose's fine-textured bubbles and rich-yet-dry vibe.
For the Cuvee I wanted something quite simple yet full of pugnacious flavour, as the wine itself is light and crisp yet not delicate - I felt like it could stand up to quite a lot.
pappardelle with chilli butter, chorizo and feta
wine match: Nautilus Estate Cuvee Marlborough NV Brut
150g dried pappardelle pasta
a medium-sized firm red chilli, roughly diced
2 chorizo sausages, preferably good stuff (I mean, not like I'm going to say "preferably the worst chorizo you can find, and then leave it out in the sun for a few days" but basically the quality does make a difference oh wow I sound so patronising I'm going to back away now.)
100g feta, the soft kind, nothing too crumbly or firm (the cheapest stuff is ideal for this, ha!)
Put on a large pot of salted water to boil and once it is boiling, cook the pasta according to packet instructions - probably about ten minutes. While you're doing that, melt the butter in a saucepan and stir in the chilli and the zest of the lemon. Allow the butter to sizzle and the chilli to soften a little (PS: seeds in or out is up to your level of heat-resistance) and then pour all of this into a small bowl and set aside. Slice the chorizo and fry in the same pan till crisp and browned. Using a fork, mash the feta along with the juice of the lemon you just zested and about a tablespoon of olive oil, stirring harder until it's quite smooth.
Drain the pasta, schmeer the feta thickly on two plates (I know, fussy, but it's useful) and then divide the pappardelle between said plates, topping with the chorizo and spoonfuls of the chilli butter. The butter may well have firmed up by this point but the heat of the pasta will slowly melt it. Finally, scatter over a little sumac, and hey ho, let's go.
you could use any pasta really but things just taste nicer when those things are pappardelle pasta
There's a lot going on here - sour, spicy, creamy, potentially-mouth-burning - and a lesser wine might've been overshadowed, or just taste lousy, against all of that. But the cuvee's sprightly crisp acidity and full, nutty flavour was not only balanced, it was, I boldly claim, enhanced by the same flavours echoed in the pasta. Also just something about the champagne style of the wine makes anything feel more exciting, and I already get one hell of a kick out of things like pasta and butter and stuff.
the chilli gets a lot more mellow as it sits in the butter, in case you're nervous
On a scale of 1 to "a whole new world, a new fantastic point of view, no one to tell us no, or where to go, or say we're only dreaming": I would say an eight. I got a lot of wine, all of it far more delicious and swanky than I'm used to, and it totally improved my life whenever I had a bottle in my hand.
Would I do this for not-free: Look, it's more expensive than the wine I usually buy, but not prohibitively so - if I was feeling both flush and celebratory I would most definitely go for a bottle of the cuvee. But also, the prices really are reasonable for what you're getting, and I suspect that you only have to be marginally less of a dirtbag than me to not flinch at them for casual wine drinking times.
Earnest thanks for making me feel fancy to: Nautilus Estate. They're damn rad. I'll be doing another one of these posts in the future sometime too, in case you're all "wait, Laura, don't go!"