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A welcome home feast…but who really needs a reason for 3 courses and 3 bottles of wine?!

November 17, 2010

After a trip to the Stellenbosch vineyards, where I bought a beautiful bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon blend and was bought an amazing book on wine and food pairing as a present from the ever awesome Hazel, I was inspired to create a dish to match my beautiful bottle of wine for when Ben returned from his trip to Germany.

The Caracal is one of my favourite red wines I’ve had so far in the Cape and comes from Neethlingshof vineyards storyteller wine range. Besides the fantastic fruity aroma and taste, the wine particularly appealed to me as the story behind it relates to the reintroduction of the Caracal (or Rooikat in Afrikaans) to the estate. After looking for caracals in Botswana and failing, I was glad to find one that I liked just as much!

My food and wine pairing guide has proved fascinating reading – dispelling some of my long held preconceptions about which wine goes with which ingredients. However it’s not surprising that cabernet sauvignon finds its best friend in lamb. I had previously seen stunning looking lamb shanks for sale at the biscuit mill and had vowed then to try one of my recipes from my favourite cook book. And so the meal started to take shape. Braised lamb shanks, with garlic and rosemary roast potatoes (to balance the soft texture of the lamb and enhance the classic accompanying flavours) and roast butternut squash (because this is SA and there is loads of squash available at the moment and I thought the sweetness would go well with the lamb and the fruityness in the wine).
Being my usual extravagant self, one perfectly considered dish wasn’t enough for me! And I used the quiet evenings to myself at home to develop this meal into a full 3 course menu! (And since this, have created more than 15 menus complete with wine pairing – more on these to come in the future I hope, once I find some willing participants!) For this occasion I chose to go with a baked camembert to start and a rum baba for dessert. This is probably a more heavy starter and dessert than I would have preferred, but opted to draw the meal out and reduce portions, to incorporate some of Bens favourite foods.

RECIPE ONE: Baked Camembert with sweet onion and tomato chutney.

Paired with Four fields vineyard chardonnay (2008) but may go better with the Glen Carlou Tortoise Hill chardonnay I recently sampled. Generally it must be an oakey, buttery chardonnay to match the cheese, although citrus acidity would also work with the chutney.


1 or 2 wheels of camembert depending on size (and greed of your guests!) I recommend the Le France ones from the biscuit mill – the only genuine french camembert in SA apparently!
3 cloves of garlic
Small punnet of cherry tomatoes
1 onion
Balsamic vinegar
Red wine vinegar


Prepare the chutney in advance by roughly chopping the tomatoes, slice the onion into long thin strands and soften in butter with 1 clove of chopped garlic, then add sugar and vinegar. Taste and adjust the proportions as you reduce the mix to a sticky consistency – the balance of sweet vs sour will vary depending on the sweetness of the tomatoes and onions (red onion may work even better, but I only had white and this was a last minute addition to my meal!). Place in a sterilised jar (I just put mine in the oven for 10 minutes).
Slice the garlic into long thin sticks and poke these into the camembert.
Wrap the camembert in baking paper and put in the oven on medium heat for around 10 minutes.
Serve the camembert with the wine, chutney and some fresh, crusty white bread.

Baked camembert with sweet onion and tomato chutney and fresh crusty bread.

RECIPE TWO: Braised lamb shanks with garlic and rosemary roast potatoes and butternut squash.

Paired with Neethlingshof – The Caracal (2005) – a cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, malbec blend.
Lamb recipe adapted from “Proto metal lamb shanks braised in Burgundy” by Dana Snitch of Warpig from Hellbent for cooking – the best cook book in the world!


2 lamb shanks (I eventually got mine from woolworths – they were free range and great value).
½ an onion
2 stalks of celery
2 carrots
¼ head of fennel
6 garlic cloves
A sprig of thyme
4 sprigs of rosemary
250ml red wine (NOT The Caracal – go for a cheap cab sauv :P)
2 cups of chicken stock
2 tbsp tomato paste
6 medium/large potatoes
½ butternut squash
olive oil
Salt and pepper


Preheat oven to 160 degrees.
Season the lamb shanks with S&P and brown in olive oil over a medium-high heat.
In a sauce pan, add all the chopped vegetables, 4 cloves of garlic and sprig of thyme, saute until very soft.
Add tomato paste and cook for 10 minutes, then add wine and reduce.
Add stock and shanks, bring to the boil then cover the pan with foil and place in oven.
Turn every 20 minutes whilst cooking for an hour and a half.
Once the lamb has cooked for about 45 minutes, chop the potatoes into over large dice cubes, coat in olive oil and shake in the pan with 2 sprigs of rosemary (tear this up roughly), whole cloves of garlic squashed with the back of a knife and salt and pepper.
Similarly chop the butternut, coat in olive oil (and perhaps a little honey) and roast.
Serve potatoes and butternut with a lamb shank on top, pour over cooking juices and add a sprig of rosemary to each.
Enjoy the awesome wine.

Braised lamb shanks!

RECIPE 3: Rum baba with vanilla cream

Paired with Quinta Do Sol vintage port (2008) – A very sweet and fairly rare port so I’m told – I bought it on a whim at the biscuit mill and have thoroughly enjoyed it since!


1 tbs caster sugar
75ml warm milk
125g plain flour
2 eggs
75g butter
500ml water
300g demerara sugar
100ml dark rum
1 pot of cream
Vanilla essence/1 pod if you are flush!


Preheat overn to 200 degrees.
Mix the caster sugar, yeast and warm milk and leave for 15 minutes.
Sift flour and eggs into the milk mix and stir in softened butter
Butter 6 moulds (or make a loaf tins worth and eat for lunch the next day, like I did!) and fill each half way.
Leave the tins to prove for 30 mins.
Bake for 20-25mins.
Boil water and demerara to make syrup, take this off the heat and add the rum.
Stab the babas with a skewer and soak in syrup.
Whip the cream with the vanilla and serve.

The meal went down very well and I’m incredibly fond of all the recipes here, I’m sure I will use them again!

Dietary note: If you can get a decent gluten free cake flour and a nice loaf/crackers for the camembert, all these dishes should be possible to convert for coeliacs. I would take care with the chicken stock if you use powdered – marigold buillion powder is gluten free I think and would work just as well as any normal one. Of course I would recommend using home made stock from roast chicken remains – this is always the best!

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