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May Days
© Sue Courtney
9 May 2004

Late autumn in New Zealand, it’s now May and the weather is still balmy except for a wet reminder of what lies ahead, as the first weekend of the month displayed. That quickly passed. The harvest is almost over, just the late pick varieties left on the vine. I'm going to make the most of the autumn scented garden - the herb flowers like pineapple sage and the divine loquat blossom. Camellias are flowering and the spring bulbs are pushing their green foliage high. It's hard to believe that it will be winter soon, but when the cold snap hits, I'll be ready. Here are a few recipes, several which were made to match specific wines including those mentioned as Wine of the Week. Try and enjoy.

This month's recipes include

* Spiced Pumpkin Soup
* Baked Grated Carrot and Persimmon
* Pan Fried Crispy Skinned Salmon with Feta Cheese Sauce
* Pork Hocks Braised in Ginger Ale
* Pork Butterfly Steak with Apple and Fig Sauce
* Baked Apples stuffed with Figs, Pumpkin Seeds and Honey

Spiced Pumpkin Soup
When it's a cold, wet, late autumn weekend, like the one that heralded the month of May, I want something quick and easy for a lazy lunch and as I don’t want to have to venture to the shops, I use cupboard ingredients. Hopefully there is pumpkin in my vege cupboard and Pumpkin Soup is near the top of my list for laziness. The addition of a little curry powder adds a warm spicy glow.

This recipe serves two with enough for seconds.

You will need

- about 500 grams of peeled and chopped pumpkin – I prefer the grey-skinned 'Crown' variety
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1 onion, peeled and finely sliced
- a tablespoon of butter
- a tablespoon of oil
- 1 teaspoon of chicken stock powder
- 1 teaspoon of curry powder
- 1/2 teaspoon of ground coriander
- 4 cups of water
- cream and chives for garnish

Melt the butter and oil in a saucepan, add the garlic and onion to saute for 2-3 minutes until the onion becomes soft and golden.
Sprinkle over the chicken stock powder and spices, stir to combine and cook a little longer.
Add the roughly chopped pumpkin and a carrot if you like – I use carrot if I haven’t enough pumpkin in the cupboard. Let the vegetable brown slightly, stirring occasionally.
Add a little of the water and stir to integrate the goodies off the bottom of the saucepan, then add the remainder of the water to cover the vegetables.
Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes or until the pumpkin is soft.
Pour into a blender or use a stick mixer directly in the saucepan and process until the soup is nice and smooth.
Pour into serving bowls, add a lick of fresh cream to each bowl and garnish with freshly chopped chives and a little chopped coriander if you have it.

Serve with baked garlic bread. I keep bread rolls in the freezer for such an occasion. Slice the rolls diagonally and butter with a butter paste into which 2 or 3 cloves of crushed garlic have been added. Wrap in tinfoil and pop into a pre-heated 180 degree Celsius to cook for about 20 minutes too.

Grated Carrots and Persimmons
I was given some freshly picked Persimmons, just coming into season this month. They'd been picked just before ripeness, "otherwise the birds get them", I was told. So I thought "Why not cook them?". Microwaved grated carrots is one of my favourite vegetable dishes in the utterly easy category, so I simply added grated persimmon too.

You will need

- 1 peeled carrot
- 1 peeled 'almost-ripe' persimmon
- a knob of butter

Grate the carrot and the persimmon, mixing the gratings together in a glass casserole dish, which is what I prefer for microwaving carrot as the carrot tends to stain the plastic-type microwave dishes.
Made a hole in the middle of the pile – so glass dish is showing at bottom of hole - to assist microwaving.
Covered the dish with its lid and microwave on high for 2 minutes.
Take the dish out of the microwave and let it sit for about 5 minutes while you do other stuff, eg microwaving your potatoes.
Now put the dish back in the microwave and cooked on high for another minute.
Remove the lid and stir in a knob of butter to glaze the grated carrot and persimmon just before serving.

Carrots are sweetish and go well with a slightly unripe persimmon when cooked like this – and cooking the persimmon seems to take the astringency of the unripeness away.
Serve with one of the main courses below.

Pan Fried Crispy Skinned Salmon with Feta Cheese Sauce
Take a fresh fillet of salmon. Cut into serving sized pieces if you wish, or cut into pieces when serving. Wash and dry well then season the skin with organic seaweed herbal salt. Heat a little oil in a frying pan and when it gets to sizzling heat, place the salmon in, skin side down, and cook quickly so the skin becomes quite crispy. This should only take a minute. Lower the heat on the element and turn the fillet over to cook slowly for 4 to 5 minutes. Do not over cook. The centre of the salmon should become pearly orange while the flesh near the outside turns a coral pink. Serve with the Feta Cheese and Herb Sauce.

My Feta Cheese Sauce is basically a schoolbook cheese sauce using Feta instead of grated cheddar, and cooked in the microwave instead of on the stovetop.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a microwave proof glass jug. Remove from the microwave and stir in a heaped tablespoon of flour and stir well until the mixture is smooth and yellow. Measure out 250ml of milk and add a little at a time to blend in with the flour/butter mixture. When all the milk has been added, return the jug to the microwave and cook on high for a minute, then stir. Cook again for another minute and stir well. The sauce should be starting to thicken up. Now add 100 grams of Feta cheese that you have cut into small cubes. I used the Bouton Dor brand Coriander and Lemongrass flavoured Feta. Stir to mix in. Return to the microwave and cook a minute longer. Remove. Stir well to get the Feta cheese well integrated, without too many lumps. If the sauce looks like it is becoming too thick, you might like to add a little more milk. Cook another minute if you think it needs it. Serve an accompaniment to the salmon with fresh coriander leaves as the garnish.

Enjoy with a richly flavoured herbaceous sauvignon blanc. I matched this to Cloudy Bay Te Koko and it matched well to the recently released 2001 vintage, as well as to the slightly older 2000 and 1999 vintages.

Gingery Pork Hocks with Potato and Apple Mash
I like it when Neil does the shopping. He always comes home with something interesting. Last week he picked up a couple of big fat pork hocks. "I've bought a couple of pork hocks", he said when he got home.
"What do I do with those?" I asked.
"I don’t know", he said. "Perhaps you could cook them like lamb shanks".
"No, I want to do something different", I thought. But what?

I was driving home from work the next day and a light lit up in the brainwave department. "Ginger Ale", I'll cook them in ginger ale. And so I did. I was sure I wouldn’t have any ginger ale at home so popped into the dairy and picked up a bottle en route. The idea was to cook the hocks slowly ginger ale, cool them down then bake them in the oven with apple. But I didn’t have time for that idea and when I complete the first process, they tasted good enough to eat anyway.

This recipe is very simple. You will need

- 2 Pork hocks
- 1 x1.25 ml bottle of Schweppes Dry Ginger Ale
- One onion
- Two large potatoes
- 1 apple
- a knob of butter
- cornflour for thickening
- salt and pepper for seasoning if desired

Remove all the skin from the pork hocks and any excess fat. Wash and Dry.
Place the pork hocks into a saucepan – top and tail for best fit.
Cover with ginger ale.
Bring to the boil and simmer for three hours, turning the hocks over every half-hour and topping up with extra ginger ale for the first hour as it starts to evaporate.

Nearing the end of cooking time, boil or microwave the potatoes and stew the peeled and chopped apple in a little butter.

Pour off most of the liquid the hocks cooked in, into a small saucepan. I had very little fat on my liquid, but put it through a fat strainer (like a mini watering can with the spout at the bottom of the jug) anyway. Bring to the boil and reduce for about 10 minutes to thicken slightly and if necessary use a little cornflour to thicken further. Taste and season with salt and pepper if desired.

Mash the apple and potato together a little of the remaining cooking liquid for moisture.

T o serve: Pile the mash onto the plates.
Place a hock on top of the pile of mash.
Pour a little of the gravy over.
Add your favourite green.

There is so much flavour in the ginger ale, that the dish need little else.

This was absolutely divine with the Cloudy Bay Te Koko 1999 vintage and also pretty good with a smooth creamy chardonnay.

Pork Butterfly Steak with Apple and Fig Sauce
This recipe was designed to match to the glorious Margrain Botrytis Chenin Blanc 2002, reviewed as a Wine of the Week in April. The pork steak fillet is quickly pan fried - approx 2 minutes each side in a hot pan, then another 2 minutes each side at a cooler heat. Serve with the sauce that you can make

copyright Sue Courtney
One the Left: Pork Butterfly Steak served with
Apple and Fig Sauce and Grated Carrot and Persimmon.
On the Right: Baked Apple with Fig, Pumpkin Seed and Honey.

Squeeze enough oranges or tangelos to make half a cup of juice and heat this in the microwave to warm up.
To this add 5 or six coarsely chopped dried and partially rehydrated figs and put to one side.
Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a small saucepan.
Add 1 clove of crushed garlic and add 2 tablespoons of finely chopped onion shoots if you have them. I'd been away for a couple of weeks and my red onion were sprouting shoots, so this is what I used. Spring onion or shallots would be a good substitute.
Saute for 2-3 minutes then add about 1/2 dozen finely chopped, fresh pineapple sage leaves and saute a little longer.
Now add one chopped apple that has been peeled and cored. You'll need a little more liquid so add another tablespoon of butter, stir to mix up and let the apples stew. If it still looks too dry add a splash of the dry Riesling you are having as a pre dinner drink. About 2 tablespoons will be enough.
When the apples are starting to soften add the orange juice and the figs.
Stir to mix up, then add 2 teaspoons of whole seed or French mustard. I didn't have any whole seed, which is what I would have preferred, so used French.
Let the sauce simmer slowly while you are cooking the pork butterfly steaks.

I pan fried the steaks, which had been seasoned with herb and seaweed salt and a grind of multi-coloured peppercorns, in grape seed oil in which I had first fried some pineapple sage leaves to add flavour.
The fried sage leaves were put aside and used later for the garnish.
Cook the steak for 2 minutes at a high heat, then lower element and cook a further 2 minutes each side.

The sauce worked a treat with the sweet Chenin Blanc. I was worried that the dish was going to be over the top sweet but there was enough tartness from the apples and savouriness from the herbs and the mustard to balance it out.

Baked Apples stuffed with Figs, Pumpkin Seeds and Honey
This was also created to match to the Margrain Botrytis Chenin Blanc 2002. It turned out to be a match made in heaven.

You will need

- one apple per person
- one or two dried figs per apple, depending on the size of the figs.
- liquid honey
- toasted pumpkin seeds

Peel and core the apples. Roughly chop the figs.
Stuff some of the figs into one end of the core hole to plug it. Turn the apple over and pour liquid honey into the cavity to fill the hole about 2/3rds full. I used the wonderful liquid gold Vipers Bugloss honey from the Waitaki Valley in the South Island.
Now add a few pumpkin seeds and let them sink into the pool of honey.
Close the cavity with another plug of chopped fig.

Place the apples into a deep-sided glass dish, cover with its lid and bake in the oven at 190 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes.

In New Zealand right now, the pineapple sage herb is flowering with brilliantly coloured red, nectar-filled, edible flowers. If you have any of these, they are the most delectable garnish for the apples. Enjoy.


Sue Courtney's recipes are all original creations unless otherwise stated. Recipes are inspired by the season and by the wine matches.

Kia pai te kai

© Sue Courtney
May 2004

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