Celebrating 100 Years of La Scolca Wine at Novikov Mayfair

Photo by Tibor Silva

It’s not every day that you get invited to help celebrate 100 years of La Scolca winery, hosted by the very charming and charismatic owner and CEO, Chiara Soldati, at the Italian restaurant of Novikov in Mayfair. The vineyard is located in the Piedmont region of Italy and was purchased between 1917-1919 by Chiara’s great-great grandfather who planted Cortese vines in an area traditionally used to cultivate only red grapes. Through the hard work, drive and tenacity of the Soldati family La Scolca winery has created an extraordinary set of wines that have brought attention to the “Gavi” region and to the Cortese grape.

Photo by Tibor Silva

Attending the seven course lunch were a host of gourmet food and wine connoisseurs from industry, the press and bloggers, as well as some of the most respected general managers from well known Italian restaurants across London. The gathering was intimate and celebratory and we began the occasion with a glass of Soldati Brut Millesimato to mark the occasion. This sparkling wine is 100% Cortese, is fresh, full with a velvety embrace.

The menu as you can see below, was beautifully put together and each dish presented was a triumph. I particularly loved the crispy sweet paprika coating to the calamari – nice touch – and the spiky artichoke salad from the starters and both mains were exactly the type of dishes I would naturally choose from a menu – and I got to eat both. LUCKY.

Photo (above and below) by Tibor Silva

With our food we were treated to two different wines from the La Scolca winery – Gavi La Scolca (Gavi D.O.C.G. wine), which is a delicate, dry white that paired beautifully with the antipasti and seafood and fish dishes that we ate. Following this we had the Gavi dei Gavi Black label, which again is made with the Cortese grapes and was utterly delicious, and one that I will most definitely be seeking out again.

Drinking Chiara’s beautiful wines got me thinking. Both the white wines I had drunk would work rather well with some of the Indian recipes that I make. Something light, fresh and possibly citrusy would work well with these wines.

Back in my kitchen I came up with a lemony tomato chicken curry, that does not have much chilli heat but is delicately spiced. I think it would work brilliantly with Chiara’s wines or other Gavi whites.

 

Lemony Tomato Chicken Curry

serves 6-8

4 medium tomatoes, quartered

1 large potato, quartered

1 large white onion, quartered

3 green chillies, halved

2 tbsp oil

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tbsp garlic paste

1 tsp ginger paste

4 lemons, juice only

1 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp garam masala

1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground

1 tsp brown sugar/jaggery

1 tsp salt/to taste

2kg chicken on the bone (legs and thighs)

1 large handful of freshly chopped coriander

 

  1. Blend the tomatoes, potato, onion and green chillies in a blender until smooth.
  2. In a deep wide pan heat the oil and when it is hot add the cumin seeds so that the begin to sizzle – within 20 seconds – and then add the garlic and ginger paste. Move around the pan for a minute before adding the tomato and onion puree.
  3. Add the lemon juice and the remaining spices as well as the brown sugar/jaggery. Mix together.
  4. Add the chicken and coat in the masala mixture. Place a lid on the pan and keep on a medium heat for 30-40 minutes, stirring intermittently so that nothing burns on the bottom of the pan and the chicken cooks through evenly.
  5. You may find you need to add a little more water if the sauce is drying up.
  6. Taste test the salt level and check the chicken is cooked through – it sometimes takes a little longer on the bone.
  7. Before serving mix in the fresh coriander and serve with some simple plain rice and some dal (see my recipe library for a wide selection).

 

Me, Chiara and Susi – check out her blog www.foodwithsusi.com @food_with_susi
I was a guest of Chiara Soldati. Some of the photos above (mentioned) were taken by Tibor Silva

 

 


Mountain Air and Chinese Marbled Tea Eggs

Mr B and I have just returned from one of those magical long weekends when you literally have to pinch yourself that what you are experiencing and seeing is actually real. We were attending a friend’s wedding in South Tyrol in Northern Italy, but due to logistics we decided to fly into Munich, a city we hold dear and one that we visited last December. Driving through Germany, Austria and into northern Italy may sound like a bit of an epic journey but the truth of the matter is that it only takes 3.5 hours and we thought a scenic drive through the  Brenner pass would be rather pleasant.

Our destination was the stunning eco spa hotel, Vigilius mountain resort, which was lovingly designed by architect Matteo Thun. The hotel blends into the natural environment seemlessly due to the use of materials from renewable resources. All the water used in hotel – from the pool, shower, baths and drinking comes from the Vigiljoch spring water.  To reach the hotel you need to take a cable car for about 15 minutes and upon arrival you really do feel a world away from the stresses and interruptions of day to day living. There is no Wifi or TV in the hotel, which allows you to really switch off and enjoy the natural environment that you find yourself in.

The wedding itself allowed us to explore the mountain side, not least because we had to take a single chairlift a further 15 minutes higher up the mountain and then a 15 minute walk to the church. It was one of those experiences that we will remember and cherish forever, not least because of the surreal nature of taking a chairlift dressed in wedding attire.

The smell of the pine forests and the wood burning in the chimneys conjured up happy memories of times in the mountains when the snow was thick and heavy. It was refreshing though seeing the mountains covered with grass and wild flowers and the cows with bells around their necks.

During the church service itself, the cow bells could be heard just outside the church entrance, to the extent we would not have been surprised had they ambled in to take a look at what was going on.

On Sunday, after all the wedding festivities were drawing to a close, Mr B and I returned to the top of the mountain and had a good amble around the wooded paths that are carved into the mountain. We came across characterful chocolate box houses similar to the ones that we all draw as children. I loved the green shutters and the window boxes filled with bright red flowers matching perfectly with the red gingham curtains.

We returned, one last time, to the church where we had spent some precious moments the previous day.

It was hard to drag ourselves away from such a picturesque spot, with beautiful blue skies and wonderful green mountains.

Returning to London I was convinced that the good weather must surely have arrived to our shores – I was clearly delusional after all that mountain sun and fresh air – as the rain persists and people’s moods continue to fray.

As activities with Big A and Little Z are housebound with the continuous downfall, we decided to make some Chinese marbled tea eggs. In China, the eggs are a common snack that are adored by school children and adults alike. The marbled effect, that is created through gently cracking of the hard boiled eggs, is attractive and unique, in that no two eggs will look the same. The girls love to see the different effects that are created each time we finally break open the shells.

I have loved hard boiled eggs for as long as I can remember, to the extent that no picnic is complete without them. As well as being aesthetically pleasing, Chinese marbled tea eggs also taste really delicious with the subtle flavours of tea, soy and aniseed gently resonating from the egg. So why not try making these next time you plan on having a picnic when the sun shines or, for that matter, when it rains and you decide to have it inside instead.

Chinese Marbled Tea Eggs

Sourced from Balance and Harmony Asian Food by Neil Perry – p193

6 free range or organic eggs

3 tbs Jasmine tea leaves (or black tea leaves)

2 cinnamon bark sticks

3 star anise

half tsp sea salt

100 ml dark soy sauce

1. Place the eggs in a pan of cold water so that they are completely covered and gently bring the water to the boil. Simmer gently for 6 minutes.

2. Gently transfer the eggs to a bowl full of ice and then cover with cold water. Place the pan of boiled water to one side as you will use this later.

3. Once they are cooled tap the eggs gently so that the shell cracks but does not break off. You want to have the effect of lots of small cracks.

4. Place the eggs in the pan of boiled water and add the tea, cinnamon bark, star anise, salt and soy sauce.

5. Simmer for a further hour and then remove from the heat and leave to cool completely. The longer you leave them the more flavour is drawn into the eggs and the more marbled the eggs become. Those above were left in the fridge overnight.

6. To serve remove the eggs from the stock and carefully remove the shell to reveal the unique marbled effect.