La dolce vita: Pairing wine with spicy food

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This week’s wine recommendation came courtesy of Vikram Vij and Meeru Dhalwala, who operate the highly rated Vij’s Restaurant in Vancouver. I regret that I haven’t been to the restaurant, or met the successful couple.

I was browsing the Creston and District Public Library bookshelves last week when a cookbook called Vij’s at Home caught my attention. I’m a sucker for cookbooks and I love Indian food, so I added the volume to my takeout pile.

While I leafed through the book at home my mouth began to water and a distinct rumbling could be heard coming from just above my belt. I began to insert torn pieces of paper whenever I came across a particularly appealing recipe whose ingredients I knew I could find without any great effort.

Equally as interesting was the introduction, which touched upon the pairing of wine with the many flavours of Indian food. When I read that the restaurateurs enjoy Ehrenfelser wine with their dishes I was hooked — I knew I had just the thing in my cellar.

On Sunday afternoon I got to work. For one dish I would make green beans, potatoes and spinach in coconut curry. The other would use one of the bags of nice, large prawns sitting in our freezer, the happy result of our Creston Rotary Club’s recent fundraiser. Prawns in pomegranate curry sounded very tempting, more so because the first step is to caramelize a couple of large, finely chopped red onions. I’m a big onion fan.

I had also recently purchased a book with 100 bread recipes and had been attracted by the author’s simple approach to making naan bread. Of course not everyone has the appropriate oven in which pieces of dough are slapped onto a vertical surface for baking, and this recipe simply instructed that the dough be pan-fried in a bit of olive oil. Light, chewy, spiced naan bread is a wonderful addition to any meal whose sauce is worthy of sopping up.

I also cooked a cup of quinoa, which has become one of our favourite starches. It’s as easy to cook as rice and has a pleasing flavour and texture.

As I worked frantically to keep the pans on each of the stove’s four burners from burning their contents, the aromas were more than enough to stimulate the digestive juices. So was the knowledge that a bottle of Ehrenfelser from Naramata’s Lake Breeze Vineyards was chilling in the refrigerator.

Uncorking that bottle once the dishes were all under control immediately evoked memories of visits to what is one of the most beautiful vineyards in the province. The vines slope right down to Okanagan Lake, the landscaping is immaculate, the tasting room is welcoming and the patio food service is as good as it gets. We have enjoyed all of our visits there, but none more than when the weather is hot and the sky is blue. It’s a place to relax and appreciate the great beauty we enjoy in our province.

Lake Breeze produces very nice wine, including one of the Okanagan’s few Pinotages. But it’s the rich, just slightly sweet Ehrenfelser that we have opted for on those beautiful summer days. The grape is a German cross from Riesling and Sylvaner vines and the result is similar to Riesling but with less acidity. Even with less acid, Ehrenfelser pairs as well with spicy foods as most Rieslings.

Wine in glasses and food on plates, we sat down, clinked the crystal and dug in. The pomegranate curry was slightly tart with an abundance of complex flavours, complemented by the caramelized onions. I’m pretty fussy about not overcooking seafood and the prawns were plump and juicy. The vegetable dish was delicious and we thought that with the addition of stock it make a great soup. Our starches, the quinoa and the naan bread, were perfect. The naan was chewy and light, nicely spiced by the tablespoon of garam masala I added to the dough, which consisted only of flour, water, salt and yeast.

We eventually pushed ourselves back from the table to start cleanup, happy to know we had leftovers for a couple of weeknights, and grateful for the recommendation to pair our Indian meal with Ehrenfelser. I couldn’t have been happier with the result.

Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance.