Entries from December 2009 ↓

Dame Mint Pattie’s Canberra wineries A2Z winds up the year and the letter “D” at Doonkuna Estate

There are many words to describe Canberra district wines: ‘boutique’, ‘cool-climate’ and ‘intimate scale’ are popular in tourist brochures, while the phrase ‘that’s bloody big’ less so*. Thus my first impression on driving up to Doonkuna was a slightly industrial feel compared to other Canberra wineries.

The cellar door is a little barn-like, with ample space for large parties. It wouldn’t do for a cosy meal but looks like a great place for an old-fashioned knees up or getting quietly stonkered on a warm afternoon, safe in the knowlege the tour bus will take you back to your hotel.

Meanwhile, at the business end of the winemaker’s bulb, Doonkuna produces a couple of notable wines and some good value quaff, if you time your buy right. Like many wineries targeting a broad market, Doonkuna offers a fruit salad range, the aim being to bottle something for most imbibers.

As usual there are two price lists – by the bottle and by the dozen. Doonkuna’s price per dozen is great value, and a good way to stock up on some tasty/versatile summer quaffers. Mind you, the latest summer price of a 25% discount by the dozen (see website to download price list) isn’t quite as good as the 1/2 price bargain we snaffled up in September**.

Leaving aside beardy pro wine writers, I made copious notes on Doonkuna and its wines for you lot but it comes down to this, the standout wine was the 2008 Cian Sparking. Lovely straw colour, yeast/bread on the nose, fine persistent bead giving it great texture with delicious fruit/pear flavours. It’s not hard to find around town and we’ve spotted it on the wine list at Grazing.

Although one or two of the reds were a bit jammy for my palate, some others made for enjoyable, easy drinking. We liked the dry finish and liquorice flavours of the 05 Cabernet Merlot so much we bought three bottles – lots of spice on the nose. We didn’t buy the 07 reserve shiraz, which we thought was a bit pricey at $40 a bottle*** but my notes recall dark cherry jam and vanilla, sweet pepper but with a good, dry finish. The latest price list pegs it at $30 per bottle in any mixed dozen. Now we’re talking.

The still whites were also competently put together and included a riesling, crisp with hints of apple, and two styles of chardonnay. We nabbed two bottles each of the 2005 chardy and the 2008 Rising Ground unwooded. I liked the second tier (Rising Ground) better than the first tier offering. At the time we got it for $7 a bottle but even at the current price of $10.50 it’s good value compared to big brother 05 chardonnay – full price $25 – which to my mind tasted disappointingly like…. well, like chardonnay… big fruit, butter-rich and almost diabetically plush from the Australian sun****.

The Doonkuna label is easy to spot and features the Striped Legless Lizard. A native of the Canberra region, it resembles a small snake but apparently has remnant hind legs. I found this cheerily reminiscent of certain politicians who regularly migrate to Canberra and seem to have only remnant spines.

*To squeeze any slight comedic effect from this opener, it should be read in the style of Stephen Fry (and apologies for this being in no way as amusing as Stevo’s stuff – must steal more try harder)

**Yes DMP has been a slack correspondent but if you prefer dependable (and somewhat pudgy) then Max Allen is still writing for Gourmet Traveller Wine.

***At the time of our visit there was no by the dozen discount available on this one.

**** If I mentioned our man in Canberra’s contribution was: ‘what did you expect it to taste like’ would you be surprised?

Doonkuna Estate

3182 Barton Highway, Murrumbateman, NSW, 2582

10 am to 4 pm seven days
(02) 6227 5811

Emica’s Northern Christmas: a few of my favourite things

Although I am risking not being let back in the country, I have to admit (just quietly) that I do prefer the cold northern Christmas to the rather warmer celebrations in Aus. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family’s traditions, which have evolved to deal with the fact that it’s usually 39 degrees by 7am with an easterly blowing that could strip paint, but roast turkey and a steamed pud just don’t make sense at the edge of the desert. We cook everything the day before and serve a cold buffet of the glazed ham and turkey with lots of salads, so that the oven’s not adding to the oven-like temperature of the house already and, depending on whose house we’re at, we head to the beach for a Christmas morning post-stocking, pre-tree pressie swim and fruit salad. Come to think of it, we’ve made the salad selection “traditional” with some, like mum’s carrot, cashew and coriander salad only getting a run on that one day.

But Christmas is a car crash of northern hemispherical merry-making history, with the celebration of the birth of Christ piled on top of older Pagan habits, and the traditions make more sense on their home turf than transplanted Down Under. Herewith a few of my favourite northern Christmas things.

One of my totally favourite things about a London Christmas is the twinkly lights. People go mad for them and because it’s dark early, you get to appreciate their starry magic from, oh, about 3.30pm. There’s a bit of totally OTT flashing neon Santa-action, but mostly there seems to be some unwritten rule that you deliberately leave your front room curtains open to let passers by admire your tastefully twinkly Christmas tree which has been strategically placed in the front window (nb: I do live next to [not in!] super-chic Barnsbury. Might not be quite so tasteful on the local estates).

Another is Christmas wreaths. Oh how I love them! I have a real – yes real- holly wreath on my front door with berries and everything. I have had it up there since December 1; the earliest day I could get away with, but I’d already scoped the wreath situation the week previous and picked one up from the farmer’s market for a fiver. I L.O.V.E it. Wreathing it up seems to be a genuine tradition, with the vast majority of doors decked with trad ones- involving evergreen, holly berries, ribbons and cinnamon sticks- or silver sprayed modernist confections dusted with glitter.

In a symbiotic relationship with twinkly lights and wreath hanging, for the entire Advent season it becomes not just permissible but practically required to stroll and sticky beak into other people’s houses. Indeed, me and The Man went for a long walk this afternoon, making the most of freezing (it’s really properly freezing- we have icicles) but crisply clear day which offered prime noseying opportunities. And on each of my three London Christmases, we have had a post-lunch pre-pud walk, wrapped up and with a glass of something warming in hand. Last year I had to be prised away from the railings of one particularly fine Georgian townhouse, my nose pressed up against the window admiring their gold-and-red themed tree and Christmas table set in the window, silverware and crystal glasses glinting, waiting either for the residents to return for lunch or for the stylists from Vogue Entertaining to turn up.

doors

But my favourite thing is the food. For my first Christmas here, my parents and sister visited and mum did a proper roast turkey with goose fat roast spuds and I think little chipolatas. I did the brussels sprouts (having only just found out they’re traditional) and we made cranberry sauce because we’d never been able to get fresh cranberries before. Last weekend I made Nigella’s apple and cranberry chutney; almost equal parts cranberry and apple, those little red sour bombs are so amazing, like northern lillipillies! A toast to that fine meal was made and mum cried and took pictures because it looked so darn picturesque and story book, all of us gathered round a laden table and it so dark and cold outside.

This year it’s just me and The Man, so I’m not doing a whole turkey, which I have in the past and which cause a bit of, um, blue language on the day of the birth of Our Lord because of my dodgy, diddly little oven. Turned out great though, and I even made the gravy to go with it while trying to make sure the visiting vegetarians had enough to eat. This year I’m doing a stuffed, rolled turkey breast from the posh butchers. I’m also doing hot glazed ham. I know! Hot ham, who would of thought eh? Sprouts are a given because a) they’re easy but especially b) I love them.

Another favourite thing is the big shut down. We were caught out for our first Christmas, never expecting all public transport to shut down on Christmas day and for much of Boxing Day as well. Yes, a darn nuisance if you don’t know and also a cash cow for all the non-Christian mini cab drivers, but it does mean you actually can’t go anywhere. Gosh, such a relief. Last year I spent all day in front of the fire, with snack breaks, reading my new present – Nigella’s Christmas. This is apropos of telling you that this year I will be experimenting with red cabbage from her Christmas lunch menu. I’ve never done it before, but I reackon it’s time to give it a whirl. Also, at a time of year when all I do is leak money, cabbage is so good and yet so cheap.

So, to the finale: sweet treats and pudding. I have just spent more than is wise on The Best Christmas cake but it’s The Best so what can I do? I’ve also just swooped on Carluccio’s for soft Italian almond biscuits, as well as smallgoods for The Man. I’m slightly nervous to admit this and incur the wrath of Dr Sister Outlaw following her sterling instructions on Christmas puddings, but this year it’ll be bought. It’ll be a posh one, but it’s still bought. And bought custard. I don’t think Christmas is the time for a novice custard maker to start meddling with curdled eggs.

But most of all, it’ll be eaten piping hot, after a brisk, crisp walk to make a corner of room in our overstuffed bellies for yet more wintery, festive, seasonal goodies. Merry Christmas.

xmas lunch

My name is Dr Sister Outlaw and I admit I am a pudding addict

There has been a fair bit of twittering and emailing going on between those of us who have made Christmas puddings this year using my tried and tested recipe.

There has also been more than a little fiddling. My Brother Outlaw added cumquats to his, and Zoe has added port and figs and various other things. I could, if I was that way inclined, get annoyed at the traducing of the recipe, and suffer a fit of pique at the failure of my friends and family to, you know, fall into line and follow my directions. But a brief survey of my relationship history would reveal that I am not myself the sort of girl who likes to do the same old thing year in and year out and, in any case, I am outrageously competitive.

Which brings me to another point. In the Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Living mag this week there was a story about some chick called Kirsty who invites all these women around to make puddings, according to her recipe. Apparently she’s been doing it for years and years. Obviously she is much better at getting her friends and family to fall into line and maybe serving them alcohol helps, but probably she associates with timid wilting types who would never experiment with a recipe and are happy to be told what to do. Like sheep, or members of the NSW ALP Right Caucus.

Well, I’d like to remind readers that here at PDP we value free speech, free expression, and opportunities to spread pudding goodness far and wide. We’ve had our very own virtual and real life pudding competitions. The results were inconclusive, but the eating was very good indeed (as was the drinking and company).

And so, in that spirit, I launch this open thread, where we can share pudding tips and recipes (it really isn’t too late to make one, trust me), and share our thoughts as to the results. I know that, as I type this, Zoe is cooking hers. I cooked mine this week as well. Traditionally, I add 900 grammes of fruit, which is mostly currants and raisins (360g each) plus a mixture of peel/ginger/glace cherries (adding up to 180g). I also add some hazelnuts. This year I did 300g currants, 300g figs and a combo of dates, cranberries, ginger and peel (to get up to 900g). Kind of Middle East meets Northern Europe, and, as I add brandy and hazelnuts (Central Europe) and Vodka (Eastern Europe), my pud is gonna be totally Continental.

What have you done? (And Zoe, what’s in yours?)

(Zoe adds – if you’d like to include an image in your comment, post a link to an online version or email a jpg about 380 wide and we’ll magic it up.)


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