Introducing Dame Mint Pattie and the Canberra Wineries A2Z Project

Dame Mint Pattie has worked in PR for more than 20 years and consequently is immune to spin, which makes living in Canberra either a constant source of amusement or bloody annoying –

depending on which side of bed she gets out of.

DMP puts her faith in small pleasures: the perfect cheese and pickle sandwich, a glass of good wine, or catching sight of a single shaft of sunlight parting the clouds like the hand of gog god (and sometimes types while she’s tipsy). She appreciates lovingly prepared meals made with painstaking attention to detail… just as long as someone else does the cooking.

Dame Mint Pattie blogs with her partner, our man in Canberra, at Our Notional Capital. She says of the genesis of the series she will be cross-posting here, an A2Z of Canberra Wineries:

We’ve lived in Canberra for a couple of years now but our knowledge of the local grape is shamefully lacking. Having visited one or two wineries in a very haphazard way, and with little to guide us other than the King James Wine Bible, we’ve decided to embark on our own leisurely winery discovery tour.

I should make it clear right upfront, we are not wine obsessives experts. We have no formal training in the art of sniffing, swilling and spitting but we know our preferences (and significant blindspots) reasonably well and also what wines compliment the modest fare that finds it way from our kitchen to the dining room table.

Over the next few months we’ll try to visit all the wineries that are open to the public around the Canberra region and share any worthwhile information in a very rough guide to Canberra wineries A2Z.

There are a huge number of wineries within an hour or so’s drive of Canberra, and I salute their bravery. The first in the series is on the Affleck vineyard. Welcome Dame Mint Pattie!

UPDATED TO ADD: As time has worn on, and glass after glass has been valiantly sniffed and swallowed, Dame Mint Pattie asks on her site:

We’re visiting every cellar door in the Canberra wine region and writing up what we find. The aim is to provide a rough but relaxed guide to Canberra wineries.

However, as a late 20th century philosopher* pointed out, “life moves pretty fast”, and it’s easy to miss stuff. So, if you’ve noticed that things have changed at a winery or we’ve left out something good, please leave a comment or email so we can update the post.

And then we ate the hare

Today my sister, her partner Anne and their kids Ciara and Reece joined us for The Eating of The Hare. They took our bigger boy out to lunch and Owy went to cricket, so I had a couple of hours of uninterrupted kitchen time to potter while our smaller boy slept. There is nothing nicer than feeding people that you care about, and to be feeding them food which they’d been responsible for increased the pleasure. Anne is a bit of a spoiler, so things kicked off with spiders made with sexy ice cream and Cascade soft drinks:


I’m not sure if that’s sharing or territorial pissing that you’re seeing in that picture, but that’s five year old boys for you.

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Huntin’ and shootin’ and totally NSFV

We spent the weekend at my sister-in-law Anne’s farm on the Monaro Plains in southern NSW. There were all manner of country pursuits including feeding the sheep, watching the kids have goes in the tractor and letting the toddler have a go of the steering wheel.


tractorJet at the wheel

(If you think that was just some crazy set up toddler diving shot, check here – and no, we weren’t on a road.)

There was lots of good food and more wine than was really necessary. And there was my sister Kelly heading out to see if she could shoot a bunny, back within the hour bearing a wild hare. She is an art teacher and decided to get all Dutch on our ass:

still life

Then Anne dressed the hare while we (and the kids) looked on. We hung the hare for a day in the farm’s old “meat room”, and brought it back home on ice. We were a bit unsure about hanging it here – it’s not exactly a European climate, and we’d already gutted it. Fortunately Stephanie Alexander’s Cooks Companion had the answer – as it almost always does – and it was only necessary to rest it in the fridge for a few days.

I jointed it and rubbed the carcass with olive oil and it’s in the fridge on a rack, covered with muslin. I’ll cook it up tomorrow for the extended family on Friday, but we’ll need something else too as one hare won’t feed all of us.

We didn’t keep the offal because my sister was afraid of hydatids, but she’s not really an offal fancier and I wish I’d kept the liver. I’m thinking a braise with thyme, red wine, prunes, pepper and maybe a tiny bit of bitter chocolate. Your suggestions and expertise are very welcome in comments.

There’s a couple of photos over the fold (gore warning), and a lot more both photos and gore at my flickr.

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Nabakov presents: Spag Bol al Dante

compleat bachelor fare archive

Ah Spaghetti Bolognaise! The bachelor’s friend, muse and destroyer of waistlines. Here I offer a hot new take on an old favourite. All measures are calculated for two people of firm appetite with enough left over to fill a few jaffles on a hungover late winter morning.

This one’s a bit tricky though as it involves not one (1) but two (2) hotplates. You’ll need all your project management skills here.

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Ampersand Duck presents – Duck Souper

pasta-bookNothing like inviting people around for soup on a chill Autumnal evening. Knowing that you’ve invited foodies adds a bit of pressure, but I chose soups that had been tried and praised before, so the only pressure was to cook them well: Lamb Shank & Penne Soup, and Spinach & Dahl Soup.

The Lamb Shank soup comes from one of those generic newsagent cookbooks: the Family Circle Pasta & Noodles Book. I’ve been trying to remember when I got this, and whether I inherited it from my mother when she had a clean-out, or whether I bought it from a garage sale. It’s quite a dull book, but there’s a couple of winner recipes that I’ve discovered and treasured. This is one of them.

The Spinach & Dahl soup was bought as a packet mix of spices produced by a fab little family company called The Saucy Spice Co., based in Pambula on the Far South Coast of NSW. They peddle online, but also have a stall at the Canberra Bus Depot Markets every Sunday. I highly recommend their spice mixes. They buy fresh supplies, and their simple packages are always marked with a use-by date so that they are never stale (unless you stash them in the back of a cupboard and forget them).

They sell packages of spice mixes for specific recipes, and you provide the rest of the ingredients. The ingredients needed are listed on the label, but the actual recipe is inside the packet. Their curries and soups are superb. I can’t include the recipe for the Dahl soup here, mainly because they tell you which spices they’ve used, but not the quantities, so I encourage you to buy a packet or two of their wares and enjoy. The heat of each recipe is always indicated, and they have some fantastic mild recipes that kids will love. I highly recommend their Javanese Chicken, my son loves it.

The Dahl soup needed blending at the 2/3 point of cooking, and I’d given my stab blender away to my mother years ago, once I’d stopped making my own baby food. I just never seem to need one. So I asked Zoe to bring hers… talk about the awesome power of the blend! It had a life of its own, with scary suction action…

I forgot to take a photo of the finished soup on the night, but I managed to catch one of the bowls when we had leftovers a couple of nights later:

Yum! Coriander garnish, and we added yogurt on the leftover bowl (both of which, stupidly, I forgot to offer during the dinner party. Sorry guys.) There’s a drip on the bowl, too, for which you can mentally slap me on the wrist.

Now, the Lamb Shank Soup. I’ve been promising Zoe this recipe for years. Here it is.


Prep time: 15 mins
Cooking time: 1 hour, 15 mins
Serves 6 (just)

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 lamb shanks (about 1 kg), well trimmed of fat
2 medium onions, cut into strips
1/4 cup dry red wine
1/2 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 whole cinnamon stick
1 dried bayleaf (I used fresh)
4 cups water (I added more later)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup penne pasta
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
1 cup fresh or frozen broad beans
1 clove garlic, crushed

1. Heat oil in pan. Add lamb, cook over high heat for about 3 minutes each side or until well browned. Remove from pan, drain on absorbent paper.

2. Add onions to pan, cook over medium heat for about 3 mins or until well browned.

(This browning of meat and onion is essential, because it dictates the colour of the soup. It becomes a lovely rich brown soup instead of a pale broth.)

2 (cont) Return lamb to pan, add wine, peppercorns, cumin, cinnamon, bay leaf and water; bring to boil. Reduce heat, simmer covered, 1 hour or until lamb is tender.

3. Remove lamb from pan, discard bay leaf and cinnamon stick from stock. Add soy sauce and tomato paste to pan, stir until combined. Bring to boil, add pasta, simmer, covered, 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. meanwhile, cut lamb into bite-sized pieces; discard bones. Return lamb, peas and broad beans to pan, simmer, covered, a further 5 minutes or until pasta is al dente. Stir in crushed garlic just before serving.

Yum! I forgot to photograph this one before serving as well, so here is the cookbook version, followed by the result of happy eating:


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