A philosopher’s lunch

March 30, 2007

What a beautiful lunch we had the other day. I have to give away the secret of the most delicious dishes we enjoyed last Sunday. In fact it is not a secret at all because the recipe is from a very well known and very beautiful cookbook, the Philosopher’s Kitchen by Francine Segan.

This cookbook’s subtitle reads, “Recipes from Ancient Greece and Rome for the Modern Cook”. Nothing sounds better to the ear of a Celtic Treverer who had enjoyed Roman cuisine for a couple of centuries. We had a fish dish and afterwards a salad, that’s all, but what most delectable food this was. I would have loved to have Sucellus, Epicurus and Lucretius over for lunch that day. Only on the wine side I would have made concessions to modernity. A Sauvignon Blanc from the new world vineyards I find much more appealing than a wine of Roman times which would have needed mixing with water and honey to be drinkable at all.

Wine god

On a portal in Trier: Bacchus and vine leafs

And here is the recipe: red snapper in parchment. The ingredients are as follows:

– juice of freshly pressed lemons
– 2 garlic gloves, minced
– ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil
– 4 bay leaves crushed
– 1 ½ teaspoons whole pink peppercorns
– 2 table spoons of capers, rinsed
– 15 oil-cured black olives, pitted and halved
– 2 red snapper fillets, without skin
– Salt and freshly milled pepper
– Lemon wedges

Mix and combine the lemon juice, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns, capers and olives in a large bowl and soak the red snapper(in Bahasa Indonesia: Kakap Merah) in this marinade for about two hours in a cool spot. Then put the fish into the oven (up to about 200°). We put it into aluminium foil and topped it with the marinade; then closed the foil and baked it for about 10 to 13 minutes. We served the fish on a plate. We had just plain baguette with it but you can add all kinds of things, eat it with rice, potatoes, and with various vegetables. It was such a wonderful dish, mouth watering. The capers in the marinade give it a spicy edge, and this complements the white flesh of the fish. The olives and the capers take you to the Mediterranean. I could see the ocean, the sand, the beach…and taste the salt, the smells of the water….

After the main course we had a warm spinach salad. The recipe is also in the above cookbook and is called, “Baby Greens with Caper Vinaigrette”. The caper vinaigrette is similar to the marinade, just that no olives and no garlic is added. It goes as follows:

– 2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
– 2 tablespoons wine vinegar
– ¾ cup of extra virgin olive oil
– 3 tablespoons of capers
– Salt and freshly milled pepper
– 3 cups of assorted green vegetables

As I said, we used spinach (Bahasa Indonesia: Bayam Hijau) which we blanched before adding the vinaigrette and the warm salad did in fact complement the first dish and harmoniously end this philosopher’s meal. I highly recommend the cookbook. It makes a wonderful gift. If you love the classics and you want to delve in the past of these two great Mediterranean cultures, you should get it (www.atrandom.com).

You will have noticed that I did not yet mention any wine so far. Well, the wine I chose was a disappointment. I though a Sauvignon Blanc would go well with it, and this is certainly so. I chose a 2006 Sauvignon Blanc from Giessen of Marlborough, New Zealand, of which I had fond memories. But what a surprise. It was stale, oily and did not display any of the varietals’ characteristics of a cool climate Sauvignon Blanc. With sadness and melancholy I thought of times gone by and our own 2002 Two Hills Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc and it’s brilliant taste. Unfortunately, we were down on white wine and we just ended the meal with a port and an Italian coffee. I might have to consider buying a special wine fridge so that this cannot happen again.

What we were drinking: South Australia

March 23, 2007

David, the son of our mutual friend John, from Sydney brought two wonderful bottles of wine over the other day. We had them with a beautiful meal for Saturday lunch. With the spicy clam pasta we enjoyed a bottle of 2006 Sauvignon Blanc from Shaw and Smith from the Adelaide Hills (www.shawandsmith.com), a cool climate region in South Australia where my wife comes from. Grapes where planted there as early as 1839 and today there are about 60 wine labels with over 3,000 ha of vineyards planted. This young Sauvignon Blanc is a wine to my taste: fruity (with passionfruit and guava flavours), grassy-herbaceous, flinty and well rounded with a long finish. The wine is unwooded and James Halliday gave it 94 points. Very enjoyable in a tropical climate such as Jakarta.

McLaren vale1

McLaren Vale with vineyards, sea view in the distance

The second bottle we drank with the main dish, a vegetable stew, came from Mitolo Wines (www.mitolowines.com.au), a family owned winery situated in the most southern tip of the McLaren Vale region. I will write more about McLaren Vale in one of the next entries, because we visited the region in 2005 and had a wonderful time visiting some of its vineyards. We drank a 2004 Jester Shriaz. The wine had a deep purple colour. The nose showed intense blackberry, plum and chocolate aromas of rich black fruit. The wine has a good structure, is well rounded and has a long finish. Of course it should have been cellared for 4-5 more years but we could not wait. Both wines made our day which we spent sitting on the terrace and discussing the pleasures of life in general and life in Indonesia in particular. Come and visit us one day.

McLaren Vale 2

Vineyard view in McLaren Vale

Hail St.Patrick’s in Jakarta

March 19, 2007

St. Patrick’s Ball invitation

Oh boy, what a splendid celebration this was, the annual St. Patrick’s Ball in Jakarta (www.stpatricksjakarta.org). My friend Uli from Germany came with me to enjoy the fun. We sat with some of my Australian friends on table No. 39, four couples and we two Germans, almost as last year just that my wife fell sick and I was, so to speak, with a male companion only. For Uli it was the first St. Patrick’s Ball ever. But being a country boy himself, he adjusted quickly and felt at home in no time. I met quite a few friends and acquaintances and we all had a good time.

The dancers were spectacular, the speeches boring, the food very good, the people in a jolly good mood, all dressed up and in their best outfits, a pleasure for the eyes and senses. There was white wine from Spain, and red wine from Western Australia.

Gun cuireadh do
Chupa thairis le
Slainte agus sonas

May your cup
Overflow with
Health and Happiness

I was sure that I would remember the brands until the next day. But something must have gone wrong. I danced at my hearts content until about three thirty in the morning with some charming and beautiful lassies from all over the world. When I hit the hay at home, I had already forgotten all about the wine, but boy, we had a jolly good time….


The German “contingent”, two old friends!

Wine made in India

March 16, 2007

When I openend my morning newspaper today – for insiders it’s the International Herald Tribune, (IHT) delivered at about 6-6:30 h every morning to my home in Jakarta so that I can read it while having breakfast and after my children have left for school – I was quite surprised to find on page 2 an article with the headline: “Days of wine and roses, sobered by high tariffs” desribing the situation of the infant wine industry and increasing wine consumption in India.


Jaipur street in 2003

It reminded me of our two years in New Delhi, almost 10 years ago. It was hard to get access to wine, any wine. We needed a personal reference from a friend so that a wine dealer would accept us as his new clients. This took quite some time. Only white and/or red where the choices available to us. The stuff was delivered after nightfall. A van drove into our driveway with turned off headlights. Then the bottles were delivered in secret, tucked into inconspicuous boxes. When we openend them the very first time, we found to our surprise the cheapest of French white wines, which might have costs a dollar or two in France but for which we had to surrender about 15 US$ of our hard earned money to our mysterious benefactor. I remember how happy we were. Over time and with the approprite consumption level, the quality of the wine and the choices available to us would improve. However, we never quite made it to get our true choice of wine delivered. But better ordininary wine with a delicious meal than no wine at all, became our daily and pragmatic attitude.

Ten years later, not much seems to have changed in New Delhi. The article in the IHT calls our mysterious benefactor a “bootlegger” which he certainly might have been. And despite a surge in domestic demand, wine cunsumption seems to be still hampered by a series of religious, cultural and bureaucratic hindrances. When I attended an international seminar in Jaipur in 2003 we had some very delicious Indian reds. Unfortunately, I did not take a photo of the bottle at the time but the three “dancing derwishes” are proof that we had great fun at the event. If you want to learn more about wines made in India please visit www.sommelierindia.com.


With my friends

In the long run, I feel, prospects for Australian wine in India should be good. My two daughters, if they should take over the family vineyard after I have “transcended” my earthly existance, might be the beneficiaries of this. 30% growth of wine sales as we can observe today will have subsided but the total bottles sold will go into the millions. When I think of the values, I become dizzy: total wine exports value of the US to India stands at only 1 Million US$ today. With an ever increasing number of consumers and average income increasing even faster, a small family vineyard as Two Hills should have a chance to sell to a few boutique wine shops in Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai. How I love the future.

Jaipur 2

A most marvelous fish dish

March 4, 2007

I have been away for a while. Let me tell you about a very memorable dinner I had with my friends Joyce and Rainer and a couple of other friends in Bangkok the other day. It started as a kind of late Chinese New Year celebration. We jointly tossed a special Singapore salad with the most astonishing ingredients of which I cannot give you a run down. Eating this dish together brings you luck of course. We had it as a kind of entree.

The main dish, however, is what I would like to introduce to you today:

Baked Sea bass with Basil-Feta Crust

This is a most amazing creation. I always thought that fish and cheese do not go well together. Wrong. They can build a terrific partnership and create an explosion of your senses in your mouth. The recipe goes as follows (4 serves):

Crust ingredients
– 3 garlic gloves
– feta cheese (one block)
– bread crumbs
– basil leaves
– black pepper, salt
– 4 table spoons of best extra virgin olive oil

– 4 pieces of Sea bass fillet, but any other “white” fish will do

How to do it
– Grind peeled garlic cloves and basil leaves together into a coarse consistency, mix the olive
oil into it
– put ground basil mixture into mixing bowl together with bread crumbs and Feta cheese. Mix
well together. Add pepper and two more tablespoons of olive oil.
– was sea bass fillet and sprinkle with pepper and salt. Place on oven-proof dish.
– put basil-feta mixture on fish covering the surface.
– bake for 30 minutes in 180 c oven
– serve with vegetables as desired.

We drank a Sicilian white wine with the fish. I would have loved to have a Two Hills Sauvignon Blanc instead; the wine we had at Rainer and Joyce’s wedding some years ago for instance. Of course also a Sauvignon Blanc from another cool climate wine region would do. But Sauvignon Blanc definately be my preferred choice with this dish.