Oct 27, 2012

Pining for Pinones!

I had the pleasure of meeting none other than Chef George Calombaris from Masterchef Australia! There I just said it ... I have been wondering how I will announce this momentous occasion, how will I express the madness I felt, how will I put the unreality of it all into words? It just happened, like a flowing river ..it just all pooled into place. I got a call from our lovely friends over at the Olive Kitchen, the doe eyed Astha called to say Olive Beach was hosting a breakfast with none other then George and Gary and the Bloggers just had to attend, forget attend, the bloggers were prepared to stampede the place. We had a  little group chat the night before, what to wear, what to say, how to be ...to bake or not to bake.

The Olive Beach was a delight as Olive kitchens are. The decor reminds me of the movie 'Come September', complete with a Canary yellow Vespa and a quaint hand painted white bicycle. It's a cross between that and Alice in Wonderland actually. We were in the company of some of the country's veteran Chef's and waiting for two internationally celebrated ones. Gary couldn't make it but George more than made up. He was charming, humble and pretty hilarious. He spent time with the group sharing anecdotes about Matt, Gary, the show, the process and his very obvious love for all things food. 

He spoke our (the bloggers table) minds, when he spoke of local produce, his disdain for supermarkets and involving children in the process of not just planning meals but even growing what they cook, so they know that food comes from the earth and not from plastic bags. It is a pertinent point to touch upon because India is on the brink of the bag/can/box food culture and a few things that can save us is our love for fresh food, grains, local produce and dairy. Try and cook fresh as often as possible guys, shop for produce every day or every other day, you have to be passing a market on the way back from work or chores, this is India, we have more markets than playgrounds ...sooo! So as you can tell, George not only enchanted us, he engaged with us, explaining a part of the reason why the show is as big as it is, these guys have natural charisma, distinctive personalities and years clocked in the kitchen. Incidentally, they loved the food at Indian Accent, they have a container full of gifts, they feel most gratified about inspiring young cooks and chefs, they still cook as often as they can, Gary employed George as an apprentice when he was young boy, Matt can cook and cook well, I can go on!

It was a wonderful morning for an alfresco breakfast, the sun was bright and just about warm, the company was fabulous of course, there was retro charm all around and then came the Churros. Fried fresh outdoors, they were just right, served with a chocolate sauce infused with star anise. Breakfast had the most wonderful apricots preserved in a syrup with star anise and cinnamon, beautiful parma ham, chorizo, fresh olives on the stem, bruschetta's bacon and manchega. A selection of savoury pastries and more.The dessert cart served Financiers, brownies, more Churros and the heavenly sauce, a selection of exotic fruits, out of which I always love the dragon fruit the most, it has colours of candy!

Coming out of a morning like this, I couldn't help but think about what I could with all this inspiration and energy, I had to make something new, something with my signature of quick, homey and wholesome. I had found a recipe of fish in pine nut sauce - Merluza en Salsa de Pinones on Epicurious, I love Spanish food, I love pine nuts and I love fish, so this was ideal. I wanted something perfect for winter which for me usually means out of the oven or off the grill. I tweaked the recipe a bit, we like our poached fish done in the oven, moist and supple.This whole recipe with prep takes about 40 minutes and is enough for 4 people, supplement it with rocket leaves with a tzaziki like dip of whipped yoghurt, garlic and sea salt and crusty bread.


1/2 cup pine nuts, roast these on 120 C for about 6-8 mins or till light brown and fragrant. Grind 1/2 the quantity into a coarse powder and preserve the rest to garnish.
4 tbsp olive oil
1 Large onion, chopped fine
4 cloves of garlic, mashed and minced
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp fresh ground pepper
4 tbsp breadcrumbs
2 tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup Four Seasons Sauvignon Blanc White Wine
1/2 bell pepper, sliced

Heat half the oil and saute the onion and garlic till translucent. Add the bell peppers and tomatoes and saute for a few minutes. Add the seasoning, the pine nut powder and breadcrumbs once the tomatoes are soft, pour in half the wine and stir till the sauce thickens a bit. Wash and dry the fillets, place tightly in an baking dish, top with salt, the leftover olive oil and white wine. Poach in the oven at 180 C for 10 minutes or till the meat turns white, you can peek in and douse with the oil and wine at the bottom of the dish halfway through, keeps the fish moist. Remove and plate individually and top with the pine nut sauce or top the fish in the baking dish and serve some on the side for those who want more. Garnish with the leftover pine nuts and Enjoy!

You can make this with any firm white fish, in Delhi NCR that would be sole, surmai, bekti, singhara (tad flaky but fine), I would love to try this with red snapper or something more fishy like pomfret, but that's best enjoyed on the bone.About the wine I used, it was light and crisp Four Seasons Sauvignon Blanc, it worked very well with the flavours of this dish. 

Tasting notes:
Colour : Brilliant, clear, pale straw yellow.
Aroma : Refreshingly aromatic with notes of gooseberry, melons, capsicum and savoury herbs.
Palate : Zesty acidity carries the ripe taste of the fruit well on the palate.
Serving suggestion: Enjoyed best at 8 - 10° C with green vegetables, salads and rich fish & seafood dishes. Also pairs well with tomato-based sauces and dishes cooked with herbs and vegetables.