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The practice of cooking with wine actually dates back to the time of ancient Roman civilization or even before that. Wine, the beverage of Bacchus (the roman God of wine) was commonly used in cooking not just meat but also other food variants such as soups, vegetables, desserts and cakes. Hence, cooking with wine is not something unheard of. In recent times chefs across the globe are cooking with wine to a greater extent and it is also in fact a common practice in the western countries to use wine to marinade meat or prepare braised dishes or even use it to make desserts.
While some of the noted chefs and wine critics prefer to use the same wine for cooking which is served to guests as an accompaniment with the cuisine; a common practice also is to use leftover wines in cooking. Ordinarily, a general misconception sometimes is not to spare your treasured and expensive wines for cooking, as many feel that the taste of that wine may not emanate in the final outcome. Experts also say that adding wine while cooking a dish not only enhances the flavour of the dish but also limits the use of oil or butter.
India’s youngest Chef and Actor, Saransh Goila first started cooking with wine at a culinary institute while pursuing his studies. His first hand experience was that of using wine in French food. Saransh – whose specialty is contemporary Indian food, with vast knowledge in Italian food, baking and confectionery as well – is currently hosting, “Roti Rasta aur India” one of India’s biggest food travelogue show.
According to him it is certainly not easy to cook regular Indian dishes with wine. “Our cuisine is naturally not equipped to deal with wine as a component of a dish for sure. So it takes a lot of experimentation to balance the spices in a dish and then match it with a wine, so that they both complement each other. The best Indian dishes cooked with wine have to be rice based.” However, Goila has also cooked western/continental dishes like Chicken with Garlic and White Wine Sauce and Spaghetti Bolognese (Red Wine).
“At the end of the day a premium wine deserves to be sipped on and not used for cooking. But having said that even the cheap or left over wine has to be of a grape that you enjoy, it shouldn't be something that your palate doesn't savour as the idea is for the dish to absorb the goodness of the grapes.”
Nikhil Merchant a gourmet consultant, food writer and blogger at Nonchalant Gourmand started cooking with wine about 12 years ago. He created a small batch of recipes and one of those was Spaghetti cooked in a Red Wine sauce. “The next thing I knew, it was on the menu of an Italian restaurant in a couple of weeks, probably stemming from the fact that if an Indian could think of alcohol in his food, it would be well accepted as a trend in an average Indian diner”, he says. However, Merchant feels that Indian dishes are extremely difficult to cook with wine due to the intensity of the spices as well as techniques. “Spices are overwhelming in most Indian dishes and techniques usually include slow cooking or intense heat. Wine based dishes such as sauces, marinades, dressings, if you notice, are basically flash cooked and used as a finishing or a flavour enhancer in any dish,” he says. Italian cuisine hits the top spot for Merchant, right from Pasta sauces to Marinades. Wine infused into marinating chicken and fish (honey, soy, white wine and light herbs) for basic western dishes are delicious too.
Rushina Munshaw Ghildayal, a food blogger, gastronomy writer, food consultant and author has also been cooking with wine for few years now. Besides experimenting in her cook studio she also holds regular workshops in Mumbai to teach people on how to cook with alcohol.
Here are a few essential tips to keep in mind while cooking with wine -
1) The standard rule is to use dry whites or reds for exquisite dishes. (White wine: melon, apple, pineapple, pear, citrus, vanilla, caramel, olives, and mushrooms and Red wine: berries, peaches, currants, plums, cherries, oranges, chocolate, and coffee)
2) In Indian cuisine, a lot of whites may be used while cooking rice and/or seafood. To deal with heavily spiced dishes or red meats, reds may be used.
3) Be generous in utilizing leftover wine in stir fried stuff from veggies to mushrooms.
4) A fruity Chenin Blanc could be used for a dessert-y dish while more intense red wines (not too oaky) like a simple Merlot or Shiraz can be used for poaching.
5) The key to using wine in cooking is to ensure you use something which you can drink. If an open bottle which has turned sour is used, it will completely change the dimension of a dish and render it quite different and unpalatable. So avoid using any wine that is not drinkable.
6) When cooking a vegetable, meat or sauce with wine involving very little heating or cooking with no water and less oil/butter, the vegetable/meat nutrients along with the reaction of the alcohol in the spirit get locked into the dish and rarely disintegrate.
The basic rule to cook a perfect meal with wine includes choosing the type of wine depending on the flavour you want in the dish you're making. Above all, it is important to have fun while cooking with wine. Experimenting with various flavours, styles and dishes could create magic in the kitchen.
Recipe shared by Saransh Goila
Fenugreek & Wine Rice
Rice (Basmati) - 1 cup
Olive Oil – 1 tbsp
Butter – 1 tbsp
Cumin – 1 tsp
Fresh tomatoes – 4 (Puree)
Dry Roasted Kasoori Methi (Dry Fenugreek Leaves) – 2 tbsp
Dry White Wine (preferred Chenin Blanc)
Chilli powder – 1.5 tsp
Coriander powder – 2 tsp
Garam Masala – 1 tsp
Roasted Cumin powder – 1 tsp
Salt - To taste
Olive Oil – 1 tbasp
Butter – 1.5 tbsp
Onions – 1 (Finely chopped)
Garlic – 4 cloves (Finely chopped)
Dry White Wine – ½ cup
Button Mushroom – 10 nos.
Corn Kernels – 50 gm
Cherry Tomatoes – 6 – 8 nos.
Chilli flakes – 2 tsp
Oregano – 1 tsp
Fresh Basil – 5 - 6 leaves (torn)
Freshly cracked pepper – 1 tsp
Green Chilli’s – 1 nos (chopped)
Salt – To taste
- Add Olive Oil and Butter to the pan.
- Add cumin when hot and let it crackle..
- Add soaked rice (soak in water for 20 mins) and stir for 2 mins.
- Add white wine, raise the flame.. let it reduce for 5 mins. Now add tomato puree, red chilli powder, turmeric, garam masala, cumin powder, kasoori methi and salt. Cook for 2 mins bring to a boil.
- Add 1.5 cups of water. Put the lid on and cook on low flame.
- Keep it aside. Open it up after half hour of resting it.
- Add Olive Oil and Butter to the pan.
- Add garlic and onion and cook till translucent.
- Add wine and let it reduce for 3 – 4 mins.
- Now add mushrooms and corn. Cook on high flame for 3 mins.
- Now add cherry tomatoes, green chilli, oregano, chilli flakes, salt and torn basil.
- Cook for 2 mins. Now add freshly cracked pepper and serve with rice.