John Torode launches recipe collection with McGuigan Wines

JOHN TORODE is now one of  this country’s most popular  celebrity chefs. Only last week he  launched his new cookery  programme Australia.
But he also comes from a part of  Australia which is the oldest  wine-making region on that vast  continent, the Hunter Valley.
So it should come as no surprise  that he has been  happy to pair up  with one of that region’s most   successful wineries, McGuigan Wines,  to create some tastebud-tantalising  food and wine matches.
McGuigan has consistently won  many awards. Winemaker Neil  McGuigan  made history by being the  first person to be named world’s best  winemaker in three out of four years.
You will know I enjoy my scientific  wine and food experiments, so it was  too tempting  not to speak to Mr  Torode about food and,  specifically, wine.
He told me: “When I grew up, wine  was not something I was allowed to  have, I was too young, but I do love   Hunter Valley Semillon.”

I cooked  some of the  exclusive  recipes from the Neil McGuigan and  John Torode Recipe collection. I  started with  green curry barbecue  chicken – and  had a couple of chilled  glasses of McGuigan Classic  Semillon Blanc (£7.99  in Sainsbury  and Tesco –  reduced to £5.32 in  Tesco until March 18).  John’s recipe  was simplicity itself  – chicken,   coconut milk, coriander and green  curry paste.  The wine had  guava,  lychee, lemon aromas and  acidity  which didn’t overpower the creamy  melting chicken.  Tropical  fruits, with  lemon and  lime, added to the  complexity with   overtones of freshly  scrunched lemon  geranium leaves.  The wine  wasn’t afraid of the green  curry contrasts; in fact it was  lifted to another  flavoursome level.

 Neil McGuigan and John Torode toast their food and wine partnership
Neil McGuigan and John Torode toast their food and wine partnership
 So does food and  wine pairing come  naturally to John?  “I  believe that food  and wine are like  hand in glove,  one  compliments  the other,” he  says. “Good  food  loves  good wine and  good wine  loves good food.  It’s all about  understanding   flavours and   what goes with  what.” But how should people begin  to think about matching food and  wine at home?
Says John: “The first step is to drink  something you like whilst you cook,  and use your nose to see if  what you  are cooking will work with what you  are drinking.
“The human mind is cleverer than  you think and your nose will tell you  what belongs together.
“I can say though that a semillon  or GSM (a classic Rhône blend of   grenache, syrah and mourvèdre)   are both pretty versatile and will   go with most things.
“Some wines sit better with  certain foods, but I love red wine  with fish.  I love crisp white  wine  with roast pork. I  love sparkling shiraz  with a barbecue. But I  appreciate that some  people believe there  should be rules.  I  don’t.”
John is  known for  his love of Asian  foods.  What would be  his wines to match?    He says: ”Asian food is  as varied as wines are,  but generally go for a  lighter style of red due  to the  subtle flavours  in  Asian foods and go for  crisp white wines with  chilli. Saying that, a  chilled red wine with  ginger-based  dishes is a wondrous  thing.”
John’s Lemon Grass Beef, paired  with McGuigan Reserve Cabernet  Sauvignon, (£9.99, Tesco) took  centre stage on my dining table.
It took only minutes to prepare  and the beef marinated for most of a  calm Sunday. I also marinated myself  with the cab sav. (Only joking.  Honest.)
Neil McGuigan  says of the pairing:  “This might seem to be quite a   serious wine for a dish that might be  served as a casual supper. But John  has got lots of flavours in there and I  think it deserves a wine like the deep,  blackcurranty reserve cabernet.”
 My thoughts? The cab sav is full of  deep blackcurrants, black pepper   and soft vanilla overtones. With  the beef it was  perfect. The beef  was soft as a cushion with citrus  and spice playing tastebud ping  pong.
Add in the peppers and fruit  from the cab sav and it was like  being at a wedding buffet; all  flavours tempting and teasing  so much that you don’t know  in which direction to go next.
McGuigan Shortlist Chardonnay, 2011, Adelaide Hills
McGuigan Shortlist Chardonnay

If there is one recipe I urge  you to try, it would be Thai  Pork Relish  Lettuce Cups.  Squeezey pleasey bites of  pork mince flavoured so  simply with ingredients including   chilli paste, peanuts and fish sauce.

 If I hadn’t had a glass of  McGuigan  Reserve Shiraz (£9.99, Sainsbury and  Morrisons) in my hand I would have  high fived Mr Torode there and then.  But things could have got messy. The  wine had  red fruits on the nose, it  was woody like a newly snapped  twig, with pepper and red fruits on  the palate too. Combined with the  pork, it was a palate pamper of spice.
 I tried  McGuigan Reserve  Sauvignon Blanc (£9.99, Tesco) also  a wine pairing  for the BBQ chicken.   This sauvignon blanc has a delicate   nose of tropical fruits and a  finish of   crisp, refreshing lemon.
The star of my whites was  McGuigan Shortlist Chardonnay,  2011, Adelaide Hills  (Tesco online,  RRP £15) which had subtle honeyed  oak on the nose, some grilled  pineapple and peach. Loved it.  It  had a spritely acidity with zippy  lemon and creamy honeyed  vanilla. Neil and John recommend   it with  steamed mussels.
Says John: “Food and wine  are fashion, they change with  the times and are influenced by  people, season  and the  environment.  It’s all  ever-changing, always variable;  and that’s what makes it all so  exciting.”
Find out more about the  recipes  and wines at   www.mcguiganwines.co.uk.
Meanwhile, McGuigan is giving   wine-loving couples  the chance to win a trip Down Under and enjoy lunch cooked by  John Torode.
Go to    http://mcguiganwinescompetition.com for details. (Deadline April 27 2014)
This column first appeared in the saturday magazine March 8 2014
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