Celebrity chef and Masterchef presenter John Torode has created an exclusive recipe collection alongside McGuigan Wines, with winemaker Neil McGuigan offering wine pairing suggestions.
To mark the collection, John Torode answered some of my questions about wine and food.
The questions and answers ….
In your childhood, did food play an important role? Did the family bond around the table every mealtime?
John: Food has always been a very important part of my life and as a family we sat down every evening and ate together. I feel it is a great time to sit and chat and catch up on life
Can you remember the moment – the meal – the place – which inspired you, which made you think, “this is it, this is what I want to do”.
John: I know exactly the time and the place, it was Christmas Day 1971 and I cooked with my Nana and she taught me to make gravy, a true life-changing experience
What was the first thing you cooked for someone else – how old were you – was it a success?
John: I don’t remember the first thing I cooked but it would have been pretty simple
How did your career begin? At college? By working your way up in a restaurant kitchen environment?
John: I started cooking professionally at 16, I went and worked in a restaurant and did a four-year apprenticeship and after those four years I became qualified and I started to work my way up the ladder
Are you still learning?
John: If I have a day in my life where I learn nothing it would be a waste of a day, there is always plenty to learn and that is why I love it
You were brought up in the famous wine region of the Hunter Valley – has that been an inspiration to you. Can you remember a wine which gave you a “stop and think” moment.
John: When I grew up, wine was not something I was allowed to have, I was too young, but I do love Hunter Valley Semillon.
Appreciating the harmonies between ingredients and creating menus is one thing; but then complementing them with wine is another. Did food and wine pairing come naturally to you?
John: I believe that food and wine are like hand and glove, one complements the other and good food loves good wine and good wine loves good food, its all about understanding the flavours and what goes with what.
How should people begin to think about matching food and wine at home. Are there any failsafe tips for those tentative first steps?
John: The first step is to drink something you like whilst you cook and use your noise 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.
Does it really matter that certain foods should be paired with certain wines?
John: 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 BBQ, but I appreciate that some people believe there should be rules, I don’t
You are well-known for being a lover of Asian foods. Wines to match?
Asian food is as varied as wines are – but generally a lighter style of red due to the subtle flavours in Asian foods and crisp white wines with chilli. Saying that a chilled red wine with ginger based dishes is a wondrous thing
Your fellow Masterchef presenter Gregg Wallace is a pushover when it comes to puddings. But what about you? What is your favourite pud (if you have one) and is there a special wine to match?
John: I like a pudding but prefer cheese as that leaves a huge array of different wines that I can drink with it.
What would be your ultimate three-course meal. Wines?
I am not a three course meal person, those times are gone. I can say though that a Semillon or GSM are both pretty versatile and will go with most things
Would you like to cook the meal, or would you prefer to have special treatment as the diner, relishing the wines, the food and the company without all the hard work?
John: For me it is both, do the hard work and taste the food , work out the wine and at the end of the evening enjoy the conversation and opinions of others
Which, in your opinion is the most under-appreciated wine and food pairing – and the most over-rated.
John: The most over-rated is fish and white wine and the most underrated is grilled fish and red wine
Does food have fashion? Does wine have fashion?
John: Food and wine are fashion, they change with the times and are influenced by people, season and the environment, its all ever-changing, always variable and that’s what makes it all so exciting
Some quick-fire questions
Old World or New World. Both Corksrew or screwcap. Both Red, white or rose. Yes please Stilton. Yum Australia. Love it. The UK. Home Tired. Away from home. Food you yearn for. Steak The ubiquitous Masterchef starter: Black pudding, scallops and pea puree. The ubiquitous Masterchef dessert: Chocolate mousse Australian Christmas Day barbecue. Great idea A dish to impress. Keep it simple A wine to relax. Fizzy Pop An Australian winter or a UK summer. Not fussed Savoury or sweet. Savoury Spicy or safe. Never SAFE Heroes and mentors. Many Next steps. Who knows Your legacy? NO , no legacy.