Some avid readers might remember me attending a special Jacob’s Creek ‘Our Table’ event at the beginning of this year in conjunction with their Novak Djokovic ‘Who Makes You’ campaign. I wrote about why food has helped to ‘make me’ and shaped many of my experiences in my life (to refresh your memory, click here).
Being able to have the opportunity to be sponsored by Jacob’s Creek to host my very own intimate ‘Our Table’ in my own home with some of my closest friends was such an honour and a challenge. Who would I invite? What would I cook? How would I theme the evening? With wine matching taken care of by Chief Winemaker Ben Bryant, all the finer details were down to me and I wanted to create the perfect evening.
It turns out, that when good friends and food are involved, things have a way of working out just the way they should.
Choosing guests was easy. When I thought about who defined me, and who makes me who I am and inspires me, the choice wasn’t hard. My Mum, but she had already attended the earlier event with me. That left the other women in my life, the fierce, loyal, funny, intelligent, brave and beautiful women I am so lucky to call my best friends. And fittingly, they are my wine tribe.
We have drank wine together at girls dinners that have continued well into the evening. We have drank wine together at extravagant dinners (usually organized by me) that have depleted our bank accounts. We have drank wine together over cheap dumpling dinners, grabbing a bottle from the BYO on the way in. We have had wine together in the afternoon on balmy Summer days overlooking the ocean. We have had wine in front of the fire whilst wearing our pajamas and polishing off a whole block of chocolate. We have had wine together with our dogs and our boyfriends and our families. We have shared wine over wedding tables, and raised bubbly toasts. We have drank wine through tears, broken hearts and lost friends and family members. We have drank wine together in New Zealand, in the most stunning wineries overlooking snow-capped mountains.
When I look back over my twenties, these are my most memorable times- here in my beloved Melbourne, travelling through various places in Victoria and Australia, or even overseas. But I am always surrounded by wonderful women and we are always laughing over a meal with a glass of wine beside us. So, being able to have this memory made with some of my best friends in my own home (Confession: Mum’s home, mine was too small), eating delicious food with matched wines and a roaring fire in the background seemed the most fitting way in the world to bring in Winter.
My theme of comfort food, brought to life with rustic Italian food; antipasto plates, bruschetta on charred bread, a slow cooked duck and wild mushroom ragu with black pepper pappardelle, an incredible baked Ricotta cheesecake with marsala strawberries was what Winter is to me. Food that isn’t always good for the hips, but is wonderful for the soul especially when shared with good company and paired with good wine.
On the topic of friendship, there is something so awesome about foodie friends. When you are truly passionate about food, and when you find someone else who is truly passionate about food, there is a great friendship to be found. I have found this throughout my journey through the Melbourne food scene, and the help on the evening from Daniel Tonin, better known as Danny Pasta was no exception. When I rang Danny to ask if I could source some pasta off him (the best in Melbourne, check out his Instagram, or his shop Pasta Classica) he immediately offered to jump on board and help out. His food knowledge, his suppliers, his expertise and presence in the kitchen on the evening was so appreciated and it is because of his delicious cooking that my friends were in a constant state of “Yum” and “Oh my god this is so good”, and “That pasta!” and “This cake is to die for!” all evening (those of you who watched my Instastory on the night will know I am not joking!)
For any of you out there who would like to host your very own celebration of food, wine and friendship with your #WineTribe, check out Daniel Tonins’ incredible Duck Ragu recipe below. Ours was made extra special with added foraged Pine Mushrooms, a touch you could definitely make yourself. I personally love ragu with pappardelle, but any thick pasta would do just as well. Cheers to friendship, food and wine; the three things that make my world go round.
Have a delicious day (hopefully with matched wines!)
Danny Pasta’s Duck Ragu
100 grams Portobello mushrooms sliced thick
2 duck breasts skin on
1 small brown onion peeled and chopped finely
1 carrot chopped into small cubes
2 celery sticks chopped into small pieces
80 grams of pancetta
2 stems of thyme
1 stem of sage
150 ml of white wine ( not a sweet wine )
400 or 500 gram tin of tomato passata
Start with a heavy based pot on low heat, add the onion, carrot, celery and pancetta and cook until the onions start to go translucent. Increase the heat to high and add your duck breasts and the herbs and cook until the duck is braised all over then reduce the heat to medium. Continue cooking and stir the duck and vegetables for about 5 minutes so the flavours come together. A
dd the mushrooms and cook and stir until the mushrooms start to soften the add your wine and cook until it evaporates.
At this point add some salt and pepper to season always remember you can add more later. Stir the seasoning through then add the tomato passata, reduce the heat to low and cook for about 30-40 minutes stirring the sauce throughout the sauce at random times so it doesn’t stick.
Once the cooking times is up, turn the heat off.
With a fork remove the skin from the duck and with a spoon stir the pot so the duck meat breaks up.
Once the pasta is cooked drain the pasta in a strainer and place the pasta back to its boiling pot.
Plate up the pasta first and add the ragu on top. Sprinkle with some fresh herbs to serve.