In the 15 years that I have worked in wine, I have visited more than 100 countries around the globe. Along the way, I recorded the aromas, colours and amazing flavours of each of the local cuisines that I encountered, alongside some mind-blowing wines. In my new book Wines & Recipes I share these experiences.
The inspiration for this book was my desire to turn the spotlight onto lesser-known grapes and wine styles (as well as some more familiar favourites), paired with delicious recipes. This is not intended as a textbook or manual: it’s a practical guide with information presented in a fun and straightforward manner, placing more emphasis on wine than on food.
Although we all grow up eating food, we don’t all grow up learning about wine. My aim is to share my knowledge of different wine styles, and how best to pair them successfully with food. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be complicated.
My personal approach to food and wine pairing is very simple. My main goal is to enjoy a delicious wine with a tasty recipe. I always start with the wine, and then choose a dish that will match the fruit aromas and flavours that you can find in the wine, and that has a similar body.
Buy the book Wines & Recipes
Mussel soup recipe
When I was growing up, my aunt Golla influenced me immensely in the kitchen. She taught me that it’s vital to know how to cook, but it’s even more important to have a connection to the ingredients you’re cooking. My family enjoyed this mussel soup at nearly every Sunday lunch.
Time 30 mins
- 1kg mussels in shells
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 white onion, finely sliced
- 1 carrot, peeled & finely diced
- 1 red pepper, julienned
- 2 garlic cloves, sliced
- a pinch of dried chilli flakes
- a pinch of ground cumin
- a pinch of dried oregano
- 100g long grain rice
- 2 bay leaves
- 100ml whole milk
- 1 egg yolk
- sea salt and black pepper
1. Wash the mussels well, removing the beards and any barnacles. If any are open, give them a sharp tap – if they remain open, discard.
2. Heat a large saucepan over a medium heat and add the mussels. Cover them with 250ml water and bring to the boil. Turn down to a lively simmer, put the lid on, and cook for about 4 minutes, or until the shells have opened. Remove the mussels and set aside, reserving the broth the mussels were cooked in. Discard any mussels that haven’t opened.
3. Heat the olive oil in another saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, red pepper and garlic. Cook gently until the onion is translucent and the vegetables have softened, about 10-15 minutes.
4. While the vegetables are cooking, remove most of the mussels from the shells, reserving a few in the shell for garnish.
5. Add the chilli flakes, cumin and oregano to the cooked vegetables and season with salt and black pepper. Stir to combine, then add the reserved broth, the rice and the bay leaves. Bring to the boil, turn the heat down and simmer for 8-10 minutes until the rice is cooked.
6. Add the milk and egg yolk and stir to incorporate, then add the de-shelled mussels and heat through for another 2-3 minutes.
Serve with a few mussels in their shells placed on the top of each bowl.
Wines to go with mussel soup
Verdelho is an aromatic grape that has extremely high acidity with a mix of citrus, stone fruits and floral notes. When the grapes are allowed to ripen fully, lovely aromas of honeysuckle enhance the wine’s profile. The combination of high acidity and great fruit character will match perfectly with this recipe.
Off-dry Gewurztraminer is a perfumed and full-bodied white wine. With a touch of residual sugar, this has added texture and richness that are balanced by delicious tropical fruits. Lychee notes in particular will pair really well with the spiciness of the mussel soup.
Raul Diaz is the author of Wines & Recipes, published in November 2020 (£30, Merken, www.winetraining.co.uk)