Do you know what is one of my favourite things about growing up? Apart from having chocolate for breakfast whenever you feel like it, drinking wine with dinner and going to bed past midnight on a schoolnight? It's getting to know your family as people, and not just as uncle/cousin/brother etc. When you're looking forward to seeing them not because they have a trampoline, but because you actually enjoy their company.
I'm blessed with a wonderful family, and two of the people whose company I particularly enjoy are my uncle Charles and aunt Marietta. They lived in Cape Town for a while, and I stayed with them when I attended a course there. Every night we had some great food, sampled some of Charles's wine collection (Marietta isn't much of a wine drinker, so my uncle was happy to have somebody to share his wine with), and chatted late into each night. Those two exhausted me, and every morning was hard work paying attention in class. I loved it.
On a subsequent visit, I suggested a visit to Waterford estate in Stellenbosch, which had a chocolate and wine tasting on offer (for those of you visiting Cape Town, maybe during the World Cup, may I suggest this beautiful place?). I could see Charles wasn't too impressed with this silliness, but drove us there anyway, in his very elegant Mercedes, over dirt roads. I was getting more worried by the minute about my choice of activity, and offered to pay for the whole day in case it turned out to be a diaster. It didn't, it was fabulous, and Marietta told me afterwards that Charles couldn't stop speaking about how much he enjoyed it.
The successful marriage of wine and chocolate appealed to me, and I often have my chocolate with a glass of wine for added fabulousness. And how wonderful was it to see that the new Sugar High Friday/Wine blogging Wednesday challenge theme was Tender Twosomes, pairing dessert with your choice of tipple.
I pulled out a recipe I've been wanting to try for ages, these chocolate, banana and blue cheese dumplings. I once saw a program on the Discovery channel about food science, which said that blue cheese and chocolate is a good match, as they have similiar molecular structures (or something), and I've been on the lookout for recipes using the happy couple ever since. I found this recipe in a copy of Taste, the most beautiful South African foodie magazine on offer, licked my lips and tore out the recipe (it was my mother's copy. Sorry mum.)
And it was everything I expected and more. Each bite greets you with lovely sweet banana in a bittersweet chocolate embrace, topped with surprising little pockets of rich saltiness in between. I don't think I would have been able to place the flavour as blue cheese necessarily, but the threesome of flavours complemented each other perfectly (or is this taking the metaphor too far?).
The wine suggestion that came with the recipe was a sauvignon blanc, in particular a South African Jordan Blanc Fume 2006, but I unforunately didn't have any, being in another country and all that. Also, I wanted a shiraz anyway, so off to the wine shop I went. And what caught my eye was a 2003 Skillogalee. The words "basket pressed" and a silver medal sticker clinched the deal, and even the price was friendly at just over $30 for the bottle. I almost had Skillogalee before. The Fabulous Man always has quite a few bottles of wine in his collection, and generally they're for drinking, except this one bottle he always forbid me to use, as he was saving it "for a special occasion". I was happily awaiting this special day. You know what it turned out to be? A weekend visit with friends WHEN I WAS PREGNANT and couldn't have any!!! I was not impressed, and the poor man was forced to find another bottle to save for when I'm in a drinking way again.
As I'm still responsible for the majority of the Little Girl's food, I could only have a couple of sips of the shiraz with the dessert. I want to say it was delicious, but I know that's not good winespeak, so the Fabulous Man contributed the following: a full-bodied wine, rich and smooth, with hints of black pepper and cherry. I wasn't sure if this will satisfy the wine buffs, so I did some research.
This shiraz won silver medals 2004 Royal Melbourne Wine Show and the 2005 Royal Hobart Wine Show, and bronze medals at the 2005 Royal Queensland- and Royal Adelaide Wine Shows. It is described as "powerful, rich, concentrated blackberry, bitter chocolate and spice, with good oak and tannins." Like I said: delicious.
I can't wait to make this for dessert again. A good substitute for the banana, in case you're not a fan, will be poached pear, and I will definitely try that at some stage. I also found my tablespoon size dumplings a tad to large, and will make them smaller next time. If you want to try this recipe, a word of warning: when you fry these little treasures, some of the chocolate melts into the oil, colouring the oil and hence the dumplings a dark brown, and it starts to burn very soon. Use a small pan, and be prepared to change the oil often. Otherwise it's perfect as it is, and I hope you'll have the opportunity to make it for a loved one soon.
Chocolate, banana and blue cheese dumplings with pistachio dust
Enough for 6
For the dumplings
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 ripe bananas, thinly sliced
100g dark chocolate, chopped
60g blue cheese, crumbled
oil for frying
For the pistachio dust
50g pistachio nuts
30g icing sugar
To make the dumplings: Beat together the egg, buttermilk and sugar. Mix in the remaining ingredients.
Heat some oil in a small saucepan. Drop teaspoonfuls of the mixture into the oil and fry until golden brown. Change the oil when it becomes too dark. Drain on absorbent paper.
To make the pistachio dust: Grind the nuts and the icing sugar in a small food processor until fine. Sprinkle over the hot dumplings.
Serve with your favourite Shiraz.