At Uncorked Academy we love Halloween and this year was no exception. My seasonal pairing menu uses Autumnal produce available in Barcelona and I had a lot of fun picking out the local Catalan wines to pair with the food. Guests arrived dressed for Halloween; those who didn’t come in costume were sent to the fancy dress box to pick something out. On the table, candles burned and flickered. We were ready for our Haunted House dinner pairing to commence!
First on the menu was a roast chestnut, fresh fig and feta cheese salad. I adapted a recipe I found online, to add feta instead of goats cheese, baby tomatoes and apple balsamic reduction to balance out the sweetness of the perfectly ripe figs and the chestnuts.
For this dish, I was looking for a light but nuanced red wine (like a Pinotage) and then chose a dark Syrah 100% rosé by Grau I Grau (D.O. Pla de Bages). The chilled rose makes a great accompaniment for the salad. Barrel aged and with cherry notes, it works with the roast chestnuts, compliments the figs and contrasts with the feta cheese. It has enough character to bring out each different flavour in the dish.
Something that I have been making at home every year for Halloween and it is so simple, I had to include Thai Pumpkin Soup as the next course. Roast squash and pumpkin is then sautéed with leek, garlic, ginger and lemongrass, with spices added and coconut milk, lime and coriander to finish.
Such an aromatic and lightly spicy soup pairs perfectly with a Riesling, but I wanted to try it with a wine that I have recently added to my bodega wine store. The Picapoll 100% wine by Cent Kat (D.O. Pla De Bages) with its zesty acidity and apricot apple aromas is my answer to a German Riesling, albeit with a little more body.
The main course needed to be meaty and wholesome, with nutty and mineral notes, as I had already decided on my Halloween wine for this dish: Red Bat by Pinord (D.O.Q. Priorat). This is a fruity blend of Garnatxa y Cariñena with four months of ageing and the body and minerality renowned for the region. This particular wine also donates proceeds to help protect the bats of Catalunya, and bats are one of the iconic symbols of Barcelona afterall!
I made a mushroom lentil nut roast full of gamey flavours and herbs, with a dollop of fresh romesco sauce on the side and some crisped kale. If you have never tried romesco (a favourite with Catalans) it is made using roasted tomatoes, peppers, garlic, hazelnuts and almonds which are ground into a pulp using a mortar and pestle. The result is a juicy tomato, garlic, nutty tomato paste and it worked remarkably well with the mushroom lentil roast, the kale and the Priorat wine. My guests agreed!
For dessert I had to go the traditional route. Being from Ireland I have long been used to apple pie for Halloween, nothing will ever take its place. So with stewed apple and a crumbly buttery pastry, the pie was served with cinnamon and vanilla infused cream (actually greek yoghurt) and a scattering of pomegranate.
In order to bring out the baked flavours and also the apple, I went with the Pares Balta Cava Brut (D.O. Penedes). The crisp bubbles are fantastic with anything creamy, and the toasted notes stood out a mile when combined with home made pie. Delicious!
The idea for this seasonal menu pairing was to cook healthy and satisfying food that is not difficult to make, with produce available for the season. I cannot event start to list the number of nutrients packed into the dinner, it was a veritable powerhouse of goodness.
I should also mention that although the dinner was not intended to be vegetarian or vegan, I felt inspired by the harvest and the season so the dishes were either entirely plant-based or with vegan options (salad without feta cheese added and stewed apple with chopped nuts, cinnamon and vegan ice cream).
The vegans who attended were delighted to be eating “real food” and not second-rate options to be found in many Barcelona restaurants. My normally-meat-eating diners were perfectly sated with the menu and impressed with the dinner.
During the evening we had a few macabre readings to add to the ambience. I had prepared (credits to Ryan) a series of short quotations from notable horror literature, plays or films.
The guests each found a quotation under their seat and took turns in reading out their text. The rest of the party had to guess the author and origin. For anyone looking for Halloween dinner party ideas this is a good conversation starter!
Halloween is not just for kids, it’s a great time to reconnect with the harvest season, with new people and with wine of course!
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