Tasting the best of Porto

Its most apt. Uniquely apt. I’m sitting in the charming historic square of the city of Porto proclaimed a world heritage site by UNESCO. It’s settlement dates back many centuries, when it was an outpost of the Roman Empire and its become famous for it’s fortified sweet Port wine. And as a tribute to it, the brilliant young Michelin starred French chef  Julien  Montbabut distils the soul of the city…Port wine into a salad dressing.  I love the way he brings his sensibility and his French identity to create a link between Portuguese and French gastronomy. Having studied in the prestigious Ferrandi and worked with many a Michelin starred chef in France, Chef Julien is multi-talented and his talent shines in  the very casual chic

Monumental café,  offering French and international fare. Housed in the magnificent historic LaMonumental Palace  1923, infused with  the art deco and  art nouveau spirit. It is here we are tasting the burrata cheese, the Portugese rice and very gifted patisseur Joana Montbabut ‘s patisserie.

Burrata, Port wine, rocket salad leaves, nuts and grape

For 6 persons

6 burrata cheese /0.3L tawny red port wine (can substitute with any sweet wine)/ 200g mix salad/30  grapes/ 12 nuts

3 tablespoons olive oil/1 tablespoon old wine vinegar

Some basil leaves

Boil the  Port wine (or sweet wine) and flame it. Then reduce it over low heat until you get a thick syrup consistency. 

Wash the salads, mix them with the nuts. Season with olive oil and red wine vinegar and a pinch of fleur de sel.

Place the salad mixture on the bottom of a plate, place the burrata in the center and the grapes around it.

Season the burrata with a spin of the pepper mill, fleur de sel and reduced port wine.



Im here, in the birthplace of the world famous Port wine. And  not only tasting amazing food but also learning swiftly from the Michelin starred  French chef Julien Montbabut  about the best tips and tricks to cook with wine. Along with what Ive learnt through my travels, here are a few invaluable tips…

Q. What are the different ways, wine is useful in cooking?

*Wine is used ingredient in marinades (infuses acidity).

*As a liquid to cook in.

*Adds moisture to a dish.

*Improves flavour of other ingredients  in the dish.

Q Does using alcohol in cooking  add unique flavour, fragrance, and colour to the dish?

A Color and fragrance yes, but alcohol itself doesn’t add flavour, it does help to improve the taste of other ingredients.It helps to release flavour and aroma molecules in foods, and also aids in dissolving fats.

Q. Should one use “cooking wine” or leftover wines?

A. Here’s the golden rule…only use the wine youd drink and not a plonk. If you use a lousy one it’ll affect the taste of the food.

Q. Is it true that cooking with wine, adds flavour and moisture without adding unhealthy fat?

A Happily it is.

Q. Is wine a replacement for fats and oils in many recipes? 

A. It’s the ideal beverage to replace butter or oil when sauteeing  veggies. 

Q. Any rules for using wine as a marinade?

A It’s  amazingly useful for adding flavor in marinades, and helps to tenderize the  meat. Use a dry red for red meats, a dry or semi-dry white for poultry, or a fortified vintage for prawns, pork and desserts.

Q. While cooking with wine any particular pans should be used?  

A. Stick to stainless steel, glass, or enameled pans.

Q. While cooking is there any particular method to add the wine?

A Always add wine slowly, in small quantities. Very small quanitities. This will  allow theflavours to develop before adding more.Add it slowly and allow 10 minutes to pass before tasting and adding more (if needed).

Q Why is Port wine (or any other fortified sweet wine)  so good to cook with? 

A These fortified wines have intense flavors, and will hold flavors even under the heat of cooking. They last for several months after opening, making them  perfect for cooking with, be it in marinades or sauces.

Here are some thumb rules… 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup of wine will produce approximately 2 tablespoons of reduction.

© 2019 by Rashmi Uday Singh

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