hide captionOperatic tenor Joseph Calleja has a passion for music, food and wine.
Operatic tenor Joseph Calleja has a passion for music, food and wine.
We are now in the winter months in my home country of Malta, and we tend to steer away from the fish and seafood dishes that dominate our summers. This time of year we eat more red meats and delicious game. Below are three of my favorite mouthwatering dishes, with music pairings, and a few good wine suggestions, too.
This is a Maltese favorite — simple, quick and truly delicious. Start by frying some garlic in a little olive oil. When it turns brown, add the rabbit (cut into portions) and fry it very slowly until it becomes brown outside and soft, tender inside. In Malta we serve this with French fries, known as "chips," fried in goose fat diluted with regular sunflower oil and sprinkled with sea salt. When it comes to wine, a great pairing for this dish is a St Emilion La Serre from the 2004 vintage. This is a grand cru Bordeaux that doesn't cover the medium to delicate taste of the rabbit. Last but not least, the music. I would suggest the "Capricho Arabe" by Francisco Tarrega. The romantic and exotic sounds of this solo guitar piece compliment the whole experience and will not get in the way if the company is on the loud side.
This is another very simple but extremely delicious dish. Ideally, this should be cooked on the branches of dried vines, as the quail will benefit from the delicate heat and aroma. Start with a couple of deboned quail and cover both sides with a mixture of honey, ginger and a little squirt of lemon. Season with fine salt and grill both sides until the meat acquires a golden hue. It is important to avoid turning the quail too often, and never press it down as you will only expel the wonderful juices that should remain on the inside. Side dishes could be roasted potatoes with rosemary and spinach served with butter and lemon. The fairly neutral taste of the latter will not interfere with the delicate quail. A great wine for this dish is, again, a Bordeaux — try a 1982 Chateau Figeac. Accompany it all with a Symphony from Mozart, and you have the makings of a unique culinary-music experience. I'd suggest the Symphony no. 25. This is one of the symphonies that really cover the whole gamut of emotions.
This food-music-wine combo is perhaps the boldest in taste — everything is full-bodied. Here we grill a whole fillet mignon on dried olive branches. A useful place to start is rubbing the grill with sunflower oil to prevent the meat from sticking. Prepare the fillet by cutting off the excess fat. Rub it with sea salt (better if it's whole) and whole pepper. Grill it extremely slowly on a low heat. As with the quail above, avoid turning the meat often or pressing it to the grill. In a frying pan prepare the foie gras (try to get it from producers who do not force feed their geese!). Simply put the raw foie gras in a pan and cook slowly till it browns. Once ready, simply place it atop the fillet and serve. This is a big, rich meal, so it needs a strong wine. I would suggest a Château Angelus from St Emilion or a Grand Corbin-Despagne from the same region. Both are fantastic wines and most vintages prior to 2005 would be excellent accompaniments. Now for the music. When I think full-bodied, I think Rimsky-Korsakov. With its fabulous orchestrations and oriental touches, Scheherazade would be an ideal choice.