Mon 22 Jun 2015

Breakfast Of (Wine) Champions

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Janet Wynne Evans wishes she’d had this, instead of porridge, to start the day during this year’s Wine Champions blind-tasting campaign.

Janet Wynne Evans The Wine Society

Assessing the candidates at this year’s Wine Champions blind tastings.

While even I would stop short of claiming that a recipe could be life-changing, the discovery of a particularly useful one does make me wonder how I ever got along without it.

Step forward sformata, a kind of soufflé of the most unthreatening and indolent kind. Despite my love of all things Italian, from beautiful cars to bel canto, I hadn’t come across this one until I spotted it earlier this year in the Saturday Guardian (yes, I know, Evans the Champagne socialist is well and truly out of the closet).

Its author, Thomasina Miers, I associate mainly with innovative Mexican recipes, but she’s a lady of many facets and I thank her for the idea below. I give it verbatim, hopefully not only with her blessing but also with her indulgence: as you’ll readily see, it’s a fine template for umpteen variations.

The ingredients are very likely to be found in most fridges: nothing complicated, just eggs, Parmesan cheese, a tub of cream and some green vegetables. I used some leftover braised leeks, and couldn’t resist crumbling in a corner of Stilton that needed rehoming, to very pleasing effect.

Pierre Mansour and Janet Wynne Evans The Wine Society

With Pierre Mansour during the 2015 Wine Champions tastings

Then evolved my favourite brunch version, replacing the Romanesco broccoli below with a couple of vines of baby plum tomatoes, halved and roasted (to get as much water out of them as possible) and a large bag of spinach, wilted with a scrap of butter, lemon juice and white pepper, and brutally squeezed with your bare hands, again to extract the water that will inhibit a good set. I line and top the dish with Parmesan, but inside I use heartier English cheese like Gloucester or Poacher. I‘m sure that by this point it has long since officially ceased to be a sformata, but there it is.

Like many straightforward recipes, this one does create a fair bit of washing up, but the half-hour cooking time is just long enough for you to stack your dishy, or significant other plongeur with the dirties and clear the decks before it’s time to tuck in.

I’d serve my breakfast of Champions with a Champion glass of something elegant, focused and white . This year’s winners offer up some terrific options, including riesling, which is always comfortable with anything eggy. The terrifically multi-tasking and well-priced Zarcillo Bío-Bío Riesling 2014 (£6.50) would be a my choice for every day or, for a special brunch, a cracker from Annegret von Kesselstatt which won all our tasters’ hearts but was too limited in stock to include in the offer: Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Kabinett 2013 (£12.95 – but be quick!).

Thomasina Miers’ Romanesco Broccoli and Pecorino Sformata
(Guardian Weekend, 14th March 2015 )
Serves six.

• A knob of butter
• 120g pecorino or Parmesan (or a mix of both), plus extra for sprinkling
• 1 small romanesco (about 600g); or normal broccoli or cauliflower, core removed and broken into florets
• 4 eggs, separated
• 300ml double cream
• ¼ nutmeg, finely grated
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 200 degrees C (390F, gas mark 6) and rub the butter around a one-litre baking dish*. Scatter over a tablespoon of the grated cheese and shake around the dish to coat.

Bring a pan of salter water to the boil and blanch the romanesco for four to five minutes, until just tender, and then drain and leave to steam dry for five minutes. Once dry, finely chop and transfer to a bowl.

Beat the egg yolks and cream in another bowl until slightly thickened, then stir in the remaining cheese, nutmeg and chopped romanesco, and season well.

In a third bowl, whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks. Stir two tablespoons of the egg whites into the romanesco mix and, once incorporated, carefully fold in the rest, taking care not to over-mix and knock out most of the air.

Tip into the baking dish so the mix comes right up to the rim, dust with a little extra cheese and bake for 30-35 minutes (but check after 25 or so minutes in case you don’t want it to take on too much colour) – when cooked, the sformata should have a slight wobble in the centre and a golden top.

I like to eat this with a crisp green salad dressed in a sharp vinaigrette.

Sformata is surprisingly good warmed through the next day and will turn your colleagues green with envy about your packed lunch: any spare romanesco can be baked as cauliflower cheese.

Janet Wynne Evans
Fine Wine Editor

For a full list of wines that triumphed in our blind tastings to find the best of our best for drinking now, visit our Wine Champions 2015 offer.

* Cook’s note: I usually make this in two half-litre gratin dishes (one for now, one for later). Go for shallow rather than deep . Mine have a base measurement of 7 x 5 inches (18 x 13 cm) and are about 1½ inches (4cm) deep. Reduce the cooking time to 25 minutes and check after 20 – these little beauties brown fast.

Categories : Chile, Germany, Other Europe

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