Mudgee: wine, figs and friends
If you haven't been to Mudgee before, it's certainly one to put on your list. The wineries are an obvious drawcard but sometimes the journey is just as good as the destination. Pack some great friends, your winter woolies and your drinking boots and immerse yourself in what this region does best - great wine, great food and great times.
Our character led wine tasting experience at The Small Winemakers Centre, Mudgee
On arrival into Mudgee town we were off to a good start as we stumbled across a little cobbled laneway leading to a gorgeous iron gated wine bar and coffee house called Alby & Esthers. There was a mixture of outdoor seating lounges and small tables which surrounded a central tree and a beautifully cozy inside area to the left where the coffee was beckoning. But no, we were offered our very own little private sanctuary, a small light filled room which was nestled into the rear of the courtyard. How special were we. The menu was lovely both drinks (non-alcoholic, wine and cocktails) and food and I opted for a little bit of a strange combo of Bruschetta with hassleback potatoes, zucchini, sun-dried tomato pesto, pomegranate arils (seeds) and a white wine dressing. It certainly sounded a bit 'carb on carb' but I went with it none the less and was rewarded with this beautiful and delicious dish below.
Wine Wine Wine
A day in the wineries with Mudgee Wine and Country Tours saw us at Bunnamagoo Estate, Robert Stein which also houses a motorcycle museam, Pieter van Gent Winery, Lowe Wines, Vinifera Wines and the attached Baker Williams Distillery, with a final stop at the Small Winemakers Centre. Wow what a day, but some great wines were had and the boot was very full. A random stand out was the white port from Pieter van Gent, which was served with a squeeze of fresh lime juice. It's fun when you let the experts at the cellar door take you on a twisted journey and even more exciting when it just works!
Above is the cask hall from Pieter van Gent Winery where the wine tasting takes place. The 20 large old German Oak barrels (circa 1850) came from Penfold Cellars when they were located under Sydneys Queen Victoria Building.
Figs Figs Figs
The following day a friend had alerted us to a 'pick your own figs' moment at Di Lusso Estate wines. The winery has many talents with a huge selection of Italian styled wines, trees and baskets full of luscious olives on offer to purchase, and a stunning outdoor dining moment where you can grab yourself a game of bocce while you wait for your wood fired pizza to cook.
But the figs were the purpose for our visit and at $6 a kilo, that was all we needed to get us there in a flash. I will have to admit out loud, I actually have not really been a fan of figs over the years but after chomping them down as we wondered around the orchard filling our bags, we then had 2 full bags to consume. I’m totally converted and wondered what crazy mind set I must have been in when I’d eaten them in the past. Is it something that grows on you perhaps, a bit like when you are growing up and trying to fall in love with wine and olives. So I'm hooked and now what to do with them you ask? I'm not telling you yet, as there are a couple more little surprises first!
Goats Cheese Goats Cheese Goats Cheese
I had two other fab foodie moments which I just have to share and they came from the return journey of our little excursion. On our way home I remembered we were passing Jannei Goat Dairy and it took little convincing for my fellow travellers to pit stop with us at this delightful little goat dairy just outside of Lithgow. After all we had bag loads of figs so what better food to match with those than goats cheese.
We phoned ahead and were greeted enthusiastically by the resident pooch with his stick and Janette who we dragged away from her bookkeeping duties to run us through her stunning award winning dairy range. Jannei Goat Dairy is a family owned and run artisan goat cheese fromagerie and they've been making cheese since 1995 so they really know their stuff. We sampled curd, cheddar, Buche Noir which was a classic french styled ashed goats cheese, feta, the camembert styled Prairie Cream and the fresh aged white mold cheese called The Bent Back Chèvre. We grabbed our stash and said a quick 'lay ee odl, lay ee odl, lay ee odl-oo' to the goats before departing for our final stop.
Bread Bread Bread
So we had our pre sampled liquid gold wine, hand-picked figs, fresh creamy goats cheese and needed a brilliant loaf of something nice to bring it all home. Enter, Black Cockatoo Bakery in Lawson.
If you haven't heard of these guys yet, well you will soon. They're a new family run, self taught bakery of an amazing assortment of breads and quite possibly the best croissant I have ever eaten. However pulling in to Lawson well after the morning croissant rush, lucky all I was after was a loaf of something nice. These guys really know their stuff and in my opinion, they really have some of the best bread products I have eaten in some time. They are closed Monday's and Tuesday's and then basically open until sold out so get in quick if you have it on your radar. Check out their facebook page for some images of their goods and don't forget to look in there until you see the rolls and rolls of airy croissant images to really get the gist of what I'm talking about.
Spelt loaf with fresh goat curd
Spelt Loaf, goat's feta, fig and salami bruschetta
Any kind of meat, cheese and fig moment is great especially when it's sitting on a gorgeous fresh and chewy, spelt loaf. Yes I know it could probably pair a little better with my favourite San Danielle prosciutto, but Montecatani's fennel and garlic salami (a local Penrith based, speciality small goods producer) was all I had, which was a pretty darn great alternative. More on this producer next time. Drizzle it with your favourite olive oil and perfecto!
Here it is in all it's glory below, our grazing platter of spelt loaf, marinated goats feta, garlic and fennel salami, roasted walnuts and topped it off with one of our excursions wines, the IL Palio 2015 from Di Lusso, which rounded off one of our favourite styled diner moments.
Dessert Dessert Dessert
Now if it was more of a dessert you were after, this delicate hazelnut crusted, spiced custard tart with fresh roasted fig's might just hit the spot. Best eaten once cooled from the oven as the beautiful heart shaped figs do tend to have a little cry if they aren't eaten soon enough. You need a little bit of resting time for this recipe too, so begin it a little sooner than usual.
Fig, hazelnut and spiced custard tart
300ml pouring cream
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 fresh bay leaf
1 cinnamon quill
5 cardamon pods, bruised
1 tbsp of your favourite honey
1 egg yolk
50gm golden castor sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
6 ripe figs, halved
100gm unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and at room temperature
100gm caster sugar
1 egg yolk
200gm plain flour
70gm hazelnut meal
For the pastry, cream butter and sugar in an electric mixer until pale and fluffy. Add egg and yolk and mix until well combined. With mixer on slow speed, add flour and hazelnut meal and mix until just combined. Turn out onto a lightly floured bench and bring together, lightly kneading until a dough is formed. Try not to over mix. Flatten dough into a thick disc shape and wrap with cling wrap. Place in fridge to rest for 30 minutes.
For the custard, heat cream, fennel, bay leaf, cinnamon and cardamon in a small saucepan over medium heat until it begins to simmer. Remove from heat and set aside for spices to infuse.
Prepare a 25cm tart tin by greasing with butter and lightly dusting with flour. Preheat oven to 180C.
Remove pastry from fridge and roll out into a circle, 5mm thick. Carefully line tin with pastry and press into the sides. Trim overhanging edges and blind bake for 20mins or until edges are golden. Remove pastry weights and paper and return to oven for 5 minutes to brown the base.
Heat cream mixture until warm and then add honey and mix to combine. In a seperate bowl, whisk eggs and sugar. Using a strainer, pour warm cream mixture through strainer into egg mixture and whisk to combine. Pour mixture into tart shell and arrange figs on top, placing them so the inside of the fig is facing upwards. Bake for 25-35 minutes or until custard is set.
Remove from oven and set aside to cool slightly before carefully removing from tin. Serve warm or at room temperature.
I used a fan forced setting on my oven to cook this tart.
When re-heating your infused cream mixture, make sure it's not too hot before adding it to your egg/sugar mixture as your eggs may scramble!
Dont forget you extra time for resting in this recipe, so start early.
For looks, this tart is best eaten soon after it is made. You can put it in the refrigerator and eat it the next day, however the figs do tend to run and discolour the custard, but the flavour is probably more pronounced as it has had time to come tome together, so you choose.
This recipe was inspired from a recipe I found in Gourmet Traveller by Brigitte Hafner & Stefano De Pieri.
It's a beautiful time of year for fig's and an especially great time to get your oven cranking with some delicious baking moments. Hope you get a chance to get your baking going too.
LOVE YOUR FOOD MOMENTS... ENYOY!