Have you wondered what to do with leftover wine?
Well, of course you can drink it.
But if, like me, you often find a quarter bottle that’s been sitting in the fridge for weeks, use it to whip up your next meal.
Leggy lovely: (clockwise from top left) Make small cuts in the leg and stud the lamb with cloves, star anise and cardamom. Rub in wine and spices, marinate for at least 4 hours and grill. A little charring will lend character and flavour to the meat. Samar Halarnkar
I find leftover wine ideal for sprinkling on veggies or diced and shredded meats in a sizzling wok. I am—alas—no expert on French cuisine, but if you are willing to try your hand at it, you will find much good use for wine.
Here’s the great thing about wine when used in cooking: The alcohol evaporates, leaving only the wonderful flavour of the wine. That happens pretty quickly since alcohol starts turning into sharp steam at 77.7 degrees Celsius, well below the 100-degree boiling point of water.
One good use of wine is as a marinade for fish, chicken, pork, beef and lamb.
As 2010 rolled in, I found myself back home in chilly Delhi after two weeks in the sunnier climes of Bangalore, Coorg and Mumbai. I shivered and surveyed my empty fridge—empty except for two deep-frozen lamb legs and the lonesome, last dregs of a Jacob’s Creek Shiraz Cabernet 2007.
I was freshly inspired by Adventures in Wine Cookery By California Winemakers, a well-preserved gem of a book I found in a Bangalore second-hand bookstore. The blurb said it was “A new collection of recipes published by Wine Advisory Board, San Francisco”.
Well, it was new when it was published—in 1965, the year I was born. Nevertheless, in this age of celebrity chefs, it’s quite exciting to read a simple, inventive collection of recipes by homemakers from the 1960s.
As is usual, I couldn’t find a recipe that quite fit my leg of lamb. So, I crafted my own.
I don’t have rules about using certain kinds of wine with certain kinds of meats, mainly because I don’t know enough, and I don’t know if it matters. As a rule of thumb, I use white wines with fish, and red wines with heavier meats.
Many of the recipe books speak of 24-hour marinations. But given the problems of advance planning, I find 4 hours adequate. You can vary marinations endlessly. What you see here is simply the result of my mood that day.
A word about the leg of lamb you see in the pictures above: It was really quite small, and on a winter evening it was just about enough for two people. It was incredibly tender and I could roast/bake it to coming-off-the-bone tenderness in quicker time than a full chicken. Make sure you get a larger leg if you want to serve more people, especially in the cold season, when meat gets consumed in larger quantities than in the summer.
This really is the time of the year to drink and eat, isn’t it? The wine warms your innards, the oven your kitchen, and a good roast your soul.
Winter Leg of Lamb
750g leg of lamb
1 black cardamom
1/2 star anise
1 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp Chinese 5-spice powder
1 heaped tsp ginger-garlic paste
1/2 cup red wine 2 tbsp sunflower or olive oil
Salt to taste
Clean the leg of lamb. With a knife, make cuts all over, some deep enough to stuff larger spices such as star anise or cardamom (or stick anise and cardamom under loose skin). Push cloves into the cuts. Rub in spice powders, wine and salt.
Reserve leftover marinade and use for basting. Let marinated leg stand in the fridge for at least 4 hours.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Place the leg of lamb on a roasting rack with a drip tray underneath. Grill for an hour, basting frequently with the leftover marinade and sunflower or olive oil. Don’t be alarmed if the outer skin starts to char. Remove the leg, wrap it in foil and put back into the oven, increasing the temperature to 240 degrees Celsius. Keep the oven on for another hour.
Note: Time will vary, depending on the quality of meat. A goat leg could take up to 3 hours.
This is a column on easy, inventive cooking from a male perspective. Samar Halarnkar writes a blog, Our Daily Bread, at Htblogs.com. He is editor-at-large, Hindustan Times.
Write to Samar at email@example.com