ON March 26, 2020, dinner-kit delivery platform UCOOK will launch of the option of adding a bottle of wine suitably paired with the recipe you choose – one more way to make busy lives easier. David Torr, founder of UCOOK, says “professional sommeliers from South Africa’s best wine farms are working with UCOOK’s chefs to design and create meals with wine in mind, paying careful attention to ingredients that will work with flavour profiles and varietals.
“Customers will have the opportunity to explore the wines that have been carefully paired with each dish, add the ones they’d like to enjoy with their chosen meals, and learn a bit more about each wine with our tasting notes and tips,” he continues. “Customers will also be able to add any wines they’d like outside of the pairing to their order, or simply purchase wine only, with a new checkout feature on the UCOOK site.”
Ahead of the launch, UCOOK sent me two meal kits with wine to test. Each month there will be a featured wine farm (Warwick is first up); for the purposes of this exercise, the recipes were by Lapo Magni of Lapo’s Kitchen, and the wines were from Delheim. From the available choices, I first selected ostrich tagliata with Tuscan roasted potatoes and a balsamic and fig jus. It was paired with Delheim Merlot 2017. I wrote a story about Lapo for Daily Maverick last year, and it was the dish he prepared for me while we were chatting. I was keen to see how my version would turn out.
Pretty darn well, actually.
If this is all new to you, the concept is that the brown paper bag is filled with all the ingredients you need to make the dish. There’s a recipe card which indicates the cooking time, as well as how long you have to make it (i.e. number of days until the ingredients are not so lekker anymore). You should have some pantry basics like salt, pepper, good olive oil and so on. It’s a good idea to read all the instructions first because the steps are not necessarily in the most efficient order. It’s basic kitchen sense to do this anyway.
For this recipe, and the other one (chicken al lemone with sweet potato mash and broccoli, paired with Delheim Pinotage Rose 2019), the veggies shared the oven and cooking time, and had to be coordinated. It helps if you do your mise en place; step five of the chicken dish says to rinse and pick the parsley leaves, discard the stalks, peel and grate the garlic clove, and finely chop the whole lot. It’s far better if you’ve already done this at the beginning. If you’ve got a mini gadget that does it for you, wonderful. I have a cute little Tupperware one which works by pulling a string that operates the blade and it’s truly magical for small amounts of stuff.
For the ostrich dish I pretty much did as I was told. The recipe card listed 15ml of coconut sugar which was not present nor was it in the steps, but the balsamic glaze with the figs was plenty sweet enough. I found it needed much longer to reduce than indicated and it never did get truly sticky (it used quite a bit of beef stock). That didn’t detract from the success of the flavours though. I’d had a couple of glasses of the Merlot by then but I’m reasonably sure I cooked the ostrich fillets a little less than the recommended six to eight minutes, and they were perfect. The potatoes were golden, and I like the combination with the roasted broccoli.
Which is why when I came to cook the chicken, I did the same thing with the sweet potato and broccoli. Also, I didn’t have milk to make the proper mash with ground almonds in Lapo’s recipe. For this one, the chicken breasts are butterflied and hammered flat (use cling film and a tin of something, which will never look the same again), and coated with psyllium husks, which is a rather clever way of doing it, that I’d never thought of before as a low-carb way to “crumb” something.
As for the wine pairings, they worked, which quite frankly is what I expected since it’s the entire basis for the story. I’m sure it will be helpful for time-strapped home cooks who want to put something delicious on the table in less than an hour, with a glass of something nice to wash it down.
Overall, it was a positive experience, from the actual delivery to the finished product. I’d definitely make both dishes again. Lapo’s dishes are still up on the site at the moment, and he’s very much about ethical and sustainable ingredients. Read my previous story here, and check out the website for more information on these and other menus.