Timed to Perfection – Food and Whisky Matching for Balblair:
Some time ago I joined an event half way through and met some of the people from Balblair. While I may not have enjoyed some of the ‘timed to perfection’ activities, I did get to taste three vintages of Balblair whisky and to learn a little about the principle of this Single Malt Scotch. Balblair produce ‘vintage whisky’ – so the date on the bottle is the date that all of the whisky in the bottle was distilled and laid down. By contrast a whisky that displays an age ( for example 15 yr old) will be a blend of whiskies from different years, although nothing can be younger than the age stated.
The principle at Balblair seems to be that producing a ‘vintage’ gives a purer result, rather than one where the maker is trying to create something that is overall consistent with each whisky brand. So, in principle, the Balblair vintages will have more noticable differences – even for a novice whisky drinker like me.
They kindly send me some samples of whisky and food matching to try. But, it’s August (no R in the month, so no Oysters) and in any case, I like making my own recipes up. So, I’ve used their tasting notes and the original suggested menu to come up with my own version, though I did keep the chocolate mousse…
Here’s what was suggested:
Balblair 2003 with Citrus Oysters
Oysters on the half shell
Grate the zest from the orange, lime and lemon. Sprinkle over oysters. Squeeze a little juice from each fruit on top
The citrus zest on the oysters complement the citrus notes in the whisky.
As I said, oysters are out of season at the moment, but even though I could probably find some imports I didn’t feel like trying to shuck them. I’ve made my own shellfish dish which takes some of the elements from the suggested pairing, with a grapefruit, avocado and crab salad served with a grapefruit vinaigrette.
Delicious (though, heratic that I am the crab came from Cornwall not Scotland). As suggested the citrus notes in the whisky are brought out by the citrus dressing on the crab. In fact my pairing was not that different to the dish originally suggested for Balblair 1983. Though I left out the ginger and honey, so I’ve got a sharper more acidic dish.
Balblair 1983 with Seared Scallops, Grapefruit, Avocado and Citrus Vinaigrette
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon grapefruit juice (use juice from cutting the fruit)
2 tablespoons olive oil
With a sharp knife, remove the skin and pith from the grapefruit. Cut into segments and set aside.
Cut avocado lengthwise around the seed. Rotate the halves to separate. Remove the seed by sliding the tip of a spoon gently underneath and lifting out. Scoop out the avocado from each half with a spoon. Slice thinly.
Combine ingredients for vinaigrette and set aside.
Season scallops with salt and pepper. Sear in a hot pan on both sides until just cooked.
To assemble, place the scallop on small serving plate. Alternate two slices each of the grapefruit and avocado in front of the scallop. Drizzle with vinaigrette.
The whisky complements the sweetness of the scallop while the vinaigrette complements the fresh fruit and honey notes in the whisky.
I didn’t have scallops – but I did have a rather special honey mustard from Maille. So, instead, I made a lemon, honey and mustard sauce to accompany my veal escalope. The recipe is quite simple and the result delicious. And, I’d like to think the essence of what I have done is essentially the same in terms of matching. My honey lemon and mustard sauce is a fresh fruity and slightly sweet sauce that works perfectly as a pairing with the 1983 Balblair. I served it over a pan fried veal escalope with lots of fresh vegetables. Delicious.
Just in case you want to try this one at home, here’s the recipe for the lemon mustard sauce. I had enough the next day to enjoy it with some foil baked seabass.
Balblair 1990 with Chocolate Mousse
Here’s my recipe for dark chocolate mousse as shown in the photo.
For me this was the most obvious of the pairings – probably helped by the fact that I added a good glug of whisky to the mixture. This is also my favourite of the vintages, slightly spicy and chocolatey, I can imagine curling up in front of the fire with this one later in the year. I actually made my chocolate mousse with a generous glug of whisky. I’d forgotten just how good a simple chocolate mousse could be especially with the addition of a paired whisky. Yes, the mousse does brings out the chocolate notes in the whisky and enhances the spiciness.
With many thanks to Balblair for the introduction to their unique range of whiskies. I’ve really enjoyed pairing whisky with food and in particular I will be serving whisky with desserts more often.