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Pair it right

Published : Dec 10, 2015, 9:40 pm IST
Updated : Dec 10, 2015, 9:40 pm IST

Winter may not have exactly set in; we aren’t reaching for our woolies yet but it’s December alright!

A mutton dish would do well with wine, that has a hint of sweetness, as this cuts down the spices of the hot preparation.
 A mutton dish would do well with wine, that has a hint of sweetness, as this cuts down the spices of the hot preparation.

Winter may not have exactly set in; we aren’t reaching for our woolies yet but it’s December alright! While we binge on rich foods, we also need the right set of drinks to pair well with our winter diets.

Fine malts, which offer peat or smoke, are the perfect choice for succulent and robust kebabs and tandooris, which are meant to be relished this season. Malts do not overwhelm the flavour or texture of the food. On the contrary, it only enhances it. Slow cooked lamb curry is yet another recommendation which goes well with bourbon whisky. And while on mutton, relish kosha mangsho, a Bengali preparation, with a scotch. With its high malt content, it accentuates the flavours of this sweet-spicy rich dish.

Whisky alone need not be the drink for winter — wines are another great options while digging into indulgent winter dishes. For those who are experimental, butter chicken and Chardonnay are a personal endorsement. The meat and wine complement each other perfectly. A spicy rogan josh made with mutton or a nalli nihari, which are oft relished when there’s a chill in the air, would do well with a wine, that has a hint of sweetness, as this cuts down the spices of this hot preparation. A Pinotage, with its fresh, palate-cleansing acidity would also be an ideal mate to the meat. But wine with intrusive tannins shouldn’t be paired with heavy meat-based dishes.

Ajit Balgi, a beverage consultant and wine professional, elaborates, “Winter food is all about keeping oneself warm. Fat, spice, red meat and winter veggies should be hence consumed liberally. Sarson ka saag (a vegetarian dish made of mustard leaves and spices), kosha mangsho (a spicy Bengali mutton curry), undhiyo (a mixed vegetable dish from Gujarat) are a few popular winter foods. Pair these foods with spirits that have the acidity to cut the fat and complement the spice. My picks would be red wines like fruity and floral Kiwi Pinot Noirs, rich Chilean Carmeneres and luscious Indian Syrahs, Chardonnays and Austrian Rieslings. Coming to spirits, whisky sours flavoured with teas, jalapeno margaritas and whole spice fruit Martinis also making for an interesting pairing.”

Contrary to popular belief, beers are good for the winters too. The main flavours in the beer — malty, hoppy, nutty, citrus, fruity, — should be kept in mind when selecting the dish you are pairing it with. The key flavours of the dish must be equally taken into consideration. Is your dish spicy, or buttery, or roasted Choose a beer accordingly. Beer lovers can opt for aromatic, fruity beers with creamy, winter foods. A Goa sausage or choriz pulao can be safely enjoyed with a hearty lager. For a BBQ dinner replete with grilled meats, opt for a stout.

And for those willing to experiment further, 60 ml of rum, 150 ml of beer and 35 ml of lime juice with a dash of vanilla extract makes for a good cocktail this season. Pairings are an art no doubt and have certain rules too, but your own taste is the final judge.

Mini Ribeiro is a food writer.