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Oh, the Places You'll Go! (February 23, 2015)

With thanks to Dr. Seuss

Chile Shrimp and Stir-Fry
Persian Shepherd's Pie
Kachin Pounded Beef with Herbs
Lobster Cake with Lemon-Infused Cream Cheese
Rose and Pistachio Sweetmeats

The Bucket list, Must See Before You Die, 50 Most Beautiful Places in the World, 25 World's Best Places to Visit, plus the most exotic, most remote, and those wonderful places that for right now are simply impossible... the list is endless really; we all yearn to travel and see. Travel does broaden, though, especially the waistline... that one little aspect...

The late Duchess of Windsor was reputed to have said about staying thin, "Travel to a country with terrible food! Egypt is my favourite!" With apologies to Egypt, which is otherwise is a magnificent place, the cuisine is not the reason to go; we know, we've been! We love seeing the world's exotic places, and many of them have wonderful, exciting food as well as history and stunning sites; Persia, Burma, Turkey, Goa, Sri Lanka, Iceland, and more! They're waiting for you, read on for your culinary odyssey.

The brilliant culinary anthropologist Naomi Duguid has done it again, this time with her food and travel book Burma. We were in Burma a few years ago, and had a glimpse of what Duguid has covered in glorious details. Another book she co-authored, Mangos and Curry Leaves by Naomi Duguid and Jeffery Alford, is a culinary journey through the great Indian Sub-Continent, which includes Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Duguid has tasted and translated hundreds of exotic recipes for us so we can try them at home; you'll want to get started on your trip with her now!

We had a house exchange in Reykjavík, Iceland a few years ago; it was a truly magical experience. Icelanders, all 321,000 of them, are surely the nicest people on earth, and what a country! The landscape is stunning with volcanoes and glaciers and hot springs and adorable fuzzy horses plus craggy rocks and waterfalls and lush, rich green meadows surrounded by the north Atlantic Ocean. The basic foodstuffs can be limited, but that hasn't slowed down Icelanders turning local ingredients into haute cuisine. Once again, we've turned to Delicious Iceland by Chef Völundur Snær Völundarson, who has worked in top restaurants all over the world, from Iceland and France to Chicago and the Bahamas. In this beautiful, fascinating book, Chef Völundur has shared his innovative recipes giving us an engaging overview of Iceland's traditional food culture! Meanwhile, take a look at BuzzFeed's delicious take on Iceland: 32 Reasons Why Iceland Is The Best Country Ever.

Acclaimed chef Louisa Shafia has reimagined classic Persian dishes from a fresh, vegetable-focused perspective in The New Persian Kitchen. She's taken classic dishes from her Iranian heritage, and updated and demystified such ingredients like rose petals, dried limes, tamarind and sumac. The net result is a luscious, contemporary take on a time-honored cuisine. With glorious photographs and delightful, personal anecdotes, it will have you yearning to be there in person.

Turkey, by Australian Leanne Kitchen, takes us on an evocative journey into diverse cuisines and culinary customs of regional Turkey, from the refined cooking of the Ottoman court to the rustic simplicity of the fare found roadside in the vast, sweeping countryside. We ate our way through Turkey a few years ago, and we enchanted with this vast land and its cuisines, a delicious combination of East and West. And hey, the Turks taught the Greeks how to cook! Read all about it in Turkey: More than 100 Recipes with Tales from the Road.

On today's menu:

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Chile Shrimp and Stir-Fry

In Mangos and Curry Leaves, Duguid and Alford tell us that they first tasted these chile-hot shrimps in Goa, and later Jeffrey ate a similar chile-hot shrimp dish in Sri Lanka, served as an appetizer with raksi, a strong drink, usually made from kodo millet or rice; it's clear like vodka or gin, tasting somewhat like Japanese sake. This tasty, quick recipe makes a perfect starter to any meal, or a yummy addition to tapas with friends.

  • 1 pound medium shrimp, fresh or frozen
  • 2 Tbsp peanut oil or coconut oil
  • 4 to 6 fresh or frozen curry leaves
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp finely chopped garlic or garlic mashed to a paste
  • 2 to 3 green cayenne chiles, finely chopped, or substitute jalapeños
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp salt
  • One 1-inch piece cinnamon or cassia stick
  • 1 clove
  • 1 green cardamom pod
  • About 1 tsp lime juice
  • 2 limes cut into wedges

Rinse, peel and devein the shrimp. Rinse again and set aside.

In a wok or a heavy skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Toss in the curry leaves, onion, and garlic and stir-fry until the onion is soft and the garlic has begun to grown, 6 to 7 minutes. Add the chiles, turmeric, salt, cinnamon, clove and cardamom and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add the shrimp and stir-fry until they are beautifully pink and just cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes (If they stick as you cook them, add a little water).

Add the lime juice and serve hot with the lime wedges on the side.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Gewurztraminer, dry Muscat, Viognier



Persian Shepherd's Pie

Ah, Persian comfort food! This hearty one-pot meal is a combination of cooked rice with meat and vegetables, baked like a casserole. When done, the rice should be firm on top with a crust of tahdig, or crisp rice, on the bottom which is traditionally served to guests at a meal. Shafia likes to use a 12-inch cast iron skillet because it yields more luscious tahdig than a smaller pan. Make sure you're on Louisa's guest list! From The New Persian Kitchen, by Louisa Shafia.

Start the dish the day before, as the marinating meat will soak up the flavor of the saffron.

Serve with Yogurt with Shallots! (Recipe below.)

Serves 8

  • 6 Tbsp grapeseed oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 8 ounces Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound skinless chicken or turkey thighs or halved breasts, bone in
  • 2½ cups thick Greek-style yogurt
  • 1 tsp saffron, ground and steeped in 1 Tbsp hot water
  • Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups white basmati rice
  • 1/4 cup barberries, soaked in water for 1/2 hour and drained, or sour cherries

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Use grapeseed oil to grease a baking sheet.

In a large bowl, combine the onion and potatoes. Season with the turmeric 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper, and spread in the center of the baking sheet. Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper, and place it on top of the vegetables. Cover with foil and roast for 20 minutes. Uncover and roast for 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender and the chicken is cooked through. Let cool, then bone the chicken and cut the meat into 1-inch pieces.

In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, saffron, lemon juice and zest. Add 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper. Whisk in the eggs, then transfer 1/2 cup of the marinade to a sealed container and refrigerate. Add the chicken and vegetables to the remainder and stir to coat with the marinade. Cover and refrigerated overnight.

Soak the rice in cold water for 30 minutes, then drain and rinse in cold water until the water runs clear.

In a stockpot, combine the water and 2 heaping Tbsp salt and bring to a boil. Add the rice and return to a boil, uncovered. After 3 minutes, test a grain of rice by breaking it in half. The rice is ready when it's soft but the center is still opaque and not fully cooked. Drain and rinse the rice under cold water to stop the cooking.

In a large bowl, combine the reserved 1/2 cup marinade with half the rice. Heat a 10- to 12-inch Dutch oven or cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add 4 Tbsp of the oil. Spread the rice mixture over the bottom and 1 to 2 inches up the sides. With a slotted spoon, lift the chicken and vegetables from the marinade and spread them evenly over the rice. Spoon 1/4 cup of the marinade over the chicken and vegetables, and sprinkle with the barberries. Season with salt and pepper. Spread the rest of the rice over the chicken and vegetables, and spoon the remaining marinade over the top. Smooth the rice with a spatula, gently working in the marinade. Drizzle with the remaining 2 Tbsp oil.

Cover the pan tightly and cook over medium heat for 8 minutes, then turn down the heat to very low. If you have a flame tamer, put it between the burner and the skillet to disperse the cooking heat. Cook for 1¼ hours. Turn off the heat and let the pie rest, covered for 15 minutes.

Loosen the sides of the pie with a butter knife and slice into wedges. Or for a more dramatic presentation, flip the pie onto a baking sheet, then transfer to a platter to serve.

Vegetarian Option:
Substitute diced mushrooms for the chicken, and follow the same instructions for cooking the chicken with the vegetables. After roasting, drain off the cooking liquid before adding the vegetables to the marinade.

Yogurt with Shallots

  • 2 cups thick Greek style yogurt
  • 1 small shallot, finely minced
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine the yogurt and shallot in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours before serving.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Chilled Beaujolais or Chardonnay



Kachin Pounded Beef with Herbs

In Burma, Naomi Duguid tells us that this is one of the most unusual and delicious dishes she has ever come across. As she has travelled more extensively than Marco Polo, and eaten a million meals along the way, this is quite a statement! We loved it too, and while it looks complicated, it really isn't, and the rewards are great! The beef is first cooked in a little water, then briefly fried to firm it up, and finally is lightly pounded to blend the herbed flavor paste into it. The flavor paste includes Sichuan peppercorns, a reminder that China and Kachin State share a long border, and there's been trade across it for centuries. Serve this meltingly tender, seductively warming and deeply flavored beef with drinks!

  • About 1 cup water
  • 1 to 1¼ pounds stewing beef or boneless beef shoulder, trimmed of fat and cut into approximately 1-inch cubes
  • 1 tsp ground Sichuan pepper
  • 1 scant Tbsp peanut oil or vegetable oil
    Flavor Paste
  • 1 Tbsp chopped ginger
  • 2 tsp chopped garlic
  • 2 dried red chiles, stemmed
  • 1 tsp lightly toasted Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed Vietnamese coriander, coarsely torn or chopped

For the beef: Pour 1/2 inch of water into a wok or wide pot, add the beef and Sichuan pepper, and bring to a boil. Cook at a low boil until the meat is tender, 20 to 30 minutes, decreasing the heat gradually as the water evaporates. There should be very little liquid left. Remove from the heat.

Place a heavy skillet or a wok over medium heat, add the oil, and tilt the pan to coat the cooking surface. Add the meat and cook, turning occasionally, until all surfaces have changed color a little, about 6 minutes. Set aside.

For the flavor paste: If you have a large mortar, combine the ginger, garlic, dried chiles, Sichuan peppercorns, and salt and pound and grind to a paste. Add the coriander and pound to incorporate it. Add the meat and pound to blend the flavor paste thoroughly into the meat. (If your mortar is too small to accommodate all the meat at once, remove half the paste and then work with half the meat and half the flavor paste at a time.) The meat will soften and break down but should not be completely pulverized.

Alternatively, mince the ginger and garlic very fine and set aside in a small bowl. Use a spice grinder or coffee grinder to reduce the dried chiles and Sichuan peppercorns to a powder. Stir the powder into the garlic and ginger, then add the salt and use the back of the spoon to blend them together. Chop the coriander fine and blend into the flavor paste. Place the meat in a wide bowl, add the flavor paste, and use a wooden mallet or a wide wooden spatula to press and pound the flavoring into the meat. Serve at room temperature.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Zinfandel, Amarone or Riesling Spätlese



Lobster Cake with Lemon-Infused Cream Cheese

Icelandic Chef Völundur Snær Völundarson says, "It was only around the middle of the last century that Icelanders came to appreciate lobster but they are quick learners. I have tried Chef de Cuisine Emmanuel's recipe for lobster cake on a few of my countrymen who have been guests at the Ferry House Restaurant and I can truthfully say that they thought it was marvelous." It is indeed, rich with a delicate infusion of orange that will leave you tingling! From Delicious Iceland.

Makes 6 cakes

  • 1 lb lobster meat
  • 3 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 2 tsp red bell pepper, finely hopped
  • 2 tsp green scallions, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup plain bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup of freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 Tsp butter
  • 1 cup cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Orange reduction (see below)
  • Some purdie goosefoot or leaves of baby spinach

Place the meat of the lobster in a medium-sized saucepan along with one cup of orange juice, the cloves of garlic and the butter. Cover the saucepan with foil and cook the lobster for three minutes before removing the saucepan from the heat and leaving it to cool. Once it is cool, remove the lobster and chop it into medium-sized bits.

In a bowl make a paste of the garlic, red pepper, green scallions and the egg yolks. Mix the chopped lobster in with the paste along with the bread crumbs, which will firm up the mixture, and spread it out onto a piece of plastic wrap forming a square about one half inch in thickness.

Put the cream cheese in a separate bowl along with the lemon juice and mix these ingredients completely until the mixture is thoroughly smooth. Put a string of the cream mixture on top of the layer of lobster mixture, reaching across it from side to side. Then wrap the lobster mixture around the string of cheese, covering it completely, so that only the ends of the string of cheese are visible. The plastic wrap is used to facilitate the rolling. Keep the roll in the plastic wrap, and when ready, put it in a refrigerator to cool and firm.

The final stage in the preparation of the exquisite delicacy consists in cutting the cool and firm roll of lobster and cheese into bits about one and a half inches in length. If the roll has been cut while still in the wrap, remember to remove the plastic from each bit. The bits are put in an oven, cut end up, and baked for seven to ten minutes at about 400°F or until they are softly golden in colour.

For the arrangement on the plate, Chef de Cuisine Emmanuel recommends a pool of orange reduction. The baked lobster cake is placed in the middle of the pool and the arrangement decorated with some purdie goosefoot.

Orange Reduction

  • 1 cup cream cheese
  • 1¼ cups freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 clove garlic, cut in half

Place a pan on the stove and put in the ingredients in it. Turn the heat on low and reduce the contents of the pan slowly until it turns thick and syrupy. Finally strain the liquid through a fine sieve and let it cool.

The orange reduction should be served at room temperature.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Dry Muscat, dry Riesling



Rose and Pistachio Sweetmeats

There you are sitting at the infamous old Pudding Shop in Istanbul, trading travel adventures with likeminded friends, and enjoying a cup of Turkish coffee and a couple of these rich, utterly sinful Turkish desserts. So the trip across the Karakoram Highway is, well, postponed for now, and going way east in Turkey might be dicey, so we'll just stay right here and eat! Please pass me one more of those sweetmeats... thank you Leanne Kitchen in Turkey.

Makes about 28

  • 2½ cups shelled pistachios
  • 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1 cup superfine sugar
  • 2 Tbsp liquid glucose
  • 3 tsp rosewater
  • Pink pastilles, to decorate
  • Tea or coffee for serving

Put the pistachios and confectioners' sugar in a food processor and process into a very fine meal.

Put the superfine sugar, liquid glucose and 2½ Tbsp water in a small saucepan over medium-low heat and simmer for about 8 minutes, or until the mixture reaches the "soft ball" stage (this happens when a small amount of the mixture will form a soft, pliable ball when dropped into a glass of cold water). Remove from the heat and, with the motor running, pour the sugar mixture into the food processor with the pistachio mixture, adding the rosewater. Process until the mixture forms a paste, then remove to a large bowl and cool slightly.

When just cool enough to handle (the mixture will still be quite hot), use your hands to knead until it is smooth and pliable. Take a mounded 1 tsp of the mixture at a time and use your hands to roll into neat balls. While still warm, press and pink pastille into each, then place in paper cases.

Serve the rose and pistachio sweetmeats with tea or coffee. Rose and pistachio sweetmeats can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.



We wish to thank the following for permission to publish material and photographs:

Ten Speed Press, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, for The New Persian Kitchen by Louisa Shafia. © 2013 Louisa Sahfia. Photographs © 2013 Sara Remington.

Chronicle Books, San Francisco, and Raincoast Publishing, Vancouver, for Turkey, by Leanne Kitchen.

Random House Canada for Burma by Naomi Duguid. Text © 2012 Naomi Duguid. Studio photographs © Richard Jung.

Random House Canada for Mangos and Curry Leaves by Naomi Duguid and Jeffery Alford. © 2005 by Naomi Duguid and Jeffery Alford. Text © 2005 Naomi Duguid and Jeffery Alford/Asia Access and photographs © 2005 by Richard Jung.

Salka Publishing, Reykjavik, Iceland, for permission to publish material from Delicious Iceland: Tales of Unique Northern Delicacies by Chef Völundur Snær Völundarson. Text © Völundur Snær Völundarson and Haukur Ágústsson. Photographs © Hreinn Hreinsson. © Salka Publisher, For more information and glorious photographs, go to A special thanks to Sigrún Böðvarsdóttir at Salka for her patience and enthusiasm in showing us so much more about Icelandic culture.


Download this article in printable form as an Adobe Acrobat PDF (181 KB)

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Happily enjoyed by Helen Hatton and Ron Morris.

Helen Hatton and Ron Morris at Le Caveau des Gourmets in Gigondas




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