Welcome to my blog. Pull up a chair, find your next read and let’s chat about it!

Spotlight: PAIRED: Champagne & Sparkling Wines by Fran Flynn & David Stevens-Castro

About the Book

Food and wine pairing can be easy! All you need are taste buds and a sense of adventure.

This beautifully presented, full colour recipe book will encourage and support you to experience the pleasure of food and wine pairing for yourself. The first volume showcases sparkling wines of all styles, and challenges usual perceptions by offering sparkling wines with tantalising home-cooked recipes for all courses of a meal, not just with finger food.

The delicious recipes, presented by husband-and-wife team wine expert David Stevens-Castro and food photographer Fran Flynn create a foundation to apply your new pairing skills with confidence. Leave your comfort zone behind, try the unexpected, and bask in discoveries that your taste buds will be forever grateful for.

Renowned award-winning wine expert Tyson Stezler contributes a foreword and discusses the current trends in champagne and sparkling wine consumption.

Aimed at anyone with an interest in food and wine, this book uses a light-hearted and accessible style of language, plus full-colour illustrations to guide you on the right path to understanding food and wine pairings for yourself, with the added benefit of demystifying terminology and explaining wine labelling.

Seven chapters each showcase a style of sparkling wine, present a visual synopsis of the country of origin, supply complimentary cheese ideas, and several recipes that will pair with the topical variety. Every recipe illustrated with full colour photographs is introduced by Fran, while David narrates some pairing suggestions.

Common misconceptions about wine are dispelled, a broad range of dishes suitable for sharing and entertaining are presented, and suggestions on how you can introduce your friends to the wonderful world of food and wine are also provided.

Note: All measurements appear in both imperial and metric format throughout the book.



Photo: Fran Flynn & David Stevens-Castro at

Photo: Fran Flynn & David Stevens-Castro at

Queso fresco, simply meaning ‘fresh cheese’, is a favourite in Spain and many countries in Latin America. It is a light, moist, fresh, mild, creamy cheese that can complement everything from salad to savoury dishes. A light creamy fetta can be used as a substitute. Soaking the fetta in water for a short while will reduce the saltiness if you find it too much.

This pairing suggestion, which unites sparkling rosé with water-melon and mint, should excite your taste buds with the unfamiliar combination of sensations. Watermelon is usually a tricky fruit to wine pair, but the versatility of sparkling rosé is more than a match. The combination of creamy, spicy cheese with the refreshing watermelon and mint, united with the fruity flavour of the sparkling rosé, is sensational.


500g (1lb 2oz) queso fresco or smooth fetta

1 garlic clove, roasted until soft

1 small fresh chilli, seeded
and finely diced

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 tablespoons olive oil

6 tablespoons fresh mint,
destemmed and finely chopped

½ watermelon


Use a blending stick or blender to mix the cheese, garlic, chilli, lemon juice, olive oil and mint
(reserve some additional mint for serving). Process until smooth.


Serve with dipping sticks of chilled fresh watermelon sprinkled with finely chopped mint. Use a small spoon to smear the watermelon with the dip.



Photo: Fran Flynn & David Stevens-Castro at

Photo: Fran Flynn & David Stevens-Castro at

with light cream sauce & chives

This is a beautiful luxurious delicate pasta dish that won’t leave you feeling over full. It’s important to keep the sauce of this recipe light and creamy in texture, so that it doesn’t overwhelm the wine. The tagliatelle is effective at holding the sauce and wrapping it around the seafood as you eat. Many fish shops sell a pre-prepared marinara mix. For freshness of flavour the fish should be bought the same day as you intend to cook.


Suggested match NV New World sparkling, ideally a fresh young wine.


A fresh, citric New World sparkling wine (ie from Argentina, Australia, Chile, New Zealand and the US) will meld beautifully with the pasta flavours. The chives and spring onion create the link between the pasta and the wine, adding a fresh touch to the creaminess of the dish.

Prep 15 min

Cook 10 min

Serves 4


1 packet fresh tagliatelle pasta

2 heaped tablespoons of butter

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

3 spring onions (scallions), chopped

1/2 cup (125ml/4fl oz) dry white wine

200ml (7fl oz) cream

125g (4.5oz) double cream brie, chopped

1½ heaped tablespoons seeded mustard

400g (14oz) seafood marinara mix

bunch fresh chives, chopped


Boil the tagliatelle as per packet’s instructions and set to one side.

Over a high heat melt the butter and add the garlic. Once it starts to sizzle add the spring onions. Reduce heat slightly and stir regularly for about a minute. Add wine and allow to simmer for about 3–4 minutes until the liquid reduces by about a third. Add cream, brie and mustard. Continue to simmer and stir until all the cheese is dissolved.

Introduce the seafood and cook for a further 3–5 minutes, stirring continu-ously, until the seafood is ready to serve. Taste test to check that the seafood is tender.

Transfer to a large serving bowl and sprinkle liberally with fresh chives. In a colander, refresh the tagliatelle by pouring some hot water over it and shake out any excess water. Plate the tagliatelle and use a ladle to spoon the seafood and sauce on top. Garnish with a final sprinkle of chives.


Photo: Fran Flynn & David Stevens-Castro at

Photo: Fran Flynn & David Stevens-Castro at


with ricotta & sun-dried tomatoes

Large juicy portabello mushrooms stuffed with lush, creamy ricotta cheese, paired with a light, fresh prosecco – it’s an easy and very pleasurable combination. This dish even sports the colours of Italy, as well as a sense of Italian flavours. It’s also an ideal share dish and surprisingly rich too. Usually one large mushroom per person is enough for a satisfying starter.

Suggested match Dry non-vintage prosecco ideally from Veneto, Italy

This is a classic example of ‘what grows together goes together’ with the Italian influence of the dish matching nicely with the Italian wine. A light easy-drinking non-vintage prosecco beautifully cleanses the palate after the richness of the ricotta. The potentially strong flavours of the onion, sun-dried tomato and parmesan are pleasantly restrained by the acidity of the wine.


200g (7oz) ricotta cheese,
preferably fresh and full-fat

50g (1¾oz) sun-dried tomatoes,
finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

4 large portabello mushrooms  

½ small red onion, finely diced

1 garlic clove, peeled
and minced

parmesan cheese,
coarsely grated

salt & pepper


Preheat oven to 190°C/375°F. Mix ricotta, sun-dried tomatoes and finely chopped parsley in a bowl and put to one side.

Remove the stems of the mushrooms and finely chop. Gently fry with onion and garlic until just softened. Allow to cool slightly and then add to ricotta blend and mix fully.

Re-grease the same pan with a little bit of oil, to seal the mushrooms. Put on a high heat, add a few drops of water and place a large saucepan lid propped at an angle over the mushrooms to increase humidity and prevent drying while frying. Fry for about a minute each side.

Once sealed, place mushrooms in an oven dish on a layer of baking paper and heap with ricotta mix, until all mushrooms have a dome of the ricotta blend on top. Sprinkle with some parmesan.

Bake for 20–25 minutes or until tender. Transfer to a wire tray and top with some freshly chopped parsley, salt and pepper and a little bit more Parmesan. Serve immediately.

Spotlight: A Veil of Vines by Tillie Cole

Excerpt: Out of Love by R.C. Boldt