Made from the heart

Sam Miranda with The Westin Denarau's five female chefs. Picture: FELIX CHAUDHARY

WHAT happens when you marry five Fijian female chefs to a renowned Australian vintner — the result is nothing short of magical.

This unusual culinary pairing was the hallmark at a wine dinner at The Westin Denarau Island Resort and Spa last Saturday.

And if we were to take Sam Miranda’s word for it, wine and fine dining culture is taking a firm foothold on the local scene.

Sam Miranda is the man behind wines of the same name which are produced from grapes grown in King Valley in Victoria, home to some of the best vintages from Australia.

“I’ve been doing wine dinners here for the last three or four years now but what the girls did tonight was probably the best I have ever experienced,” he shared.

The “girls” Sam was referring to were Praneeta Devi, Sadhana Devi, Ulamila Yalayala, Shavnita Archal and Arishma Devi — the five chefs chosen by Sheraton and Westin Resorts executive chef Prabhat Kumar Prawin to prepare the five-course dinner.

Chef Prawin said he was proud of how his wards fared at the event. “They have been nothing short of wonderful students, they were eager to learn and they are under our training and development program,” he said.

“We gave them the opportunity to come up with dishes they were familiar with and challenged them to take it to the next level and that is exactly what they did.”

First up was Praneeta Devi’s starter — bush lemon infused chicken cooked in wild bamboo stem on open fire with jackfruit puree, pickled Indian gooseberry, tangy tomato relish and local peanut Sadhana Devi prepared the second course at the event.

This was paired with Sam Miranda King Valley Riesling 2018 — the sweet white contrasted well with the spicy chicken appetiser. She prepared and served coconut seared tuna, pumpkin puree, mango salsa, crispy plantain and lolo sauce.

This was served with Sam Miranda King Valley Pinot Grigio 2017 — a slightly heavier white wine which paired well with the dish. Ulamila Yalayala prepared the entrée — mint crushed lamb loin rack, kawaii gratin, pigeon peas, pumpkin puree, sautéed baby okra, watercress oil and lamb jus.

This was accompanied with Sam Miranda King Valley Tempranillo 2013.

The main by Shavnita Archal was slow cooked lovo beef brisket, garlic-herb roasted orange kumara, coconut-ots harissa and Fiji Rum jus — this was paired with Sam Miranda King Valley Barbera 2013. Arishma Devi’s dessert — tropical coconut banana delight with cream of banana, roasted fresh coconut, bu glass jelly, semi-sweet ivi crunch, mango sauce and coconut lime sorbet — was a hit, accompanied by Sam Miranda Ballerina Moscato 2014. Sadhana said her dish brought back memories of her life in Wairabetia, Lautoka, where she grew up.

“Chef Prawin asked us to take something familiar and to turn into a fine dining dish and I prepared and served the tuna this way because it reminded me of my childhood,” Sadhana shared.

“My dad was a fisherman and whenever he got tuna, my favourite chef, mum, would prepare it with coconut milk.

“And the lolo sauce, mango salsa and pumpkin puree is also another reminder of my childhood and the fruit and vegetables we all grew up with in Lautoka.”

For Sam Miranda, having Sadhana and her peers prepare familiar dishes with a touch of pizazz was the perfect accompaniment to his wines.

“The presentation, the finesse and attention to detail and passion they showed from their childhood — they brought food that they saw their mums cook and they grew up with — it really struck a chord with my wines,” he said.

“When it comes to wine, we make wine from the heart — we grow the grapes, we pick them and we make them.

“And to come here and see the way people have taken to our brand has been great.

“When you marry wine that’s made from the heart with food that comes from the heart, it culminates into a great experience,” he said.

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