Recipes for starters from Russell Brown of Sienna Restaurant, Dorchester

PUBLISHED: 16:15 14 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:58 20 February 2013



Recipes and wine matches from Russell Brown, of Sienna Restaurant, and Jonathan Charles from The Dorset Wine Co

Recipes and wine matches from Russell Brown, of Sienna Restaurant, and Jonathan Charles from The Dorset Wine Co

Part of the joy, for me at least, of a good meal is the anticipation. This applies whether I am cooking it or eating it! When a new dish goes on our menu, I've been living with it in my head for a long time, finally imagining how the food will be presented and how it will taste. Eating out or a special meal at home carries the same sense of anticipation. I really don't like seeing the menu before I sit down in a restaurant. I probably know the style of food, the chef's reputation, maybe even some signature dishes, but I want the excitement of that first glance at the menu!

The build-up to dinner is always heightened by a great apritif and some canaps as both serve to sharpen the appetite. I'll let Jonathan wax lyrical about the various styles of sherry suitable as an apritif, but let's just say that a glass of cool, crisp, tangy Manzanilla would make me very happy!

The Recipes

Asparagus Wrapped in Serrano Ham
6 spears of asparagus, trimmed and peeled
3 slices Serrano ham
1 dsp olive oil
Salt and pepper

Blanch the asparagus in boiling, heavily salted water until just tender. Refresh in iced water, then remove to a cloth and dry. Cut the Serrano slices in half lengthways and roll around the stalks of the asparagus, leaving the tips exposed. Season the tips and roll in the olive oil. Sear in a medium-hot pan, turning frequently, until the ham starts to crisp.

Plaice Goujons with Saffron Mayonnaise
125g skinless plaice fillet, cut into 3cm x 1cm strips
1 tbsp plain flour, seasoned
1 egg, beaten
30g panko crumbs
3 tbsp good quality mayonnaise
Maldon salt
1 tbsp dry vermouth
1 pinch saffron strands
1 tbsp olive oil
Lemon juice

For the goujons, dust the plaice in the flour, shake off excess and dip in first the egg and then the crumb. Deep-fry at 170C until golden. Season with salt.
For the mayonnaise, warm the vermouth in a small container in the microwave. Add the saffron and leave to infuse for 30 mins. Mix into the mayonnaise, whisk in the oil and add lemon juice to taste.

Smoked Garlic and Aubergine Dip
1 small aubergine
2 cloves smoked garlic
Maldon salt
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin powder
40g raisins

Cut the aubergine in half and score a criss-cross pattern across each half. Slice the garlic thinly and spread across the surface of both halves. Season with Maldon salt and drizzle with olive oil. Put the two halves back together and wrap tightly in foil. Bake at 170C for 30 mins until tender. Roast the cumin in olive oil until the aromas are released. Add the raisins and enough water to cover. Simmer until almost dry. Scoop out the aubergine flesh and place in a blender with the raisin and cumin mix. Blitz until smooth, then check seasoning. Serve with croutons.

Sienna Restaurant, 36 High West Street, Dorchester DT1 1UP.
(01305 250022,
The Dorset Wine Company, 37 Peverell Avenue West,
Poundbury, Dorchester DT1 3SU.
(01305 266734,

The Wine
The wine trade is not immune to fashions and trends, and for those with eclectic tastes this can lead to some fantastic value. One such drink that seems to be constantly on the brink of returning to fashion is sherry, or to be precise, the wines of Jerez.
In terms of age and complexity there is surely nothing to beat these fabulous wines, and when you add to the equation that they are also much more food-friendly than one would imagine, it is somewhat puzzling as to why they aren't more popular. When it comes to association, the image that one would most link to the word sherry is probably either cooking the Sunday roast or granny sitting by the fire; as opposed to dancing horses, fiestas and rampant flamenco dancing! Indeed, the wines from this passionate corner of Spain are so diverse in character that they really should be referred to by style rather than the region the come from. If you were offered a big glass of crisp, chilled Manzanilla on a hot summer's day one wouldn't really be thinking about granny for long!
Sadly we do not have the column inches available to mention all the styles of sherry available, but here are three wonderful matches to Russell's inventive canaps: Fino Innocente, Valdespino (7.95 per half bottle). Bold, bone-dry with a full-bodied yeasty palate making it a fine match to the chargrilled flavours of
the asparagus and the salty/sweet Serrano ham.
Manzanilla Pasada San Leon, Bodegas Argueso (5.99 per half bottle). This Manzanilla matures in the seaside town of Sanlucar and thus takes on a distinctive salty tang to its citrus- and yeast-flavoured palate - a terrific match to the plaice, complementing rather than dominating the subtle flavours. Amontillado Contrabandista, Valdespino (17.99 per bottle). Aged for 16 years, this wine sees the addition of a small dollop of Pedro Ximenez which adds a tantalising sweet tinge to its dry, nutty character, making it a great match to the smoked garlic, aubergine and olive-oil dip.

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