Rice is the staple for almost half the world’s population, but not in my childhood home – my mum’s rice was ‘gluggy’. I’ve since discovered a plethora of wonderful recipes.

Kylie Kwong’s Mum’s fried rice + 2017 Franz Haas Pinot Grigio, Alto Adige, Italy, A$45

I use Kylie Kwong’s Simple Chinese Cooking as my ‘bible’ with her Mum’s fried rice a Sunday night by-the-fire staple. Jasmine rice is the key to the dish with its gentle fragrance. I serve a random selection of whatever whites and rosés are in the fridge but found Franz Haas’ rich, textural pinot grigio a super match. Forget those thin, watery versions, this has oomph.  

Sushi + 2019 Chikuma Nishiki Kizan Sanban Sake, Nagano, Japan, A$75/720ml

Now this is a recipe I would never attempt at home, preferring to find a stool at a sushi bar and watch a skilled itamae at work. The chefs at a tiny sushi bar just opposite the old Tsukiji fish markets in Tokyo set the knife skill standard, only recently matched by Kisumé in Melbourne – everything was elegant and refined. I tried a toro tuna belly and this pure, precise sake from the Nagano prefecture; a compelling partner. The Kizan Sanban’s subtle sweetness beautifully balances the delicacy of the rice used in the sushi.  

Paella + 2018 La Linea Tempranillo Rosé, Adelaide Hills, A$22

In 2003, Sean Moran celebrated his first decade at his Bondi Beach institution, Sean’s Panaroma. The celebrations were at the Bondi Pavilion and the centrepiece was a paella cooked in a giant metre-plus pan. Naturally, a cook of Moran’s skill ensured the socarrat was nice and crunchy. I (vaguely) remember a rosé being served. I reckon La Linea is perfect with paella, its fresh raspberry flavours and savoury profile in tune with Spain’s national dish.

Risotto + 2016 Poderi Colla Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC, Piedmont, Italy, A$56

If paella defines Spain, it’s risotto that defines (northern) Italy. Arborio rice has the moisture- absorbing properties that are the key to a good risotto. The quality of the stock is another important factor – I make my own. Mushrooms and peas are my usual additions, plus good cheese – I use Grana Padano rather than Parmesan. However, when it’s truffle season, I ask Mt Canobolas grower Borry Gartrell for a small, tasty nugget. The intense earthy aromas of the black truffle suit the classic ‘tar and roses’ bouquet of nebbiolo with Poderi Colla’s Nebbiolo d’Alba an affordable alternative to their top Barbarescos.    

Madras Fish Curry + 2018 Oliver’s Taranga Fiano, McLaren Vale, A$25

I love Rick Stein’s approach to food with his India TV series one of his best. His Madras fish curry rates well with me. I use ling for its firm texture and add a few strands of saffron to my basmati rice for colour and its wonderful aromas. Wine and curries are problematic but a light, fresh, understated white is my choice. A Hunter semillon works well but the Oliver’s Taranga Fiano took curry and wine to new heights, its fresh pear flavours a foil for the curry’s spicy heat.

Wild rice stuffed Quail + 2018 Matthew Atallah Block 1 Cabernet Franc, Orange, A$48

Way back in the 1980s I was a member of the Junior Wine and Food Society. We cooked everything from scratch and paired wines with suitably pontifical reverence. I remember a wild rice stuffed quail and a delicious Right Bank Bordeaux. I reprised the recipe for this article and discovered a local cabernet franc that’s uber-perfumed and dangerously drinkable. I suggest the Atallah is more in the Chinon mould than Pomerol, but with the nutty flavours of the wild rice and sweet juicy quail it was a stellar combination.

Rice with that?

Rice is often used as a ‘pillow’ to support the centrepiece protein with all too rare opportunity to stand alone.