Easter fare: lamb wellington

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Photograph: Joe Woodhouse
It might not be a standard Easter this year, but we’ll still be finding time for a long lunch. For the occasion, our Head Chef Stewart Turner suggests a rather indulgent, showstopping lamb wellington

As we approach Easter, thoughts always turn to lamb. While we might not be hosting extended family or friends, there’s no reason not to make it an event for the household (not to mention any Zoom or FaceTime guests from around the world).

I think this is a real showstopper: a lamb wellington with the secret ingredient of haggis – something that I like to think is more than just a Burns Night supper. It’s a super ingredient that adds a fantastic layer of seasoning to a whole host of dishes. Crumble it into cheddar scones or dumplings, fry it up and add to your shepherd’s pie – it will truly be next level. In this case we crumble it into the mushroom duxelles that wraps the lamb.

Adapt the recipe to what you can get your hands on – the haggis is a nice addition, but not essential. If you can’t buy puff pastry, try your hand at making it (or cheat and go for rough puff). Try your local butcher for the lamb and/or haggis: most are still well-stocked (if busier than ever). This list of local businesses still open and delivering compiled by Ed Smith might be of use.

Lamb wellingtonServes 6
  • 2 lamb cannons – trimmed of excess fat and sinew (approximately 350g each)
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 200g button mushrooms – cleaned and sliced
  • 1 shallot – peeled and finely diced
  • 1 clove of garlic – peeled and finely chopped
  • 1tbsp grain mustard
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme – leaves picked and chopped
  • 100g haggis – removed from its casing and crumbled
  • 50g butter
  • 500g all-butter puff pastry
  • 1 handful of plain flour for dusting
  • 2 large free-range egg yolks – beaten with 1tsp water
  • 4 crêpes – see below

Season the lamb cannons well. Heat a good splash of olive oil in a large frying pan and sear the lamb quickly until browned all over. Remove from the pan and set aside to cool.

Add a bit more olive oil to the pan and fry the mushrooms until they just start to brown. Add the shallot, garlic, thyme and butter. Season with salt and pepper, cook for a few minutes, then remove from the heat and allow to chill lightly.

Chop the mushrooms in a food processor, then place in a bowl. Mix in the crumbled haggis and grain mustard then chill this, your duxelles, well.

Lay some clingfilm, still attached to the roll, over a chopping board. Overlap two crêpes in the centre and spread with half the duxelles mixture. Sit a lamb cannon on top and wrap the crêpe and duxelles mix to encase the lamb. Roll tightly into a sausage shape with a few layers of clingfilm, twisting the ends of cling film to tighten it as you go. Repeat this process for the second lamb cannon. Chill the lamb in the fridge while you roll out the pastry.

Roll out half the pastry to about 2mm thick, making sure that it is large enough to wrap around the lamb completely. Unravel the lamb from the cling film and sit it in the centre of the pastry. Use the egg wash (two egg yolks beaten with water) to brush one side of the pastry, then fold the pastry around the lamb and secure it on the egg-washed side. Pinch the ends of the pastry shut and trim off any excess. You should now have a neat cylinder of pastry with no openings. Glaze all over with more egg wash and, using the back of a knife, mark the lamb wellington with long diagonal lines, taking care not to cut through the pastry entirely. Repeat with the second wellington. Chill for at least 30 minutes so that the pastry is nice and firm.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200°C. Place both the wellingtons on a non-stick tray and bake in the oven until the pastry is golden brown and crisp. This should take around 20 minutes, by which time the lamb will be cooked. Remove from the oven and leave to rest for five minutes, then trim off the ends and allow to rest for a further five minutes. Slice each into three and, ideally, serve with some buttered Jersey royals and new season asparagus

Crêpes

  • 60g plain flour
  • 1 egg
  • 140ml milk
  • 1 tbsp chopped chives

Whisk together the milk, flour and egg. Season with salt and pepper, then stir in the chopped chives.

Cook the crêpes in a large non-stick pan over a medium heat. Place a small ladle of mix in the pan and swirl the pan so the mixture covers the base with a thin layer. Cook for 30 seconds then turn over and cook for a further 30 seconds. Place on a plate and set aside.

What to drink: If you’re including the haggis in this dish, we would go for something with an echoing layer of its own spice: a Southern Rhône blend would do just the trick, but we could also see Rioja working well. If there’s no haggis in sight, then more options would work – anything from an earthy red Burgundy and refined Claret through to Californian Zinfandel.

For more spring lamb inspiration: take advantage of foraging season with this wild garlic recipe.

Please note that to ensure the safety of our team, we are temporarily not accepting new orders for delivery. Find out more

Category: Food & Wine

The “right” time

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Whether it’s books, art or bottles, once we’re hooked on something, we become magpies – guiltily gathering a collection of all that’s shiny, new and exciting. But too often special wines or spirits are put to one side, left to wait for the longed-for perfect occasion. Here our Spirits Buyer Rob Whitehead – and shameless bottle hoarder – explains why now is the moment to grab the corkscrew

The finest of drinks are for sharing – or at least the finest thing about them is to share them. And who doesn’t want to drink them, really, when all is said and done? The skills, efforts, talents and good fortune of the many producers whose wares we stock are all expended on and invested in liquids that, to ever have a hope of achieving their inherent destiny, will need to be opened, poured and drunk.

Some of my most prized possessions are bottles or cases that have been jealously, or even zealously, squirreled away for a specific future purpose. They may be from the place I was lucky enough to travel to with my new bride on honeymoon, or have been produced only a few miles from where I was born, or even harvested the very same day my daughter was born. All eagerly lie in wait for the day they are opened and shared, with my wife, or my mum, or my daughter.

But then there are a few more, gently resting bottles, dotted around my house (and a few other safe places known only to me) that are destined to be shared with just one person: myself. Amongst many, one is the very last bottle from the very first case I ever consigned for storage in our warehouse – a case that was by no means exorbitant, but still cost no small sum of money in my early days as a cellarman at Berry Bros. & Rudd. Another is a cask sample, drawn from the first whisky distillery I ever visited, just around the time that I was realising what a tremendous, joyful challenge being Spirits Buyer would be. Just beside that sample is a bottle of beer, bought originally in jest, for a dear departed friend who deeply disliked it – so of course was proffered it with now-embarrassing regularity.

As the world turned, it seemed as if the comfort and nourishment sealed up within these bottles did not have a “right” time to be unfurled. I hid them at the back of cupboards, didn’t unpack them at all between one house move and next. I made consciously vague, cryptic references to them when anyone spied them and wondered as to their provenance. Yet here we are, and the time feels right to consider their purpose.

Have they given all they can give as ornaments, or paperweights, or aide-memoirs? Do I have further to gain from simply watching them get scuffed each time they are jostled? Is the pleasure of a wistful smile sufficient counterbalance for the gentle chiding of my loved ones to tidy up my end of the bookcase? Imagine if one were accidentally broken, by some errant toddler, or worse, my accidental misfortune – what would their diminuendo-ing vigil have been for?

There is tumult in the world, there always has been and always will be – but now seems like an opportune moment to reappraise those items one had been saving to share with oneself. It’s a time for using the agreeable isolation of a few moments spent with a glass to reaffirm the strengths and values that were ascribed to it over the months and years it was waited for. To feel how one has grown and learned through anticipation, and how the world has continued apace with its ineffable thirst for the unknowable future. To risk the disappointment of a corked bottle, or worse, a gloriously embellished memory far beyond the ability of the liquid to fulfil. To sigh, contentedly, at time well spent, and to raise a glass high, to more time to spend contentedly. And finally, fittingly, to know what a small jar of Red Stripe lager tastes like after well over a decade of bottle age.

Category: Miscellaneous

Bordeaux 2019: a vintage in limbo

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Photograph: Jason Lowe

This week our team would normally be out in Bordeaux, tasting the 2019 vintage from barrel and sharing daily reports on the wines. But, with the global Coronavirus pandemic, En Primeur is on hold. So what does that mean – for the wines, the region and the trade?

This week I was meant to be meeting my Berry Bros. & Rudd colleagues at Gatwick airport to take a flight to Bordeaux. We would have been collected by the redoubtable Maryse (our regular driver), arriving in time for dinner at Château du Tertre, our base for the week – just as we have every year for the past two decades. Instead, I am confined at home – admittedly with a fine view from my study window of the Hampshire countryside under bright blue, spring skies – and adjusting, like everyone, to these unprecedented times.

The purpose of the visit was to be, as usual, the tasting of the 2019 Bordeaux vintage, prior to it being released for sale En Primeur from April onwards. The week of tastings, organised by the Union des Grands Crus, is an important fixture in the wine trade calendar and has grown from small beginnings in the early 1980s to be a vital cog in the commercial mechanics of the Bordeaux wine trade. For wine merchants the world over, the week of tastings has become unmissable – and the city, as well as the region as a whole, benefit greatly from this hungry and thirsty influx.

But now there is a big gap in the calendar, in potential sales for the Bordeaux wine trade, and for the wine merchants to whom they sell. What might this mean for the wine trade, and the future of this year’s En Primeur?

Let us begin by viewing the situation from the supply end of the chain. This is a critical trading time for most producers, providing an important injection of cash flow, and many may suffer as a result. Yet a safety net may already exist within Bordeaux’s unique trading structure. Its often-criticised distribution system, using courtiers (the brokers who coordinate deals between négociants and the producers themselves) and négociants (the Bordeaux merchants that hold the stock – selling to merchants like ourselves to then sell on to our customers), may be able to provide the elasticity and give some stability, with greater fluidity over stock, prices or payment terms, until the situation begins to normalise. It is for these extreme market fluctuations that the system originally evolved – and it may well prove its worth again, but the Bordeaux trade will need to all pull together.

From the merchant’s perspective, this also knocks a big hole in the year’s financial planning. There are no longer very many businesses who make their living exclusively from En Primeur. Most have a diversity of offering (broking, retail, wholesale and/or wine events) that in normal times offer resilience and, with today’s challenges, most will be able to keep the wheels turning, albeit slowly. It is a rare example of lessons being learned and retained from the past. In the early 1990s, a large number of merchants who had jumped on the En Primeur bandwagon ended up entirely dependent on each year’s campaign to pay last year’s bills, and the crash in the market following the disastrous vintages of 1991 to ’93 saw their demise.

Photograph: Jason Lowe

The future of this year’s En Primeur campaign is less easy to predict; indeed, nothing can be predicted with any degree of confidence at the moment. The announcement by the Union des Grands Crus of the suspension of the tastings also included an ambition to provide an opportunity to taste the 2019s at a later date, but time is running out to find a suitable space. Even if the current restrictions are lifted by then, the usually blistering month of August is not really practical and, as soon as you move into September, not only will the 2020 harvest be underway but offers from other regions and producers also crowd the schedules, ironically often pushed to that calendar slot by the historic dominance of Bordeaux En Primeur in the earlier part of the year.

What remains is a small window to possibly release some of the wines in early summer. If travel restrictions prevent the wines from being tasted before release, faith will need to be placed in the reputation of the many properties that have delivered consistently top wines over the past decade, and the indications for 2019 are that it is a good to very good vintage (read our expectations of the vintage here). It may be that if there is trust from the market and the consumer in the best properties, and the price reflects the current difficulties, we could see some releases in June, July or, in a worst case, a campaign shoe-horned into September

Is there even an outside chance that, like the Olympics and Euro 2020, the event could simply be pushed back to the same time next year? From a purely personal point of view, I would welcome it. For several years I preferred to visit Bordeaux in the June following the En Primeur tastings. Commercially the campaign was already done by then, but – aside from being able to taste more easily and spend more time talking to producers – the extra three months in barrel often gave a much more articulate expression of the vintage. I recall being much more positive about vintages like 2004 and ’08 than my peers who had tasted earlier, an impression borne out by the much higher regard in which they are now held versus on release.

Yet this remains a very unlikely option. The scale of today’s fine wine market is too important and the impact of such a move, without damaging other aspects of the trade, especially from the properties’ or merchants’ perspective, would be very risky.

So what will happen to the 2019s? It would be commercially problematic if they somehow became overlooked and, qualitatively, it is, without doubt an important vintage that will justify space in any cellar. My instinct is that the resourceful and canny Bordelais will find a solution, but nothing can become clear until this current emergency abates, an appetite returns to the market and, don’t forget, no one knows what the 2020 vintage might look like.

Read our initial report on Bordeaux 2019 here; or shop all Bordeaux on bbr.com.

Category: Bordeaux Wine

Store-cupboard recipes: bagna càuda

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Photograph: Joe Woodhouse

With Piedmont still at the forefront of our minds, our Head Chef looks to his store-cupboard for inspiration. The result is a simple recipe taking advantage of relatively few ingredients – perfect for quarantine cooking

Bagna càuda is a staple in Piedmont. Often seen as an appetiser, it’s served warm – a little bit like a fondue. This recipe, for my version, is a cold emulsion that is a great alternative to mayonnaise or aïoli. I’ve always got a bit lurking in the fridge – and, in the current climate, it’s a good use of store cupboard essentials. Classically served with crudités and bread, I also find it’s a fantastic way to chip away at the your five a day, which still seem to be readily available. It’s also great as an accompaniment to a roast chicken or steak frites.

Bagna càuda
  • 1 head of garlic – cloves peeled and split
  • Semi-skimmed milk
  • 15g breadcrumbs
  • 2tbsp water
  • 100g anchovy fillets in extra virgin olive oil
  • 75ml 100% extra virgin olive oil
  • 4tsp lemon juice

Cover the garlic cloves with cold water. Bring to the boil, then rinse with cold water. Repeat the process two more times. Return to the pan and add enough milk just to cover the garlic. Bring to a simmer. Cook until the garlic is very soft. Remove from the heat and place in a blender with the breadcrumbs, anchovy, water and lemon juice. Blitz until smooth. While blitzing, slowly add the olive oil, until the mixture starts to thicken. Pass through a fine sieve. Serve with crusty or grilled bread, olives and crudités, or whatever else is to hand.

What to drink: You need something bright and fresh, perfect for bringing to life the spring sunshine outside (even if the temperature hasn’t quite caught up). If this is a side to the main event – some form of protein – then bright and juicy Dolcetto would work well. If it’s more of an apéritif, starter or almost-al-fresco affair, then a light, fresh, herbal Gavi or Arneis will almost transport you to the rolling hills of the Langhe.

Explore the latest releases from Piedmont on bbr.com

Category: Food & Wine