Wine & Food Killers: Pierre-Olivier Bonhomme Touraine Sauvignon 2017 and Salmon Crudo

If you ever need a wine to suit all manner of tastes and predilections, this amiable bottle is a born crowd-pleaser. Hailing from the Touraine appellation in the Loire Valley, Pierre-Olivier Bonhomme’s Sauvignon Blanc is farmed organically, fermented with indigenous yeasts, unfined and unfiltered.

That natty-wine cred is all well and good, but purity tests aside, this bottle is simply, lip-smackingly good.

It pours a flaxen gold, brilliant and electric. On the nose, it’s opulent with honey, lushly floral, with a touch of piquant lemon zest and something deeper and more animal: the faintest scent of wool and lanolin, perhaps. On the palate, it tastes sweetly of elderflower and apple, though there’s enough acidity to prevent it from becoming cloying. Here is a wine that feels like languid spring afternoons on the grass, like sunny kisses, like endless Sundays…

It’s best not to over-complicate a wine like this; if you’re eating alongside, go for something simple and quick and made with the best-quality ingredients you can find. I like this salmon crudo as a pairing: the wine has no trouble with the fish’s oiliness, while the dish’s lightly honeyed and citric dressing emphasises the Sauvignon Blanc’s best attributes. Add oregano for herbaceousness, shallots for sharpness, and pine nuts for crunch.

Feel free to riff, too, if you’re feeling creative – swap the salmon for trout or mackerel, use lime juice instead, try mint or tarragon. Crudo is a flexible format, and one that rewards experimentation.

Salmon Crudo
Serves 2

For the dressing:
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (as high-quality as you can afford)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed ruby grapefruit juice
1 ½ teaspoons runny honey
Pinch fine sea salt

For the crudo:
1 medium-sized shallot
Juice of 1 lemon
2-3 tablespoons pine nuts
1 fillet skinless, sushi-grade salmon or trout
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
Fresh oregano leaves, to garnish
Grapefruit zest, to garnish

1. First, prepare the dressing. Add all ingredients to a small bowl and whisk until uniform. Set aside.

2. Peel the shallot and slice into very thin rounds. Separate the layers and add to a small bowl. Squeeze over the lemon juice and leave the shallots to lightly pickle for 15–20 minutes while you prepare the rest of the dish.

3. Add the pine nuts to a small frying pan and place over medium-high heat. Toast, tossing frequently, for approximately 5 minutes, or until the pine nuts are golden-brown. Remove from the heat and set aside.

4. Using your sharpest knife, cut the salmon into very thin slices (be sure to slice against the grain, on a bias). Arrange between two plates, and top each with a light sprinkle of sea salt.

5. Top each slice of salmon with a shallot ring and an oregano leaf. Sprinkle over the pine nuts. Pour the dressing around the fish slices until it forms a very shallow layer on the plate. Grate over the grapefruit zest and serve immediately.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer. Our first book with Claire, The Beer Lover’s Table, is out now and available via our online shop and hopefully at your favourite booksellers. Pick up a bottle of the glorious Bonhomme Touraine Sauvignon here, and to sign up for our Natural Wine Killers natural wine subscription box, head here.

Fundamentals #44 — Zehendner Mönchsambacher Lager

The winking monk on the label of Brauerei Zehendner’s Mönchsambacher lager knows something you don’t. I’m convinced that little halo his silhouette casts on the wall behind him belies his true intentions. He may appear to be an innocent man of the cloth but he knows you’re about to get into something unexpected, something devilishly good, and I am powerless to resist his charms.

In any case, that’s certainly the impression I took after my first taste of this beguiling Franconian lager. Hailing from the town of Mönchsambach, a few miles south west of Bamberg, this is the first time I’ve come across anything from Zehendner. When HB&B’s Jen sent me an enthusiastic email singing the beer’s praises, I just had to try it. When she pointed out its rarity in this country, I became doubly interested in securing a bottle.

There’s something incredibly satisfying about German import lagers. From holding the chunky 500ml bottle in your hand (which I’m convinced are going to come back in a big way over the next year or so) to noticing the little things like the worn ridges of the many-times-recycled bottle and the small nicks on the label indicating its best before date.

Plus you get plenty of beer to enjoy. Take my advice and try building up a big head of foam in your glass with a slow pour. Don’t pour down the side of the glass, pour slow and straight, filling the glass about a third of the way up. After leaving it for a moment add another third, allowing it to settle once more, then topping up the glass, hopefully leaving you with a moussey white head of foam an inch or more thick.

What this does is release some carbonation and laces that foam with hop oils, giving this beer a wonderfully herbal bouquet of German noble hops. However, the hops are barely half the story here, as this is a Franconian lager, and the real story is about the rich, almost juicy malt character that gives Mönchsambacher a sweetness that rings like a church bell, our friend the winking monk no doubt on ringing duty.

It’s a big beer for its style at 5.5%, but it drinks easy and as such won’t last you long. And as the brewers give this beer a best before date of just six weeks, make sure you drink this fresh.

Matthew Curtis is a freelance writer, photographer and author of our award-winning Fundamentals column. He's written for publications including BEER, Ferment, Good Beer Hunting and Original Gravity. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @totalcurtis. Such has been the overwhelming demand for this beer - and the brevity of its mandated freshness - that we’re completely sold out. Sorry- but keep your eyes peeled for next time…

The Beer Lover’s Table: Aperitivo Snacks and Cloudwater x Evil Twin Pet Nat Slushie

More and more, the idea that beer and wine are two distinct categories of beverage is being challenged. If the growing number of vinous beers – like Cloudwater x Evil Twin’s Pet Nat Slushie – is any indication, we’ll soon be awash in wine-inspired beers, hopped wines, and other experimental hybrids.

A quick primer: Pet Nat – an abbreviation for pétillant naturel, or ‘naturally sparkling’ – is bubbly wine, humbly made. Unlike Champagne or Cava, it only undergoes a single fermentation, and it’s bottled while that fermentation is still underway (a process known as the méthode ancestrale, if you want to get fancy). It can be risky; worst case, if things don’t go according to plan, you might end up with a flat bottle.

But when all goes well, Pet Nat emerges delicately carbonated, relatively low in alcohol, lightly hazy, and – depending on the grapes you use – typically tastes young and bright and fruit-forward and fun.

All that said: this is a beer, not a Pet Nat, though it calls itself a Pet Nat Slushie. A collaboration between Cloudwater and Evil Twin made for the former’s forthcoming Friends & Family & Beer Festival, the beer is a tart and fruity kettle sour (with luscious passion fruit notes), married with a dry brut IPA fermented with Champagne yeast. It may share little in terms of ingredients or process with true Pét Nat, but what it does share is the same spirit of playfulness and gluggability (or glou-glou, as the French might say).

I recently visited Venice for the first time, and left enamoured with the city’s cicchetti culture: there are few greater pleasures than wandering from bar to bàcaro, nibbling on crostini as you go, always with a glass in hand. With that inspiration in mind, I’ve pulled together recipes for three quick aperitivo snacks you could pair with this Pet Nat Slushie (or any Pet Nat, really). You can make any or all of them, depending on the occasion, with bowls of spiced almonds or olives to go alongside. It’s snack hour, baby – and these simple, fresh, and riffable recipes are perfect with a side of bubbles.

Chickpea and Tomato Salad
200g (7oz) cherry tomatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
½ tablespoon balsamic glaze
Fine sea salt
1 small red onion
1 400g (14oz) can chickpeas
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large handful flat-leaf parsley
1 large handful mint
4 tablespoons (1/4 US cup) capers
235ml (1 US cup) vegetable oil (optional; see step 4)
Juice of 1 lime 100g (3.5 oz) soft goat cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 160° Celsius (320° Fahrenheit). Meanwhile, halve the cherry tomatoes and arrange on a foil-covered baking sheet. Drizzle over 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the balsamic glaze, and season with a pinch of sea salt. Roast for approximately 20-25 minutes, or until the tomatoes are softened and jammy. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

2. Finely dice the onion and transfer to a small bowl. Top up with cold water and leave to soak for 10-20 minutes; this helps remove the onion’s bite.

3. Meanwhile, drain and rinse the chickpeas and pat to dry. Transfer to a large bowl, alongside the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Sprinkle over the caraway seeds and a large pinch of salt, plus a good grind of black pepper. Roughly chop the parsley and mint and add to the bowl. Toss to evenly mix.

4. Drain the capers and pat to dry. You can either add them to the salad as is, or fry them for some added crunch. If you plan to fry them, add the vegetable oil to a medium frying pan and place over high heat. Leave for several minutes until the oil is very hot, and a test caper starts sizzling rapidly as soon as it hits the oil. Add the remaining capers and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until they’re darkened and crispy; some may ‘blossom’. Using a slotted spoon or spider strainer, transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and leave to cool.

5. Just before serving, drain the onion pieces and transfer to the salad. Squeeze over the lime juice and toss to coat. Crumble over the goat cheese. Garnish with the capers.

Artichoke Crostini
1 small (half-sized) baguette
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove
Approximately 8 tablespoons (1/2 US cup) ricotta
1 jar marinated artichoke hearts
Red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Small handful mint leaves
Parmigiano Reggiano, shaved

1. Turn the grill section of your oven to high. Using a serrated knife, slice the baguette into 1-inch pieces (save the end pieces for a snack); you want to end up with roughly 8 pieces. Arrange on a foil-lined baking sheet and drizzle over the olive oil. Place under the grill for 3-6 minutes, or until golden-brown but not burned.

2. Remove from the grill. While the bread is still hot, grate a garlic clove lightly on each piece.

3. Once the bread has cooled, dollop roughly 1 tablespoon of ricotta on each slice and spread to the edges. Top each piece with a marinated artichoke heart, and season with the red pepper flakes (or cayenne pepper), salt, and pepper to taste.

4. Finely chop the mint leaves and sprinkle on top of the crostini. Top with the shaved Parmigiano Reggiano.

Prosciutto-Wrapped Figs with Gorgonzola
8 large figs
100g (3.5oz) mild, soft blue cheese (preferably Gorgonzola Dolce)
8 slices prosciutto or Parma ham
Olive oil

1. Rinse and dry the figs. Using a serrated knife, slice upwards from the base of each fig so each has a deep cut but is still attached at the stem.

2. Spoon a small amount of Gorgonzola into each fig. Wrap with a single piece of prosciutto or Parma ham, and secure with a toothpick.

3. Turn your oven’s grill to its highest setting. Transfer the figs to a foil-lined baking sheet and place under the grill. Cook for 2-4 minutes, turning halfway, or until the ham is darkened and the cheese is starting to melt.

4. Remove from the oven and drizzle over a scant amount of olive oil. Serve while still warm.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Our first book with Claire, The Beer Lover’s Table: Seasonal Recipes and Modern Beer Pairings, is published by Dog’n’Bone Books this month (March 2019). Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen.

Fundamentals #43 — Signature Brew Reverb New England IPA

Long before I entered the beer industry, I wanted to be a record producer. A childish pipe dream, perhaps. But still I went to University and took a degree in sound engineering. I was even quite good at it (IMO.) But alas the call of beer led me away from the music career that could have been. Which was probably for the best really.

What studying sound engineering has never taken away from me is how it changed the way I listened to music. I don’t hear songs, I hear individual tracks. Each treated with an array of different tools to make it more pronounced, or softer, or whatever that particular sound dictates. It made me think critically about music in the same way I now think about beer – when I’m writing a review such as this at least.

One of my favourite musical treatments is reverb. The idea behind using reverb is that it creates space in your track. You can do this by recording in a bigger room, or perhaps one with a harder surface such as a bathroom (or castle, as Led Zeppelin did once). Or you can use modern digital or analogue trickery. Reverb is so powerful in that it can turn a dead sound into a lively one simply by placing it in a different sounding room. Or in its extremes, it can create cascades of endless, glorious reflection.

In my opinion, the most expert use of Reverb as a production effect exists on every track of Radiohead’s 1997 opus, OK Computer. Whether a track is drenched in lush echo, or has simply a tight, enlivening vibe, each use of Reverb is perfect. Every sound on that record is in its right place. Much like the hops in Signature Brew’s latest New England IPA, Reverb.

This beer uses deftly applied doses of Mosaic, Enigma and Simcoe hops to created layered yet balanced textures of pine, citrus and tropical fruit. And despite the intensity of this beer’s flavour, one element never dominates the others, making it astonishingly drinkable. It’s a beer to give even the most lauded producers of hazy, yellow beer a run for their money. And, much like Radiohead’s classic LP, it never becomes tiresome. Here is a beer that gets no less captivating with each repeated sip.

[Disclosure: My partner Dianne is the Assistant Manager of Signature Brew’s London Taproom.]

Matthew Curtis is a freelance writer, photographer and author of our award-winning Fundamentals column. He's written for numerous publications including BEER, Ferment, Good Beer Hunting and Original Gravity. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @totalcurtis. This beer features in our February All Killer No Filler subscription box. Get on board here.

Natural Wine Killers: Jean Christophe Garnier Bezigon Chenin 2017

A mere two editions since our December box, here we are extolling the virtues of Chenin Blanc once again. Where then it was all about the bubbles, with an immensely enjoyable Vouvray Brut, this time the focus is on a dry still wine.

In that column, we waxed lyrical about the versatility of Chenin Blanc from the Loire. Its ability to produce truly invigorating wines from dry to sweet and sparkling is almost unmatched in the world of wine. Within the Loire, there are other white grapes which garner more attention (the Sauvignon Blancs of Sancerre and Poulliy-Fumé are household names), but for me, the chameleon-like nature of Chenin is more likely to set my heart racing.

This wine from Jean-Christophe Garnier is from the Anjou sub-region of the Loire Valley. Although it is a cool climate with maritime influences, the Mauges hills protect the region from the worst of the weather coming in from the Bay of Biscay. This shelter, combined with warmer soils, gives winemakers the confidence to leave their grapes on the vines longer, and seek out greater levels of ripeness.

The western section of Anjou contains the appellations of Savennières (home to some of the greatest dry Chenins) and Coteaux du Layon (a source of some of France’s most underrated sweet wines). Garnier’s plot comes from the small, but acclaimed village of Saint-Lambert-Du-Lattay. Although technically in the zone of Coteaux du Layon, Garnier makes dry wines, following his own rules and using the generic Vin de France denomination.

Garnier’s is a no-frills operation. He uses an old apple press, taking 2-3 days to extract all the juice from his berries, and after fermentation, ages the wine in large oak foudres for one year (hence the oxidative, bruised apple and almond aromas). He starts with organically cultivated grapes picked at maximum maturity, giving the wine a honeyed, baked apple aspect. There’s some volatile acidity there too, giving it a fresh finish, but not at the expense of the fruit. Paired with a fatty, rich plate like Anjou pork rillettes, and you’ve got just the tonic for a dank wintry evening.

Claire Bullen’s pairing: Braised chicken thighs with honey-glazed root vegetables or a mixed charcuterie platter

Paul Medder is a freelance wine educator and works for one of the UK's leading wine distributors. He occasionally tweets @PaulMedder. To sign up for our Natural Wine Killers natural wine subscription box, head here.

Wine & Food Killers: Linguine Bolognese and I Vini di Giovanni Rozzo 2017

There’s nothing like grim weather and Seasonal Affective Disorder to strip you of your tolerance for ostentation. February is the time of year when the rustic prevails, when warm and honest food, like this recipe, really comes into its own.

One caveat: this isn’t your typical Bolognese, though it might be the most classical one you’ve ever made. (Caveat #2: spaghetti may be traditional, but I prefer slightly thicker linguine, which stands up better to hearty sauces.)

The woman behind this timeless recipe is the late grande dame of Italian cooking, Marcella Hazan, who had very strong feelings about how to make Bolognese properly. For instance: do not even think about putting garlic in this Bolognese. Bacon is not needed, rosemary is not invited. And though you might assume red wine would be best in the sauce (it’s best alongside – more on that in a bit), if Marcella says white, you use white.

This Bolognese has no shortcuts: if you want yours to taste like it was made by an Italian nonna, you need to cook like one. This is simmer-all-day sauce, the perfect Sunday project, a study in the art of patience, a fragrant rebuttal to instant-gratification. You’ll need a solid seven hours to make it; in an ideal world, you might even refrigerate it overnight and eat it the next day to allow its flavours to deepen further (this is recommended, though not required).

When it finally comes time to eat, it’s wise to go with a wine that’s similarly humble and enriching. I Vini di Giovanni’s Rozzo – made by an actual Umbrian shepherd named Giovanni Mesina – certainly qualifies. Made with 100% Sangiovese grapes, absent any added sulphur, it is pungently barnyardy when first poured, but after decanting and swirling, notes of cherry and a mellow fruitfulness come to the fore. Its tannins are serious and grippy, which makes it a wine that especially benefits from the companionship of some pasta.

Together, they won’t banish your SAD, but the act of stirring sauce for the better part of the day still has a way of making the world feel less dire.

Linguine Bolognese
Very slightly adapted from Marcella Hazan
Serves 4-6

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
45g (3 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely diced
1 celery stalk, finely diced
1 medium carrot, peeled and finely diced
350g (¾ lb) beef mince (ground beef), preferably 15-20% fat
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
235ml (1 US cup) whole milk
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
235ml (1 US cup) dry white wine
1 400g (14oz) can whole Italian plum tomatoes in juice
500g (1.1 lbs) linguine, spaghetti, or similar pasta
Parmigiano Reggiano

1. In a large pot or Dutch oven, add the vegetable oil, butter and onion, and turn the heat to medium-low. Cook the onion gently for roughly 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until it is softened and translucent.

2. Add the carrot and celery, and stir to coat. Cook for roughly 3-4 minutes, or until slightly softened. Add the beef mince and sprinkle over a large pinch of sea salt and several good grinds of black pepper. Using a fork, delicately break up the meat and toss until it is finely crumbled. Cook until it has just lost its raw colour, but not until it is darkened and dried out.

3. Pour in the milk and grate in the nutmeg. Continue to cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the milk is fully evaporated – this process can take up to an hour. (Don’t be tempted to raise the heat and boil it off faster; slow cooking makes the meat incredibly tender.)

4. Next, add in the white wine and repeat the same process, slow cooking over medium- low heat until completely evaporated.

5. While the beef mixture is simmering, prep the tomatoes: remove the whole plum tomatoes from the can, reserving the juice, and roughly chop. When the wine is fully evaporated, add both the chopped tomatoes and their juice, and stir to combine.

6. Turn the heat to low. Cook for a minimum of 3 and up to 5 hours, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened and rich. To prevent it from drying out or burning during the cooking process, add water at 125ml (1/2-cup) intervals, if needed. Season to taste, generously, with salt and pepper.

7. When you’re nearly ready to serve, bring a large pot of water to the boil and salt generously. Add the pasta and cook according to package instructions until al dente. Drain, and return to the pot. Add the Bolognese sauce and toss lightly to combine.

8. Divide the linguine Bolognese between plates or bowls, and top generously with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen and look out for our book together, The Beer Lover’s Table, launching in March 2019. These recipes accompany our Natural Wine Killers natural wine subscription box - sign up to get yours here.

Fundamentals #42: Yeastie Boys White Palace Brut IPL

Craft beer, for me at least, is about a few key points. Creating something exceptional, something delicious is among the most important. Innovating, whether that means pioneering a genuinely new idea or creating something special from the history books – or perhaps a hybrid of the two – is another.

For a brewer like Kim Sturdavant of California’s Social Kitchen & Brewery, his creation of the Brut IPA in 2018 should have been one of those culture defining moments. By using the enzyme amyloglucosidase to chew through complex sugars yeast weren’t interested in, he created an ultra-dry, spritzy take on the American style IPA.

It got popular, fast. And within a few months his idea was being copied by brewers as far away as Japan, New Zealand and here in the UK.

But hardly any of the brewers attempting to innovate had actually tried Sturdavant’s effort. They were simply copying his idea based on word of mouth, which these days amounts to reading about it on the internet. Where’s the innovation in that? This is not what craft beer is about, surely.

The result was a trend that spawned a thousand dreary clones. I tried to like them, I really did. But I came across far too many uninspiring, or downright insipid interpretations of the style.

The biggest kicker, however, was that Sturdavant’s idea was far from original. In fact, he was pipped to the post six years previously by none other than Roger Ryman, brewmaster at Cornwall’s St. Austell Brewery.

As it happens, Ryman was producing a dry hopped, US-inspired IPA using amyloglucosidase since 2012 in a beer called Big Job. It’s a shame that St. Austell’s gravitas was not enough to propel the trend forward back then, so we could perhaps be done with it sooner. However, Yeastie Boys might have convinced me that there’s life in the Brut trend after all.

White Palace is an IPL as opposed to an IPA, as it’s a lager, not an ale. A smattering of German Huell Melon hops in its recipe are joined by passionfruit purée and the must (a wine-making term for the juice, seeds, skins and stems from grapes) of Pinot Gris grapes. Where most Brut IPAs fall down for me is their distinct lack of flavour. I understand the style is meant to finish dry and bright but please, give me something to enjoy before I get there. And it’s here, deep in the flavour zone, where White Palace succeeds.

First there are some gloriously juicy aromatics from the Pinot Gris, which is immediately followed up by the sharp, tropical acidity of the passionfruit. It’s brief but highly enjoyable hit of flavour that works perfectly in this style – one I feel as though I could return to frequently.

If more Brut-style beers are able to replicate this kind of deliciousness, perhaps it’ll be successful after all.

Matthew Curtis is a freelance writer, photographer and author of our award-winning Fundamentals column. He's written for numerous publications including BEER, Ferment, Good Beer Hunting and Original Gravity. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @totalcurtis. This beer features in our February All Killer No Filler subscription box. Get on board here.

Wine & Food Killers: Indian-Spiced Roasted Lamb Leg and Domaine du Pech Le Pech Abusé

With wintry weather set to stick around for a while, it’s time to hunker down and seek solace in rich wine and food. I originally made this at Christmas time, but it’s just as good for the dark midwinter when we’re all in need of celebrating something…. anything.

This lamb, specifically, which originates - minus a few riffs and adaptations - from Asma’s Indian Kitchen, the exceptional new cookbook written by Darjeeling Express’ Asma Khan. As Khan notes, this leg of lamb, which marinates overnight in a yoghurt mixture before roasting, is a showstopper dish that is traditionally served at weddings or other celebratory occasions. Made with yoghurt and grated green papaya, the marinade tenderises the lamb as it perfumes it.

A dish as rich and intensely flavoured as this lamb deserves a wine of similar boldness, and the exemplary Le Pech Abusé is just the bottle to seek out. Made by Domaine du Pech (located in southwestern France’s Buzet region), it is exactly the kind of wine I like in the winter, which is to say abundant in dark fruit flavours, full-bodied, but edged by a balancing undercurrent of leather and wood and smoke (prior to bottling, it’s aged for 30 months in 200-year-old oak foudres).

A blend of 40% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 30% Cabernet Franc, Le Pech Abusé pours an opaque, inky black. It is a wine for celebrations, for fireplaces and cold nights - and for lamb.

Indian-Spiced Roasted Lamb Leg
Adapted from Asma’s Indian Kitchen
Serves 6

150ml vegetable oil or ghee
1 large onion, thinly sliced
10 threads saffron
1 tablespoon milk
100g Greek yoghurt
6 tablespoons clotted cream
4 tablespoons grated green papaya
3 teaspoons fine sea salt
2 teaspoons chilli powder
2 teaspoons garam masala
1½ teaspoons ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
1 1.5-kilo (3.3-pound) bone-in lamb leg

1. Prepare your lamb the night before you plan to serve it. First, prep ingredients for the marinade. Add the vegetable oil or ghee to a large frying pan and place over medium- high heat. Once hot, add the onion and turn the heat to medium-low. Cook for approximately 35 minutes, stirring frequently, or until the onion is caramelised and softened. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

2. Meanwhile, in a ramekin or small bowl, lightly crumble the saffron threads. Pour over the milk and leave to infuse. 3. In a large bowl - large enough to fit your entire lamb leg - add the Greek yoghurt, clotted cream, grated papaya, salt and spices. Mix to combine.

4. Once the onions have cooled, strain and discard the oil and transfer the onions to a food processor. Blend on high until the mixture is a rough paste. Transfer to the yogurt mixture and stir through. Add the milk and saffron and stir to combine.

5. Using a sharp knife, make small slits over the surface of the lamb. Rub the lamb in the marinade, and work the mixture into the slits. Cover and chill overnight.

6. Remove the lamb from the fridge roughly one hour before you plan to cook, and leave to come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Place a wire rack over a foil-lined baking tray, and transfer the lamb to the rack.

7. Roast the lamb for 20 minutes. Lower the heat to 180°C (350°F). Continue to roast for roughly one hour more, or until the lamb is cooked to your ideal degree of doneness. Insert a thermometer in the thickest part of the lamb; it should be 49°C (120°F) for rare, 52°C (125°F) for medium-rare, 57°C (135°F) for medium, 63°C (145°F) for medium- well, and 66°C (150°F) for well-done. If you prefer your lamb rarer, begin to check its temperature earlier in the cooking process. 8. Remove from the oven and leave to rest for 15 minutes before carving.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen and look out for our book together, The Beer Lover’s Table, launching in March 2019. These recipes accompany our Natural Wine Killers natural wine subscription box - sign up to get yours here.

The Beer Lover’s Table: A Mixed Cheese Plate and The Kernel India Brown Ale

January is a remarkably bad time for self-punishment, though we always convince ourselves that this darkest and dreariest of months is when we’ll finally get leaner, stronger, better. Spoiler: we won’t. We’re weary. We’re half-hibernating on the sofa, aware of the void in our wallets where money should be. The last thing we need, at this point, is to cut out carbs. Or cheese.

A cheese plate is, in fact, an extremely good January meal, because it requires little-to-no effort (beyond vague curatorial sensibilities), and is also absolutely comforting - perhaps best enjoyed while wrapped in a fleece blanket.

The idea that beer is a natural pairing partner for cheese - better, even, than wine - is by now well-established; given that beer lacks, in most cases, harsh tannins and over-the-top acidity, it shows a particular kinship for curds. There are numerous beer styles that could be classed as broadly “cheese-friendly”, from stouts and saisons to pale ales and bitters. If you’re looking to save money, though, or want to limit your drinking to a single beer, a hoppy brown ale may be the best all-rounder for everything on your cheese plate.

The Kernel’s India Brown Ale is a particularly worthy candidate. This beer isn’t a one-note malt bomb: its first impression, in fact, is its vibrant aroma, fruitful with hops. This most recent iteration of the beer was brewed with Simcoe, Citra, and Mosaic hops, meaning you might detect pineapple on the nose, or perhaps mango. It pours with a generous, aerated head that takes long minutes to diminish, and which resembles proving bread dough. On the palate it has some malty profundity, and tastes even a little bit like Scandinavian rye bread, but closes out with a rumbling bitterness.

It’s a multi-faceted creature, this beer: at once roasty, subtly sweet, brightly aromatic, and resoundingly bitter. It transforms a little bit with every mouthful of cheese, its various attributes at turns receding or coming to the fore.

Alongside aged Gouda, for instance - pocked with crunchy tyrosine crystals, rich like butterscotch - it harmonises sweetly. When paired with earthy, sharp Isle of Mull Cheddar, or nutty Mimolette, it offers rusticity, a bit of bite. Blue cheese and stout are famously well-matched, and while this brown ale doesn’t quite share the richness or body of a stout, it’s still dark enough to pair affably with my wedge of Roquefort. You could also do well serving it with Alpine-style cheeses like Gruyere or Comté, or employing it like a saber to cut through the sticky pungency of a washed-rind cheese à la Stinking Bishop or Époisses.

The point is: this beer is so agreeable that it hardly matters which cheeses you pick to go with it. Find whatever catches your eye. Get some crackers, maybe, or some jam or honey, but there is no loss of dignity in eating cheese without a vehicle or accoutrements. Hunker down until all of this (gestures vaguely at the outside world) passes by.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Our first book with Claire, The Beer Lover’s Table: Seasonal Recipes and Modern Beer Pairings, is published by Dog’n’Bone Books in March 2019. Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen.

Fundamentals #41: North Brewing Co x Ritual Lab Triple Fruited Gose Blueberry + Apricot + Blackberry

The last time I reviewed a beer from Leeds’ North Brewing Co. I diligently – some might even say successfully – compared the New England IPA to that most visceral of musical genres, post-punk. Sometimes you just need the melancholic gratification that only racing drums and angular guitars can provide. But other times, you just wanna jam it out, endlessly. So you light up some Nag Champa (hell, feel free to light up whatever’s your preference so long as you’re sharing), stick on Can’s epic Ege Bamyasi and reach for a can of gose.

That’s right folks, gose is the Krautrock of the beer world and I’m very much here for it. Especially when your jam is triple-fruited and, well, tastes like jam.

North’s latest Triple Fruited Gose (triple fruited meaning that three different fruits have been liberally applied to this beer, in this case blueberry, apricot and blackberry) is brewed in collaboration with Italy’s Ritual Lab. The can is as striking as you’d expect from North, with their award-winning branding twisting its way around your eyeballs and into your fridge. The beer inside is no less striking, pouring cosmic purple, the foam even more vibrantly rouge than the beverage itself.

And the smell! Deep hedgerow fruits bolstered by a hint of salinity and a promise of tartness draws you in. Although sadly, this is as far as my own sensory experience of this beer was allowed to travel.

You see, I’ve decided to take a few weeks off the booze. Not because there’s anything wrong with me, but because after drinking a lot of beer in 2018 I fancied giving my body the chance to recover (and maybe shift a couple of pounds) before diving headfirst into 2019. Not wanting to let the good folks at Hop Burns & Black down, I asked my partner Dianne (who works at London brewery Signature Brew – go say hi to her at their Haggerston taproom sometime soon) to do the honours.

“Cor,” she says as effervescent layers of mauve upon violet (seriously, this beer is really purple) make their way into the glass. She’s excited that there are apricots in this beer: “Really bringing balance to the blackberry and blueberry,” she says. I am genuinely nervous for my job at this moment.

It’s fun watching her take that first sip and screwing her face up as the tart beer forces her mouth into a pucker. Sips two and three are less physically and more verbally emotive, with plenty of cooing over the beer, which, if anything, leaves Dianne wanting a little more sourness to balance the voluminous levels of fruit in this gose.

It’s a two thumbs up from her, so make sure you grab some of this one before it inevitably sells out. [ED: Sold out now, sorry! Victim of its own success.]


Matthew Curtis is a freelance writer, photographer and author of our award-winning Fundamentals column. He's written for numerous publications including BEER, Ferment, Good Beer Hunting and Original Gravity. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @totalcurtis.

Natural Wine Killers: Catherine & Pierre Breton ‘La Dilettante’ Vouvray Brut NV

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This wine features in our December edition of the Natural Wine Killers box - being December, of course we had to bring you some bubbles. It’s the season where casual wine drinkers the length and breadth of the country pop open millions of bottles of Prosecco and Cava, toasting to a bountiful 2019. We like a good glass of fizz too, but have, as you might expect, made a rather less obvious choice…

Vouvray sparkling flies well under the radar in the UK, perhaps because only 10% of these wines make it outside of France. Vouvray also lacks a clear marketing focus. There are few wine regions which can make sparkling wines, along with white wines ranging from dry, to medium and sweet, and do all of these things well. Vouvray is one such appellation, making it a delight for wine lovers.

Vouvray is located in the Loire Valley, in northern, central France, not far from the town of Tours. It has a cool climate, but with a long growing season, allowing growers to pick their Chenin Blanc grapes at varying levels of ripeness. The grapes that go into making sparkling wines will typically be earliest picked - their high acidity being prized when making refreshing bubbly.

Vouvray Brut is made in exactly the same way as Champagne – the Traditional Method, where the second fermentation (which produces the bubbles) happens in the same bottle in which the wine is aged and sold. However, the growers of Vouvray are more interested in selling their wines for fair prices locally than sponsoring fashion catwalks (those Champagne marketing budgets don’t come for free).

By law, Vouvray Brut must be aged for 12 months in contact with its lees in bottle. It’s these decomposing yeast cells which give sparkling wines their biscuity, bready character. The Bretons, being among the most respected producers in Vouvray, age their wine for twice this time, on a par with Champagne. The wine therefore has a richness in character equal to many Champagnes twice its price.

Catherine and Pierre are both from the fourth generation of winemaking families. They are extremely conscientious about their practices, with this wine being certified organic. The wine is also made with indigenous yeast and spends 12 months fermenting in tank before bottling and second fermentation.

The nose is inviting, with aromas of baked apple, brioche, and a typical Vouvray honey note. The palate is fresh, with green apple and lemon pie. The mousse is super creamy, with a long, crisp finish. Make sure you keep this one stashed at the back of the fridge at the Christmas party, and leave the others to their Prosecco.

Claire Bullen’s food pairing: A mixed sashimi platter or splash out with caviar-topped fried chicken

Paul Medder is a freelance wine educator and works for one of the UK's leading wine distributors. He occasionally tweets @PaulMedder.

#HBBAdvent Beer 21: Omnipollo Pleroma Raspberry Creme Brulee Sour

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Omnipollo says: Raspberry creme brulee sour ale brewed with lactose sugar with raspberries and vanilla added.

We say: The last Friday before Christmas is your traditional party night, and Team Omnipollo are the perfect pair to bring to the bash. Henok Fentie and Karl Grandin continue to innovate and blur the boundaries of what beer is and can be. This fun little number brings prickling raspberry tartness and a rich and sweet mouthfeel from the lactose, the perfect party guest. Beer everything! - Nathan, HB&B Deptford manager

#HBBAdvent Beer 20: Unity x Duration x Boxcar The Ground Up Farmhouse IPA (Southampton)

Unity says: Hops meet funk in this lightly soured IPA liberally hopped with Styrian Wolf and Dragon.

We say: Unity has constantly impressed us this year, and when we saw the team had collaborated with two of our favourite bunches of brewery folk - Boxcar and Duration, good friends as well as frequent visitors to HB&B Towers - we knew we had to get this beer in our advent box. The Ground Up is a fantastic saison - biscuity, lightly citrus with a balanced dose of funk too. Nice one guys, we ❤ you.

#HBBAdvent Beer 19: Signature Brew x Mogwai Beer Satan (London)

Signature Brew says: Taken at face value, Mogwai Beer Satan is a limited-edition 5.2% ABV New England pale ale brewed in collaboration with Mogwai and East London brewery, Signature Brew. Scratch beneath the surface, however, and you'll uncover the brewery's first concept beer, built around the properties of Mogwai's seminal track Mogwai Fear Satan. At a towering 16 minutes long the track sounds vast and complex, but strip it away and you'll find just two chords at its heart. To mirror this, the beer employs simple ingredients which blend to make a flavour bigger than the sum of their parts… with a fittingly long finish. This tropical, hazy IPA is low in bitterness and carries huge, hoppy flavours and aromas of mango, pineapple and white grape. In addition, a small amount of chillies added late in the brewing process brings a subtle heat that gently builds as the song crescendos.

We say: It’s been a big year for Signature Brew, they’ve opened their new taproom in Hackney, continued to collaborate across the music business and put out more hits than a 90s boyband. They also kindly hosted us as we brought Chilli Karaoke north of the river for a night of capsicum-induced pain and performance. Fittingly,, the beer we’ve chosen also highlights all of our passions at HB&B.

Mogwai Beer Satan (a collaboration with Scottish post-rock legends Mogwai) is a NEIPA with chilli, kicking off with juicy tropical vibes before slowly turning up the volume as the heat takes hold - Nathan. HB&B Deptford manager

The Beer Lover’s Table: Shredded Cuban-Style Pork Shoulder And Brick Brewery X 1251 Jerk Stout

Most beers aren’t explicitly created with food in mind, but this Jerk Stout — a collaboration between Brick Brewery and Chef James Cochran’s new restaurant, 1251 — is an exception.

Designed to pair with 1251’s famed jerk-spiced fried chicken, the beer was brewed with Cochran’s secret spice mix (plus malt that Cochran hand-smoked himself over applewood chips). The result is richly sweet, dark as engine oil, whiffy with smoke, and laced with a chilli heat that accumulates at the back of the throat.

While it was indeed excellent alongside the fried chicken, I wanted to explore further pairing possibilities. Serendipitously, I recently found myself flipping through Melissa Clark’s 2017 cookbook, Dinner in an Instant, and spotted a recipe for Cuban-style pork that looked like an ideal candidate. Clark’s recipe was designed for an electric pressure cooker — I’ve recently joined the legions of Instant Pot evangelicals; seriously, it’s a life-changing piece of gadgetry — but you could just as easily leave the pork simmering in a slow cooker during the day.

Marinated in grapefruit and lime juice, seasoned with fresh oregano and copious amounts of garlic, the pork stews until it falls to pieces. Once shredded, it cooks down further in its juices. The result is pork at its most decadent, ideal scooped into tortillas or served atop rice.

As I hoped, it’s also exceptional alongside the Jerk Stout, and manages to draw out the beer’s roasty character, sweetness, and smokiness. When the weather is frightful, when you only want to hunker down and hide away, this is the kind of meal you could happily hibernate with.

Shredded Cuban-Style Pork Shoulder
Adapted from Melissa Clark
Serves 6

For the pork shoulder:
8 garlic cloves, peeled
Juice of 1 ruby grapefruit
Zest and juice of 1 lime
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
3 teaspoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons kosher or fine sea salt
1 2-kilo (4.4-pound) boneless pork shoulder
2 fresh bay leaves
2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil

To serve
Large handful coriander
2-3 limes
Rice or tortillas

1. Roughly one hour before you plan to cook the pork shoulder, make the marinade. Add the garlic, grapefruit juice, lime zest and juice, olive oil, brown sugar, oregano, cumin and salt to a food processor, and blend on high until uniform.

2. Using a very sharp knife, remove the rind from the pork, if attached, and save to make chicharrones (or discard). Cut the pork shoulder into four pieces. Add to a large bowl and top with the marinade. Cover and chill for one hour.

3. After one hour, remove the pork from the fridge. Add the vegetable oil to a large frying pan, and place over high heat. Once hot, remove two pork pieces from the marinade, and allow any excess to drip off. Add to the frying pan and brown on all sides before transferring to your pressure cooker or slow cooker. Repeat with the remaining two pork pieces; do not discard the marinade. (Note that, if you are using an Instant Pot, you can also brown your pork in the pressure cooker on Sauté mode.)

4. Add the reserved marinade to your pork pieces, as well as the two bay leaves. If using a pressure cooker, seal and cook on high pressure for 80 minutes; afterwards, allow the cooker to depressurise naturally. If using a slow cooker, cook on low heat for roughly 7 hours, stopping to flip the pork pieces halfway through, or until the pork can be easily shredded.

5. When cooking is done, transfer the pork pieces to a cutting board. Using two forks, shred the meat, and discard any gristly or fatty bits, as well as the bay leaves. If using a pressure cooker, return the shredded pork to the cooking liquid. Cook on Sauté mode for approximately 15 minutes, stirring frequently, or until the excess liquid has mostly evaporated. If using a slow cooker, return the shredded pork to the cooking liquid and cook on low for 1 hour more. If there is still excess liquid after cooking, strain off and discard.

6. Season the shredded pork to taste. Serve alongside rice or tortillas, plus coriander and lime wedges.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Our first book with Claire, The Beer Lover’s Table: Seasonal Recipes and Modern Beer Pairings, is published by Dog’n’Bone Books in March 2019. Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen.

Fundamentals #40: A Cautionary Christmas Tale (Ft. The Kernel Barrel Aged London 1840 Export Stout)

If you’ve ever trapped your finger in a car door. you’ll perhaps empathise with this tale of struggle and woe. It begins in East London, at Signature Brew’s new taproom, at the start of December. Was that a hint of Christmas in the air I detected? No. It was the smell of heat and spice emanating from the victims of HB&B’s latest round of Chilli Karaoke.

The premise of Chilli Karaoke is simple, yet effective. You choose a song, you sing the first few lines before being rudely interrupted by the host, at which point a Scotch Bonnet pepper is consumed and you try to finish your song. Meanwhile, your struggle provides quality entertainment for the gathered crowd. Having once taken part myself, I can honestly say this is the modern equivalent of the gladiators fighting in front of the baying masses at the Colosseum. Only with catchier tunes.

After another hilarious night, hosted by HB&B’s very own Lewis Blomfield (who, it also turns out, is a very good character comedian), our chariot (a Toyota Prius) winged us home from the Colosseum, my beers to review tucked safely under one arm.

This is where a good argument could be made for cans over bottles, as they tend not to shatter. As I turned to exit the car (parked on a slight incline), the door began to close – but I did not move the middle finger on my left hand before the door decided to shut itself. There was blood, there was profanity (told you it was just like Ancient Rome), but worse was that the shock of trapping my finger caused me to throw everything I was carrying in my other hand up in the air. I didn’t see the can and bottle hit the ground, but I sure heard them.

The shattering of glass against tarmac drowned out the dull thud of a can hitting the same surface. I watched as this precious imperial stout, which had spent months maturing in red wine and Cognac casks, trickled down my North London street, only to be washed away by the rain.

And that would’ve been the end of this review. But thankfully, like all good Christmas tales, this has a happy ending. The next morning, I went for a walk and passing a rival bottle shop, I stopped in to see if they had stock of the same beer. To my delight, they did. Popping the bottle safely into my pocket, I rushed it home, chilled it down for just under an hour, and then – very carefully – opened it.

And what did I find? Perhaps one of the most exquisite imperial stouts I’ve tried all year: Unctuous molasses and roasted barley flavours, interspersed with a tangy bouquet of juicy red wine and mouth puckering tannins. The merest hint of Cognac adding a little boozy flourish to the end of each sip. I’d say it’s so good that its fit for Caesar himself. And perfect for some extended Christmas Day drinking. Well, it is The Kernel.

Matthew Curtis is a freelance writer, photographer and author of our award-winning Fundamentals column. He's written for numerous publications including BEER, Ferment, Good Beer Hunting and Original Gravity. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @totalcurtis.

#HBBAdvent Beer 16: Lervig Konrad's Stout (Norway)

Lervig says: We’ve been producing this stout since 2010. We wanted to make a straightforward Imperial Stout with a Scandinavian touch to it, so we used a lot of dark malts and just the right water chemistry to give the beer a very soft mouth feel with coffee and Liquorice notes.

We say: Lervig Aktiebryggeri, from Stavanger in Norway, is brewing some of the greatest dark beers in Europe right now, whether they’re adjunct-rich pastry stouts, barrel-aged chocolate martini stouts or this bittersweet imperial stout. The malt base carries coffee, liquorice, dried fruit and berries perfect for in a cold dark sunday with a pre-Christmas cheese board (or if you're still craving pastry, a warm mince pie!). - Nathan, HB&B Deptford Manager

#HBBAdvent Beer 14: Pressure Drop Breaking Out Of My Tomb Brut IPA (London)

Pressure Drop says: We used Mosaic, Citra and Ekuanot hops in both these IPAs. They can be tasted together and compared or enjoyed on their own. The Brut IPA is about paring back the beer to intensify the flavours of the hops. The beer is bone dry, crisp and light, but with an intense hoppy flavour.

We say: We were stoked to be asked to launch this beer, along with its sibling, Show Of Hands NEIPA, at the shop last month - Pressure Drop’s first ever beer in cans. We wanted a Brut IPA to include in our advent - given this dry, spritzy style has been the hottest trend of 2018 - and Jen fell in love with this beer on opening it, so the decision was made. Cheers guys.

#HBBAdvent Beer 13: Buxton x Lervig Trolltunga Gooseberry Sour IPA

Buxton says: Trolltunga is a jutting rock in Norway, hanging 700 metres over lake Ringedalsvatnet. Only the wary tread the path to the very edge. This beer was brewed to celebrate friendship and a love of wild places. A collaboration with Lervig Aktebryggeri. (Stavanger, Norway)

We say: Like the place that inspired it, Trolltunga is spectacular (and with the bonus of not having to trek in snow shoes to enjoy it)! A collaboration of two breweries with the technical skill and subtlety to make this beautiful Gooseberry Sour IPA work in every way. Pouring golden haze with a lacy whitehead the full and juicy mouthfeel gives way to a slap round the face of tart gooseberry and lemon sherbet cleaned up with a dry finish. One of HB&Bs favourites from the beginning and now in a 440ml can, so even more of it to love and crush. - Nathan, HB&B Deptford Manager

Fundamentals #39 — The Bruery Or Xata Blonde Ale

What does a traditional Spanish sweet milk beverage, über-cool Californian craft beer, and a classic Belgian-style blond ale have in common? Turns out the answer is found at the bottom of a can of beer from Anaheim’s The Bruery.

But first let’s find out what Horchata is. Because despite being a scholar of all the tasty things you can drink, I can’t honestly say I’ve ever tried it. According to that ever-reliable source, Wikipedia, Horchata is a name given to “various plant milk beverages of similar taste and appearance”, reportedly originating from the Mediterranean city of Valencia. It is commonly made with rice or tiger nuts, and is often flavoured with cinnamon or vanilla. I hear it is also rather delicious when you mix it with rum (but honestly, what isn’t?)

Horchata is immensely popular in Latin America and by juxtaposition, Southern California. According to The Bruery it also pairs very favourably with Mexican cuisine and it should come as no surprise that I reckon their beer-based interpretation would also do a pretty great job of this.

The Bruery is perhaps best known for its big, tannic, barrel aged beers – in particular, its stouts – along with its wild fermented sours. In that respect, this beer, presented in a 16oz can as opposed to a 750ml bottle, already feels like something of a departure for them. The base beer that makes up Or Xata is a strong blonde ale, weighing in at 7.2%. It features additions of rice, cinnamon, fresh vanilla and lactose in an attempt to mimic the creamy sweetness of Horchata.

My fear that this would be a sickly, sweet mess were soon abated. The beer pours a surprisingly bright shade of yellow, with a thin head dissipating in seconds. Yes there’s a little cinnamon in there, and a hint of vanilla, but never overwhelmingly so. What I also found were spicy, yeast-driven flavours that reminded me more of a classic Belgian blonde ale than anything else. The finish was also dry, leaving me with a surprisingly drinkable and, most importantly, highly enjoyable beer. An ideal pairing for your Boxing Day turkey tacos.

Matthew Curtis is a freelance beer writer, photographer and author of our award-winning Fundamentals column. He's written for numerous publications including BEER, Ferment, Good Beer Hunting and Original Gravity. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @totalcurtis. Pick up a can of The Bruery Or Xata in store or online while stocks last.