Claire Bullen

Wine & Food Killers: Thai-Style Steamed Cod and Weingut Brand Riesling vom Berg 2017

Riesling is tragically misunderstood. Drinkers often avoid ordering it, assuming it is always sweet, though there are many delicious, dry Rieslings on the market. The impenetrability of the German-language terminology also doesn’t help (terms like Prädikatswein and Kabinett are far less understood than Brut, say, or Grand Cru).

It’s a shame because Riesling is a special grape indeed. When grown in cool climates and picked ripe, its bright acidity is steely as a blade but lively as electricity; it tends to taste of lime and flint and green apple. When grown in warmer climates or picked overripe, it takes on notes of tropical fruit and peak-summer peaches. (Sweeter Rieslings, especially those made with noble rot, can also be exceptionally delicious, though that’s a conversation for another time.)

Riesling’s vivid acidity and bountiful fruit character make it a natural when paired with South-East Asian fare and other potent, spice-driven dishes. That’s the direction I decided to go in when seeking a match for Weingut Brand’s Riesling vom Berg, which is produced in southwestern Germany’s Pfalz region. As its label suggests, the wine tastes like green and growing things, with an edge of musky melon and resplendent lime and pepper.

And so I found my way to this recipe. Though it’s common in Thai cuisine to steam entire barramundi fish, I simplified the technique by using fillets of cod instead (though you could use sea bass, monkfish – whatever catches your fancy, really). Instead of steaming the fish in a banana leaf, I also went with the French en papillote approach, in which the fillet is sealed with an array of aromatics (in this case, lime slices and lime leaves, plus shallots, ginger, and lemongrass) and cooked in a parcel of parchment paper. After steaming in the oven, it’s topped with a sweet, funky, and lightly spicy sauce, and served alongside sticky rice.

Together, the two are an equally bright paean to summer: vivid with citrus, light and refreshing, both in perfect harmony.

Thai-Style Steamed Cod
Serves 2

For the fish:
8-10 makrut lime leaves
2 limes, thinly sliced
2 lemongrass stalks (outer layers only)
2 échalion (banana) shallots, peeled and cut into rounds
1 thumb-sized piece ginger, peeled and cut into rounds
2 large cod fillets
Flaky sea salt
White pepper

For the sauce:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 échalion (banana) shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 lemongrass stalks (tender cores only, minced)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 thumb-sized piece ginger, minced
1 bird’s eye chilli, minced
Small handful coriander stems, minced
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons palm sugar
60ml freshly squeezed lime juice

To serve:
Sticky rice
Extra lime slices
Fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 200° Celsius (395° Fahrenheit). First, prepare the cod parcels. For each fish fillet, you’ll need one large sheet of baking/parchment paper, at least four or five times the size of the fillet. Place the sheet in front of you with the shortest edge facing you and fold the paper in half from the top. Unfold it so you have a crease running through the middle.

2. Just below the crease, arrange a bed of aromatics for the fillet to sit on, just larger than the fish itself. Arrange half of the lime slices and several lime leaves in a flat layer. Remove the tough outer layers of one piece of lemongrass and add to the limes (mince and reserve the tender inner core, which you’ll need later for the sauce). Add half of the shallot and ginger slices.

3. Season your fillet with a pinch of salt and white pepper on both sides, and place on top of the aromatics. Top with a few more lime leaves before sealing: fold over the top of the sheet and create a parcel by folding the outer layers over each other until tightly sealed. Repeat with the second fillet and remaining aromatics.

4. Place the parcels on a baking sheet and add to the oven. Bake for approximately 12–15 minutes, or until cooked through.

5. Meanwhile, make the sauce. Add the vegetable oil to a small saucepan and place over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the shallots, and cook for 2–3 minutes, or until softened. Add the reserved minced lemongrass as well as the garlic, ginger, chilli and coriander stems. Cook for 2–3 minutes more, or until softened and fragrant.

6. Add the fish sauce and palm sugar, and cook until the sugar is melted and incorporated. Pour in the lime juice and stir for a minute or two more until the sauce is slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and set aside.

7. To serve, scatter a few lime slices across two plates. Remove the fish fillets from the parcels (being careful not to burn yourself when the steam is released) and transfer to the plates with a few shallot rounds; discard the remaining aromatics and parchment paper. Divide the sauce between the two fillets and garnish with the coriander leaves. Serve with sticky rice on the side to help sop up the sauce.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beer and wine hound 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 out now and available in all good book stores (and at HB&B). Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen.

The Beer Lover’s Table: Skirt Steak with Avocado Herb Salsa & Toasted Pistachios and Cloudwater Aromas & Flavours IPA

Despite certain connotations with roaring fires and fishbowls of Malbec, steak has always struck me as a summertime food. Picture: blazing-hot barbecues in lush back gardens, slabs of meat sputtering over the coals, savoury smoke curling into the humid evening.

Even if, like me, you’re making do with a cast-iron frying pan on the hob, steak – especially the quicker-cooking cuts – becomes a simple summertime main: just serve yours with a tomato salad or grilled sweet corn. Or, as I’ve done here – inspired by a recent column in the Los Angeles Times – dressed with a bright, zippy salsa.

This salsa – a distant cousin of chimichurri, by way of Mexico – epitomises summer lushness and its varied shades of green. There is vivid parsley and coriander and mint, ombré spring onions and creamy nuggets of avocado, plus lime juice and dusky pistachios. All contrast beautifully with the red at the heart of the steak, both on the plate and on the palate. Rarely has red meat felt lighter, fresher and better suited to mid-summer.

Red meat always needs a beer of some heft to go with it: lager is refreshing but lacks the requisite body, and pales and session IPAs aren’t quite punchy enough. Instead, your best option is to go with a bold and juicy IPA – like Cloudwater’s Aromas & Flavours, one of the latest in the brewery’s series of double dry-hopped IPAs made with hand-selected hops straight from Yakima, Washington.

Hopped with Citra, as well as Centennial and Chinook, this 6.5% IPA is luscious up front, with a peach-and-nectarine sweetness that eventually lapses into a subtle, resinous bitterness. That bitterness is key in counterbalancing the steak, in cutting through it like a blade, though the ample fruit aromatics are also well matched by the citrus and herbaceousness of the salsa. Overall, the two are perfectly harmonious, and together make a fine candidate for a late dinner out on the porch.

Skirt Steak with Avocado Herb Salsa and Toasted Pistachios
Adapted from the LA Times
Serves 2

For the steak:
2 skirt steaks, approximately 250g each
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
Freshly ground black pepper
100g (3 ½ oz) pistachio kernels
2–3 tablespoons vegetable oil

For the salsa:
3–4 garlic cloves
Pinch coarse sea salt
120ml lime juice (from approximately 4-5 limes)
1 bird’s eye chilli, minced
2 spring onions, thinly sliced (dark and light-green parts only)
1 small handful coriander, finely chopped
1 small handful mint, finely chopped
1 small handful flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 ripe, medium avocado, finely diced
120ml extra virgin olive oil
Pinch caster sugar
Fine sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Remove the steaks from the fridge, and season generously with flaky sea salt and black pepper on all sides. Leave to come to room temperature as you do the rest of your prep.

2. Add the pistachios to a small frying pan, and place over medium-high heat. Toast, tossing frequently, for approximately 5–6 minutes, or until the pistachios are golden-brown and fragrant. Remove from the heat. Once cool enough to handle, roughly chop and set aside.

3. Make the salsa. Mince the garlic cloves, then add a pinch of sea salt. Using the flat side of your knife, crush and scrape the garlic against the cutting board. Alternate between chopping and crushing the garlic until you have a paste. Transfer to a medium bowl.

4. Add the lime juice, chilli and spring onions to the bowl with the garlic and leave for five minutes. Add the chopped herbs and the diced avocado, and pour over the olive oil. Stir to mix and add a pinch of sugar. Season to taste, generously, with the salt (begin with 1 teaspoon and increase from there) and the pepper. Set aside.

5. Place a heavy-bottomed frying pan (preferably cast-iron) over high heat and add the vegetable oil. Once very hot, add the steaks. Cook approximately 2 minutes per side for rare/medium-rare (skirt steak is best cooked quickly and not overdone); the steak should be well charred on the outside but still juicy and pink within. Transfer to a plate and tent with foil; allow the steaks to rest for five minutes before carving, with a sharp knife, against the grain.

6. To serve, scatter slices of the steak across two plates. Dollop the salsa over the plates, and finish with the chopped pistachios. Serve immediately.

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 out now and available in all good book stores (and at HB&B). Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen.

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The Beer Lover's Tokyo Table

We had a great night in furnace conditions at the Kanpai London Sake taproom the other night with our food writer and co-author Claire Bullen and chef Tim Anderson, who took inspiration from Claire’s recipes in our The Beer Lover’s Table cookbook and put his own Tokyo Stories spin on them.

Full report coming soon, but for now, enjoy some of the amazing photos taken by one of our guests, Chris Coulson - check out his wonderful Instagram feed @cwiss.

WINE & FOOD KILLERS: L’Austral Jolie Brise Blanc 2017 and Strawberries & Meringue with Pistachio Gelato, Olive Oil & Sichuan Pepper

This dessert had two inspirations. One was Instagram – specifically, a photo taken at Paris restaurant Cheval d’Or, which showed a scattering of strawberries on a stoneware plate, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with ground Sichuan pepper. It sounds outlandish, but it actually makes sense that Sichuan pepper works with the fruit; strawberries and black pepper are a tried-and-true combination, and Sichuan peppercorns, both tinglingly electric and fruity in flavour, add just that little extra kick.

The other inspiration was my all-time favourite, desert-island dessert, which I had at London’s P Franco a few years back. It was just a pistachio ice cream, but somehow better than every other pistachio ice cream that has ever came before it. It was also drizzled in fine olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt.

As you have likely gleaned by now, I prefer my desserts with a savoury edge – enough to counterbalance the sweetness and prevent them from being cloying. This dish, with its olive oil and pepper, plus meringue and strawberry and gelato, is the ideal blend of both.

You could very well pair this dessert with a wine with some residual sweetness – in fact, that might be the more popular choice. Me, I quite like this bone-dry pet nat alongside. It has that classic Chenin Blanc nose – mingled notes of pear and apple, honey and lemon – which conjures whispers of sweetness, though on the palate it’s all fizz and zesty acidity. I think this dessert is just savoury enough to support it. Like the pleasingly tart strawberries, this bubbly adds its own refreshing, contrasting piquancy.

Strawberries and Meringue with Pistachio Gelato, Olive Oil & Sichuan Pepper Meringue
Adapted from Delicious
Serves 2

For the meringue:
½ lemon
Three large eggs, room temperature
175g (6oz) caster sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla-bean paste (or vanilla extract)

For the dessert:
½ tub pistachio gelato (available at specialist retailers and good supermarkets)
200g (7oz) strawberries of various sizes (large ones hulled and halved)
3-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (the best quality you can get)
½ teaspoon ground Sichuan pepper (or black pepper)

1. First, make the meringue. Preheat your oven to 120° Celsius. Ensure your large mixing bowl and electric whisk are completely clean (any traces of grease or fat will prevent the meringue from properly forming). Wipe both the bowl and beaters with a lemon half; the acid helps the meringue form and stabilise.

2. Crack the eggs and separate the whites and the yolks (discard the yolks, or save for another project). Add the whites to the bowl, ensuring there are no traces of yolk or shell. Beat on high speed, using your electric whisk, until the whites form soft peaks. Gradually add the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, and beat well in between. Beat for a total of 5-6 minutes, or until the meringue is stiff and glossy. Add the vanilla bean paste and beat until just incorporated.

3. Dollop the meringue on a large baking sheet, lined with parchment paper or a silicon mat. Using a spatula, spread the meringue into a thin, even layer; it should be no more than half an inch thick.

4. Bake the meringue for approximately 1 ¼ hours, or until it is completely set and no longer tacky, but has not darkened in colour. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on the tray completely. Once cool, break into jagged, misshapen pieces (you will likely have extra meringue left over; store it in an airtight container and enjoy as a bonus dessert).

5. Arrange the strawberries between two plates or bowls. Add several small scoops of gelato to each serving. Drizzle over the olive oil and sprinkle the berries with the Sichuan pepper. Add several meringue pieces per plate. Serve immediately.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beer hound, wine buff 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 out now and available in all good book stores (and at HB&B). Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen.

The Beer Lover’s Table: Peanut Noodles With Fried Halloumi and Polly’s Brew Co Simcoe Mosaic IPA

Getting a takeaway is usually better in theory than in practice. There is the excitement of ordering too much food and planning a carefree night in front of Netflix; there is the anticipation of waiting for your flat’s buzzer to trill. But then: those spring rolls or onion bhajis, which sounded so enticing on Deliveroo, arrive over-steamed and limp in their plastic, or woefully under-seasoned, or swimming in grease. They just don’t quite hit the spot.

Perhaps that’s why the “takeout-style” genre of cooking has been so appealing to me – lately, I’ve craved quick-and-ready comfort with a hint of forbidden pleasure. Food is still best when it doesn’t have a commute, when you can scoop it from the frying pan straight into your bowl. And so I’ve found myself making these simple, satisfying, irresistible peanut noodles of late.

On the one hand, they’re infinitely riffable: I use cubes of fried halloumi here as the protein, though you could just as easily go with chicken (or tempeh, if you’re a vegan – don’t forget to swap the fish sauce for soy sauce in that case). On the other hand, this simple peanut sauce hits all the right points – salt and chilli heat, acid and sweetness. It’s worth holding onto and to make every time a dipping sauce is required.

There are numerous beers that would work brilliantly with this dish – you could make a strong case for pilsner, or lobby for saison. But in this case, I love the way Polly’s Brew Co.’s Simcoe Mosaic IPA flatters its flavour profile.

Polly’s Brew Co – formerly known as Loka Polly – has only been around since last year, but it’s already turning out some of the most delicious hoppy styles I’ve had in recent months. This IPA is no different: luscious, pillowy and potent, its savoury edge picks up the dish’s umami funk, its balanced bitterness cuts through the richness of the sauce, and its sweetness offers the equivalent of a few slices of finishing mango.

Overall, the two are the ideal makings of your next Netflix binge session. Sure, cooking at home means you’ve got a few extra dishes to do, and a bit of chopping. But the end results make the process worthwhile.

Peanut Noodles with Fried Halloumi
Adapted from Half-Baked Harvest
Serves 4-5

For the peanut sauce:
150g smooth peanut butter
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
½ tablespoon sambal oelek
1 tablespoon honey
4 tablespoons hot water

For the noodles:
250g (9oz) halloumi, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons sesame oil, divided
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 large carrot, grated
100g (3 ½oz) spring onions, finely chopped, white and green parts separated
250g (9oz) bean sprouts
400g (14oz) pad Thai-style rice noodles
Large handful roasted, unsalted peanuts
Large handful Thai basil
Large handful coriander

1. First, make the peanut sauce. Add all ingredients, barring the hot water, into a medium- sized bowl, and whisk until combined. Slowly drizzle in the hot water, whisking constantly, until the sauce is pourable but still relatively thick. Set aside.

2. Fry the halloumi. Place a large, non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat, and add 1 tablespoon of sesame oil and 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. When hot, add the halloumi cubes. Cook for 5–6 minutes, turning frequently, or until golden-brown all over. Transfer to a bowl and wipe out the frying pan.

3. Add the remaining tablespoons of both oils to the pan and place over high heat. Add the grated carrot, spring onions (white parts only), and the bean sprouts. Cook, tossing frequently, for 2-3 minutes, or until fragrant, hot, but still crisp. Turn off the heat and set aside.

4. Meanwhile, boil a large pot of salted water. Add the rice noodles and cook according to package instructions until al dente. Drain.

5. Add the cooked vegetables, the halloumi, and the peanut sauce to the drained noodles, and, using tongs, toss until evenly combined and coated. Divide between pasta bowls and finish with the peanuts, Thai basil, coriander and the reserved spring onion greens. Serve immediately.

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 out now and available in all good book stores (and at HB &B). Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen.

Wine & Food Killers: Tomato Tarts with Tarragon Pesto and Goat Cheese with Patrick Sullivan Jumpin’ Juice Sunset

If you had synesthesia and tasted your wines as colours, Sauvignon Blanc would be inescapably green. Though the varietal picks up vibrancy and passion fruit characteristics in warmer climates, at its heart it retains a cool herbaceousness. It can be green like gooseberries and limes, like budding blossoms, like puckeringly pre-ripe fruit.

Patrick Sullivan’s Jumpin’ Juice Sunset isn’t green, though it is made from 80% Sauvignon Blanc grapes. Instead, true to name, it’s the beguiling pinky-orange of late summer evenings (Sunset is also made with 20% Cabernet Sauvignon). But it is still unmistakably lush and fecund and almost dewy, likely distinct from any other rosé you’ve ever tried. It smells exactly like your hands after you’ve harvested tomatoes from their vines, and it tastes like a green bell pepper that’s just been washed in cold tap water, plus a zing of sweet, red fruit. Somehow, in the glass, it’s as crunchy as a cucumber.

For a wine this full of just-sprouted life, I wanted a dish that felt similarly fresh and well suited to endless summer days. Sunset’s tomato-vine aroma conjured images of tomato tarts for me – preferably ones that also featured leafy herbs, and perhaps a squeeze of citrus.

And so this recipe came to be. As is appropriate for garden parties and picnics, it takes roughly 20 minutes to prep, and cooks just as quickly. Frozen puff pastry is its secret, and a shameless one; be sure to pick the ripest tomatoes you can, and you’re most of the way there. I finish the sliced tomatoes with big round scoops of goat cheese (roll rather than crumble it, to make moreish dollops that resist full-on melting in the oven), plus a tarragon- and lime-based pesto, which mimics the wine’s brightness. In short, these tarts are worth turning on your oven for, even in the height of summer – and they’re just the right accompaniment to this extraordinary bottle.

Tomato Tarts with Tarragon Pesto and Goat Cheese
Serves 2 as a main and 4 as a starter

For the tarragon pesto:
50g fresh tarragon leaves
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1 pinch sugar
Flaky sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the tarts:
375g ready-rolled puff pastry (defrosted if frozen)
4 medium tomatoes (preferably heirloom varieties)
125g soft goat cheese
Flaky sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1-2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 tablespoons honey
Small handful basil leaves, torn

1. First, make the tarragon pesto. Add all ingredients to a food processor and blend well. Taste and adjust seasoning. Set aside.

2. Preheat the oven to 210° Celsius. Lightly flour your counter and unroll the puff pastry. Delicately cut the sheet in half, into two rough squares. Using a butter knife, score a 1-inch margin around the edges of each, being careful not to slice all the way through the pastry. Lightly pierce the middle portion of each piece of dough all over with a fork, which will prevent it from rising (don’t pierce the outside edges, as you want those to rise). Carefully transfer both squares of pastry to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, ensuring they don’t touch; separate across two baking sheets if they don’t fit.

3. Spoon the pesto onto each square, spreading across an even layer within the scored margins. Thinly slice the tomatoes using a serrated knife, and arrange in an overlapping manner within the square. Season with flaky sea salt and black pepper to taste.

4. Using a small spoon, scoop the goat cheese into spheres, and place evenly on top of the tomatoes (rolling the cheese into larger pieces ensures the dollops won’t melt too much in the oven, and will brown appealingly on top). Drizzle the olive oil and honey over the tomatoes, avoiding the edges, if possible.

5. Bake the tarts for approximately 15–20 minutes, rotating tray(s) halfway through. The tarts are done when their edges are fully puffed up and golden-brown on top, when the tomatoes look cooked, and when the cheese is just starting to brown on top. Leave to cool for several minutes. Before serving, garnish with the torn basil leaves.

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 Patrick Sullivan Jumpin’ Juice Sunset here, and to sign up for our Natural Wine Killers natural wine subscription box, head here.

Natural Wine Killers: Kindeli Tinto 2018 (New Zealand)

New Zealand as a country certainly knows its way around a high-quality beverage. That’s particularly true in and around Nelson, located at the northern tip of the South Island, where many of the country’s grapes and hops are grown. It’s no accident that that’s also where winemaker Alex Craighead has staked his claim.

Alongside his partner Josefina Venturino, Craighead founded two labels – DON Wines and Kindeli Wines – in Martinborough in 2014. Now based in Nelson’s Moutere Valley, most of the fruit used in his Kindeli range is organically and locally grown on parcels of land that he either owns or leases. Craighead has also partnered with Wellington brewery Garage Project on its beer-wine hybrids.

Craighead uses only indigenous yeasts, and every bottle is unfined and unfiltered, and made without added sulphur. Since its founding, Kindeli has become a darling of the international natty-wine scene: its distinctive (and occasionally controversial) labels, complete with topless foxes, are a fixture on Instagram, and industry figures like Marissa Ross are often seen chugging straight from their bottles. (In a recent piece in Bon Appétit, she describes Kindeli’s wines as “incredible blends from New Zealand [that] were the most staggeringly aromatic and cohesive wines I had all year.”)

Kindeli’s Tinto is the kind of red that’s ideal in the summer months, and that could even do with a bit of chill on it, particularly on hot days. Tinto is made primarily with Pinot Noir grapes, and displays classic, moderate-climate characteristics of red cherry and forest floor and a touch of mushroom. Give it a swirl and a few moments in the glass to encourage its fruit to open up. The wine also features a small quantity of Syrah grapes (as well as an even smaller quantity of Pinot Gris). Their thick skins add some tannic structure and a plummy hue to the wine, plus an extra degree of richness.

Tinto is also made using carbonic maceration, during which whole clusters of grapes are allowed to ferment in a sealed, anaerobic environment before being crushed. The technique is particularly associated with the Beaujolais region, and gives the resulting wine a slight candied, juicy-fruit fragrance and character. Altogether, you’ve got a bottle that’s tremendously drinkable but worth thinking about, too.

Claire’s food pairing: Slow-roasted salmon with fresh herbs and lemon, or barbecued quail with a hoisin-based marinade

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 KIndeli Tinto here, and to sign up for our Natural Wine Killers natural wine subscription box, head here.

The Beer Lover’s Table: Coffee Kisses And Põhjala Cocobänger Imperial Stout With Coffee And Coconut

If you’re familiar with coffee kisses, then you probably associate them with Mary Berry, or afternoon tea. Large, tawny cookies, sandwiched together by a simple coffee buttercream, coffee kisses feel vaguely matronly and old-fashioned to me, partly because my grandmother was an accomplished baker, and her coffee kisses have since inspired their own family lore. As far as I know, her recipe hasn’t changed since the 1960s. It exists, in her handwriting on a worn piece of paper, faded almost – but not quite – beyond readability.

Coffee kisses may not be avant-garde, but they’re still an excellent (and quick) recipe when you’re craving something sweet, with a bit of jitter. I’ve made a few gentle tweaks to the recipe to help them feel more contemporary. A teaspoon of ground cardamom, which works so well with coffee, makes a worthy addition to the dough, and I’ve also added a bit of cocoa powder and vanilla extract to the buttercream. The recipe yields 16 individual cookies, or eight total sandwich cookies: a reasonable amount, the right size for a casual, semi-spontaneous baking session.

This isn’t the kind of pairing I would normally do at this time of year, but given that I haven’t quite felt able to completely retire my winter coat for the season just yet, an imperial, barrel-aged stout still appeals. Estonia’s Põhjala Brewery is a master of the style and Cocobänger – a 12.5% imperial stout brewed with coconut and Costa Rican coffee – is emblematic of what this brewery does so well.

It’s sweet upfront, tongue-curlingly rich, but with just enough pleasing roastiness and bitterness from the coffee to keep things balanced, despite the significant weight of the alcohol. The coconut suggests itself subtly: it’s gently toasted and fragrant rather than cloying, almost the way new oak might taste in a wine.

Overall, this is a beer of spectacular richness and structure and depth, and the coffee kisses’ sweet crunch adds one more layer to appreciate.

Coffee Kisses
Makes 8 large sandwich cookies

For the cookies:
170g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
100g sugar
100g (7 tablespoons) unsalted butter, chilled
1 medium egg
2 teaspoons instant coffee (dissolved in 1 teaspoon hot water)

For the icing:
55g unsalted butter, softened
85g icing sugar, plus additional for dusting
2-3 teaspoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon instant espresso (dissolved in 1 teaspoon hot water)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 170° Celsius. Add the flour, cardamom, and sugar to a large bowl, and whisk to combine. Finely cube the chilled butter and add to the flour mixture. Using your fingertips or a pastry cutter, work the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal.

2. Add the instant coffee granules to a ramekin or small bowl, and dissolve in 1 teaspoon hot water. In a separate bowl, crack the egg and whisk until frothy. Add the coffee concentrate to the egg and whisk to combine. Pour into the dry ingredients and, using a wooden spoon, mix until the dough has just come together.

3. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Turn the dough out onto a well- floured surface and flour your hands well. Gently roll into roughly walnut-sized balls (the dough will be somewhat sticky) and place roughly 1.5 inches apart on the baking sheet.

4. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the cookies are puffed up, golden, and lightly crackled on top. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes on the tray before transferring to a cooling rack.

5. While the cookies are cooling, make the icing. In a large bowl, add the softened butter, icing sugar and cocoa powder. Beat until smooth. Drizzle in the coffee and the vanilla, and beat until uniform.

6. Once the cookies are completely cooled, dollop a generous amount of frosting on the base of one cookie and, using another cookie, create a sandwich. Repeat with the remaining cookies. Dust with additional icing sugar, if preferred, and serve.

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 out now and available in all good book stores (and at HB &B). Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen.

Wine & Food Killers: Popcorn Prawns with Lemon Dipping Sauce and Cantina Furlani Antico 2017

If champagne and fried chicken is an iconic high-low pairing, then it follows that pet nat and popcorn prawns should be, too. Both are crisp and buoyant – albeit in different ways – and, in this case, both zesty and lemon-scented. Both can be gulped without much hesitation; both demolished far quicker than intended. And if you’ve been blessed with a patio or a terrace or a back garden, then both also make brilliant summertime fare.

Cantina Furlani’s exceptional Antico Frizzante is made exclusively from the Nosiola grape, which is native to Italy’s Alpine Trentino region, in the country’s far north – is the kind of wine I’d like to drink on a weekly basis during the warmer months of the year.

It’s bright with acid, amply citrusy, and rounded out with a subtle pear-and-apple richness. That acid, and those perky bubbles (following a spontaneous primary fermentation, the wine ferments again in bottle thanks to the addition of frozen, unsweetened grape juice), make this a perfect foil to anything fried.

Its aromatics also make it a fitting choice alongside a wide range of seafood dishes – you could equally go with ceviche or grilled fish or octopus salad or fried squid – but I particularly like the way this wine flatters the prawns’ natural sweetness.

To complete the dish, the crispy little nuggets of prawn are served alongside a dipping sauce that's tangy with Greek yoghurt and laced with the merest shimmer of cayenne pepper. Lemon zest and lemon juice add their own acidity, and further link with the wine's own zesty personality. Altogether, this pairing is both complementary and contrasting: alike in flavour, though the Antico's carbonation and bite help counteract the fat. (Sure, you might then eat far more prawns than first intended, but who's counting?)

Popcorn Prawns with Lemon Dipping Sauce
Serves 2

For the dipping sauce:
120g Greek yoghurt
120g mayonnaise
Juice and zest of ½ lemon
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

For the prawns:
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons fine sea salt, plus additional
1 teaspoon black pepper
70g all-purpose flour
65g corn flour
2 eggs
3 tablespoons whole milk
330g peeled, deveined prawns
700ml vegetable oil (plus additional, if necessary)

1. First, prepare the dipping sauce. In a small bowl, add all five ingredients and stir or whisk until well combined. Set aside.

2. In a ramekin or small bowl, add the garlic powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, sea salt and black pepper, and mix together. Set aside.

3. In a medium bowl, add the flour and corn flour, and whisk until combined. In a second medium bowl, add the eggs and milk, and whisk until combined.

4. Add the prawns to a large bowl and sprinkle over the spice mixture and ¼ of the flour mixture. Toss until evenly coated.

5. To batter the prawns, transfer each to the bowl with the egg yolk mixture and, using a fork, flip until lightly coated. Let any excess drip off before transferring to the remaining flour mixture. Toss until well coated, and transfer gently to a parchment-paper lined plate or tray. Repeat with the remaining prawns.

6. Meanwhile, add the vegetable oil to a large, cast-iron skillet (it should come up about 2 inches; add extra if needed). Place over high heat and heat until 180° Celsius. If you don’t have a deep-fat frying thermometer, add a tiny bit of flour; if it immediately begins to sizzle rapidly, it should be hot enough.

7. Line a large plate with paper towels and place next to the stove. To fry, add your first addition of prawns, ensuring they’re not overcrowded (you’ll need to cook yours in multiple batches); be careful, as the hot oil could splatter. Cook for approximately 2-4 minutes, flipping and rotating the prawns regularly, until the exterior is deep golden-brown and crisp. Transfer to the paper-towel lined plate and repeat. You may need to adjust the heat to maintain a constant temperature.

8. Sprinkle the prawns with additional salt to taste, and serve immediately, alongside the dipping sauce.

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 Cantina Furlani here, and to sign up for our Natural Wine Killers natural wine subscription box, head here.

The Beer Lover’s Table: Wild Garlic Pierogi with Caramelised Onions and Left Handed Giant x Whiplash There, There Rye IPA

Wild garlic is one of my favourite signifiers of spring. Prized and elusive, the glossy leaves burst forth at the start of the season in great verdant patches before disappearing for another 11 months. When they arrive, I tend to do the same things with them, year after year: cheese scones, pesto or chimichurri. This year, I craved a change.

Enter the humble pierogi – one of my favourite comfort-food dishes. If you’ve never had pierogi, think of them as ravioli by way of Poland, filled with (in this case) cheesy mashed potato in lieu of ricotta. They’re stuffed, sealed, boiled, and then fried with onions until their skins are bronzed and crisp and their insides piping hot.

They are basically a perfect food. Making them by hand is certainly a weekend project, but it’s an incredibly satisfying one (and, if you opt to freeze them, you have an emergency hangover cure on hand). I like King Arthur Flour’s classic recipe, though I’ve opted to add wild garlic to my pierogi, which are then served with caramelised onions and dollops of sour cream.

Wild garlic tends to work well alongside pale ales and IPAs – particularly those brewed with Citra and Simcoe hops, which often have a savoury, allium character. This Rye IPA, a collaboration between Left Handed Giant and Whiplash, fits the bill, and offers just enough sweetness to match the caramelised onions.

Together, the two are a perfect choice for that transitional stretch between seasons, when the weather changes moment to moment: still warming and hearty, but bright with new possibility.

Wild Garlic Pierogi with Caramelised Onions
Serves 3-4
Adapted from King Arthur Flour

For the dough:
240g all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 large egg
115g sour cream
60g (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, very soft

For the filling:
225g potatoes
115g sharp white cheddar, grated
Small handful wild garlic, chiffonaded
Fine sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

To serve:
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
45g (3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, divided
1 large onion, finely sliced
Fine sea salt
Small handful wild garlic, finely sliced
Sour cream

1. First, prepare your pierogi dough. Add the flour and sea salt to a large bowl and whisk to combine. Add the egg and mix roughly, using a fork, until the dough is shaggy. Add the sour cream and butter and mix, using the fork, until the dough just comes together.

2. Turn the dough out onto a clean surface (do not use any flour on the surface or your hands, as it will make the dough tough). Knead and fold gently, using your fingertips, for approximately 5 minutes. The dough will start out very sticky – resist the urge to add more flour – but should become just springy enough to stick together in a ball and pull cleanly off the counter. Wrap in plastic clingfilm and chill for a minimum of 1-2 hours, or until firmer.

3. Meanwhile, make the filling. Peel and roughly chop the potatoes. Add to a pot, cover with cold water, and place over high heat. Bring the water to a boil and salt it well. Cook the potatoes until fork-tender, approximately 10-15 minutes.

4. Once the potatoes are tender, drain. Mash using a potato ricer or a fork. While the potatoes are still hot, add the grated cheddar and stir through until melted and evenly incorporated. Add the wild garlic and stir to combine; season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside until cool.

5. To make the pierogi, remove the firmed-up dough from the fridge. Cut in half; place one half on the counter and cover and chill the other half as you work. Roll out the dough until approximately 1/8-inch (3mm) thick. If it is still sticky, use the merest sprinkle of flour on the rolling pin and counter. Using a 3-inch (7.5cm) cutter, cut the dough into circles. Re-roll any remaining dough scraps.

6. To fill the pierogi, spoon roughly 2 teaspoons of potato mixture on each dough circle, leaving a margin at the edges (be sure not to overfill, or they will burst when cooking). Fold over the other side and pinch the edges closed. Seal the edges by pressing lightly with the tines of a fork. Once the pierogi are made, repeat with the second dough half and the remaining filling.

7. If you wish to cook the pierogi at a later date, line a container with wax paper and sprinkle lightly with flour to prevent them from sticking. Store overnight in the fridge or freeze for up to a month.

8. When ready to serve, begin by caramelising the onions. Add 1 ½ tablespoons of butter and olive oil to a large frying pan and place over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the onions, and immediately turn the heat down to medium-low. Cook for approximately 45 minutes, stirring frequently, or until the onions have caramelised. If they are cooking too quickly, turn the heat down to low.

9. Once the onions have caramelised, transfer to a bowl and remove the frying pan from the heat (don’t clean it out). Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a gentle boil. Add roughly 10 pierogi at a time and cook until they float to the surface (cooking time will vary depending on if they are fresh or frozen).

10. Meanwhile, add the remaining butter and olive oil to the frying pan and place over medium high-heat. Once the pierogi have cooked, transfer using a slotted spoon to the frying pan. Cook for approximately 5 minutes, flipping halfway through, until the pierogi are crisp and golden on both sides. Return the caramelised onions to the pan, add the wild garlic, and cook until just wilted. Serve the pierogi alongside dollops of sour cream.

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 out now and available in all good book stores (and at HB &B). Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen.

Wine & Food Killers: Grilled Pork Banh Mi Sandwiches and Testalonga Baby Bandito Stay Brave 2018

Sometimes one craving begets a fiercer, more trenchant second craving. For instance: earlier this month, I ordered a banh mi from a Vietnamese deli up the road. The sandwich was delicious, but too small, and so for the rest of the week all I could think about was a second banh mi – one filling enough to sate me.

The best banh mi I ever had were in Southern California; there, the sandwiches (which arose out of a fusion of French and Vietnamese cuisines) were made with oven-fresh baguettes at all hours, always light and hot and crisp. It is hard to live up to the ideal I hold in my head, but this interpretation is close enough to do the job. Made with both grilled pork and pâté (head cheese is a common fixture of traditional banh mi), it features quick-pickled carrots and daikons, slices of cucumber and jalapeño, and fresh coriander. Each bite is at once meaty and spicy, crunchy and zesty, chewy and tender.

Founded in Swartland, South Africa in 2008, Testalonga is one of the country’s most ambitious and boundary-pushing wineries. Its Baby Bandito line (whose recognisable labels have become a fixture on natural wine shop shelves) is a good place to start, and Stay Brave – 100% Chenin Blanc, macerated for 11 days and aged in oak foudres – is a pleasing introduction to skin-contact, or orange, wine.

Orange might not quite be the operative word here, however. This wine is closer to a tawny amber, and its zingy flavour profile veers between flowers and peaches and citrus and spice. It punches well above its 10.5% ABV; it’s not merely crushable. I like what the banh mi does to the wine. Because its pickles are so piquant and acidic, and the fish sauce in the marinade and the daikon impart a nose-crinkling pungency, they mollify the wine’s sharper edges. It becomes a little less tongue-prickling, and its own mellow sweetness becomes more pronounced. Chenin Blanc is a grape that is often described as tasting like honey, and the marinade – made with a good drizzle of honey – draws out that winsome side of its personality.

Grilled Pork Banh Mi Sandwiches
Serves 4

For the pork and marinade:
600g pork tenderloin
3 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 spring onions (white and light green parts only), roughly chopped
2 stalks lemongrass (thick outer layers removed), roughly chopped
Small handful coriander, stems included
Juice and zest of 1 lime
3 tablespoons fish sauce
2 ½ tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper (preferably white)

For the pickled vegetables:
1 large carrot, peeled 1 equivalent-sized daikon, peeled
180ml rice vinegar
80ml warm water
¾ tablespoon fine sea salt
1 ½ tablespoons sugar

For the sandwiches:
2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 mini baguettes
Mayonnaise
Pork pâté (optional, but recommended)
½ cucumber, thinly sliced
2 jalapeños, thinly sliced (deseeded, if preferred)
Large handful coriander

1. Prep the pork several hours before you plan to eat. Using a very sharp knife, slice the tenderloin into thin (approximately ¼-inch-thick) sheets (if your tenderloin is very long, halve it length-wise first). Place in a large, non-reactive bowl.

2. Add all of the remaining marinade ingredients to a food processor or blender. Blend on high for several minutes, until mostly uniform. Pour the marinade over the pork, and flip the pieces to ensure they are all evenly covered. Cover and chill for 2–4 hours.

3. Meanwhile, prepare the pickled vegetables. Using a box grater (or food processor), grate the carrot and daikon and add to a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, add the remaining pickling ingredients and whisk until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Pour over the grated vegetables and stir to mix. Cover and chill.

4. Once the pork has finished marinating, remove it from the fridge. Place a large, non-stick frying pan over high heat, and add the vegetable oil. Once very hot, add the pork – allowing excess marinade to drip off each piece – in a single layer (you will likely need to cook the pork in 2 or 3 batches). Cook for approximately 3-4 minutes, turning frequently, until the pieces are golden-brown and cooked through. Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining pork.

5. Shortly before serving, halve the baguettes with a bread knife and place cut side up on a foil-lined baking sheet. Place under the grill and toast on high heat for 2-3 minutes, or until just turning golden and crisp. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a minute or two.

6. To construct the sandwiches, divide the halved baguettes between four plates. Spread a thin layer of mayonnaise over the top half of each baguette, and a layer of pâté (if using) on the bottom half. Cover the pâté with a single layer of cucumber slices and a few jalapeño pieces. Divide the pork between all four sandwiches and place the slices on top of the cucumbers.

7. Remove the pickled vegetables from the fridge. Top the pork with a thin layer of the vegetables (drain extra liquid before using) and finish with the coriander. Put the baguette halves together and eat the sandwiches while still warm

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 Testalonga Baby Bandito Stay Brave here, and to sign up for our Natural Wine Killers natural wine subscription box, head here.

The Beer Lover’s Table: Oven-Cooked Chicken & Orzo and Saison Dupont

Like the rest of the internet, I lost my damn mind when Nigella Lawson posted a photo of perfectly golden roast chicken nestled in soupy, carrot-flecked orzo on Instagram at the end of February.

To be clear, there is nothing radical about chicken cooked with orzo – the Greeks have been doing it for aeons. While the image was initially ended as a casual, off-the-cuff home-cooking shot, Lawson received so many requests for the recipe that she posted it just a few days later (combined, the two posts have netted upwards of 72,000 likes).

Viral recipes are a curious phenomenon (and one that Alison Roman appears to have mastered, between those cookies and that chickpea stew) - particularly, particularly because the dishes that capture popular attention are often paradoxically simple and nostalgia-infused. I can’t quite explain why, amongst the hundreds of food images I scroll past each day, Nigella’s chicken lodged in my brain, but lodge it did. There is something to its buoyantly bronzed breast, and the two-in-one ur-comfort of oven-baked pasta and roast chicken.

I have made several tweaks to Nigella’s recipe (swapping leeks for onion, adding feta and pine nuts, and using stock in place of water), but it’s not an exaggeration to say that hers is the best chicken dish I’ve had all year. It is genius, the way that the pasta soaks up the bird’s broth and oils, its very essence. Make it for dinner parties. Make it for special occasions. Make it when you feel sad. Make it when you’re happy. Just make it.

In the way that this dish is an instant soul- and crowd-pleasing classic, so is Saison Dupont. This is an unimpeachable beer: it is so perfectly poised, with its light sweetness, finishing bitterness, fluffy head and restrained esters. Saisons are a classically food- friendly style, but I find they do particularly well with chicken dishes. Here, the two are seamless, and both ludicrously joyful.

“This is a simple recipe that brings profound pleasure,” Lawson says. Right she is, and that’s even truer with this beer alongside.

Oven-Cooked Chicken and Orzo
Serves 6
Adapted from
Nigella Lawson

1 small chicken (approximately 1.4kg/3lbs)
2-3 tablespoons fine sea salt, divided, plus additional
2 large carrots
1 large onion
1 head garlic
4 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon crushed chillis
2 lemons
600ml (2 ½ cups) chicken stock (plus additional, if needed)
250g (9oz) orzo
100g (3 ½oz) toasted pine nuts
200g (7oz) feta
Small handful parsley, torn

1. Roughly 1 hour before you plan to cook, remove the chicken from the fridge. Season inside and out with 1.5-2 tablespoons of sea salt (depending on your salt tolerance). Set aside and leave on the counter to warm slightly. (Note: you can also season the chicken several hours in advance, or even the night before, for additional flavour and tenderness. The further in advance you season it, the less salt you should use.)

2. Preheat the oven to 180°C (355°F) – you’ll need a large Dutch oven for this dish, preferably cast-iron or enamel. Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables. Roughly chop the carrots and onion. Separate the garlic cloves and peel, but leave whole. Roughly chop the oregano.

3. Place the Dutch oven on the hob (stove) over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Once hot but not smoking, add the carrots, onion, and garlic, and season with the additional tablespoon of salt (you can halve this if you’re watching your salt intake or prefer less salted food), plus lots of freshly ground black pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for 3–5 minutes, or until slightly softened and the onions and garlic have lost their raw aroma. Add the oregano and crushed chillis, and cook for an additional minute, or until fragrant. Remove from the heat and transfer the vegetables to a plate.

4. Using a microplane, grate the two lemons, setting the zest aside. Halve and squeeze the juice into a separate bowl. Then, tuck the squeezed lemon halves into the chicken’s cavity, which will further perfume it as it cooks.

4. Return the pot to the hob and add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Turn the heat to high; once very hot, add the chicken, breast-side down. Sear for 2–3 minutes, or until its breast skin turns crisp and golden-brown. Then, flip the chicken so it’s breast-side up.

5. Return the vegetables to the pot, being careful to place them around the chicken rather than on top of it. Pour in the chicken stock; it should come most of the way up the bird, but should not cover its breast (you may need additional broth, depending on the size and shape of your pot). Add the reserved lemon zest and lemon juice. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper, and bring to the boil. Once boiling, cover with the lid and transfer to your preheated oven.

6. Cook the chicken for approximately 1 hour–1 hour 15 minutes. Carefully remove the pot from the oven and take off the lid. Pour the orzo around the chicken, using a spoon to ensure the pasta is fully submerged; add a bit of additional broth if needed. Taste the broth and add a pinch of additional salt, if needed. Cover the pot and return to the oven for 30 minutes.

7. After 30 minutes, remove from the oven and take off the lid: the orzo should be fully cooked, and most of the broth absorbed. Using a spoon, gently stir the orzo without dislodging the chicken. Add the pine nuts to the orzo and stir through before topping with crumbled feta. Return the pot, this time without a lid, to the oven for 5 additional minutes, until the feta has softened and begun to melt. Remove from the oven.

8. Bring the chicken to the table in the pot, so everyone can see how beautiful it is, before heading back to the kitchen. To serve, gently transfer the chicken to a cutting board with a large spatula (its meat will be falling off the bone). Using two forks (or your hands, if immune to heat), roughly shred the chicken and return to the pot; discard the skin, bones and any gristle, as well as the lemon halves inside the chicken. Mix through, and garnish with the parsley before serving.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer. Our first book with Claire, The Beer Lover’s Table, is out now, available through our online shop or through good booksellers and online retailers. Saison Dupont is a year-round staple at Hop Burns & Black - you definitely want to stock up on this regularly,

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Beer Lover’s Table: Venison Steaks with Sweet Potato Puree and Gipsy Hill x People Like Us Bramble Sour

Venison is deep and rich and dark, more animal tasting than beef, ferric as blood. It is a lean meat and is thus best cooked quickly, just long enough to brown its outside while leaving its interior rare and tender. Little wonder it’s often matched with barrel-aged chocolate stouts or Belgian quadrupels; its uncommon intensity helps it stand up to the heavyweights.

This time, though - rather than pairing two powerhouses - I wanted to find a beer that could help temper some of venison’s richness. Enter People Like Us, a collaboration between Gipsy Hill and the eponymous People Like Us, a Danish brewery run by people from marginalised groups. This bramble sour was brewed with raspberry, blackberry, and lingonberry purees, and pours a beguiling shade of magenta.

It’s no accident that venison is commonly served with blackberries, drizzled in a redcurrant sauce or otherwise paired with berries; this is a meat that benefits from contrasting brightness and an added spark of acidity. Here, this beer isn’t just a pairing: it serves as an element of the dish that’s been outsourced to the glass, a stand-in for a reduction or glaze. The addition of fried sage leaves and vibrant sweet potato puree (infused with sage-scented brown butter) makes this a simple, wintry showstopper.

Venison Steaks with Sweet Potato Puree and Fried Sage Leaves
Serves 2

For the venison steaks
2 venison steaks, approximately 225g (1/2 pound) each
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

For the sweet potato puree
1 small sweet potato, approximately 300g (2/3 pound)
2 garlic cloves, peeled but left whole
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Brown butter from sage leaves (see below)

For the fried sage leaves
20 sage leaves
125g (1 stick) unsalted butter

1. Roughly 45 minutes before you plan to cook, remove the venison steaks from the fridge and pat dry with paper towels. Season both sides generously with salt and pepper. Leave at room temperature so they won’t be fridge-cold when it comes time to cook them.

2. Meanwhile, bring a medium saucepan of salted water to the boil. Peel the sweet potato and finely dice. Add to the boiling water, along with the garlic cloves, and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook for roughly 12 minutes, or until the sweet potato is very soft but not yet falling apart. Drain and transfer the sweet potato and garlic to a food processor.

3. While the sweet potato is cooking, make the brown butter-fried sage leaves. Melt the butter in a medium frying pan, and add the sage leaves in a single layer. Cook for 4-5 minutes, swirling the pan frequently, until the butter has turned a deep brown, smells nutty, and the sage leaves are fried. Remove from the heat immediately, and leave to cool for a few minutes.

4. Transfer the sage leaves to a plate, and pour the sage-infused butter into a liquid cup measure (or other vessel with a pouring spout).

5. Season the sweet potato mixture with pepper and nutmeg before blending on high. As the food processor’s motor runs, pour in the brown butter in a steady stream. Blend until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.

6. Place a large frying pan over high heat. Once very hot, add the olive oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the venison steaks and cook on the first side for approximately 1 ½ minutes, or until well browned. Flip and cook on the reverse for approximately 1 minute more (you can cook for slightly longer if you like, but venison is best served rare). Using tongs, sear off the sides of the steaks. Transfer to a cutting board and leave to rest for approximately 5 minutes.

7. Divide the sweet potato puree between two plates. Slice the venison steaks and place on top of the puree. Garnish with the fried sage leaves, and serve.

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.

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Wine & Food Killers: Lemongrass Chicken with Sam Vinciullo Warner Glen Sauvignon Blanc 2017

If you’ve got Sauvignon Blanc fatigue, you’re not alone (blame the boatloads of Oyster Bay for making the grape feel cheap and lustreless). But don’t let that dissuade you from this particular bottle. Sam Vinciullo’s skin-contact Warner Glen Sauvignon Blanc is an electrifying reminder of just how good ol’ Sauvy B can be.

Made using organic, hand-harvested grapes in the Margaret River region – located in Western Australia, and one of the most geographically isolated wine regions in the world – it ticks most of the low-intervention boxes. It’s unfined and unfiltered (which gives it a hazy appearance), has no added sulphites and is fermented using wild yeast. That make it about as pure a distillation of the grape, and of Margaret River’s terroir, as is possible to find.

Even with the glass inches away from my nose, the wine’s complex and enticing aroma is apparent: you could almost dab it on your pulse points and call it a perfume. It offers pungent aromas, ripe and juicy gooseberry and passion fruit, plus a subtle herbaceousness (no wonder some describe Sauvignon Blanc as the IPA of wines). On the palate, it’s buoyant, with the slightest prickle of CO2, and brightly acidic.

When thinking up a pairing to go with this peach of a wine, I sought a complementary dish – something that could supply its own fruitiness and subtle funk. I opted for Vietnamese-inspired lemongrass chicken, which, like the wine, is boldly flavourful but still fresh. Additions of lemongrass, fresh herbs and lime juice mimic the wine’s brightness, while a pinch of earthy turmeric and glug of fish sauce match its pungency.

This is a great pairing both for sunnier days and when you can’t quite bear to let the memories of summer go just yet.

Lemongrass Chicken
Loosely adapted from Asian at Home
Serves 4

For the lemongrass chicken:
800g (1 ¾ lbs) boneless, skinless chicken thighs (approximately 8 thigh fillets)
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 long stalks lemongrass
4 cloves garlic
1 bird’s-eye chilli
1 echalion (banana) shallot
2 ½ tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon ground turmeric

To serve:
Steamed jasmine or basmati rice
Coriander leaves
Mint leaves
Lime wedges

1. First, prep the chicken. Chop into roughly 1-inch pieces. Season lightly with salt and pepper and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, prep the aromatics. Remove and discard the hard bulb at the end of each lemongrass stalk. Remove and discard the tough outer layers until you get to the tender core. Mince finely, and transfer to a bowl.

3. Finely mince the garlic and chilli, and add to the lemongrass. Finely dice the shallot, and add to the same bowl.

4. Make the sauce. In a ramekin, add the fish sauce and brown sugar, and stir until uniform. Set aside.

5. Place a large frying pan or wok over high heat, and add the vegetable oil. Once very hot but not smoking, add the chicken pieces. Spread in a uniform layer and cook for approximately 2 minutes, or until starting to brown. Flip and cook for approximately 1-2 minutes on the reverse. Sprinkle over the turmeric, and toss to combine.

6. Once the chicken is just cooked through, add all the aromatics and cook, tossing frequently, for 3-4 minutes, or until they have lost their raw aroma.

7. Pour over the sauce and toss to combine. Turn heat to medium-high, and cook for 5-6 minutes, stirring or tossing frequently, until the sauce has thickened into a glaze. Remove from the heat.

8. Divide steamed rice between bowls and top with the lemongrass chicken. Garnish with coriander and mint, as preferred, and serve with lime wedges on the side.

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.