Monthly Archives: January 2015

A festive break – 16th & 17th December 2014

We booked to attend our first Wine Society Christmas Dinner on 16th December, and decided to use the occasion for a mini-break. We booked two nights in Claridges so that we could attend the dinner on Tuesday, take afternoon tea on Wednesday, then follow it with a show (Miss Saigon), before taking a late dinner at the Ivy on Wednesday night.

WS_CD_Wine_smallThe highlight of the dinner was the Jaboulet Hermitage La Chapelle 1990, along with seven other wines, a sumptuous six course dinner, and a renowned guest speaker: the winemaker, Caroline Frey. In summary, this was a wonderful evening. You will find a more detailed account of our impression of the food and wine here.

CL_AF_AngAfternoon tea was a special treat for Angela. It was her first experience, and where better place to start than the Foyer and Reading Room at Claridges? We sipped champagne as we perused the extensive list of teas. Ian chose an Earl Grey; Angela chose a breakfast tea.

We were served two plates of sandwiches, followed by scones, Christmas pudding and pastries. The tea was excellent, plenty of flavour with just enough drying tannin to give a satisfying finish. It would seem pretentious to describe the food using the colourful phraseology that we might use for a Michelin star restaurant, but the impeccable service, the ambience, and the care and skill spent in producing these beautifully presented dishes all combined to make this a delightful and unforgettable experience.

Ivy_ang-_startWe thoroughly enjoyed Miss Saigon and arrived at The Ivy with a weary happiness that you might see in a dog dozing in front of a log fire. For starters, Angela chose the potted salmon with lemon remoulade. She felt the dish lacked salt – not unusual for Angela – and found the remoulade a little tart and lacking balance. But these were minor gripes as with a little added salt the dish was pleasant to eat.

ivy_ian_startIan chose the squid, chorizo and spicy peppers to start. The dish had plenty of body with a meaty consistency and the salad was well dressed with strong mediterranean flavours – quite delicious! To accompany the first course we chose a Touraine. It was always going to be a tough comparison following the hedonistic pleasures of the previous evening, but the wine was everything you would expect from a modestly priced Sauvignon Blanc.

ivy_ang_mainAngela had the pan fried calves liver with mash, melted onions and devilled sauce for the main course. Delicious! The liver was delicately cooked with wonderful sweet onions on top and a crispy smoked bacon, We ordered cauliflower cheese to accompany and it was very flavoursome with a lovely, breadcrumb crunch on top.

ivy_ian_mainIan chose the rib eye with fries. The steak was lean, and beautifully cooked with a subtle, charred outside and a pink juicy inside with a good beef taste. The Moulin de Gassac that we chose to accompany the main course was a typical South of France red – fruity and unrounded with little tannin. But good drinking nevertheless for a late night supper. After a wonderful couple of days we left for home very happy with the world in general.

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A Worker’s Reward – 12th December 2014

rec_lamb_in_winterAngela has been working hard lately – her ‘day job’ is owning a soft furnishing business (see Her current project involves transforming an old night club into an elegant wedding venue, by means of a tented ceiling – a huge undertaking. There has been much burning of the midnight oil.

I decided to give her a treat on Friday – a lovely slow braised lamb shoulder with red cabbage and a velvety Rioja. I braised the lamb shoulder at a low temperature, cooking the cabbage at the same time. The lamb was falling apart and the red cabbage had that spicy, sweet/sour taste that goes so well with winter faire.

For me, roast potatoes are the perfect choice for a flavoursome winter dish. I was lucky enough to pick up some Mayan Gold potatoes at our local supermarket. Cooked in goose fat, they were crispy and tasty with delightfully light fluffy centres. To complete the dish we steamed a few broccoli florets – just for a few minutes to keep them tasty and crunchy. 

rec_LIW_riojaThe wine we picked to accompany the dish was the 2005 Viña Arana by La Rioja Alta – a perfectly balanced, velvety, vanilla Rioja in the traditional style.

Angela loved it. A very well deserved treat to finish a hard-working week.

I’ve added it to our recipes list. See Lamb in Winter.

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Lamb in Winter – Slow braised lamb with red cabbage


For the lamb and gravy

  • 1 Boned lamb shoulder
  • 6 Cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 2 Sprigs of rosemary
  • 200ml White wine
  • 1 Large onion – chopped
  • 1 Medium sized carrot – chopped
  • 1 Lamb stock cube
  • 250ml Red wine
  • 1 tbsp Redcurrant jelly
  • 1 Cap full red wine vinegar
  • Dash Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Pinch dried oregano
  • 2 Heaped tbsp plain flour
  • Salt and pepper

For the mint sauce

  • 30g Mint leaves, chopped
  • 2 Heaped tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp Sherry vinegar
  • 4 tsp White wine vinegar
  • Dash of balsamic vinegar

For the Red Cabbage

  • 1 Red cabbage  – shredded
  • 1 Red onion – chopped
  • 1 Granny smith apple – peeled, cored and chopped
  • 1 Cinnamon stick crumbled
  • Square of muslin
  • 4 tbsp Brown sugar
  • 250ml Red wine
  • 50ml Red wine vinegar
  • 20g Butter
  • Nutmeg

Detach a dozen ‘V’ shaped mini-sprigs of rosemary from one of the main sprigs. Take four of the garlic cloves and cut into about a dozen pointed pieces. Cut slits in the top of the lamb shoulder and insert the rosemary mini-sprigs and pointed garlic into alternate slits.

Place the lamb shoulder on a wire-racked roasting pan (or use a trivet), cut the remaining two cloves of garlic in half and place on the bottom of the pan together with 200ml of white wine. Cover the roasting pan with foil and place in a pre-heated fan oven at 110 degrees centigrade. Leave enough space in the oven to accommodate the cabbage.

rec_LIW_CabbagePlace the crumbled cinnamon stick on the muslin square, tie it with string, and put it in a  casserole dish. Layer some of the shredded red cabbage in the dish, place a layer of red onion and granny smith apple on top and sprinkle two tablespoons of brown sugar. Grate some nutmeg on top and season with salt and pepper. Place another layer of red cabbage on top, and spread the remaining red onion, apple and two further teaspoons of brown sugar. Top with the remaining red cabbage and season with a little nutmeg, salt and pepper. Place some thin slices of butter on top. Pour in the 50ml of red wine vinegar and 250ml red wine. Cover with a lid or some foil.

Once the lamb has been cooking for one hour, place the casserole dish with the red cabbage in the oven with the lamb. Leave to cook for a further four and a half hours. Take the lamb from the oven,  remove the foil and place the chopped onion and carrot in the bottom of the roasting tin. return to the oven. Turn up the heat slightly to 120 degrees centigrade and continue cooking for a further half hour.

rec_LIW_LambRemove the lamb and the red cabbage from the oven, take the lamb out of the roasting dish and set aside the lamb and the cabbage in a warm place to rest.

The roasting tin will have a lot of fat and a thick brown residue from the lamb coating the onion and carrot. Pour away all of the free running fat, retaining just the thick, glossy coating containing the onion and carrot. Place on a low heat for a few minutes to clarify the remaining fat.

rec_LIW_rouxAdd the  plain flour and stir in to soak up all the glossy coating until it forms a dry consistency. Cook over a low heat for a minute or two to take the starchiness out of the flour.

Scrape the dry onion/carrot/flour mixture into a large gravy saucepan and set aside. Prepare some lamb stock in a large jug by adding one litre of boiling water to a lamb stock cube. Deglaze the roasting pan by adding 250ml light red wine and turning up the heat on the hob. Scrape vigorously with a wooden spoon to dissolve all of the remaining dark residue in the pan. Pour the wine together with the dissolved residue and any remaining solid bits from the pan into the jug containing the stock.

Place the gravy saucepan with the dry mixture on the hob, turn the heat up high and immediately pour in the stock, stirring vigorously with a large metal whisk. Keep stirring until the liquid goes into a rolling boil, when it will thicken. Turn down to a low simmer.

Add the two rosemary sprigs, the dried oregano, Worcestershire sauce, cap of red wine vinegar and red currant jelly. Season to taste with salt and pepper and simmer for at least 30 minutes. Strain the sauce into a serving jug, pressing down on the vegetables.

To prepare the mint sauce put the sugar in a dish with just enough boiling water to dissolve it. Add the mint and press with a spoon to release the flavour into the hot water. Add the vinegars and stir.

To prepare for service, slice the lamb and remove any fatty bits – it should be falling apart. Place on a plate with the red cabbage and pour over the gravy. Serve mint sauce on the side.

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