Essential ingredients: venison


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Photograph: Simon Peel

As the temperature finally drops, our Head Chef Stewart Turner suggests a decadent recipe to bolster against the winter weather, taking advantage once more of the truffle season. Demetri Walters MW completes the equation by recommending bottles that will stand up to Stewart’s indulgent combination of venison, truffle and cheese.

On the table: Macaroni cheese has to be the ultimate comfort food, which is so lovely and warming in the winter. It seems to be having a bit of a renaissance and is very much in vogue, although I still think we see it as a stand-alone item rather than an integral component to a dish. Here we have taken it to new heights with the addition of truffle and by partnering  it with venison – a dish we recently served at an Italian dinner, inspired by the requirement of something to match Barolo. One of the guests asked for the recipe after dinner, so I thought I’d share it a little more widely.

Venison and game in general is something I think we should eat more of: it’s so full of flavour, and, with very little fat, it’s a healthy alternative to other red meat. We use farmed venison as it tends to be a little more consistent; truly wild animals can be a little tough.

In the glass: Venison, with its gamey intensity, talks to me of earthier red wines, or at least wines where there is as much complexity and restraint as primary fruit. All manner of wines will make sense here: red Burgundy, Barolo/Barbaresco, Claret, and many a more restrained New World red.

Truffle might be the tricky ingredient here though, demanding a wine of power, breadth and texture. Mature Alsatian, German and Austrian Riesling fit the bill well, and they can still make sense when matched with venison and macaroni cheese. That said, many people will prefer a red wine here.

Stewart’s venison, combined with pungent truffle and rich macaroni cheese brings to Barolo’s weave of firm tannins, delicate cherried-fruit and complex root-vegetable flavours. For a more intense, fruity, woody experience, then a young Châteauneuf-du-Pape, or powerful southern French red will work equally well.

Roast loin of venisonServes 6
  • 1kg loin of venison – trimmed of all fat and sinew, ask the butcher for some of the bones
  • 1 garlic clove – smashed
  • 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 50g butter
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Allow the venison to come up to room temperature before cooking and season well with salt and pepper. Preheat the oven to 160°C. Heat a splash of oil in a heavy-based frying pan. Once the pan is hot, sear the venison for about a minute on each side until lovely and browned.  Add the thyme, garlic, and butter; baste the venison with the infused butter in the pan and pop it in the oven for about four to five minutes for medium-rare. Remove the meat from the oven and allow to rest in a warm place. Carve onto warmed plates and serve with the sauce, some buttered Brussels tops and the truffle macaroni cheese.

Venison sauce
  • 500g venison bones – chopped
  • 1 shallot – sliced
  • 1 carrot – sliced
  • 1 stalk of celery – sliced
  • 50g button mushroom – sliced
  • 1 garlic clove – smashed
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 juniper berries – crushed
  • 1 star anise
  • Pinch of dried cèpes
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • 200ml red wine
  • 50ml red wine vinegar
  • 100ml Port
  • 500ml game or veal stock
  • Olive oil
  • 25g of butter
  • 1tbsp redcurrant jelly

To start the sauce, roast the venison bones in a hot oven until they are lovely and brown. Drain off any fat. Heat a splash of olive oil in a heavy-based pan and sauté the vegetables and garlic until they are golden. Add the herbs, garlic, dried cèpes and spices, then cook for a further minute.

Pour in the red wine, port, and vinegar, then reduce to about 75ml. Add the stock and roasted bones, bring the sauce to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Cook until reduced by two thirds. Pass the reduced sauce through a fine strainer and set aside. When ready to serve bring to the boil and whisk in the jelly and butter.

Photograph: Simon Peel

Truffle macaroni cheeseServes 6
  • 50g baguette – cut into small chunks
  • 50 butter
  • 50g plain flour
  • 300g macaroni
  • 1 garlic clove – smashed
  • 500ml whole milk
  • 10g dried cèpes
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5ml truffle oil
  • 1tbsp grain mustard
  • 1 small truffle
  • 250g Gruyère – grated
  • 50g Parmesan – grated

Heat the oven to 180°C. Spread the chunks of bread over a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and season. Bake for six minutes until crisp, break or blitz into a rough crumb, set aside. Bring the milk to the boil with the cèpes, thyme, garlic and bay. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for about half an hour, then pass through a fine sieve.

Melt the butter over a medium heat in a saucepan. Add the flour and stir to form a roux, cooking for a few minutes. Gradually whisk in the infused milk, a little at a time. Cook for 20 to 25 minutes over a gentle heat to a thickened and smooth sauce.

While the sauce is cooking out, cook the macaroni in a large saucepan of boiling salted water for eight to 10 minutes; drain well and set aside. Once the sauce has finished cooking, remove it from the heat and stir in all the Gruyère and half the Parmesan, grain mustard, truffle and oil, season to taste.

Stir the pasta into the sauce, then tip into a large ovenproof dish. Scatter over the breadcrumbs and remaining Parmesan, and then bake for 20 minutes until crisp and golden.

Category: Food & Wine

Clerkenwell Boy’s top three BYO restaurants


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In the kitchen at The Quality Chop House. Photograph: Patricia Niven

In the kitchen at The Quality Chop House. Photograph: Patricia Niven

Here London foodie and Instagrammer extraordinaire, Clerkenwell Boy, recommends his favourite wine-friendly restaurants, the establishments which allow diners to bring a cherished bottle (or two) with them.

Have you got that special bottle at home but haven’t quite found the right occasion to crack it open yet? Why not ditch the fridge-buffet and treat yourself to a nice meal out instead – all without having to break the bank. It may sound too good to be true, but here are my top three BYO places in London where you’ll be able to enjoy a fantastic meal and that special bottle of wine too.

The Quality Chop House

Originally opened in 1869, The Quality Chop House on Farringdon Road (near Exmouth Market) was lovingly restored a few years ago into a classy dining room and wine bar – with the recent addition of a butchers and shop next door. It has fast become a favourite amongst locals and London foodies – serving up seasonal British produce and homely dishes but elevated to the next level. The menu changes daily, however there are some classics that often make a regular appearance. Galloway mince on dripping toast is perfect for a wintery night. When in season, the roasted game birds come with a restorative game tea, game pie, game chips and game liver parfait. Even the humble potato reaches epic new heights at the hands of chef Shaun Searley: those confit potatoes (probably one of London’s most Instagrammed dishes) are a must order. The Quality Chop House has a fantastic no corkage policy on Mondays (which is sadly suspended during December, but perfect for tackling January-to-November blues).

Rochelle Canteen

Hidden away behind a wall on the south-east corner of Arnold Circus in Shoreditch, this charming restaurant is housed in a converted old school bike shed, overlooking a grassy playground. There is outdoor seating too – which is perfect for sunny spring and summer days. The food showcases seasonal British ingredients, often with Mediterranean influences. Popular dishes include the roasted duck leg with lentils and aïoli, meatballs and soft polenta, quince and apple crumble. As they are not licensed, you can bring your own wine for a small corkage charge (£6.50). Sadly they are only open for breakfast and lunch, Monday to Friday – but I feel this adds to the uniqueness of the place.

The Golden Hind

Is there anything better than fresh flaky fish, a light and crispy grease-free batter, served with chunky chips and mushy peas? Established in 1914, The Golden Hind in Marylebone is a casual neighbourhood shop and extremely popular with locals and tourists – as the kitchen uses sustainable British fish and the servings are quite generous. They don’t serve alcohol but you can bring your own wine (no corkage fee).

73 Marylebone Lane, W1U 2PN / 020 7486 3644

Category: Food & Wine

The Leap


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Photograph: Pete Rees

The Arae vineyard, the fruit of which goes into Sam Harrop’s Cedalion Chardonnay. Photograph: Pete Rees

As we release the first wine made under his own label – the exquisite 2013 Cedalion Chardonnay, Sam Harrop MW thinks back to the point where this particular journey began, the moment when – perhaps unknowingly – he took a leap of faith.

It was a typically grey chilly December day in London when the email arrived from New Zealand: “Why don’t you come spend the summer in New Zealand and see what you can make out of our vineyard?” An aunt and uncle had recently bought a plot of land on Waiheke Island, New Zealand which included a small vineyard planted with Chardonnay. I read the email to my wife. We glanced around the tiny living room/kitchen/dinning room of our flat; at our toddler son who was – at that point – trying to package our recently arrived second son into a suitcase and decided it was a sign. To Waiheke Island, and don’t spare the horses!

For those of you who have been to Waiheke Island (and I don’t just mean Auckland, for Waiheke is a very different beast) you will understand how the prospect of three months living and breathing its unique island lifestyle was insanely captivating. Just 30 minutes’ ferry ride from downtown Auckland, this tiny paradise had just about all of our favourite things: amazing weather, stunning beaches, incredible wine, and a vibrant local community from all corners of the world.  Of course, we’d head back to London and our comfortable, if busy, life once the vintage was over. Except it didn’t quite work like that.

The summer of 2013 was spectacular and we fell in love: with the island, the people, the space, the sea air, the weather. Our little winemaking punt took on a life of its own and before we knew it, we had bought a little ‘bach’ (Kiwi for ‘holiday home’) and moved in.  Big call. Very big call. As the summer nights gave way to cooler ones, and the tourists began to dwindle, reality hit home: how on earth was this going to work? The answer included long stints away from my young family and unrelenting jetlag.

Not following the formula

Before moving to London in 1997 (where I was based for 16 years) I studied and worked in the New Zealand wine industry for three years. I love New Zealand wines. I love their intensity, their ripeness, their richness. These more-ish, pungent, primary qualities of many of New Zealand’s wines have been responsible for much of their success in the international market. Most sensible people would assume that with this clear formula for success I would follow suit. But the memories still lingered of the myriad European wines I had tasted and had a hand in making over 20 years, as did the impact of the many innovators and ‘giants’ of the global wine industry under whose watchful eyes I grew from an eager (but very green) young wine enthusiast.

I wanted to challenge expectations and see if I could take New Zealand-grown fruit somewhere it hadn’t been before. My ideal was a mid-point between the best of what the French and the Kiwis have to offer – a more modest, mineral, linear style. Less pungent than most New Zealand wines, but more fruit driven; pure and less extracted than most French wines. Most of all, I wanted to make a wine with an abundance of personality; a wine style that would make the closest friends and the worst enemies; one that had the potential to age for many years, and would be a great partner with food.

Fast-forward almost three years from that fateful December day and we have three stunning vintages under our belts. The resulting wines have given me more than I could ever have expected in a first and second vintage. Subtle and singular, they are a true expression of their magnificent sites and – if early indicators are correct – will improve with age for a long time.

It’s been a tough slog for everyone involved and an exercise fraught with risk. Was it worth it? Absolutely. To all of you on the cusp of taking a leap of faith: good luck and good health!

Sam Harrop’s 2013 Cedalion Single-Vineyard Chardonnay is available exclusively from Berry Bros. & Rudd: find out more about the wine and Sam on or

Category: New World

South Africa’s new wave


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Oldenburg, Stellenbosch. Photograph: Jason Lowe

Oldenburg, Stellenbosch. Photograph: Jason Lowe

While life in the wine trade isn’t necessarily as entertaining as it sounds, or so Damian Carrington – Agency Director of Fields, Morris & Verdin – tries to tell his friends; here he reports on the new wave of producers in South Africa, a country whose vinous prospects are as exciting as can be, and whose wines make for a very good day at the office.

When trying to explain my job to friends and peers outside the wine industry they find it hard to believe that a gamut of tastings can be anything but unalloyed fun. “What do you mean you don’t want to go to the Wines of [X (insert any country you wish)] event?’ they cry, horrified. ‘Why on earth wouldn’t you want to go to [Y] fair or [Z] tasting?’

I try to explain that I’ve been to hundreds of them over my career to date, that yes it is good fun to catch up with old friends, suppliers and customers, and occasionally you taste something really interesting; but generally they are just dull. There is rarely the opportunity to taste as much wine as my friends think, and, yes, I do spit it out. Commercially uninteresting, and somehow just too formulaic to be fun, one inevitably leaves with little achieved.

I’m pleased to say that changed for me recently when we (Fields, Morris & Verdin, the agency arm of Berry Bros. & Rudd) were asked to join a small group of other importers to promote a group of wineries and winemakers that we collectively believe are among some of the most exciting in the wine world at the moment.

I have written previously in this blog about a visit I was privileged to undertake to South Africa in December 2014. What I experienced there in a short week helped re-kindle my love for wine, as we met and tasted with a new generation of hugely enthusiastic and incredibly talented winemakers. The challenge for our little group was to recreate the tangible sense of camaraderie, talent, youth and openness that we all feel pervades the South African wine scene at a tasting in London in mid-September.

Well, even if I do say so myself, we managed it! First we tracked down the most ‘un-wine trade’ of venues, The Vinyl Factory in the heart of Soho. (As an aside I couldn’t recommend the team working there highly enough and if you ever need a white box event space in the beating heart of London – look no further.)

Secondly we added over 30 quite brilliant South African winemakers and well over 300 trade buyers from restaurants and retailers all over the country. It was the most brilliant day and I tasted far more than I ever would have normally (and, yes, I was spitting out). Highlights included wines from the Cravens in Stellenbosch, Eben Sadie, Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines and Hannes Storm’s quite brilliant Pinot Noirs.

If you haven’t looked at South African wines for a while, I would whole heartedly recommend you take the time to look again. There are some outstanding wines to be discovered and what started as a trade event is turning into something of a movement, with the new wave wines starting to appear on retailers’ shelves and restaurant wine lists.

Browse the latest fine wine releases from South Africa on

Category: New World