Some of you guys might be familiar with that awkward moment when you realize you’ve known someone close to you way too long to be coming up with ingenious ideas for birthday and/or holiday presents year after year. My mother has been expertly sailing around those shallows by giving me a wonderful foodie-bundle of a bottle of wine and piece of meat complimenting eachother perfectly for my birthday the last couple of years.
Last year’s combo was a bottle of Brunello di Montalcino and a somewhat scary large amount of lamb fillets. After having a test-sip of the rich and very intense wine I decided to make a fruity (but not sweet) sauce to balance out the meat and the wine – no, I didn’t use the Brunello for the sauce, mom. For some reason the idea to dress the fillets up as a baby wellingtons popped into my head. I hadn’t made crêpes in ages, but evidently making them is like riding a bike. The first wobbly attempt at it after a long break ends in a crash, and then the autopilot flips back on. So here’s what I made out of the wonderful fillets after dumping the first ehm…“crêpe“:
For 2 Servings you’ll need:
400g Fillet of Lamb
2 Sprigs of Rosemary
2 Cloves of Garlic, crushed
1 Bay Leaf
1 Tsp dried Herbes de Provence
Extra Vergine Olive Oil
Herbed Dijon Mustard
1 Tsp Butter
1) Pick an airtight container that can hold all of the fillets. Set them inside and check how much liquid the container can hold with the meat inside. Measure the amount of oil accordingly and pour it into a small pot.
2) Heat the oil up to between 55°C and 60°C. Add the rosemary, crushed garlic cloves, bay, pepper and dried herbs de provence. Let the oil infuse for 5 minutes, then take the pot off the stove and leave it to cool off completely.
3) Once it’s cooled, pour the oil and the spices and herbs in it over the fillets in their container. Carefully turn them to make sure they’re covered in marinade all around. Spread out the herbs evenly. Leave this in the fridge to marinate for about 24 hours.
4) Once you’re ready to prepare the fillets, pick off the herbs – keep them, you’re going to need them later on. Melt 1 Tbsp of butter in a heavy-based pan on high heat.
5) Add 1 of the rosemary sprigs to the butter and sear the fillets all around for 2 mins on each side while basting them with the butter.
6) If you have a lot of pieces, do this in batches so the pan doesn’t loose to much heat. Keep them straight in order to wrap them up in the crepes later.
7) Take the fillets out of the pan and let them rest for 5 minutes, snugly covered with an aluminum foil blanket. If you want to take it a bit further (and have no burned bits in the pan), deglaze the pan with a tbsp of olive oil, blend the cooking liquids left in the pan into the oil and drizzle it over the resting pieces before covering them up.
The Crêpes (6)
100g Plain Flour
1 Egg, size M
150ml Skimmed Milk
50ml Sparkling Water
1 Pinch each of Salt, Nutmeg, dried Herbes de Provence and Pepper
Lemon-Thyme Scented Oil or Olive Oil
This is basically my grandma’s recipe for crêpes, minus the herbs and thyme oil. She hated making them to no end, but since the occasion – asparagus season (I will so come back to that at a later point…) – first and foremost calls for crêpes and secondly only lasts for a little over a month, she kept her cool most of the time. One of the most valuable tips she gave me was using sparkling water in that kind of dough instead of plain tap water. It lightens the dough up without making the crêpe puff up in the pan. Sadly I forgot her reasoning for the skimmed milk. I always stick to this recipe though, it never fails me.
1) Sift the flour into a mixing bowl and press a hollow into the middle with your knuckles.
2) Crack the egg into that hollow and add the herbs, seasoning and milk. Slowly start whisking.
3) Once the dough starts thickening, stir in the sparkling water. Keep stirring until the dough is smooth and without lumps. I always feel the urge to add more flour at this point, it really does seem to be on the runny side of things, but it’s supposed to be that way.
4) Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let the dough rest for 45-60 minutes – at least 20 minutes. I usually start preparing whatever goes with the crepes at around the 40 min-mark so the dough is going into the pan at about the 50 min-mark. Don’t let the dough sit around for much longer than 60 minutes though, it does take on a stale, floury taste after that.
5) Depending on the flour sometimes the dough thickens up a little too much during its resting time, add a bit more milk if that’s the case. I think the best way to describe the „right“ consistency to someone who doesn’t know what they’re looking for would be warm, runny honey or double cream.
6) Lightly brush the pan with oil and heat it up on medium heat.
7) Pour in a ladle of dough – just enough to cover the bottom of the pan in a thin disk – and spread it out over the bottom of the pan by tilting it. At this point you’ll see if you have the right temperature – the crepe should brown lightly within a minute but it shouldn’t start setting before you are done spreading out the dough.
8) Flip the crepe once the topside is dry. It’s done when it’s light brown on both sides.
9) Repeat this 6 times.
10) Set the crepes aside with paper towels in between and keep them warm if possible.
The Cassis Sauce
4 Tbsp sugar reduced Blackcurrant Jam
1 Tsp Plain Flour
300ml dry Red Wine
200ml Blackcurrant Juice
150ml Lamb or Beef Stock
100ml Cassis Infused Balsamic Vinegar
Alt: 50ml Regular Balsamic Vinegar, 50ml Aged Balsamic Vinegar
(or 100ml Crème de Cassis)
2 Kumquats, cut in discs
(or Zest of half an Orange)
Salt, Pepper, Chilliflakes
I’ve made this sauce on several occasions involving different meats – hence the replacements. The ones in bracets are what I used for a duck dish. I replaced them this time to get in some acidity I thought the lamb and the crepes needed to lighten them up.
1) “Melt” the jam and the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.
2) Set the heat to medium-high, stir in the liquids and add the kumquats and just a pinch of salt, pepper and chilliflakes.
3) Let the sauce simmer until it has reduced down to about 1/3 of the liquid you started with.
4) Add the herb twigs, bay leaf, garlic slices you had in the lambs marinade and turn to low heat.
5) Let the sauce simmer/reduce until it reaches the thickness you prefer for a sauce. Taste and season with salt and pepper once it’s ready.
Assembling the dish
1) Brush the crepes with a thin layer of mustard. Make sure to include the rims. The mustard will not just add flavor, it also acts as a glue.
2) Tightly roll in the fillets, trim off the ends and claim them as your Cook’s Pay when nobody is watching.
3) Serve the lamb wellingtons with the sauce and sautéed green asparagus or sugar snap peas. This time I blanched sugar snaps instead of green asparagus, turned them in the marinade and sautéed them for a couple of minutes. I also added a caramellized shallot for a dot of color in the picture.
I hope you enjoy this as much as we did!
By the way: The Cassis Balsamic Vinegar for the sauce was a lucky find on one of our trips across a medieval festival (until then I always used a 50/50 of normal ad aged balsamic vinegar I listed as alternative for this recipe). Luckily we live in an area with lots and lots of medieval mountain castles, various other historical sites, residences of the lords, ladies and knights of that era and, for that matter, roman ruins, which are all often used as scenic settings for medieval markets and renaissance fairs – so at least during the summer months doing a little time-traveling is always an option for our weekend plans. What I love the most about these markets, apart from the food and mead of course, are the artisans displaying and selling their work. Aside from the expected – goldsmiths, woodworkers and the like – there’s always a spice trader somewhere, someone selling berry wines, jams, cheeses, sweets, you name it – in other words, a piece of foodie-heaven. I could nose around those booths for hours, but this time I had a hard time keeping myself in motion to avoid major frostbite. As I was hurrying towards the exit, a rather aggressive dot of pink between a whole lot of yellow caught my eye. I turned around to take a closer look and there it was, a large display of beautifully arranged herb blends, little jars of mustard – the pink being a cherry mustard which went wickedly well with the thinly sliced smoked venison ham I also bought that day – and an assortment of infused balsamic vinegars. With this sauce on my mind I scanned the display, as usual without much hope, looking for something cassis related. As common as the whole idea of infused balsamic vinegars has become in recent years, some aromas, like the humble blackcurrant, have been left out in the cold for no good reason. Totally over the moon about this find I bought a bottle and rushed off home to get started with the sauce rather than just to defrost myself. Perfect timing, perfect find and perfect balance of fruit and vinegar led to a perfect sauce! Have a closer look around when you see one of those festivals around, there’s a lot more going on than just a bunch of people wearing full suits of armor and pretty dresses, talking in a funny way and drinking mead all day!