Burns Night At East Lodge With Coghlans Food and Wine Experience
Believe it or not, I’ve never been to a Burns’ Night Supper, so I was thrilled when Lisa from Coghlans Derbyshire Wine and Food Experience Centre invited His Nibs and I along to their event at East Lodge.
As we pulled up to the entrance of the beautiful East Lodge, strains of bagpipes floated across the evening air. Walking inside, we saw the origin of the music, a fully kitted out piper…in the middle of Derbyshire!!! I love bagpipes, although in the confines of a building, they were a bit deafening! Lisa was on hand to divest us of our cloaks and we sat down in the conservatory, saying our hellos to other guests. Andrew Coghlan came over to welcome us, handing out coupe glasses of pastel pink ‘Ginsecco’ cocktails: what a way to kick an evening off, I’m sure you’ll agree? Later in the evening, he told us that they were fashioned from Dr Derbyshire’s Raspberry Gin and alcohol-free Prosecco…nifty.
Edmund (the piper) piped whilst we were all seated in the dining room and then it was down to the serious business of sampling the evenings’ first course, Cullen Skink, a traditional, hearty Scottish soup made by Chef William Nicol. For those of you who haven’t either a) done a class with Will or b) eaten dishes Will has cooked, let me give you a swift guide to his method…bang as much indulgence and flavour in to each dish as you can!
No surprise, then, when I tell you that the soup had a base of Leek/Onion and Potato that was pimped with cream and herbs, to which had been added stock, pieces of Arbroath Smokie and crunchy Croutons. Maximising this simple starter’s appeal, Chef presented the Cullen Skink in classic white China teacups and saucers. Before we tucked in, Andrew briefly told us that the Haddock was undyed and had been smoked over Oak and Hickory woodchips to impart a gentle smokiness. To go with this course, a Chardonnay (Casa Rena 505) had been selected by Andrew, and he explained that its richness was the perfect partner; and I have to say that we agreed.
As well as the usual wine and food pairing that are the cornerstone of these dining events that Coghlans host at East Lodge, we were treated to an extra dimension for this iconic Scottish evening: Whisky. Now, I know you pretty much have to have Whisky with Haggis (if it isn’t actually law, I’m sure there’s a movement for it to be so in Scotland!), but this particular events’ tipple was being provided by Dr Derbyshire’s Spirit Emporium, made in the ‘shire itself. Me and Whisky don’t have a great relationship so, after having the tiniest of sips, I passed the remainder over to The Man Bird – who grinned like the Cheshire Cat at his good fortune.
Edmund piped in the ‘Chieftain’ Haggis (made by Edinburgh firm MacSween, to a recipe from their grandfather) that was held proudly by Chef Will and paraded around the room before it was lovingly set on a table, ready for Glen – Edmund the piper’s dad, by the way - to read ‘To A Haggis’ by Robert Burns. Already transfixed by Glen’s brilliant reading (though I’m sure he would modestly disagree), I was even more enthralled when, dramatically, he took the Sgian Dubh/ Skene Dubh/ small, fixed blade knife that forms part of the Scots’ Formal Dress, and plunged it into the Haggis! We all toasted the mighty morsel with the nip of Whisky and then it was taken back to the kitchen to be plated up with Neeps and Chefs’ Whisky sauce.
In the mouth, the Haggis had a superb texture that allowed you to appreciate the grain and meats partnership: not too dense as to be heavy on the tummy, nor so open that it disintegrated on cutting. Beautifully seasoned with Onion, Cayenne Pepper and other spices, the Haggis was certainly way tastier than I had been expecting… I love being pleasantly surprised. I need to learn the secret as to just how Chef Will Nicol gets his Neeps so incredibly silky smooth; they were impossibly smooth, with a beguiling sweetness on the palate. Equally good was the Whisky-laden sauce that Will had liberally drizzled over the dish; you know when something’s good as a silence descends as folks tuck in!
Next up was Braised Shin of Aberdeen Angus with Mashed Tatties (again, impossibly smooth!!) and Cabbage and Bacon. Now, Will has always been a feeder (it has to be said) but, blimey, even I was going to struggle with the quartet of scrummy bits of Beef that were served to me! In the event, and much as it grieved me, I had to pass one piece over to His Nibs – this was definitely the night Lady Fortune was smiling on him, wasn’t it?! If you like melt-in-the-mouth Beef, this was your absolute dream. Texture and Taste gods blessed this Shin Beef, that’s for sure! The mash was marvellously rich and creamy; no doubt Chef had larruped a whole heap of butter and cream into it…nom, nom. For a bit of textural crunch, which I was very grateful to savour, shreds of thinly sliced Savoy Cabbage had been included in this main course dish and at the periphery you could taste the Bacon.
Andrew had selected a gorgeous La Campagne Merlot to go with this course and I have to say that this was sublime. I do like a Merlot, and this one was far juicier and confident than most I’ve had; it really got my palate’s attention with its delightful finish. The tannins cut through the plentiful amounts of richness in this dish beautifully, and this was a wine that sang to my soul.
Both the red wines had been opened as we were all arriving, and Andrew had poured both of them way ahead of the courses they were to be served with, so that they had time to breathe and expand. Both wines are delectable, but to really get the most from their flavour profile, the longer you can give them, the better. I’ve said before that the knowledge Andrew has on wine is second-to-none, and I stand by that statement: for information on what wines to pair with what dishes and to suggest wines according to your preference, you’ll have to go a long way to find someone more knowledgeable. The Shiraz at 4 years old is, according to Andrew, good to drink, though still on the young side; allowing this wine time to breathe really did benefit it. For those that like a good red wine, why not buy some bottles if this at Coghlans and put it away until Christmas or New Year…either this one or the next one? Assuming, of course, that it’d last that long in your wine rack – it wouldn’t in ours!!
For dessert, Will’s sweet treat was individual Dark Chocolate Tarts with Cranachan Cream. His Nibs and I had a wonderful tour around Scotland in summer, so we were very familiar with the spellbinding confection of Raspberries, Whisky, Oats, Honey and Cream…lots of cream!
Taking pride of place in the centre of our dessert plates was a scalloped-edge, round tart whose pale, buttery case housed a rich, sumptuously dark Chocolate ganache. Surrounding this delight was a bright, blood-red Raspberry coulis that was marvellously, face-scrunchingly sharp. Personally, I love it when you get a stark contrast of richness and sharpness and, so far, this dessert was ticking all my boxes! Dark Chocolate is intense and the coulis was intense, so some balance was needed to soften and tame the flavours on the palate: enter the silky, sweet Cranachan Cream. Cream glided calmly over our tongues and cheeks, caressing the senses as it did so, and then the hint of honey and creamy oats further soothed matters. Yet again, Will had cheekily asserted his skilful authority and the generous glug of Derbyshire Whisky left a gentle hum of warmth at the back of the throat as a parting shot!
I was unashamedly podged by this point in proceedings but Cheese has always been my Achilles heel – I could live without anything, but not Cheese! For this final course we were served a seriously punchy Scottish Cheddar and a robust (but beautifully creamy) Yorkshire Blue from a contact of Will’s. Both dairy morsels were superb (my table were definitely leaning towards the Cheddar, so I mopped up the remaining Blue!), their savoury characters balanced with slices of a fruity Dundee Cake that was made in the Chatsworth Kitchen. The South African Shiraz proved to be an excellent partner for the cheeses and fruit, holding its own against these brave flavours, thanks to more of those ‘grippy tannins’ that Andrew told us we were to be savouring.
We had been lucky enough to have Edmund seated at our table, along with his beautiful wife, Roxy, and never have I felt sorrier for someone than I did as Edmund rose from his seat in readiness to pipe us out as we made our ways back home! Having eaten and drunk his fill with the rest of us (and feeling equally stuffed, I’m sure!), playing the bagpipes was probably the last thing he felt like doing; ever the professional, though, that’s exactly what he did, and jolly fab he was, too.
Edmund also plays the pipes at weddings and parties, as well as at Burns Night gatherings and Hogmanay (and no doubt at Christenings and Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, too, if asked!). Here are his details if you need them, or know of someone who might: website www.edfiddy-thebagpiper.com mobile 07903 209152 and email Edfiddy@hotmail.com
The Raspberry Gin in our Ginsecco cocktails and the Whisky in the sauces and to toast the Haggis (as well as some slick service at the table all evening) was provided by the charming Oliver Meakin, Dr Derbyshire himself! Visit him and his team at unit 19 in the Peak Village at Rowsley, phone 07739 662800 or visit the website www.drderbyshirespirits.co.uk for mail order.
For details on upcoming dining events at East Lodge hosted by Coghlans demo and dine events and/or classes at their Peak Village Premises, visit www.cookingexpert.co.uk ; pop in person into Coghlans Derbyshire Wine and Food Experience at Peak Village in Rowsley, or give the wonderful Lisa a buzz on 01246 453131.
Thank you for such a superb evening, team Coghlans, yet another wonderful memory banked.
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