Monday 15 October 2012

MxMo LXVI :- It ain't easy being green

 Gosh its been a while, and summer has passed (mainly in a damp whimper round here ). Anyway Ed at Wordsmithing Pantagruel decided on MxMo LXVI. Now I've taken a pretty loose interpretation because I was focussing on the whole end of summer thing. To the extent I was down at the allotment on a frosty October morning & realised that the Fennel needed to be dealt with before the frost turned it to rotting mulch.
Now there were a few bulbs of fennel left, too many to use in one dish. So out came the Kilner jars & the vinegar. I added a strong dash of Chartreuse Elixir vegetale to the pickling mix and let the whole lot stand for a while.
Then came time to turn it into a cocktail.

Pickled Fennel Sazerac

So with it being Autumn I wanted a warming drink, not a long cool fruity drink and the sazerac seemed ideal, the fennel adding a last hurrah of Summer in the background.  Now there are arguments about whether a sazerac is made with rye or cognac. I tend to settle them using a 50-50 mix.

3-4 pieces of Pickled Fennel
1/2 barspoon of pickling liquor
4 dashes Peychaud's bitters
1pt Rye whiskey
1pt Cognac

Muddle the fennel, pickle juice & Peychaud's in the bottom of a mixing glass, add a couple of cube of ice, the rye & the cognac & stir down. Double strain into a chilled glass, add an ice cube or two & a couple of fennel fronds as garnish. Sip in front of a roaring fire

Monday 8 October 2012

Sausage & Potato Pie

It's autumn, so time for pie & stew & hearty warm meals that spend the afternoon cooking.
With this in Mind (and slightly embarrassed that it hadn't been opened in anger) I grabbed pieminster's "Pie for all seasons" cookbook and flicked to Autumn. I found many delights, the pulled pork pie looked great, but life got in the way & I needed something a bit less work. Sausage & potato looked spot on. Potatoes, apples and cider I had from the allotment, so just a case of nipping to the butchers and grabbing some sausage. The pie uses a suet crust, which is interesting, because I normally steam that rather than baking it.

Its an easy make, slice & par-boil the potatoes, fry an onion in butter add the apple & sugar then pour in cider & reduce. Empty the meat out of the sausages and mix it & everything else in a big bowl. Scoop the filling into your pie. Pop the lid on & put it in the oven for 40-45 minutes. If you've a digital thermometer its probably an idea to poke it into the pie to check the filling is done. Slice & serve. It's pretty filling you won't need much alongside it. I reckon its going to be pretty good cold

Next time I think I might make my own sausage meat, that way I can fiddle with the flavours as much as I like.

Friday 28 September 2012

Soft shelled crab

Soft shelled crab by anam_uk
Soft shelled crab, a photo by anam_uk on Flickr.

Oh I love soft-shelled crab, so when my fishmonger had a pile of them, well I just had to buy a couple.

In the top right they are sat in my sink ready to be rinsed off. Our fishmonger is a nice person & had removed the gills, face & tails. That left me with the all important decision, how to cook them. Now I was tempted to go with tempura, but all that mucking about with icy soda water1 was  putting me off. So I just dredged them in seasoned flour & chucked them in a hot pan with a bit of chilli & a bit of oil. 2 minutes each side and onto the plate, with a bit of salad, mainly leaves & fennel from the allotment and a very satisfying light lunch2 was just there. 

1OK not strictly necessary, but to get a light batter chilled carbonated water is the easiest thing to use 
2You eat the whole thing, which is pretty rich. I could probably mange 2, but 1 is an ideal light lunch, half makes a fine appetizer  

Wednesday 7 March 2012

Clearly irresponsible

I was invited to compete in a Havana club rum competition, I originally got the wrong rum, thinking we were using the 5 or 7 yr old gold rums not the 3yr old, that shaped my idea for the drink. As a result of that & the article on agar clarification I'd read  and some pouring over Embury I decided to go with a new variation on the Hemingway Daiquiri. 

The first job was to get & taste Havana club 3yr old. Its a white rum, but aged in oak barrels, giving it depth and a very pale straw colour, a great cocktailing rum really. Then it was time to try the gel clarification. The first test gave glorious results as a thin stream of pale yellow juice ran & dripped from the muslin. For some reason though the clarified grapefruit & lime didn't play well together. Using cordial instead of juice for the lime fixed the problem, which meant the daiquiri was a bit less Hemingway, but seriously how much of that diabetes was due to the great man's rum habits ? I now had a working recipe so it was time to clarify more grapefruit ready for the actual competition. 

Disaster this came out less than crystal clear (not a technique problem, just a hiccup in the process). A bit of filtration took care of that (after a tense couple of hours where I worried enough juice would make it through the filter). Daiquiris are normally shaken to get them good and cold, that wasn't going to work here, so a bit of mucking about with an instant freeze pack allowed me to chill my rum and away we went 

I was up against some seriously stiff competition, so I'm reasonably happy not to win and it was a great night of mixology & rum, so here is my take on the Hemingway daiquiri,

The clearly irresponsible 

60ml Havana club 3yr old rum (another white rum will work, but won't be as good)
20ml Clarified Grapefruit juice 
15ml Maraschino liqueur
10ml Lime cordial (I use Roses' see debates about the Gimlet)

Stir over ice, double strain (Hemingway was particular about ice in his drinks) and garnish with a grapefruit twist.

Here it is with an ordinary Hemingway for comparison purposes.(Hemingway left, Clearly right)


Monday 12 December 2011

A Christmas Martini

I don't really like vodka Martinis, they just aren't right. Now that's off my chest let's look at the advantage of the vodka Martini. Its an easy base to work from and you can infuse vodka with all manner of tastes, including Mince pie. Yup mince pie.

Get some good mincemeat (like this) and put 4 good table spoons into a bottle of vodka, leave 48 hours and your vodka should turn a pale gold colour, strain out the fruit (you may need to filter spices & stuff too) and enjoy.

Or make a Christmas Martini
There were a couple of inspirations here, including a random conversation about bitters heavy drinks, you can make this without all the bitters, but they really help intensify the mince pie flavour.

2 dashes Angastoura Bitters
2 dashes Peychauds Bitters
2 dashes Orange Bitters
2 dashes Chocolate bitters
3 Parts mince pie Vodka
1 Part Noily Prat vermouth

Stir down over ice, strain & garnish with a cherry

Enjoy the extra winter cheer

Tuesday 15 November 2011

Winter:- deep red fruit

You probably know Crème de cassis from the Kir & Kir Royale. You might be a Poirot fan and have tried drinking it on its own (its an experience), but you can use it in many more drinks than that. It's a joyous ingredient mainly because of its colour, but also when diluted down from its intrinsic syrupiness  the fruit taste shines through. Here are a couple of less well known Cassis drinks

The Mississippi mule
4pts Gin
1pt Lemon Juice
1pt crème de cassis

Shake with ice

It's smooth, the lemon cuts some of the sweetness & you end up with a strong dry fruity 30's style drink.

The Gotham

60ml Cognac
30ml Noilly Prat (feel free to substitute any French vermouth)
15 ml crème de cassis
2 dashes of lemon juice

Stir over ice

It'd been a long day & I ended up shaking rather than stirring, but given it wasn't the best of cognacs I doubt that mattered too much, its a great drink. I could probably spend a happy evening drinking these (I doubt the morning after would be fun but ...)

So if you have Cassis & are bored of Kirs try these curranty concoctions

Monday 7 November 2011

The Last Rose of Summer

So I might just be a hopeless romantic. Remember the Blue rose vodka ? Well I found a drink for it, taking inspiration from James Bond ...

""A dry martini," [Bond] said. "One. In a deep champagne goblet."
"Oui, monsieur."
"Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon's, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it's ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?"
"Certainly, monsieur." The barman seemed pleased with the idea."
Ian Fleming,Casino Royale

Now substitute Hendricks (which uses rose & cucumber in its botanicals) for the Gordon's and use the rose vodka for vodka and a rose petal as garnish (instead of the lemon peel) and you have the "Last rose of summer"


Monday 24 October 2011

Mixmo LXII :- The Hard stare

Well its another Mixology Monday and this time the theme of Morning drinks has been chosen by Kevin at the cocktail enthusiast.

I went with a breakfast drink rather than a pick me up/hair of the dog. Taking inspiration from Harry Craddock and a rather famous bear we get the Hard Stare.

1 Good large measure of dry gin
1 barspoon of marmalade
a large dash of orange bitters
Shake very hard over ice, single strain & serve

Normally I'd double strain a clear shaken drink, but with this you want the marmalade fragments in the glass as they provide a sparkle. As you can see from the photo I've used shredless marmalade, it makes a better looking drink. Also the orange bitters I use for this are quite odd, they are more of a bitter orange liqueur, that comes in at 20% abv, so I use almost a spoon full rather than the more traditional dash. They replace the lemon juice (which turns the drink cloudy) in Harry's original recipe.

As an aside I tried to order this drink for breakfast a couple of times in Las Vegas, unfortunately they don't seem to keep marmalade behind the bars out there, so I had to go with out.

Wednesday 19 October 2011


Last time I made mince pies I vowed I was going to make my own mince meat & here it is (sort of)
I used Delia's recipe but I left out the almonds and used mixed fruits (a pre-mix of currants, sultanas & citrus peel) with some spare windfall apples from the orchard. I may also have used more booze than Delia does because I like my mince pies boozy.


There it all is in the bowl, absorbing the fluids, before it goes into the oven for the suet to melt.
Whilst making this batch I realised that the smoker runs at about the temperature required, so I whipped up another batch adjusting the mixed spice to be a bit more BBQish by adding a pinch of 5 spice & a tiny pinch of cayenne pepper. I swapped the brandy for Bourbon too and smoked it over maple for sweetness.

Right now both batches are in large jars in the cellar, in another couple of weeks I'll put them in smaller jars (with another splash of booze) and then give some as gifts & turn the rest into delicious mince pies. Watch this space  

Friday 14 October 2011

Lincolnshire sausages

I've a superabundance of sage & a sausage stuffer.
So Lincolnshires (or as they are known in our house hippopotamus & duckweed). Its a simple recipe (though you need to tone down the pepper)

1kg pork shoulder
200g breadcrumbs
15g pepper
15g salt
50g fresh sage

That's a lot of fresh sage: look
the next 10 grammes, pretty much obscured the scales to the extent that it wasn't worth photographing them.
The sage, bread, salt & pepper went into the minichop & got blitzed up into a homogeneous mass of "filler". Meanwhile the pork gets chopped into rough cubes & gets fed through the mincer on a medium plate. Mix the whole lot together (get your hands in and get it evenly distributed). I then put the whole lot in the fridge for a couple of hours, even though this isn't an emulsified sausage it's probably a good idea to let the meat rest. Then its out with the stuffer. This time we tried the more orthodox stuff a large ring & then twist technique, which didn't really work out for us so we went back to stuff & twist.

Lincolnshire sausages aren't really a breakfast sausage, you want a banger or a pure pork sausage for that. The over pepperiness of these was a bit of a challenge, but using them in a nice warming sausage casserole seemed to find them a perfect home.