Tuesday, 29 September 2009

A touch of controversy

Victoria sponge/sandwich.

This is the easiest recipe for cake I know of

you need equal weights of

So far no difference of opinion, that comes with the filling
I always thought it was strawberry jam & whipped cream, however the WI disagree. So here is the question internet, that we need an answer too

Just jam ? yes or no ?

this is the cake in question,as you can see its just jam & jolly tasty

Monday, 28 September 2009

Inspiration is odd like that

I had an altercation with a bramble bush on sunday morning, I decided to take revenge by grabbing all the blackberries.

The water bottle was the only container I had with me but the blackberries (from a random sampling you understand) were very sweet & needed to be claimed. Fairness demanded it. So what was I going to do with them, there weren't enough for pie or crumble. Then it dawned on me, time to make a spin on the classic Bloodhound (if you don't fancy the link its a perfect martini with strawberries). Get the black berries into your mixer with "some" gin.

The depth of colour is due to the rough ride that the blcakberries had on the way home. Muddle (I'll go into detail about muddling later) add the 2 vermouths and the ice, shake hard. You are going to need both the hawthorne strainer and a fine strainer to get this in to the glass (as a lot of the blackberry pulp is very fine you'll probablay have to "encourage" it with a bar spoon).

Its a bit drier than a Bloodhound (natrually) but its a great taste & a stunning looking drink (a shame the photo doesn't do it justice, but I wanted to get on and drink it rather than document). Unfortunately Blackberry season is coming to an end. You could always swap in a blackberry liquer or if the DIY mood is on you make blackberry gin.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Flame fondue

I believe that in the area of BBQ desserts are sadly neglected. I've tried to redress this several times, usually ending up with some variation on the caramelized fruit theme. Thursday's adventures in fire eating & the chance purchase of some Wray & nephew over proof rum, led me to a BBQ Dessert spectacle.

First slice several slightly under ripe bananas,into 4-5cm slices.
Grate 30g of good dark chocolate into one bowl
Put a similar amount of brown sugar (the treaclier the better) in a second bowl
Arrange Banana, bowls & wood skewers on a serving tray.

In a Fireproof bowl put 50ml of overproof rum & 20 ml of falernum (preferably the alcoholic version).

Serve the bananas, then light the rum.

To eat, skewer a banana chunk, dip into the chocolate or the sugar, then dip into the flaming rum & stir, bring the now flaming banana to the mouth & eat.
You can if you like extinguish the banana before eating or if you are a flaming Sambucca fan, just go for it. The rum mix will probably burn out in 5 or so minutes. At this point mix the remaining liquor, chocolate, sugar & banana in a foil parcel & place amongst the hot BBQ coals for 5 minutes. Enjoy.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Le délice gastronomique


The salamander's dessert

A bit off the beaten track here (ok further than normal). This is something fire eaters used to present, usually in one of 3 different ways. The one involving petrol we are going to brush right past, because ingesting petrol as well as being dangerous is foul.

The other 2 are more interesting to us, at least from the point of view of a blog such as this. Both require high/over proof alcohol. My favourite being a mix of Kirsch (preferably Kirschwasser) and brandy (I suppose an asbach would be proper, but I'll go with a VSOP cognac myself). Any over proof will do, infact 151 rum would have been ideal if I'd had any left. Since I was testing & not aiming for the perfect taste a shot of le fee parisian formed the alcohol component.

Thats it lit there in a fireproof (in this case pyrex) bowl. Some took this as far enough, stuck in a soup spoon (preferably one of those Chinese ones, it'll look good and being pottery can withstand the abuse).

That however doesn't really deserve the title, that comes about when fruit is added, usually some form of dried grape (for brandy mixtures) or cherry (if Kirsch was included). Being in a frenzy of curiosity I made do with banana, which would go really well with the 151 rum (and maybe a splash of falernum). This ends up kind of like a fondue, but the consequences of not keeping your morsel on the fork are well a bit more serious.

I'm very tempted to make this into an actual dessert for Saturday's BBQ. A little brown sugar or cocoa powder to dip the banana slices into, before plunging them into the flame, would make an interesting taste and the squeamish could always extinguish before eating.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Bacon cake

I'm not talking about this kind of vileness, no I'm talking about something you might want to eat.

Rather it's a two fat ladies recipe, probably one of Jennifer's. Anyway its basically a (boiled bacon) pie. So how to make it ?

First you'll need a bacon joint (gammon works well), either cooked already or you can cook it yourself, its up to you.

Once you've cold cooked bacon, slice it, shred it,pull it off the bone. What you are after is a big pile of bacon slivers. These form the stuffing of the Bacon cake.

Then you'll need some pastry, The recipe calls for a short scone type pastry, due to a bit of a kitchen mistake, mine ended up half lard, half butter. Of course pastry making can be hassle, so feel free to use store bought (but not puff pastry, that would be so wrong).

Halve the pastry & roll out a 20cm disk. Load it up with your bacon slices, making it taller in the middle and leaving a 2-3cm gap round the edges. Roll out a second identical disk from the remaining pastry & drop it over the top. Get any trapped air out and crimp the edges of the two disks together.

If it's anything like mine you should be looking at a giant round Cornish pasty. Prick or slash the top disk after all we don't want it to burst in the oven. Put in a medium slow oven (gas 4ish) for 25-30 mins or till the pastry is golden brown.

You can now cut & serve it, but my preference is to let it go cold & then slice (as best you can) into portions.


Sunday, 20 September 2009

Cocktails at the Ritz

Every now & then I go and treat myself to cocktails at the Ritz

The surroundings are great (especially in the Rivoli bar) and the cocktails are very good indeed I've not yet managed to order of menu, to give them a proper test, but the menu is fairly extensive and the drinks are very well made.

The main thing though is the ambience, how you can't feel a least a little bit James Bond leaning back in one of the huge comfortable chairs & drink a large very cold martini I don't know, of course you should really be drinking a vesper, but who cares (also vespers are very trendy at the moment, I'd be happy ordering one at the Ritz & 1 or 2 other places).

So cocktails at the Ritz, check the dress code, it is enforced, take along a reasonable amount of money (the prices last time were about 10 pounds a drink which for a well made cocktail in central London is not too bad). It helps if you know what you like to drink, order and wait whilst a man in a white jacket brings you a marvelous drink sit back with it & make up stories about the other people in the room.

Friday, 18 September 2009

A little gardening

I have a garden, it is quite small. If I had my way, it'd be quite large, part of it would be for the growing of roses, part would be for sitting out (BBQing & the like), and part would be for fruit & veg.

I don't have that though, so I have to creatively squeeze things into the space I do have, this means herbs in pots, strawberries & tomatoes in hanging baskets and a couple of multi-purpose plants around the roses(*).

The multi-purpose plants are currently nasturtiums and lavender. Nasturtiums are quite cool, they grow like blazes, the flowers are both cheerful & edible, and the leaves make a spicy addition to a salad (think rocket/cilantro). The lavender is a shade odder. Of course you can harvest the flowers to use in bath salts, herb sachets, pillows and other asstd smelly/aromatherapy uses, but you can cook with them too.

The first trial was a lavender syrup (simple syrup, 2 sugar, 1 water plus a couple of tsp lavender flowers). This added to a standard gin martini, makes a really relaxing summer drink. An attempt at lavender shortcake followed, andwhilst it was ok wasn't quite right.

The internet provided a recipe for lavender loaf cake, a bit of reading around & jiggling quantities & ingredients, making a lavendar infused honey drizzle (2 tsp honey, 4 tsp water, 3 dashes lavender syrup. Heat till free flowing drizzle of loaf as soon as it comes out of the oven). Its a winner, the cake is moist enough to withstand the loaf form and the flavour of lavender is not overpowering.

Now what to do with the abundance of Sage ?

(*)The roses are non-negotiable.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Iberico- world tapas

Iberico is an upscale tapas restaurant in Nottingham. They offer Spanish tapas and world tapas. They won awards and are part of the well regarded "world service" group.

One thing they make a song & dance about is their cheese & charcuterie menu. Now I'm not a cheese lover, so I can't comment on that part, ham & pork however I do know. They have a fabulous selection, right at the top (at a heftyish 13 pounds) is the ibreico black foot jamon. Its aged air dried ham from spain, using free range pigs fed on acorns, it is very tasty & always worth having as a treat, so I planned to order it. That was before I saw a new addition to the menu. Beedham's pork shoulder. Beedham's is a multi-award winning butcher nearby, I don't go there often as I have a different butcher, who has his own cows. I like to meet my steak before I eat it (I'm sentimental like that), this however seemed to good to miss. The ham was served in translucent slivers on a large wooden plater, it was sweet, light, wonderful  ham.  Not  quite the  pinnacle the iberico is but very good value indeed.

As its tapas I tend to stay to the Spanish  side of the menu  as the squid  (with  lime  salt  &  a  garlic aoli) is a must ,  some  crunchy  patas  bravas,  the  slow  roast  pork  belly  and a swordfish  carpaccio  rounded  out the  rest.  The  pork  had a proper crunchy crackle and then melted in the mouth. The swordfish carpaccio was another newcomer, paper thin slices of swordfish served in a vinegared oil dressing, with a light spicing (corriander & red peppercorns were there).

Dessert was a fabulous chilled ginger syrup cake with buttermilk ice cream. The acidity of the ice cream taking the edge of the syrup and bits of crystalized ginger livening up the sweet cake.

All in all a great night and at 50 pounds for two including drinks & service a mostly affordable(*) treat.

* they do a ten pound set lunch, which has been voted the cities best, against some stiff competition.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Masterclass review

Off I went to the cocktail masterclass. Whilst I tried to limit my expectations, masterclass was stretching it a little. There was the usual flakey history of cocktails (prohibition blah blah blah) a quick rundown of equipment and then we sailed into mixing. We were making a house/signature cocktail of the venue, the "Basil grandé".

Basically it's 2 grand marnier 1 chambord 1cranberry, muddled with fresh strawberries & basil. Not hugely complicated but covering the basics of muddling, shaking. It's not a bad cocktail but to sweet for me (a fruity girly drink TBH).

Unfortunately the guy's presenting wasn't upto much, the music in the bar needed turning down & the organization needed to be improved. As far as I was concerned I got very little out of it, other than making a cocktail that wasn't particularly to my taste. However I did get to make it from behind the bar which was an interesting experience.

Overall for a free event you got a reasonable bargin, a free cocktail and a personable bar-tender to guide you through. Cocktail masterclass ? No, but a simple introduction to modern cocktails.

-- Posted from my iPhone

Sunday, 13 September 2009


It should come as no suprise that I enjoy the Observer Food Monthly (OFM). However I am deeply irritated by Polly Vernon's "Cocktail girl" column. This month she is claiming she can't drink tequila because it tastes of anise. Sorry there but what the hell has she been drinking ?

Then there is her usual drink, vodka & tonic. This isn't a cocktail at the very best it's a mixed drink requiring little or no skill to prepare. Cold vodka, reasonable sized glass, tonic on the side job done.

So please Observer either get somebody who knows their cocktail onions or introduce Polly to actual cocktails made in actual cocktail bars, rather than the usual celeb ligger hangouts she bores us with on a monthly basis.

-- Posted from my iPhone

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Eton mess

One of my favourite desserts, combining as it does strawberries, cream, and merangue. It's also pretty easy to make. First get a good heavy/double cream. Jersey/Guernsey if you can.

Then whip it till it keeps it's shape ( I could & no doubt will go on at length about whipping cream). Anyway here it is whipped.

At this point you can add a touch of liquer if you like fold it into the cream. Hull & quarter strawberries

Spot the two reserved, all will be revealed. Roughly crush some merangue, you don't want either huge chunks or dust.

Fold in the cream making sure everything gets coated and well mixed. You'll end up with a mess.

Now come the two hardest parts of making mess, serving and washing up. Actually you can get help with the washing up.

(I'll point out she wasn't in the kitchen till afterwards & the bowl got thoroughly washed)

Remember those two strawberries ? Well we need the now. Spoon the mess into glasses try to get a creamier bit to the top. Perch those reserved strawberries on top et voilà a quick & lovely dessert.

-- Posted from my iPhone

Friday, 11 September 2009

Friday = Cocktails

Friday cocktails at an extremely good cocktail bar have become a tradition. I've built a reasonably good rapport with the guys. Today they had a range of new bitters, apparently the celery one is excellent. Unfortunately I have real issues with the taste of celery. Fortunately they had several others including rhubarb a firm favourite.

Center frame is a vesper, the James Bond martini, a fantastic drink this one spiked wonderfully with the rhubarb. The other is a dry-perfect manhatten. At this point I need to explain sweet, dry & perfect. In martini type drinks involving vermouth you usualy have a choice of French (dry) or Italian (sweet) generaly a dry drink will use French and less of it than in other formulations. Perfect uses equal parts sweet & dry. Perfect-dry uses slightly less sweet & in the case of the manhattan a drier bourbon. The second round included a new drink "the Comunist"

That's it on the left. On the right is my favourite cocktail the corpse reviver #2 which for various reasons needs an edit all of it's own.

-- Posted from my iPhone

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Microwave chocolate cake

First off, I know  microwave  cake is  hardly in keeping with  the theme of this blog, but  really  how can you live a sybaritic life without chocolate cake ?

Any way the recipe has been whizzing round the internet, so following a friends attempt I thought I'd give it a stab.

Anyway the ingredient list is pretty simple.

  • 4 tbsp flour
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp cocoa
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 3 tbsp oil
     a dash vanilla essence

Combine the dry ingredients in your mug
then break in the egg and beat smooth
add the milk & oil and mix well
add the dash of vanilla & microwave.
The original recipe calls for 3 minutes on full power in a 1000w oven
Apparently 3 mins in an 850w at full power over cooks it
3mins medium full in a 750w isn't quite enough. I guess the power needs juggling a bit.
Mug cake
Melting some chocolate whilst waiting for the cake to cool is probably a good plan. The cooking time adjustments left a slightly rubbery cake. Its edible especially as its 5 minutes from the collection of ingredients to the plate. Getting the timing right & jazzing up the serving (a chocolate sauce, some ice cream 
or some cream) would make a reasonable little pudding. I think a little more experimentation might be required.
I'm going to do a little reading to see how it all works & try to get a better cake out of it 
It should come as no surprise the internet is full of microwave mug cake recipes.
And a couple of interesting gift ideas. I'm now a bit more taken with the idea and have a few thoughts about odd desserts.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009


As part of the Nottingham food & drink festival I've signed up to a cocktail masterclass. There will of course be a report as soon as I'm capable (which might be the next day depending on what they let me make). I'll also go to other bits of the festival and report on those for you.

Why go to all that trouble ?

It is a lot of hassle for 2 meals, making your own steak & kidney pie.

After all it takes about 2 hours (ok you aren't slaving away all that time), pastry is a notoriously fickle product, and there ends up being a fair bit of washing up (not just from the gore-fest that is coring kidneys). I'll admit I could have bought "jus-roll"(*) or similar and made my life at least a bit more washing up free. I could have just bought a pie.

Buying steak & kidney pie is fraught with difficulty. You see as far as I'm concerned a pie has three layers.

1:- Pastry base, no base, its not a pie (at best its a liddy)
2:- Filling, the most obvious one
3:- Lid, made of pastry (miss this off & its a tart or maybe a flan)

Most of the recipes I found where for steak & kidney liddies (yes even Gordon Ramsey, and more shockingly the 2 fat ladies). I had to fettle together about 4 recipes & my own knowledge of cooking meat to get where I wanted to be. Which was a proper pie, baked in a dish and put on the plate as a quadrant of lovliness.

So yes worth the hassle. If it was only to have the kidneys cooked right (ie not overdone shrivelled rubbery things that you end up with from store bought pie(**)). Since the autumn seems to be trying to arrive I forsee more offal & more pie in the future, I might even go for 2 day hot pot.

(*) I think there is half a pack in the freezer left over from custard tarts
(**) I understand that the way frozen/ready meals are sold it means the kidney has to be cooked through before they leave for the shops, doesn''t mean I have to like it though

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Steak & Kidney

After a successful apple pie last weekend, it was time to step up to savoury pie.
A bit of a look around suggested a short crust pastry, which for added taste I decided to go 50/50 lard & margarine, which made rubbing a bit 
but the breadcrumb stage happened along in good time. I was always told before making pastry to put a glass of water in the fridge so that when  it came to mixing in you had ice water to hand. The result is a nice ball of pastry ready to be cling filmed & chilled.
Whilst thats happening we can ready the filling. I do like lambs kidney & have a very good butcher, so a good 500g of stewing steak & 250g of lambs kidney were to hand.
Melt butter in a frying pan & season (salt,pepper,garden herb) and then sweat down some onion. Then toss in the steak & seal it off, whilst the heat is still high (& the steak not quite sealed) add some bourbon & flame off.

Once the flames have died down, add a generous measure  of red wine or red vermouth (I prefer the latter, the herbal flavour goes towards a very rich gravy) turn down & allow to simmer.
Time to make the bottom of the pie, which ought to be baked blind, since I'm lacking on the baking bean front I had to improvise with lentils, it didn't look quite right coming out of the oven.
Next time I'll double check the time & temperature
a little more throughly. As if there isn't enough to be going on with, its the ideal time to core,dice and flour the kidneys, I'd some mixed mushrooms left over so they went in too.

This was a Gordon Ramsey tip of adding the kidneys to your beef stew bit right near the end of cooking, so they go into the pie very rare and cook in the pie, that way the kidney stays tender. Into the pie they go
then its time to put on the lid, as always there are pastry scraps over, you can use these to decorate the lid (remember there need to be steam holes), a quick milk wash and its oven time.
Cooking, about 20 minutes in a pre-heated oven at gas mark 6, time to have a quick glass of red wine.
Lets hope its not a premature celebration, maybe it'd be better to do the washing up ? Anyway pass 20 minutes doing what ever you want to do, then Check on the pie.

The gravy worked out well being thick enough to coat the meat & not soak through  the pie. There could have done with being a bit more gravy but thats a minor niggle in what ended up being quite a tasty pie. 

Hello World

As it says up in the title box, this is going to be my Food & Drink space.
Hopefully it'll be updated at least weekly, with recipes, cocktails and some eating out. There should also be the occasional editorial entries, considering taste & my collection of gastatorial prejudices.

Once I've got myself organized I'll be posting yesterday's steak & kidney pie.