Saturday, 25 December 2010

Mulled cider

Traditionally cider is mulled by plunging a redhot poker into the mug. So why not ? Well it turns out I don't have quite the right shape of poker, we can work round that though.

You'll need mulling spices:- Nutmeg,Ginger,Cloves,Cinnamon,Allspice & maybe a little Star Anise. Adjust them to your taste and put them in half a pint of good (hard) cider. A couple of spoonfuls of dark sugar, a measure of rum (or maybe brandy) and some citrus (hey it's Christmas so use some tangerine segments). Stir it well together and pour into a fireproof mug, then plunge in a redhot poker.
The cider will foam up, with a great hissing sound and the room should fill with the scent of christmasy loveliness.

If you aren't blessed with a real fire, then heat the mixture through gently on the stove till warm & then pour out.

Friday, 24 December 2010


I'd been asked to make eggnog, well told to get making it really.

There are some truly frightening recipes out there (125ml of brandy +55ml dark rum for 1 person !), my favourite of those was this :-

General Harrisons Eggnog

1 egg
1 pt (hard) cider
1.5 teaspoons sugar
2-3 lumps cracked ice.

Given how dry our cider is I thought I'd skip that as it sounded like a recipe for curdled hell.

My Eggnog (for 3)

2 whole eggs
50ml spiced rum
60ml brandy
 2 tsp icing sugar

 Shake hard over ice till a uniform yellow colour
 Add c150ml whole milk, strain into glasses
 Top with nutmeg (fresh if possible)

Nollaig shona duit

Monday, 20 December 2010

Poached duck eggs

I do like poached duck eggs, I finally got enough time together to have a stab at doing them sat bains style
First off I needed a water bath, this is my ersatz set up.

Thats a large pan of water, my meat thermometer and the smallest ring on my gas hob on it's lowest setting heating maybe a third of the pan's base. This kept everything at a fairly even 58-60c.

The eggs went in & I spent the next couple of hours stopping the water from heating too much or cooling down excessively. In between worrying about that I fretted about how I was going to get the eggs out of their shells (Yup you poach them in the shell, I assume it doesn't count as boiling, because you get nowhere near 100c). Turns out they come out of the shell quite easily if you can bring yourself to give the shell enough of a tap against the pan edge.

I served them on hot buttered toast, because it was a "quick" lunch rather than anything fancy & because I was all out of pata-negra ham.

Was it worth it ? I think so, with a proper water bath it's definitely worth while, the yolk ends up really rich. I think next time (and there will be a next time)  I'll let them go for a bit longer and I'll keep the temperature more to the higher end.

Enjoy, I know I did.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Port wine #2

This time of year cocktail thoughts turn to warming sweetish drinks, heavy on the brown flavours, with orange & spices. Losing the sharpness of fresh citrus fruit.
Looking through some lists found the Port wine #2.
This is definitely an old skool cocktail, being mostly port, here is the recipe (adapted slightly) from the Savoy Cocktail Book

Port Wine #2

large measure port
dash orange bitters
dash angastoura bitters
2 dashes triple sec

stir over ice, strain into a port glass garnish with an orange twist.

It is a sweet rich concoction with orange overtones and a spicy bitter finish. A surprisingly good drink for such a simple recipe. Getting the bitters together might be a bit of a job, but its a fine way to deal with the less than stellar port that turns up round this time of year.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Mince pies

Ahh the humble1 mince pie.

I feel sorry for all those cultures that don't get this Christmas delicacy.
First mincemeat, these days most shop bought mince meat contains no meat, even the suet (traditionally beef) is vegetarian, it is worth checking the jar though. I've not been organized enough to make my own, so I fell back on my gran's time honoured method. Buy some in a jar at the earliest opportunity, take out a spoonful (If there is just one jar I eat that spoonful) replace the missing mince meat with brandy, give the jar a good shake & stick it in the cupboard for at least a week, preferably longer.

I treated myself to a new bun tray, since the only one I had was more of a muffin tin & a bit too deep for mince pies. I splashed out on a seriously heavyweight one, which means individual Yorkshire puddings are going to appear in the near future.

Step one is make some pastry, I used my all purpose shortcrust (1 part butter, 1 part lard, 8 parts flour) and added some sugar to sweeten it (not necessary, but it can help). and put it in the fridge to chill. If you are making pastry, always chill it in the fridge before using it.

Then get rolling & cutting. Fill each pie case with a spoonful of mincemeat (Add a drop of brandy to each pie at this point if you like (I do)) put the lid on (or if you are feeling really fancy, cut out a Christmassy shape and put that on the mincemeat) and pop them into an oven. Most recipes say gas 6 /200c for 20 minutes, in my oven this was about 5 minutes too long, so keep an eye on them and when the pastry is golden take them out. Turn them out on to a rack or board & let them cool. Mincemeat like jam gets hot & sticky, a bad combination, so let that cool enough to be safe. Serve warm or cold, with cream, ice-cream or brandy butter (or a slice of strong cheese) and enjoy.

This is my little joke, mince pies where in times past known as humble or 'umble pies and used the humbles of an animal (usually deer) as the meat base (that's offal in modern terms). 

Friday, 3 December 2010


What is Thanksgiving without turkey ? Apparently not thanksgiving, never mind nobody is really a fan of turkey.
To deal with this I bought a turkey crown (which was going to be a help with the oven size too)

 I then had a look for some recipes. Citrus & sage butter sounded about right, so I grabbed more sage and got to work.

Shred the sage finely and zest a lemon, mix the lot up into some butter (about 100g was good for my amount of turkey) push the butter up under the skin & into the centre of the boned & rolled crown. Thickly slice the zested lemon & put it on the bottom of the roasting dish, stand the turkey on top. Stick the lot into a gas 6/200c oven.

I used my meat thermometer to find out when the centre had reached 70c (it ought to be safe from 66 up) . About half way through I covered the top with foil to prevent the skin burning.
Once its out let it rest (wrapped in foil) for 20-30 mins then slice & serve.

I was quite impressed, there was very little if any of the terrible dryness that can afflict turkey and the lemon & sage had perfumed the whole roast. Pretty worth while way to deal with the big bird.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Cider & Sage Jelly

We've made some cider (hard cider for the US types) with our neighbours, using the apple from their allotment. At some point soon I'll do a huge post covering the cider making but for now here is a little teaser.

The ham needed something, after all the turkey had 2 kinds of stuffing & cranberry sauce, the ham was feeling left out so a cold savoury jelly seemed like a good plan. Alcohol retards the action of gelatine so a bit of thinking was required. I grabbed some sage from my garden and made up 250ml of sage/sugar solution. "50ml water 250g sugar put together in a pan over a gentle heat & stir, add a handful of sage leaves & carry on stirring to let the sugar dissolve. Leave to cool and once cool remove the sage leaves.

Next bloom the gelatine. I used a 50/50 mix of cider & sugar solution to do this, then top the pan upto about 200ml of sugar solution & cider heat gently and stir.    Stir lots.
 Once the gelatine is fully dissolved add the rest of the cider & the sugar/sage solution and stir quickly to incorporate. Then pour the whole lot through a fine sieve to catch any unpleasant solids that have been left behind.

 I had intended to get a soft set, but we ended up with a pretty firm jelly, turn it out and mash it over with a fork to give handy sized chunks. Served with the ham it provided a great counter point to the sweetness and added a touch of needed bite to the plate

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Ham in Coca-cola

So we were having a thanksgiving party, what could be more American than ham in coke ?

Nigella Lawson has a few versions of this, so I went with it

I bought "green Gammon" from my butcher, its been slated but that's the full extent of the cure.
I always soak gammon joints, so it went in a big pan covered with cold water for a couple of hours, I changed the water hourly. Once you are done with that chop a large onion, put the Gammon skin side down in a the pan throw in the onion & add 2l of coke.

Bring it all to the boil & then let it simmer for about an hour per kilo and add on half an hour for good measure. At this point the meat is cooked & could easily be eaten. However its better if it gets glazed & has some time in the oven. In a fit of organization I did the boiling on the Friday and let my hame rest overnight.
Time to make the glaze

Take 2 tsp sugar
         2 tsp treacle
         2tsp mustard

Mix them together (do it in a bowl stood in warm water, it makes life a lot easier). Whilst that stands take the skin off the joint & cut the fat down to a "reasonable level". Score it (traditionalists use large diamond shaped scores) and then slather it with your glaze. Finally stud it with cloves at the intersection of each score.

Now it needs to go in the oven, since my ham was room temperature I used a slowish oven (gas 4/180) for 45 minutes, feel free to reach in & baste occasionally.

Let it rest and if you have fewer guests or a larger table than I had proudly carry it out & carve it in-situ. Or slice it in the kitchen & pile high on a plate.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Forgotten ?

Forgotten cocktails, the latest Mixology Monday offering, set by rock & rye 

I have apparently forgotten to include this in an earlier blog post which is a massive oversight on my part. The Claridge from the Savoy Cocktail book is practically the house cocktail. We found it after being presented with a bottle of apricot brandy. I've shown it to a couple of bartenders who haven't seen it before, so I think it counts as forgotten.

So what is it beside apricot brandy ?

2 pts Gin
2 pts Dry vermouth
1 pt   Triple sec
1 pt   Apricot brandy

Stir it down over ice & pour into a well chilled glass.

The apricot, orange & vermouth work really well together, the gin provides punch and the apricot lingers nicely. I don't normally garnish it, but a twist of orange or lemon won't hurt. Its pretty versatile, you can twiddle the proportions to make it drier or sweeter depending if you are serving before or after food.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Eau de Vie Sydney

The recommendation for Eau de Vie came from the guys at 1806. It's not the easiest bar in the world to find being hidden at the back of the Kirketon, a boutique hotel in Darlinghurst.

Go in, cross the foyer ignoring the bar to your left, pass through the forbidding black doors with nothing on them,  show no interest in the toilets and head through more anonymous doors to find a cosy low lit bar. Alternatively stroll up to the desk and ask for Eau de Vie, brooking no refusal.

The trouble is absolutely worth it. These guys know their stuff and have a very well stocked bar. We had a quick look at the menu & then callously discarded it, after all competent bar staff had recommended it. That and we were ordering classics, if they weren't good we would be leaving.

A gimlet, A Manhattan & A Gibson. The Manhattan was of course to the same exacting specifications as ever. The Gimlet provoked discussion, this one was made with Rose's cordial& lime juice and proportions were discussed. The Gibson was served on the side, some thing I wholly approve of, it keeps the gin cold but doesn't dilute it.

From there things got pretty technical, Old fashioneds were talked about & made, and we dived into the odder areas of some old books which led to me drinking a Hanky Panky. An all but forgotten variant on a perfect Martini that requires the addition of Fernet Branca. Its a damn fine drink and if you can get Fernet or have a friendly bar that has it give this a go (I'll be talking about another forgotten drink tomorrow).

What can I say, its a comfortable, well stocked bar staffed by people that know their drink.  The prices are what you'd expect, some of the top shelf additions will push the cost over $50 (aus) per drink, but you don't have to go there. Oh the desk staff ? They are really friendly & told us where to get some great seafood.

Friday, 5 November 2010

1806 Melbourne

Now with photo.

A quick trawl of the internet suggested that 1806 was the place for drinks in Melbourne. So we went along.
The main drinks list is here but you know how it goes with a decent bar, the menu is just a guideline in order to put them to the test I unleashed my secret weapon, a drink companion who is very particular about the way their Manhattan gets made. This got us a lot of bartender attention straight away. The house rye and the antica formula vermouth are both known to us but they swap orange bitters for a more usual bitters, they garnish with orange peel too. The verdict was a very nice drink but not what we were looking for in a Manhattan. The first round down we decided to ditch the menu entirely and have a go on our house cocktail "the Claridge" (which I need to post about soon as I can't believe I've missed it out) . This seemed to be a bit of a revelation to the bar staff, who were quite taken with it.

I bravely asked where to drink in Sydney (there is apparently a bit of rivalry between the 2 cities, but it seemed pretty insignificant compared to the Manchester/Liverpool one) and they recommended "Eau de vie" which gets a post of its own. Of course it would be rude not to make a return visit to tell them how we got on.

This time we went straight for the menu  I had there back to back Martini which is really 2 drinks a vodka Martini & a gin one. They come ungarnished but with a tray of garnishes for you to add your own. I had to ask for onions though. Also they had the soup dumplings from their food menu, what can be better than a comfortable bar an ice cold Gibson & a plate of soup dumplings ?

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Scoff a Cephalopod (*)

Well I'm back from my journeying and its time to get things rolling again.

Recently I've been in Australia, mainly Victoria but a couple of side trips out of state. Part of the reason was to go & see the MotoGP at Phillip Island, and that unlikely place is where I'm going to start.

Anyone who has been to a major sporting event will know the disappointment of high price low quality food, and the guilty pleasure it can bring. Phillip Island turned that on its head, yes it was mainly fried and grilled stuff prepared in a van, but the prices weren't the expected gouge. Risking life & limb in the pursuit of taste I found a fish & chip van doing salt & pepper squid. I bravely plunged in. Salt & pepper squid is one of those things, if done right its truly delicious, if not pretty repellent. The first bite proved they knew what they were doing.The squid was al dente and the batter a lovely soft salt & pepper coating. I was pretty surprised, but very pleasantly so.

Later on in town I saw a sign to gladden the heart
"Grilled baby octopus on a stick". I had to have some (and who wouldn't ?). Unfortunately they'd sold out so instead I got a $6(aus) bag of fried octopus.

That's it just there. Quite a substantial portion, for what was meant to be a pre-lunch snack. In fact it tided us over till an earlyish tea. Once again the octopus was well cooked, the seasoned spicy batter adding its own crunch.

Two happy seafood experiences from places I'd not normally expect to be pulling off some of the trickier seafoods quite so well.

(*)Sorry about the title, what can I say, I had a misspent youth.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Duck egg

When I started using the farm shop, I noticed a larger than usual range of eggs. I'd heard a lot about how great Duck eggs are for breakfast so bought some. After scrambling , frying & omeletting I tried poaching. That's now my favourite way to eat them.  I absolutely had to try the ham, egg & peas at Sat Bains. Sat poaches his eggs in a water bath at around 60c for some hours, I'll be trying that on my next free weekend. Meanwhile I went for the traditional method (ish).

Here's how I normally poach a duck egg

Bring a pan of water to a rolling boil & add in a teaspoon of vinegar. Drop the egg (still in its shell) into the water for about 20 seconds. Fish it out with a slotted spoon and then crack it into the water. You should end up with a mostly egg shaped blob around the yolk & a bit of a tail/veil of white, with some breakaway bits floating about on the surface. I like my yolks soft so about 90s-2mins does the trick. Scoop out with the trusty slotted spoon, set on hot buttered toast and add maybe a twist of black pepper.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Bramble Gin Fizz

My little foraging adventure gathered more blackberries & some elderberries, so what better way to enjoy them than in a drink ?

First up make bramble cordial. Put blackberries & elderberries in a bowl and add a reasonable amount of sugar, then either microwave or heat over a simmering pan. Either way you should end up with a thick sweet deep purple cordial. You can use this in either alcoholic concoctions or temperance ones.

           Bramble Gin Fizz

10ml of bramble cordial
30ml of gin
5ml of St Germain or elderflower liqueur

stir down, add a couple of ice cubes and stir again.

Top up with soda water.

A nice long drink for the few warm evenings left.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Lamb lid pie

I am against "liddy pie" this is the thing usually served as a pie. A Lid or top normally made of puff pastry is floated on top of pie filling in and individual bowl. The one allowable savoury exception in my book is a hot pot pie. So I made one, having combined it with an idea I had whilst writing another post...

I mentioned lighter ales & lamb when I was talking about steak & ale pie and got to thinking about fruit beers. Being on a touch of an economy drive after Sat Bains I spotted lamb neck at the butchers & decided I'd give the idea a go. I added Liefman's Kriek to my basket.

First I melted & seasoned a bit of butter in my pan, tossed in garden herbs (mainly rosemary & bay) and half an onion and let it all sweat on a gentle heat.
I took most of the meat off the neck chops, cubed it & reserved one bone portion. The meat got dredged in flour  and then tossed into the pan to brown. That job done in went the beer and the bone, the whole lot was brought up to the boil. This is great fun as suddenly everything smells of cherries and your stew gains an excitable pink frothy head. Crank the heat back to a simmer, pop on the lid & go and enjoy yourself. Stews & pies are one of the best things about Autumn & Winter, they fill the house with a comforting cooking smell, the promise of filling food and allow you to loaf about reading whilst they simmer & burble away.

After an hour or two everything should be reduced down and cooked to tender. About 3/4 of the way through Chuck in a handful of chopped potato, you can do this at the start, but you need serious chunks unless you want the potato to just thicken the stew & not be a separate presence on the fork.
Turn the oven on to preheat, about gas 4 and break out the pastry. Roll it out to about 10-20mm larger than the top of your pot. Unfortunately the rim on my otherwise marvellous Le Creuset  pan is to thin to support the pastry so I had to transplant everything into a pyrex dish. Put the pastry over the stew and crimp to the rim of your dish, make a couple of knife slashes in the top to let the steam out and pop in the oven for 30 minutes or so.

I have to apologise for a couple of the recent photographs, they've been taken under less than ideal conditions, usually snatched with a phone cam in low light. Still they should give a reasonable idea of what I'm wittering about.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Mixmo Lime

It's MixMo time again, and Limes have been chosen.

I find Lime to be quite a tricky ingredient, it's acidity can be too overpowering at times, so I keep lime drinks for before dinner.

I think this is an underrated lime cocktail :- The Stiletto

 1 part fresh lime juice
 1 part ameretto
  4 parts Bourbon.

Juice the lime, I tend to use this as my base measurement, in general unless the lime is elderly it'll yield enough juice for two drinks.

Pour it into an iced bar glass, add in your ameretto and your bourbon. Shake, strain & pour.

This is one of those magic cocktails where all the parts harmonize with each other & you don't get too much of any one flavour. I'm always surprised that when DiSaronno are advertising this drink never comes up as it shows off very well indeed. I guess if you aren't a marzipan/almond flavour fan then this will look like a nightmare, however whilst the almond note is still present, it is fairly subdued. Give it a go, if you don't like it then don't order another. Maybe though you'll be pleasantly surprised.

The Stiletto

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Restaurant Sat Bains

Nottingham's only Michelin starred restaurant, Sat is also a molecular chef, so some comparisons with the Fat Duck are inevitable, so I'll deal with the 2 biggies straight off. Sat's menu is a lot more local & seasonal, he also is a bit less multi-sensory/theatrical than Heston. We'd got a package offer, so a
room, champagne on arrival and the 7 course tasting menu. The wine list is huge and roams from pretty reasonable (25-30) to stratospheric. Having had the paired wines at the Fat Duck we did the same here. First up was an amuse bouche from the kitchen of an oyster foam with a pigs head croquette and a smoked haddock one, both were really good. Next was Sat's signature dish of ham, egg & peas. If you don't know this is the only dish that scored a perfect 30 in the great British menu and consists of a slow poached duck egg, peas, pea & mint sorbet and pata negra ham. I've eaten a fair few poached duck eggs, this was glorious. The sorbet tastes incredibly fresh & green and provides a great contrast to the warm duck egg.
Then it was onto the menu proper and an Alsatian white that we ended up killing, that was for the starters and went incredibly with the first, Pork, pears, chicory & monkfish which came with a liquorice sauce. The pork was superbly cooked and the pears which ranged from raw to a pear gel really went with it, the monkfish & liquorice were good together, but might not have needed to be on the same plate as the pork. Next up was Organic salmon with coriander.This was a cube of raw salmon, incredible pickled vegetables where placed on top and covered in an oyster & coriander emulsion. Brilliant, absolutely brilliant. 
Next came NG7 2AS, an enigmatically named dish, that turns out to be foraged from with in a mile of the kitchen. If you get to eat it, it probably won't be the same as this. A salad of mainly sorrels with pickled elderberries, textures of crab apple, hazelnuts and a hazelnut  sand. With a glorious horseradish croquette.

For me this was the stand out dish, and it took a while to eat as everything needed to eaten on its own and then in combination.
The "main course" turned up, Yorkshire grouse with blackberries and a home made faggot, paired with a premier cru Burgundy. If the dish was any bigger then it would have been instant gout. Lovely meaty flavours from the (very) rare grouse breast and the beef faggot, complemented incredibly by the deep blackberry sauce and matched to the kind of wine that makes you understand where Jilly Goulden & co are coming from.
Then came "Crossover" a bridge between the main course & dessert. Its a mix of ham, pineapple, maple syrup and Parmesan cheese. Sounds odd but really works. 
The first of the desserts was simply titled "Chocolate" and was a rich chocolate mousse with a thyme & salt caramel and a buttermilk ice cream paired with an Australian muscadet, another standout bit of wine matching. Again well chosen complementary flavours the acidity of the buttermilk cutting through the rich sweetness on the plate, the addition of thyme to caramel provided a pleasant je ne sais quois and is something I think I might give a bit of a try in future.
The final menu course was "Raspberry" which consisted of a dish containing various raspberry things (a granita, a gel, whole berries) dotted with hazelnut meringues, both hard and soft and a lolly of freeze dried raspberries a white chocolate shell and a beetroot ice cream. 

Beetroot is much loved by the modern/molecular chef as it has a very interesting trick, where its flavour can be flipped between sweet & savoury depending on what it's served with(*). If you know that you can play with it in this dessert. This was teamed with a Sauternes which was probably the most disappointing wine of the night, in so much as it was merely very good, compared with the excellents of the other wines. Finally the richest chocolate brownie I've ever eaten arrived on a small square slate. I managed half of it.
So go, it's highly recommended, staying over in one of the fairly luxurious rooms takes a bit of a sting out of the bill, but you are paying toward the top end of 1 star prices. That said I don't think it can be too long before a second star arrives. The dishes are innovative and very well made, the wines well chosen and the service spot on. There is a 12.5% service charge on the food bill, which is  reasonable at this level.

(*) A high degree of acidity flips the beetroot from beetrooty to blackcurranty. Eating the raspberry chocolate shell to expose the ice cream with in (as shown in the photo) allows you to taste the beetroot ice cream in its vegetable guise. Dipping it into the granita turns it fruity again. 

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Steak & Ale plate pie

Ahh autumn, I know Keats was fond of you, I am too, for different reasons though. Autumn means that the oven can be used with impunity & that stews are back on the menu, Steak & ale pie means both.

You'll need some shortcrust pastry, which you can make or buy. Steak (one of the cheaper cuts, its is about to be cooked for several hours) onions, mushrooms and Beer. Beer is an important ingredient in this dish, in fact it's almost all the stock/gravy so choose well. Ideally it'll be a fairly dark strong beer to go with the deep flavour of the beef (you could use lamb and a lighter ale if you like). I went with Theakstons "Old Peculiar" which I've always been fond of. So get you best stewing/casseroling pan out and melt some butter, season it as you like. Chop some onion and sweat it in the butter. Add a mushroom or 3 (these will probably melt into the stock, they are there to add body). Toss your steak in flour and brown it in the oniony shroom butter. Pour in the beer (500ml/pint) add some herbs and simmer. You have an hour or 3 to amuse yourself, stop simmering when the stock, gravy is just a touch less thick than you'd like.

Line a greased pie plate with pastry, and slice a couple more mushrooms. Stir the mushrooms into the steak stew & then ladle the lot into the pastry lined plate. Make a pastry lid, attach it & brush with milk. Into the oven on gas 4 for 30-40 mins. Enjoy.

If you can't eat the pie in one sitting, you can either eat it cold later or like the one above put it in a low oven to heat through whilst you cook some spuds & some veg.

Make this, if nothing else it'll make your kitchen smell awesome. Cheat & buy the pastry. Cheat more and use an ovenproof pan & just lay the pastry over the top of it. Just make the pie, its the thing now the nights are drawing in.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Blackberry Jelly

The blackberry glut is almost worked out, fortunately another glut is hard on its heels. Anyway blackberry jelly


On the left are macerating blackberries, plucked from various sources around work & home. On the right is a bunny jelly mould, something a number of commentators have told me I have to have to make "proper" jelly. I figured blackberry would be quite easy, since blackberries & raspberries are essentially the same. Set the blackberries & some sugar in a heat proof bowl over simmering water. After 45mins or so, you'll be left with a lot of juice and some shrivelled berries. Pour the juice through a sieve and make up to 500ml with water/sugar syrup (You'll have to do this bit by taste as there are way too many variables).

Use your 500ml to make up a jelly in the usual way (50ml of liquid is used to soften 5 leaves of gelatine, then melt the gelatine over a double boiler, add the remaining liquid, stir strain etc) and pass it through a fine sieve into your mould. Put it in the fridge for a few hours (overnight is best, it removes the temptation to poke about & see if everything is ready) and once set turn out.

Serve, ice-cream & small children are entirely optional.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Lavender Old Fashioned

This came up in MixMO as an entry from Backyard Bartender which intrigued me, especially as I still have lavender flowers.

I had a read of the recipe & thought since I'd give it a go. Then I had a read of The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks and decided to stick to a more standard old-fashioned. I'd used up all my Gomme making Jellies so I had to do it the hard way

First put 1//2 a barspoon of sugar in the bottom of your glass add 2 dashes of bitters an Ice cube & a lavender flower head. Stir gently to start dissolving the sugar. After a couple of minutes add 5ml of St Germain (Elderflower liqueur). Keep stirring gently, you want to dissolve the sugar but not break up the lavender. Add 10ml of bourbon and keep stirring. Once all the sugar has dissolved (5-10 minutes) add 35ml of bourbon and a second ice cube, stir for another 10-15 seconds and then enjoy.

You should end up with a very well balanced drink in which the lavender & elderflower florals combine and act quite nicely with the bourbon, giving a smooth drink with a bright aftertaste. It is always a bit of hassle to make an old fashioned from scratch, but this one is worth a go.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Blackberry Flip

This is a straight forward variation on Jamie Boudreau's Raspberry flip

Blackberry flip

6 blackberries
1 egg
3 parts Bourbon
1 part creme de murre
dash bitters

I've always been told when using egg or egg parts to put them in the mixing glass & give it a quick whisk with the bar spoon. So crack an egg into there and beat it to break up the yolk & roughly mix it into the white. Drop in the blackberries (whole) and the ice. Add bourbon & creme de murre. The original calls for peach bitters, I didn't have them so opted to leave the bitters out this time.

Shake HARD strain & serve

You end up with basically a blackberry smoothie, quite dangerously the alcohol bite is hidden away.

Don't be afraid of whole egg, most UK eggs are salmonella free (at least the lion mark ones are). The resulting drink is really worth it. Drink it now before Michelmas when Satan ruins all your blackberries

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Tarte Tatin

Windfall apples, what to do ? A quick glimpse at Family Food suggested Tarte tatin, after all what could be nicer than a caramel apple pie ?

For some reason I'd never realized that tarte tatin is cooked upside down, the recipe also called for frozen puff pastry. I skipped that as I was making my own shortcrust for some other bits.
First off came lining the bottom of the dish with 100gr of butter. Then I sprinkled 80gr of sugar over that (Depends a bit on how sweet the apples are). Then I cut some wedges from my apples. This is great for windfalls as you can chuck the less good bits of the apple.

Once it's all set up put it on the hob at a medium heat & watch the butter melt & the sugar begin to caramelize. At this point the recipe suggested putting a plat over the apples to make sure they got nicely covered.

I looked at several pictures on the web and the apples are really deeply caramelized, to a very dark brown. I didn't go that far, taking it off the hob when everything was golden. Now came the tricky sounding part. Next time I make this (and its not going to be too long before I do) I'll roll the pastry & measure it first, it can rest at the right size.

I dropped it over the apples & tucked it in as best I could. You can see bits of buttery caramel escaping up the sides. So it wasn't going to be the worlds best looking tarte tatin (I think that goes to those with the regular spiral of thin apple slices), but hopefully it was going to taste OK. With that it went into the oven on Gas mark 4 for 30-40mins (depends on the oven, whether you've pre-heated it and all those other factors).

Then comes the nailbiting section, turning it out. Place a plate over your flan dish & quickly invert, perform what ever voodoo you regard as acceptable & tap the flan dish, if everything is going you way you'll hear a flopping sound & then the big reveal.

Eat with cream, or ice cream (I like ice cream when the tart is warm & cream when its cold). The next day I was idly poking around the internet and several websites suggested that Tatin was a difficult thing and reading some of the recipes I'm not surprised. This was pretty straight forward, and if you aren't good at pastry, Jus-roll and similar work fine. If you've an abundance of apples this is worth a go, and the anxiety of turning out hot caramel is always a spice to an afternoon in the Kitchen.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Blackberry "Bellini"

The Bellini is a simple concoction of Prosecco  and white peach. It does lend itself to variations & riffs. I had a bottle of Prosecco and having finished my run in the woods access to a whole bunch of blackberries.

I was feeling a bit lazy so I macerated the blackberries with the microwave. This is dead simple, put sugar on blackberries (slightly more than you think you need) and heat indirectly. The juice flows out and forms a strong syrup. (takes about 5 mins in the microwave 1min full power, 2 mins stand 1 min full power). For what I wanted a little too strong, so I diluted it with grappa (about 2 syrup to 1 grappa) and shared it between flutes. Top off with prosecco, garnish with a small berry and enjoy the autumn.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Pizza with little people

I found myself babysitting, so I thought we could make pizza. After all it's a pretty simple dough (Flour water yeast) and if I cut up the toppings & manned the oven a five yr-old could do most of the work right ?

I got Them to test the water for the yeast (like Goldilocks, not too hot, not too cold) and to mix up the dough.

The stickiness of this step was not entirely welcome, but making a well in the flour & then pouring water into it seemed to be about the best fun you could have. That said we ended up with a ball of dough that wasn't too bad after 5-10 minutes and some deft avuncular handy work.

We took a break at this point, the recipe I'm using for the dough doesn't need to rest, but the little fingers appreciated it. I shooed them out of the kitchen, cranked the oven up & chopped a few toppings.

The salami is really for my benefit, and I know pineapple on pizza isn't great, but I didn't want to make food that was too new/unusual/weird.
Anyway everyone love smooshing out dough into a rough pizza shape. Everyone except my nephew every time it got thin enough he'd roll it back up & start again.

We eventually got a pizza shape everybody was happy with, I assisted in covering them with sauce and then it was time to make some Pizza. Somebody was insistent that theirs was a face, somebody else was more interested in how much stuff would fit on the base.

Not bad though, minimal interference from me (though I admit to not braving making tomato sauce with them & using a jar of pasta sauce instead). Popping them in the oven wasn't greeted with enthusiasm, in fact there were a couple of howls of dismay. Until we realized that they could be seen through the door.

10 minutes later and :-

Hmm maybe I let him pile a little too much ham on there. I've not got any eating photos as we were a bit on the busy side at that point. We managed to join the clean plate club too. First outing cooking with the tinnies was definitely a success. What to do next time ?

Monday, 30 August 2010

Mixmo:- Brown,Bitter and stirred

Mixmo, Manhattans, Interesting.

A number of writers place the Manhattan up with the Martini, a couple even give it the crown as the king of cocktails. In short it has a reputation, one which for once is richly deserved. Every now & then a bit of a tinker with it is in order, what makes the Manhattan's magic ? For one drinker I know its all about the cherry. With that in mind, I went all out for the Cerise Manhattan.

Simply I swapped cherry brandy in for the vermouth and Kirsch in for the bitters so

45 ml Bourbon (drinkers choice)
15 ml Cherry Brandy
2 dashes of Kirsch

Stir over ice, strain.
Lift a maraschino cherry with your barspoon & drop it (with attendant syrup) through the drink.

This was a massive DRY cherry hit. I was using home made cherry brandy, so that wasn't as sweet as the commercial stuff (I'm stingy with sugar) which might have made some of the difference. However I think that cutting the cherry brandy with half red vermouth might well produce a more balanced drink.

I guess I'm just going to have to keep experimenting till I find an acceptable cherry Manhattan, could take me a while, but I'll sacrifice myself like that since it's unlikely that I'll mix up anything utterly unpalatable.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

The hound of the Baskerville's remix

Last Blackberry season I made this we settled on calling it "the hound of the Baskerville's". Leaving work recently I've noticed a lot of blackberries, so I went to pick some. Unfortunately some were out of my reach, so I didn't grab that many.

Having arrived at the bar I decided I'd introduce the guys to this one.

Hound of the Baskerville's

1pt creme de murre
1pt sweet vermouth
2pts dry vermouth
6pts dry gin
handful of blackberries

Muddle the blackberries down, add a large handful of ice and the rest of the ingredients, stir hard till very cold, strain & serve. The Borage flower on the top is a nice touch, I'd normally serve with a small reserved berry.

As you can see it is a variation on the "Bloodhound" and a bit more refined than my original attempts. It was pretty well received. So if you are keen on classic type cocktails and a fan of seasonal fruits take the time over the next couple of weeks to grab a handful of nice blackberries from an overlooked briar patch and mix up a couple of these.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Watermelon Jelly

I had a plan for going off recipe with jelly, then a free watermelon arrived & the plan changed, more about the original plan later.

Seriously though how hard can it be ?
Step 1 check your fruit doesn't have any dodgy enzymes which interfere with Gelatine. (That's kiwi,pineapple,papaya, and figs as far as I know).
Step 2 Juice your fruit
Step 3 Make the juice upto 500ml. This is where you adjust the sweetness add booze and otherwise adulterate the juice to provide a better jelly.
Step 4 Make a Gelatine solution
Step 5 Set
Step 6 EAT

Nobody seemed to think watermelon and gelatine presented any problems, so it was juicing time, slice the melon up (catching any juice from this stage) and pulp in a blender, pass through a sieve and away you go.
Step 3 had me worried, melon is a delicate flavour and I didn't want to wreck it, so I added a dash of white rum, a spoonful of sugar and made it up with water. At this point I remembered something from the Fat Duck Cookbook about adding malic acid, so I added 1/2 a teaspoon.

Hours later and the jellies smelt fantastic, time to unmould & taste.

Fortunately they tasted as good as they smelt. I'll be adding watermelon to my list 

Wednesday, 11 August 2010


A simple BBQ plum dessert

First off mix up a honey simple syrup, and infuse lavender & rosemary into it (Couple of teaspoons of honey, double the amount of water, a sprig of rosemary & a fresh lavender flower head). While that is heating (you don't want it to boil) halve & stone plums. Lay them in a fireproof bowl & pour over your syrup.

When all the meat has been consumed from the BBQ , but it's still fairly hot cover the dish with foil & put it on the grill, after about 10-15mins it should be bubbling away. Lift it off, carefully peel back the foil and serve spoonfuls of hot plum with a good vanilla ice-cream.