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.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The Seelbach cocktail

A good champagne cocktail is a thing of beauty.This is both good & not all that well known, which is a shame.
Its a slightly odd beast as it uses a lot of bitters, calling for anywhere between 7 dashes & a barspoon of both Angastoura & Peychaud's, which is responsible for the awesome colour.

Bourbon is used as a base rather than the more usual (in champagne circles) cognac. That & Cointreau provide sweetness, the Champagne brings dryness and the bitters depth & complexity. There are a couple of ways of making it, this is my preferred method.

25ml Bourbon
15ml Cointreau
7 dashes Angastoura bitters
7 dashes Peychaud's bitters

Stir down over ice & then strain into a champagne flute, top with good Champagne.

As you can see we tried a cherry garnish, which works well enough.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Filé gumbo

Its more than the line from a song, its an actual thing, that you can eat. You need filé powder (which is ground sassafras leaves) and Andouille sausage and some other bits & pieces too. Most importantly the Holy trinity of Cajun/Creole cooking :- Green bell pepper, Onion & Celery. I'll come clean of the 3 I only really like Onions, fortunately the others dissolve if you cook them long enough and gumbo gets cooked for a Loooong time.

The base of gumbo is a roux. Every single recipe I found suggests you need to drink whilst making the roux, so here goes. Fry some chicken thighs, till brown and the sausage, pour the fat into a big old pan, add butter & melt it and then add flour, turn the heat low & stir and scrape and stir & scrape. Keep stirring & scraping till the roux is Milk chocolatey coloured (about 2 beers of time, or 45 minutes for the more scientifically minded).
 DO NOT LET THE FLOUR BURN ! Because that wrecks everything & you have to start again. Whilst the roux is going on boil the chicken, which will make you a light chicken stock as well as cooking the chicken down for you.

Once you've a lovely roux, throw in the trinity veggies and any others you are using (I know Okra should go in at this point, but I'm not that keen, even if its where gumbo gets its name) and soften them. Add seasonings & spices. Then add your stock and your meat (Sausage & chicken) and let it bubble over a low heat for hours. I reduced my gumbo a little too much at the end, so it was thicker than most. Serve with white rice, a sprinkle of filé and some buttery bread.

Maybe not the most authentic gumbo as I amalgamated 3 recipes and information from an ex-NOLA resident, but it was damn tasty and next time there is cheap shellfish going I'll be making another.

The recipes are here
and the highly recommended baconconcentrate's gumbo-shops recipe

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Andouille sausage

This post  suggested that Andouille (at least the cajun sort) was easy enough to make at home, the only slightly tricky ingredient was Prague powder. A hot smoked sausage, what's not to like there ?

First off you need some pork

and some spices (some of these are from the banger making)

The annoying part of making andouille is the chopping. The paupered chef recipe calls for half the pork to be chopped quite small & the rest to be minced. Grab your sharpest knife & cut the pork into chunks, put half of it into the mincer on a medium plate and then chop the rest of the chunks into tiny (about 1cm) cubes. Using cold hands mix the spices, the onion, the garlic, the cure & the meat (ground & chunked) into a large bowl and let it sit in the fridge for a while.

Break out the sausage stuffer and make the sausages. All the usual sausage stuffing things apply. One slight variation was I used pork casings instead of beef, it was just what my butcher had...

They then go rest in the fridge overnight prior to smoking. Since we had the smoker fired up for several little jobs & there was no pecan available we went with maple and let them smoke. Once done I quenched them as best I could and then sliced one open to see how it tasted.

It wasn't as spicy as I was expecting, but it was tasty, in fact it was rather moreish. If I hadn't promised some to a friend, and didn't have some cooking plans (hello gumbo) for it I think rather a lot would have been eaten there & then

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

In search of perfection:-Bangers

Ahh Sausages. I like the good old banger, in fact I like it better than some pure meat sossies. Heston Blumenthal had a look at Bangers (& mash) in his perfection series, and the banger needs filler. These are pork, some spices a little rusk & toast water. Like all HB recipes there were lows & highs. Most of the issues with this one were due to having an ordinary kitchen, with a fullish fridge & freezer.

First off make toast, but make it in the oven, at gas mark 4 for 30 minutes or so. Whilst that's happening fire up the BBQ, you are about to char pork back fat over smoking woodchips. This was my first arghhh moment, my wood chips were a bit too wet and smothered the charcoal, still a blow torch rescued that.
Once  the fat starts to go things get quite exciting in the BBQ. Gloves & eye protection are recommended as a lot of hot fat spits around. Once its all charred, blistered (and smelling awesome) take it off the heat & pop it in the fridge to cool. Also in there will be a large bowl of water & toast, oh and the pork mince. Cold is quite a vital part of banger making, the fat & meat (and spices & filler) need to emulsify, let it get too warm & it'll split. Blitz the charred fat and it looks pretty unpleasant.
Chill down the bowl & blade on your food processor & blitz the mince in batches, it needs to be smooth & not to rise above 10c. I have a tiny food processor, so this & the next stage were quite hard work and could be an area of improvement for my next batch. The meat and food processor bits go back in the freezer to get everything down to close to 0c, whilst you blend the spices, rusk, golden syrup  and toast water
   That gets to chill too. Then you blitz all the bits, fat, spicy toast water & meat again in small batches keeping a check that they never get above 10c, whilst that's going on let the sausage casings soak (put the now sausage meat back in the fridge to chill)
   Then its time to stuff your sausages. If you can get help with this part do. 2 pairs of hands make it pretty easy. Having spent a few hours getting to this point, surrounded by lumps of fat, piles of meat & collections of spices I was pleasantly surprised to see sausages magically emerging from the combination, mincer, pasta maker sausage stuffer machine.

  To enjoy them to the full Heston recommends poaching at 65c for 320 minutes & then frying, I couldn't wait I had to try the sausages.

  Well worth it.

Yes its fiddly & a bit of a pain, no its probably not hugely economic to make small batches (we got about 15 bangers) but your own home made sausage is a pretty awesome thing. I've got casing left, so I might have a stab a Lincolnshire style next. Unless that is you know where I can get some hippopotamus.

Monday, 5 September 2011

(Blue) Rose Vodka

I grow roses, I concentrate on "blue" ones due to limited space. Queen of the violets is an old double rose with a deep perfume & a good strong purplish colour, ideal for making scented/flavoured vodka.

The Vodka quickly leaches the colour from the rose, but it ends up a light golden/yellow colour rather than a stronger pink .

I just put a bloom or 2 in vodka, with out any sugar (though 25g/500ml is reckoned to be a good amount) and let it stand for a few days to let the flavour develop properly. Once that was done I strained & bottled.

But why stop with 1 single variety of rose vodka ? Twice in a blue moon seems to be having a late summer/early autumn flush  and whilst being closer to a hybrid tea rose than the bourbon/old fashioned roses it still has a very strong perfume. So it was out with the secateurs and a few snips had a couple of those blooms in a bottle.

Tasting both is interesting, whilst they are both obviously rose flavoured they are quite different. The Queen of the violets vodka is heavy & very rosy. The Blue moon on the other hand is a bit more delicate and has definite vanilla notes. Now all I need to do is find a cocktail for it. It'll work in my Turkish delight drink, but there must be other uses though...

Friday, 15 April 2011

Macaroons V1.0

In my world Macaroon means coconut, yes the French, almond kind are lovely, but really they need a better name. Oh yes they need rice paper too.

A coconut macaroon is a simple beast, where you mix egg white, sugar & dessicated (or flaked or shredded) coconut together & bake till golden. The end result should have a bit of bite surrounding some chewy moistness. There will probably be chocolate too, because well why wouldn't there be ?

  This has an extra embellishment, lime.

So mulch together 100g of sugar, 2 egg whites, 160g of coconut the zest & juice of a lime. Once its all come together roll out bite sized balls. Line a baking tray with parchment (or greaseproof) and put rice paper on top of that (if you can't find plain get edible/funny money from your local sweetie shop). Put the coconut balls onto the rice paper allowing for spreading whilst they cook & slip the whole lot into an oven at gas 4 for 20 minutes or so (once they are golden brown they are done).

Whilst they cool melt some dark chocolate (about 25g will do) and drizzle it over the macaroons. Cut or tear them from the rice paper (and stuff yourself with the chocolate spattered trimmings). Enjoy (keep them in an airtight container, but honestly they won't last long .

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Bourbon steak

I saw a feature about The pyromaniac's cookbook and knew immediately I had to have it. It was one of those cookbooks that just needed to be on my shelf. Finding out it had a BBQ chapter alongside the Cocktails one was the icing on a fairly large tasty looking cake.

The unseasonably warm weekend signalled BBQ time, the quickest of flicks suggested Bourbon steak would be ideal.

Get yourself some nice steak, season it (the book suggests using smoked salt, if you have it then why not ?) and go get the charcoal going. Once the flames have died and the charcoal is kicking out fierce heat, stand your bourbon by the grill to warm. Then throw the steaks on. Cook them till they are slightly underdone to your taste and take them off the grill. Lift the grill out and put a heavy pan into the coals. Add a generous amount of butter, some chopped shallots and when its all melted & sizzling put the steaks in. Pour over a serious amount of bourbon and step back (you may need to light it with a spill or match).
Whizz the flaming pan & steaks to your guests & serve.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

one day a year everybody is Irish

Or so they say, Harry Craddock from the Savoy decided to add his take

1 Large Measure Irish whiskey(*)
1 tsp Green Chartreuse
1 tsp Green Creme de Menthe

Shake serve with a green olive.

(*)It needs to be irish, it just doesn't work otherwise

This is a surprising drink, in that it works at all, since the design on first glance seems to be use Irish ingredients & make it green. The olive is a bit unnecessary in my opinion, but then I'm not a big a fan of olives. Give it a try you might like it

Friday, 18 March 2011

The blackthorne

St Patrick's day DISASTER there is no Jameson's in the house.

There is though some Middleton...
Middleton is a premium spirit, so I'm pretty loathe to go with plan A) which is "everyone's Irish" from the savoy book as the Chartreuse & Creme de Menthe are likely to kill the whiskey dead. The Blackthorne however is pretty much a Manhattan with the bonus of a dash of absinthe.

So the Blackthorne

60ml Irish Whiskey
30ml Sweet Vermouth
Dash Angastoura bitters
Dash Absinthe

garnish is a lemon twist (if you have one).
The absinthe pays for itself here, the anise taste is submerged in the drink, but the mouth feel gives a menthol coolness making the entire thing taste fantastically clean & strong.

Job for the weekend, try it with an inferior whiskey & see how the taste alters

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Dessert, guess what it is jelly

And what a jelly. It's poached peach & Chartreuse.

I took a couple of liberties, first off I made a gold leaf suspension top using a sparkling Chardonnay and I used a set of moulds giving me 5 jellies to serve.

The gold leaf suspension isn't difficult, but you have to have an eye on the cooling of your jelly, it has to be thick enough to support the gold leaf, but still pourable. The Chartreuse Jelly is very strongly flavoured (and quite alcoholic), its made with about 40% of the volume being Chartreuse, 10% being the peach syrup (we used tinned peaches, as my tame historian suggested they'd be most likely in Titanic's kitchens)   and the remainder being water. Add an extra leaf of gelatine to the usual 5 leaves to 500ml ratio since there is a lot of alcohol around and you are good to go. Fill the mould 3/4-7/8 full & leave to set, once it's set enough to support the peaches add peach slices and the rest of the jelly. Set & serve (with cream or ice-cream, the jelly is a bit rich on its own)

Friday, 4 March 2011

Main course

I wanted pastry on the menu and the various machinations of the menu meant it ended up here. The 3rd class menu has beefsteak & onion pie as a lunch. Not being totally hidebound I changed it to beefsteak & onion pudding. Since we were on an Edwardian theme I took the liberty of using oysters. Oysters back then were cheap, much cheaper than mushrooms, so were used to bulk out the gravy.This being a dinner party though I added mushrooms too for a super luxury pudding.

I cook the steak for an hour or so with herbs & onion plus some port to get it tender. Brown off the kidneys and add them to the steak mix. Chop the oysters & mushrooms, stir into the now steak & kidney mix. Ladle the lot into a nice suet pastry crust. Seal the lid on and then steam for an hour or two (about 90 mins is fine for a 750ml pudding). Because I couldn't find a large pudding bowl I made 3 small puddings (should have made 4, one for each funnel). Which turned out to be about right.
The oysters & the mushrooms dissolved into the gravy, giving a nice rich taste & texture, just the thing for a cold night.
I served them up with Mash & veg and it seemed about the right potion size for everyone (at least I didn't get any complaints, just 11 clean plates).
I think I'll be adding oysters again in future as they definitely bring a certain something to the dish.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Starting out

First an apology, there are no photos sorry.

The Starter course caused me all kinds of hassle. Plan A was going to be Heston Blumenthal's individual scampi fry from his seafood feast. A shortage of scampi/langoustines/dublin bay prawns put paid to that. Never mind on to plan B, Scrambled Ostrich egg. A cold snap prevented the Ostriches from laying, so that was the end of that one. Time for plan C. After doing some digging I found eggs & ham on the 2nd class breakfast menu.  I teamed it with fried potatoes, did my own honey glazed ham & went with Quails eggs. Originally I planned to fry the Quails eggs & serve 2 per person. However getting them out of the shells quickly & intact proved to be more of a challenge than I could manage, so I scrambled them.

There we go a starter of fried potato, honey glazed ham & scrambled quail's eggs. It was a small plate, I didn't want to over face the dinners after all

Monday, 28 February 2011

Sherry Punch

The opening salvo in my Titanic dinner party.

I've steered clear of punch, since its often just mixed fruit juice with any old booze poured in. Or it requires LOTS of ingredients (my favourite starts with a gallon of GOOD champagne (their emphasis)). A bit of research suggests that a good punch requires "Oleo-sacchrum" or sweet oil.
This is made by muddling the zest of lemon with sugar.
The sugar pierces the zest releasing the oils, the sugar then acts to bring the oils out & a sweet oily syrup is created. The longer you can leave this the better.

Add boiling water and remove any pips, peel or other solids. I combined this step with tea making, so added a couple of teaspoons of good loose earl grey and let it stand with the boiling water for twenty minutes before straining.

Once it had cooled I added a few good measures of dark rum & Cognac. This formed the base of the punch (what some experts call "the Mixture") which stood for a good 24 hours.

In a mixing bowl the mixture went in with a bottle of amontillado sherry and a bottle of Chardonnay (originally it was going to be two, but the taste & quantity seemed right with just the one). A good quantity of ice was added, which thanks to a friend who has a similar sense of humour, was in the shape of Titanics & Icebergs.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Soda bread

Oh I do like soda bread, occasionally I'll risk the treat of frying slices of it in butter, but it is best warm from the oven, so best get making it then.

The important parts of soda bread are baking soda & buttermilk. The acid in the butter milk reacts with the soda & makes the bread rise. By dough has some wholemeal in it (so its a wheaten really) and a couple of spoons of treacle.

You sift the flours, soda & salt into a large bowl, mix them and make a well. Pour melted butter, treacle & buttermilk into the well & bring together to make a dough. It doesn't need much work. Bring that to a ball & flatten it out then make a cross in the top. The handle of a spoon works well for this. Dust lightly with a bit more flour and then put into a hot oven.

You can tell its done when the dough visible in the cross is dry or when the loaf makes a hollow sound. Let it stand for about 5-10 minutes (this is necessary if you are using a knife, if you are just going to rip it open, then as soon as your fingers can handle it)

It doesn't really need anything more than butter, but it does have to be butter, margarine & spread just won't do. Eat and enjoy. Soda bread doesn't keep (apparently), but stopping eating it is more of a challenge than not. Should you have some a day or two old. Slice it, melt an unhealthy amount of butter in your frying pan & then toss the slices in till browned on each side. Deny all knowledge of this to any passing Dr or Nutritionist.

Monday, 24 January 2011


The farmers market was on in town, and there were fresh pigeon breasts. I just couldn't resist.

Firstly they come from Wood pigeons and not the winged rats you find round the typical city centre. Hopefully that has cured you of any unpleasant associations between the meat & the scruffy oik birds eating greasy McD's leftovers.

So I had six breast fillets, what to do  ?
First melt butter in a frying pan then add half a chopped onion & sweat it till transparent. Then add a couple of rashers worth of chopped bacon and a good twist of fresh black pepper. Let it all fry gently for a couple of minutes then turn up the heat & add the breasts. Pour over a good measure of brandy & flame (watching eyebrows, kitchen cupboards & so on) and cook the breasts for about 5 minutes, turning every minute or so. Then add a good 1/2 glass of port and simmer for another couple of minutes. Remove the breasts, add a splash more port & a handful of chopped mushrooms (go for something nutty like chesnut mushrooms) and reduce whilst you slice the breast. Put the sliced breast back in, stir round & serve on top of crushed potatoes & vegetables.

There you have it a tasty game supper for about 4-5 pounds a head (you can make it cheaper by bulking up the veggies & spuds)