Category Archives: Drinks

Vegan Hot Chocolate Spoons

These Vegan Hot Chocolate Spoons are a lovely thing to make as a gift, or just to keep on hand for those chocolate cravings that spring up from time to time!

Vegan Hot Chocolate Spoons

They’re quick and easy to whip up, you just need to allow time for them to set.

Vegan Hot Chocolate Spoons

I’ve tried mine with Almond milk, which is my go to dairy alternative, and also with regular cow’s milk, which obviously negates their Vegan heritage!  But they’re delicious either way!  What you always need to make sure of when you’re working with chocolate is that you enjoy the chocolate you’re starting with!  If you start with a delicious chocolate then you will end up with a delicious finished product.

Vegan Hot Chocolate Spoons

Makes ~14 spoons

200g dark chocolate (make sure it’s vegan!)
50g coconut oil
2 tbsp cocoa powder

– Melt the chocolate either slowly in a microwave or over a pan of boiling water, whichever method you prefer.  Heat it until 90% melted then take off the heat and allow the last lumps to melt with the residual heat.
– Stir in the coconut oil and the cocoa powder and mix until  smooth.
– Pour carefully into an ice cube tray so that each hole is just filled, clean up any spillages so you have a clean edge.
– Place in the fridge for 10 minutes until starting to solidify then poke the spoons so that they stand upright.  You can leave them to set at room temperature too but this will take a lot longer.
– Put them back in the fridge until fully set, an hour will do it, them unmould and place in plastic bags to keep them.
– To use, simply pop into a mug of hot milk (alternative) of your choice and stir!

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Sloe Gin

Autumn is here!  And with it come a wealth of free hedgerow foods and abundant old wives’ tales to guide you on your foraging!  Having been indulging in Blackberry and Apple Pie and Brown Betty for weeks now the first frost has come and so blackberries are out (the devil’s claw has been upon them!) but it’s open season on the sloes!

Sloes have had some ups and downs over the past few years but it seems like a good year for them around here so get out and see what you can pick!  This sloe gin is well worth the wait, I’ve just cracked open last year’s stash and, just like every year, I am reminded of just how good this stuff is and questioning why I don’t drink it year round!

Sloe Gin

 

Makes 1 bottle*

350g sloes*
175g granulated sugar*
8 blanched almonds
1 pint gin*

– First step, freeze your sloes.  Or spend 3 hours pricking each and every one of them with a small knife.  Your choice.
– In a large jar or bottle with a wide neck (make sure it seals properly!) layer your frozen sloes and sugar so its nicely combined.
– Add the blanched almonds.
–  Add the gin at room temperature.  The shock of the gin on the frozen sloes will cause the skins to split, you may even hear them cracking like ice cubes!
– Put in a safe, cool place and then shake once a week for 6 months-the end of time. (Mum has a bottle she’s been working on for at least 5 years, its brilliant!)
–  Strain the sloes and almonds from the gin leaving just the liquid.  **
– Enjoy with ice and tonic, or as a bonfire night tipple straight from a hip flask!  Warms you up a treat!

* As with all foraging expeditions your harvest varies.  If you have come home with say 2kg of sloes (well done you!) then simply use half the amount of sugar to the weight of sloes (so 1kg) and when adding gin you want the sloe/sugar mix to come about halfway up the bottle leaving the rest of the room for gin.

As for gin, DO NOT go using Bombay Sapphire or the like in this recipe.  It’s a waste!  Lidl, Aldi and the like do perfectly acceptable gin at a good price especially when you are going to be adding so much fruit and sugar to it.  There’s no need to break the bank!

** If you don’t want to waste the sloes you can go on to use them in Sloe and Apple Jelly by simply adding them to this recipe.

 

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Filed under Dairy Free, Drinks, Easy, Gluten Free, Jams and Preserves

French Wines with Style Blogger Challenge

Sorry for the hiatus guys! I’ve been working on something special though, so I hope you’ll forgive me.  I have not just a recipe today but a fantastic summer menu! I am taking part in the French Wines with Style Blogger Challenge.  For this challenge I was kindly sent a summer hamper with tasting notes for the wines and the challenge was to come up with some “perfect summer recipes paired with summer French wines with style”.

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Now, you’ll never have to twist my arm to support French wines, having spent every summer in France as a kid, I have been on more tours of vinyards than I can remember. (Best one was where the dog peed on my dad but that’s 11 year olds for ya!) I have always prefered French wines over their new world compatriots.  There is just something classier about them! I love the history, the wealth of knowledge and the traditions of wine growing in France and for me that adds to the whole experience.  I also happen to think they’re just damned tasty! Because that’s what it comes down to, isn’t it? Do you enjoy drinking it? If the answer is yes, then you have a winner!  I will never be one for “notes of goosberry and a hint of sweaty sock” type wine drinking.  I either like something, or I don’t.

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My stylish BBQ venue, complete with tableware handmade by my mother!

The notes that came with the wines were my starting place.  The words that caught my attention for the Emmanuel Delaille – Le Petit Salvard Cheverny 2010 were “goosberry and lime characters” and the suggestion that it would be a good match for “Chinese and other exotic dishes”.  I immediately thought that a recipe I’d seen for fish with lime, chilli, corriander, ginger and garlic was probably a winner there.  As for the Gabriel Meffre Le Cirque – Vin de France Chardonnay Gros Manseng 2011 the “peach and ginger spice” and “honey and floral notes” immediately made my mouth start watering at the thought of sticky marinated pork with peaches.

For stylish summer eating you’ve got to be outdoors and if you’re luckly enough to be outdoors then you’ve got to fire up the BBQ!  (Although, being British, this whole menu can be prepared inside in the oven, or even, in desparation when the gas runs out on the BBQ, on a health grill… ahem.)

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For the first course I prepared sticky ribs with grilled nectarines.  This recipe and the recipe for the fish came from a Jamie Olive BBQ special in the Daily Mail but I’ve tweaked them and added my own notes here.

I found that this recipe did not work at all as it said it would.  It was tasty, but instead of a paste/rub this was definitely a liquid marinade.  Slowcooking the ribs first was a great innovation though, and one I’ve been toying with the idea of for a while.  While you can cook ribs on the grillstraight after marinading they always have a bit of a “crunch” to them.  After slowcooking the meat is incredibly soft and tender and the flavour goes right through the meat.

Slow Cooked BBQ Sticky Ribs with Grilled Nectarine

1 large rack of ribs (or 2 if you need to feed a large group)
1 nectarine per person, sliced into 8ths

Marinade:
1 tbsp ketchup
3 tbsp cider vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp soft brown sugar
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tsp five spice

Glaze:
1 tbsp olive oil
3tbsp/ a few squidges honey
1cm grated ginger
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 small chilli, finely chopped

– In a large baking dish or roasting tray big enough to fit all of the ribs, mix all of the marinade ingredients together.  Just dump it in then whisk it up to combine.
– Add the rack of ribs and coat well with the marinade.
– Cover the tray with foil and seal tightly.
– Pop it in the fridge for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight.
– Heat your oven to gas mark 3 and then cook the ribs, still tightly covered for 2 hours.
– Make a glaze by combining all of the ingredients in a bowl and whisking together.
– When you’re ready to cook the ribs on the BBQ simply uncover them, brush all over with the glaze and pop on the hot BBQ.
– Turn after about 5 minutes and keep brushing with the glaze turning to cook evenly.
– In the meantime place your sliced nectarines on the BBQ.
– Cook until everything is just a bit blackened with all of that great BBQ flavour.
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Now for the fish!  I love cooking a whole fish.  It’s just so much more fun, and it is just so easy.  One of my favourite ways to cook any fish is en papilotte, wrapped in a paper parcel.  My mum has been cooking salmon this way for as long as I can remember and it always seemed so stylish and grow up to me when I’d see her preparing it when I was a child.  The advantages of cooking a fish this way are that you can impart a lot of flavour to the fish, it keeps it nice and moist, keeps the fish from falling apart and you get a lot of lovely juices full of flavour.

I have made this dish with rainbow trout and mackrel and I think I prefered the mackrel.  (We named him Malcolm.)  It seemed to me that the flesh of the mackrel took on a lot more of the flavours where as the trout seemed more perfumed than flavoured.  Mackrel is a meatier fish and oilier too but the trout was lovely and delicate.  Either way this recipe worked brilliantly with both fish, so really, just get whatever whole fish your fishmonger has that you fancy.  Just remember to get your fish gutted as we forgot to get the mackrel gutted and there was some delay while I YouTubed how to gut a fish, wimped out, and then had to wait for my dad to do it for me! I think I’d give it a go next time but let it never be said that I am not a wimp at heart, let the fishmonger do it!20120726-212132.jpg

BBQ Whole Fish En Papilotte

Serves 1

1 trout or mackrel or other whole fish, gutted.
1 lime, halved and sliced
1 small birds eye chilli
1 stick lemongrass
1/2″ root ginger
2 cloves garlic
1 bunch coriander stalks (if making for 4 then just get a whole bunch of coriander and divide into 4, no need to stick to just the stalks)
Salt, pepper and olive oil

– Take your fish and rinse it under cold water.
– Pat it dry and lay on a sheet of baking paper with a row of lime slices underneath it.
– With the side of a large knife crush/bruise the lemongrass, ginger, and galic cloves.  Split the chilli in half lengthways.
– Stuff the cavity of the fish with the lemongrass, garlic, ginger and chilli.
– Lay the remaining lime slices on top of the fish.
– Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil.
– Fold the baking paper around the fish to make a sealed packet.
– Place on a large sheet of newspaper and wrap this securely and tidily round the baking paper package.  Tie with string to secure.
– Soak the parcel for about 3 minutes in a sink/bucket of cold water.
– Place on a hot BBQ and cook for 45 minutes, turning halfway through.  Be careful though as the newspaper may disintegrate and make a mess!

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As for the sides, a parcel of roasted summer vegetables, sweetcorn on the cob and South African BBQ breads (the actual name of which I totally forget, saw it on the Food Network) work a treat.  The roasted vegetable parcels create a lot of juices of their own and the bread is great to mop those and the fish juices up.  Sweetcorn on the cob is just a summer essential, I love grilling it, you don’t need to precook it, just pop it on the BBQ and cook until slightly charred.  You can brush it with soy sauce if you want to or simply serve with a sprinkle of salt.

Roast Summer Vegetable Parcels

1 stalk cherry tomatoes on the vine
1/2 courgette, cut into batons
1/2 lemon
olive oil, salt and pepper

– Take a large sheet of tinfoil.
– Place all of the vegetables in the lower half.
– Drizzle with olive oil and season to taste.
– Fold the top half over the lover half and fold up all of the open edges to make a sealed parcel.
– Place on the BBQ and cook for 20-30 minutes.
– Open the parcel by splitting the top open, being careful of all of the lovely juices inside.

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Bread

250g strong bread flour
1 tsp fast action yeast
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
150ml warm water

– Mix the flour, yeast, sugar and salt together in a large mixing bowl.
– Make a well and pour in the oil and water.
– Mix together to make a dough.
– Turn out onto a floured worksurface and knead by hand for 10 minutes until smooth and pliable.  It will be rather sticky but just keep it moving and try not to add too much extra flour.
– Place in an oiled bowl covered in a warm, draft free spot and leave to raise for 1 hour or until doubled.
– Knock down the dough and turn out onto a worksurface.
– Divide the dough into four and shape into rounds.
– Place on a board or plate and leave to rise for 20-30 minutes.
– Cook on the BBQ turning after 10 minutes and cook for 10 minutes more on the other side.
– Remove from the BBQ and tap.  If the bread sounds hollow then it’s cooked.

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And now for dessert!  After all of that faffing about you need something that is simple, no cook and that you can prepare ahdead.  However, it still has to look great.  I give you, the summer fruit flan!  This is a wonderfully stylish cheat dessert.  You can buy all of the ingredients and simply assemble a few hours in advance.  It will even keep in the fridge for a few days if necessary (while you wait for that elusive sunshine, perhaps!) but you’d need to use very fresh fruit.

Cheat’s Summer Fruit Flan

1 large flan case.
1 sachet creme patissiere
Fresh fruits (I used frozen raspberries and blueberries, fresh strawberries and whole cherries with a few fresh raspberries fro the garden for good measure.)

– Place thr flan case on your serving plate.
– Drizzle with any available fruit juices or a few tbsp of Framboise liqueur if you have it.
– Spread the creme patissiere over the base of the flan.
– Cover the top with fresh fruit.
– Set aside for a few hours for the flan to soften, if you try eating it straight away it ca be a bit dry and crumbly.

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So there we have my summer menu to go with my stylish French wines!  Hope you’re inspired to give some of them a go this summer.  There’s nothing like eating and cooking al fresco, no matter the size of your gathering be it close family or a crowd of friends a bit of sunshine is always the perfect excuse to crack open a few bottles of French wine and laze away a few golden hours in the back garden with a Barbie!  Bon appetit!

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Filed under Breads, Desserts, Drinks, Easy, Mains, Moderately easy, Sides, Starters

Strawberry Banana Smoothie

Now, this isn’t the most thrilling post ever, I’ll grant you.  But I have been whipping up a batch of smoothies ever Sunday evening for a few weeks now so this is most definitley what’s happening in my kitchen!

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I never manage to eat breakfast before I leave the house of a morning.  I will always, ALWAYS choose to have that extra 5 minutes sleep.  And when I get to York… well, those sausage sandwiches from Greggs are mighty tasty! By the time I’m at my desk it’s all systems go and I just don’t really have time to eat something.  Thus, smoothies!

They go in a bottle* so you only need one hand free to have them.  No chewing needed so you can still answer the phone, and they are made of fruit, milk and yogurt, all healthy, all breakfast foods! I favour the basic strawberry and banana but if there’s other fruit around, kiwis or peaches for example they they get thrown in there too!

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Makes 5x 250ml

3 bananas, roughly chopped
200g strawberries, hulled
200ml vanilla yogurt
milk to top up

– Put the bananas, strawberries and yogurt in an upright blender.
– Top up with milk until around the 1250ml mark.  If there’s fruit piled up above that mark go below by a similar distance.
– Blitz until smooth.
– If you don’t have the 1250ml needed add more milk to get you there and blitz again.
– Pour into bottles and refrigerate until needed.
– Grab one each morning and you’re good to go! Just give a good shake before drinking to mix it all up again.

* I use the Starbucks Frappucino bottles.  They’re the perfect size and a nice thick glass, which keeps cool nicely during my commute.  Asda sell the Frappucinos for about £1 usually and I have a weakness for iced coffees so I have a collection now.  Just peel away the labels (they come away quite easily) and wash thoroughly after each use.

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Filed under Breakfasts, Drinks, Easy

Chablis Challenge

A few weeks ago I was approached through this blog to take part in a Chablis Challenge. The premise was simple; they would send me two bottles of Chablis and I would suggest what I thought would pair nicely with the wine. The ultimate prize being a trip to Chablis.  Well, I wasn’t going to say no to two bottles of wine was I?

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My knowledge of wine is limited. I know what I like and I have a basic understanding of the processes involved in making wine but apart from that I don’t really know anything! Chablis wasn’t really something that had come across my radar before. I knew the name and I knew that it was French but apart from that I couldn’t really tell you anything about it.

So here are three quick facts about Chablis:

1. Chablis is a town in the Burgundy region of France.

2. Chablis is made from the Chardonnay grape.

3. The limestone based soil of the region is said to give the wine a flinty note.

So, that’s the kind of information that Wikipedia can give you. It doesn’t actually tell you much about the wine itself. The only way to find out that was to drink it! One bottle was duly sacrificed to taste testing and recipe development.

I found Chablis to be a nice fresh, crisp, almost green tasting wine. Definitely something that I enjoy.  The most powerful association for me was granny smith apples. Overall the foods I was leaning towards were chicken or fish and bright citrusy flavours with nice green vegetables.  I played about with various ideas some to complement, some to contrast with the wine then I duly came up with three menu suggestions:

Classic French

The sharpness of the wine to my mind would pair nicely with rich and flavoursome but simple ingredients, something along the lines of the classic French dishes. Chicken, mushrooms, potatoes, butter! Something to contrast nicely with the bright, fresh flavours of the wine so that the overall effect of each was tempered and enhanced.

Thai

My next thought was that French was too easy, it’s a French wine, so French food was a little obvious, why not go for something different, something unexpected. A mild Thai dish with lots of fish sauce and sharp lime really sprang to mind. Lots of fresh green vegetables and crunch! I think that a fish curry in particular would be a great match and some prawns in there too would be lovely.

Italian

And then I thought why not find a middle ground? Zesty lemony chicken served with roasted pattypan squash and pasta lightly dressed with a nice peppery olive oil dressing.

I tried all of these recipes in turn. Each of them went well and lent itself to a different aspect of the wine. So for the Pièce de résistance, the meal I would cook for my whole family to enjoy, I put it to a vote. Dad’s vote carried the day and French it was!

The Menu

Palmiers and Gougères

Chicken thighs stuffed with mushrooms with grilled asparagus, chantenay carrots and pommes Anna

Rhubarb Pavlova

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Hopefully my family weren’t just humouring me when they said it was all delicious! We all agreed that the contrast of the richness of the food and the sharpness of the wine meant that neither overwhelmed the other and that the wine was robust enough to hold its own against the stronger flavours but was light enough that it didn’t clash.

All in all I really enjoyed this challenge. It brought a new wine to my attention and really made me stretch my recipe development skills trying to come up with flavours that would complement the wine and then adjusting the dish to make each part really shine. Normally as far as I get with wine matching is to choose a red or a white dependent on the meat! In the future I will definitely pay more attention to pairing the right wine with the right food as the advantages are great.  All in all it was an excellent exercise and I shall certainly be adding Chablis to the list of ‘wines that I like’!

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Filed under Drinks, Not Food

Pimms

I’m afraid I’ve been neglecting you all recently and I really wanted to post something, anything!  I’ve just been really busy, last week I went up to the west coast of Scotland, where I ate loads of seafood but didn’t actually cook anything. 

And this week I’ve been working on something special but I don’t want to jinx it just yet.  All fingers and toes crossed, I may have some exciting news to come and if I don’t have news I’ll at least have a good story!

In the meantime I give you that perenial British summer favourite, for it really is summer at last, Pimms!

Serves however many you like!

– Pour a decent splash of Pimms in the bottom of a glass. 
– Add ice, sliced lemon, orange and cucumber. 
– Top up with lemonade or tonic water. 
– Add a sprig of mint. 
– Enjoy!

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Arancello

This is my new favourite drink.  I made up a batch of it to give as Christmas gifts and I had some left over for myself.  I will certainly be making this again and again all year round.  It’s absolutely delicious!  It’s theoretically related to Limocello the Italian lemon flavoured drink but with oranges instead. 

I’m currently drinking it mixed with cranberry and raspberry juice over crushed ice, or snow as available, and with a sprinkle of edible gold glitter.  I think I’m calling it ‘The Northern Lights’ as the colours go deliciously swirly.  I may change the name when I get a newer carton of cranberry juice as this one’s kind of a funny colour but still delicious! 

Makes 2.5 litres

1 l vodka, doesn’t have to be good
peel of 4 oranges plus 1 orange for later
1 cinnamon stick
1 vanilla pod, split length ways
4 cardamon seeds
600g granulated sugar
500ml boiling water

– First you will need to find 2 large bottles or jars to take 2.5l liquid by the end of this process and give them a good clean.  I used 2 glass Italian milk bottles but obviously those are hard to come by. 
– Split the vodka between each bottle. 
– Peel the oranges using a vegetable peeler and be careful not to get any of the white pith along with the peel as it is very bitter. Cut into short strips and divide equally between the bottles. 
– Break the cinnamon stick in half and add that. 
– Put half the vanilla pod and 2 cardamon seeds in each bottle. 
– The bottles should now be about half full.  Put the lids on and keep them in a dark place, shaking every day. 
– After a week mix together the boiling water and sugar in a large jug and stir until the sugar is dissolved. 
– Divide this between the two bottles. 
– Put the lids back on and return to the cool dark place for another week, again shaking every day. 
– After this week is up decant into fancy bottles, straining out the bits and pieces.  Add a strip of peel from the remaining orange and a cinnamon stick to these bottles then either store and keep for yourself or give as gifts.  You can be sure the recipients will be very greatful! 

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Filed under Christmas, Drinks, Easy