Recipe: Sloe gin spritz

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Happy Valentine’s day, dear readers!

It seems like the perfect day to share this sloe gin spritz recipe with you. Don’t we all need a drink on Valentine’s day?! Either to celebrate or commiserate?

I made sloe gin last year (very British, I know!) using this method and wanted to use it in a drink a little more exciting than a sloe gin & t, so I was very pleased to find this sloe gin spritz recipe in an issue of Bon Appetit.

Sloe gin, 70 cl

1 bottle (70 cl) gin 

500 g ripe sloe berries (pick them after the first frost) 

Simple syrup:

100 ml caster sugar

100 ml water

Freeze the berries. Defrost and mix with the gin in a large jar/bottle. Seal the jar and keep in a dark place for 3 months. Shake/stir it once a week or so.  

After three months, sieve the mixture and remove the berries. Bring the simple syrup to the boil and let it cool. Add syrup to the gin after taste. Done! 

 

Sloe gin spritzer, per glass

Adapted from Bon Appetit’s recept.

4 parts prosecco

1 part sloe gin, either homemade or bought 

soda water

Mix prosecco and sloe gin in a glass (with or without ice). Fill up with soda water. Decorate with frozen raspberries or a sprig of mint. B

Wine Tasting & Tapas, Putney

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Remember the great wine tasting I went to in the autumn? Yesterday it was time for another one. Hosted at The Avenue Cookery SchoolAngie Steele prepared all the amazing food and Andrew Corben-Clarke from The Burgundy Portfolio talked us through the wines, mixing amusing anecdotes with facts.

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We started off with a dry (Fino) sherry (Manzanilla “La Gitana”, Bodegas Hidalgo) and a classic bruschetta. I am not really a sherry drinker and although I thought this one was very nice with the bruschetta, I probably wouldn’t enjoy it without any nibbles.

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Next up was a wonderful 2010 Rully (David Moret) that was definitely more my thing. And served with fluffy yet crispy salt cod fritters with a saffron aioli, it was a match made in heaven. To me the wine tasted both buttery (yum) and fresh at the same time.

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We also tried a rosé, 2011 Beaujolais Rosé Dom. de Sermezy, with harissa marinated chicken scewers with grapefruit segments and a citrus dressing. The wine was a mouthful of summer and the fruitiness complimented the citrus flavours of the dish.

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We then moved on to the reds. Firstly, a light 2009 Moulin-à-Vent (Dom. Benoît Trichard) and Thai pork and lemongrass scewers with mango salsa. The scewers were spicy and moorish, and although the wine was light I thought it held up the fiery food well.

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The next red was a real heavy-weight in comparison with the first one and bursting of flavour. 2008 “Star Terre”, Syrah, Oroncio worked really well with the puy lentil galettes with cumin and coriander. Andrew told us that it was the earthiness of the lentils (and the cumin) that really worked with this heavier wine, just like it would work with game or mushrooms. IMG_3233

The tasting finished with something sweet; crunchy biscotti with a chocolate dipping sauce (oh yes!) and a wonderful Sauternes,1999 Ch. Doisy-Vedrines, 2eme Cru Classé. It was golden and utterly delicious and the perfect ending to the evening.

These type of wine tastings, with food, are definitely something I prefer to a stuffy all-wine tasting. Pairing the right food with the right wine is definitely a skill and just adds a whole different dimension to a meal. I already look forward to the next one!

A wine tasting with food

Last Wednesday I went with my friend Emily to a wine tasting organised by one of her mother’s colleagues at The Avenue Cookery School. This was their first wine tasting, organised by Angie from the cookery school and Andrew from the Burgundy Portfolio, and Emily had helped spread the word.

What was so interesting with this particular wine tasting was the fact that the wines were paired with canapés perfect for each particular wine. It was so exciting to first taste the wines on their own and then with the food.

Unfortunately I only started taking photos half way through the tasting, as I was to embarrassed to leave my seat and interrupt to run out and get my phone from my bag in the room next door, but I got over it as you can see.

Once we arrived for the wine tasting we each got some sparkling wine to sip on while waiting for the others. It was a Crémant de Bourgogne (Dom. Agnès Pacuet) which I thoroughly enjoyed and even had several top-ups of. The two large tables were filled with goodies we expected was for later, but it was there for us to eat while we were mingling. So we helped ourselves to olives, crostini with Stilton, caramelized red onions and figs, charcuterie boards, and filled focaccia. All delicious!

When everyone had arrived we sat down and let Andew entertain us with stories and facts about the wines as he presented them. The first wine we tried, 2011 Petit Chablis, Dom. Nathalie & Gilles Fèvre was a light and fresh white what worked really well with both canapés it was served with. My absolute favourite was the brioche crouton with soft ash goat’s cheese and truffled pear, but the red pepper tarte tatin with tapenade and basil was gorgeous too.

Next up was another white; 2009 Bourgogne Blanc, Dom. Florent Garaudet served with mackerel tartar on an olive crouton with crispy skins.

We then tried two Pinot Noir side by side; 2012 Santeney “Clos de Hates”, Dom. Bachey-Legros and 2009 Bourgogne Grance Ordinaire, Dom. Guy Castagnier. The former was lighter and the latter, which I preferred, tasted more of berries. We tried them with honey soy glazed salmon scewers and thai chicken scewers with a coconut and green chilli dip.

We then got to try a wine from the Rhone Valley; 2008 Star Terre Grenache, Oroncio served with crispy duck pancakes in hoisin sauce with cucumber and spring onion. Both divine!

The last two canapés were sweet, put we didn’t try a single pudding wine. Instead we had a fruity rosé (2010 Bourgogne “Rose”, GAEC Felettig) with the caramelized banana tarte tatin, which was, although I am not that fond of bananas, delicious.

The last sweet, amazing chocolate fudge caramels with vanilla salt, was served with a really nice port ( 27 Grapes, Quinta do Portal). I like the idea of port and chocolate and will definitely try this at home.

I had such a lovely evening and would love to do this again. Both the food and the wines were excellent and I really enjoyed trying the wines with the matching food, so I know how to think when pairing food and wine at home.

Footnote: I was not invited as a blogger to this event, nor asked to blog about it.

A few wine recommendations

It is not often I feel confident recommending wines, but at least I know what I like. And when I, for my birthday party, managed to pick wines that everyone raved about I just feel I should spread the word.

The white; a Sauvignon Bland from Marlborough, New Zeeland, was a fresh-tasting wine with hints of elderflower. It felt very summery and goes well with seafood.

The red; a Rioja that was very easy to drink; neither heavy nor light worked well with meats or to drink on its own.

We also had some bubbly before dinner, that I can recommend if you want something nice but not pricey.

Wines:

Louis Buillot, Crémant de Bourgogne Brut, France

Crystal Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Marlborough, New Zeeland

Gran Familia Rioja, Rioja, Spain

Simple dessert: vanilla icecream + sherry

During Easter I managed to meet up with one of my dearest childhood friends, Karl. He lives abroad too and it is not often that we are both at home in Sweden at the same time.

Karl works in Norway as a restaurant manager and sommelier so when we met up we obviously talked about food.

He also gave me a very nice gift; sweet sherry from the year we were both born. It has been aged for so long that it has become syrupy and a bit too sweet just to drink. Instead Karl recommended it be poured over vanilla icecream as dessert.

I obviously tried this more or less straight away and it was seriously yummy. The dessert is of course very simple to make, but is still worthy to be a dinner party finale. And with homemade vanilla icecream this would be even nicer (we used bought icecream this time). Do try this at home, folks!

1982 Bodegas Toro Albala Don PX Gran Reserva

Instead of dessert…

My best instead of dessert tip involves alcohol. Not bad, huh? 🙂

If you ever get the post dinner low bloodsugar and fancy something sweet but don’t have any dessert at hand, then just open a bottle and pour some of its content into a glass with ice.

Amarula on the rocks, is even better than Bailey’s on the rocks, and just hits the spot.

Amarula cream is a creamy (duh) liqueur made from the Marula berries that grows on trees in South Africa. A colleague who grew up there told me that when the fruit ripens it produces alcohol and when it falls down the tree the animals eat it and get all drunk. If you don’t believe me (her) check this video out!

A vegan New Year’s Eve menu

I like to be challenged in the kitchen, and that is why I thought it was a good idea to cook for my friend Jenny and her boyfriend James on NYE before heading to a party. Last time I invited James I cooked a whole lot of mezze dishes inspired from my trip to Syria and Ottolenghi’s book Plenty.

I wanted the NYE menu to be quite traditional, nice and vegan and because it was just for the three of us I kept it quite simple.

~ The New Year’s Eve menu 2011 ~

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Crostini with bean spread

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Jerusalem artichoke soup with coconut milk and fried chestnut mushrooms

Rustic baguette, olive oil and balsamico

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Butternut squash risotto with spinach

Salad with romaine lettuce, romano peppers, avocado and pomegranate

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Vanilla pannacotta with soy cream and passionfruit

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We had champagne to start as well, and thanks to Waitrose I got a great bottle of bubbly half price. At the champagne tasting at Harrod’s I tried some champagnes from Duval-Leroy, but not thiis one; their regular Brut NV, but because I liked the others and it is a good quality champagne house I bought this bottle and it was really good.

Vega Jerusalem artichoke soup with coconut milk, serves 3 as a starter

1 shalot, finely chopped

1 tbsp oliv oil

500 g Jerusalem artichokes, peeled

water

2 tsp concentrated vegetable stock

50 ml coconut milk

salt, white pepper

Topping: fried, sliced chestnut mushrooms

Fry the onion until soft in the oil. Add the artichokes to the pan and fry for a minute or so, Add hot water to cover and add salt. Bring to the boil and cook until very soft. Remove half the water, but keep it on the side, and puré the rest with the artichokes. Add the coconut milk and then adjust the thickness with the left over water. Add concentrated stock, salt and pepper. Bring to the boil again and serve.

Vegan butternut squash risotto with spinach, serves 4

1/2 butternut squash

1/2-1 onion

olive oil

100 ml dry white wine

1 litre vegetable stock

400 g aborio rice

2 handfuls fresh spinach

salt, white pepper

Peel the squash and remove the seeds. Cut it into chunks and place them in a roasting tray, add oil, salt and pepper and mix. Place in 200C for 35 minutes or until soft.

Fry the onions in olive oil in a casserole dish or large saucepan but don’t let it brown. Add the rice and stir for a minute or two. Add the wine and watch most of it evaporate. Then add a ladle of the hot stock and continue to stir while it cooks in. Add another ladle and repeat the procedure until all the stock is used up and the rice is soft. it usually takes 18-20 minutes depending on the type of rice. Add the spinach and stir until it is wilted. Season with salt and pepper and add the butternut squash. Feel free to serve with parmesan if you’re not vegan.

Vegan vanilla pannacotta with soy cream and passionfruit, serves 3

400 ml soy cream

2-3 tbsp vanilla essence

50-75 ml jelly sugar, or the same amount of caser sugar + enough veggie set or agar flakes for the amount of liquid

3 passionfruits

I tried my way through when I cooked this, to get rid of the particular aftertaste soy products have, and I recommend you do the same.

Add the cream to a sauce pan and the smaller amount of sugar and vanilla and heat it up. Then add the sugar and vanilla little by little until you are satisfied with the taste. Add the jeling agent if not using jelly sugar. Bring to the boil and stir so the sugar melts. Pour into dessert coupes or ramekins and leave to cool. Place in the fridge for a minimum of four hours to set. 

Before serving, place the inside of the passionfruits in a bowl and place enough on each pannacotta to cover the top. Serve and enjoy.

Winter Pimm’s

There are many British traditions I adore after living here for 3,5 years and one of them is drinking Pimm’s all through the summer. Now I have tried the winter version as well, and I must say I really liked it. It doesn’t taste like Pimm’s No. 1 Cup, but there is something there for you to remember sunshine, cucumber and jug after jug of Pimm’s.

We served the Winter Pimm’s warm, with apple juice and orange slices, as suggested on the back. Delicious!

Champagne tasting at Harrod’s

Last week Christopher and I joined another 300 people at Harrod’s champagne tasting. We have been to two more wine tastings there; one with Tuscan wines and one with wines from Bordeaux, and both took place in Harrod’s wine cellar. This was a bigger event however, and was therefore hosted in one of the restaurants.

I definitely had high expectations for this event, as there would be 80 champagnes to try and a few of the rarer and expensive kund.

Just like at the other wine tastings we each got a glass, a brochure about the wines, a list for notes and a pencil. Since I don’t know that much about wines I find it difficult to take notes, but I still note which ones I really liked.

Plenty of well known champagnes were represented as well as a quite a few unknown to me. The big names included Krug, Lanson, Veuve Clicquot, Perrier Jouet, Mumm, Moët & Chandon, and we defintely wanted to try a few of those, although a few we had no interest in as we have tried them before and were not very impressed.

We started the evening at the Taittinger table and tasted us through all four champagnes they had to offer. Already at this point I could feel the bubbles, because the men and women pouring the champagne were very generous! There were baguettes and water at every table though, which helped, and trays of canapées came frequently from the kitchen.

I will not bore you with which order we tried the champagnes and describe them all, to be honest, I don’t even remember them all, but I will tell you which ones we really enjoyed as well as a few that disappointed.

The champagne house that made most of an impression on us was definitely Philipponnat, a small champagne house but one of the older ones. All of their four champagnes were amazing, although the non dosé (=without added sugar) was too dry as an aperitif but would work well with food. Their Royal Réserve NV actually tasted a bit like a vintage champagne and had the butteryness of older champagnes. Uttley beautiful and great value for money.

Another favourite was Ruinart‘s Blanc de Blanc, the champagne Ruinart is most famous for, and also the only one I really liked out of their champagne.

We also tried Gosset, which was completely new to me, but I learned it was one of the absolute oldest champagne houses and they have a great reputation. And after tasting their champagnes I definitely see why.

Goutorbe-Bouillot, Jospeh Perrier och Dampierre were other brans we really enjoyed and that I would happily by. The latter is served at the French embassys around the world and the former we got recommended by one of the staff at Harrod’s who definitely knew his wines.

One of the highlights of the evening was of course to try the more expensive champagnes. It felt a bit surreal to be able to enjoy Dom Perignon, Cristal, Krug och Pol Roger Cuvéé Sir Winston Churchill in one single evening. Out of these the Dom Perignon and the Cristal were a bit to young to be at their best, but still very enjoyable. Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill however was quite disappointing, especially since I really enjoy the Pol Roger NV. As expected though, Krug var delicious.

We had planned to skip most of the mainstream brands as we have tried them before and also because we knew we would be disappointed. But with twenty minutes left towards the end we still tried a few. Veuve Clicquot and Moët & Chandon were really disappointing after having tried all the others, and we expected that. Even the Moët & Chandon 2002 was not up to scratch. The best out of the mainstream brands would have to be Perrier Jouet, even though I am not really a fan. It lacks flavour and feels quite watery.

Out of the big names we would not buy any of the above but instead focus on  Laurent Perrier, Louis Roederer and Pol Roger (only the Brut NV), and after this tasting I could just not settle for anything less after seeing what is out there, even to similar prices.

Another champagne that I would like to mention, now that it is Christman soon, is the Leroy-Duval Paris Brut, which to me qualifies as the perfect gift. The bottle is wonderful with its Paris decor and the champagne itself is lovely, and not what you expect from a pretty bottle. It is however what you expect from the brand, which is good.

What to do with limoncello

Our Italian evening we pulled out all the stops (at least we think so) and used Christopher’s homemade limoncello for both the pre-dinner cocktail and the palate cleanser. The limoncello recipe is from the lovely cookbook Bringing Italy Home by Urusla Ferrigno.

The pre-dinner cocktail is so easy, but so so good. Add about a tablespoon of limoncello in a champagne flute. Fill up with prosecco and enjoy!

I would like to call the palate cleanser a sorbet, but because of the alcohol, it is somewhere in between a sorbet and a granita. Either way it really did cleanse the palate.

Limoncello sorbet, serves 4 as a palate cleanser

285 ml water

200 g caster sugar

100 ml limoncello

1/2 lemon, the juice

Bring sugar and water to the boil and let it boil for 5 minutes. Leave to cool. Mix in the limoncello, taste nad pour into a tupperware box with a lid. Place it in the freezer a day before you need it, so it can set as much as possible. Spoon into bowls or little glasses and squirt with lemon juice. Serve straight away.