Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Turkey Risotto with Parmesan crisp

Wondering what to do with my left over turkey this year (normally do a stir fry) I remembered a fellow foodie Blogger put up a recipe on her Blog, what I had assumed was risotto but when I checked her Bog, I had been mistaken it was a Pilaf .

It was too late (sorry Gingey Bites ) I had already started to crave that soft silky comfort food that is risotto. Looking through my store cupboard I found a half packet of arboreo rice and Parmesan cheese Yes !
The Turkey and wine I have a plenty (after all it is Christmas !) and so Turkey Risotto it was.

If you fancy making this you'll find the recipe below.

Feeds Two generously.

1 tbs butter
Glug of olive oil
3 Spring onions - chopped
1 Clove of Garlic - chopped
150g - 1 Cup Arborio rice
600ml - 1 pint of chicken stock
125ml - small wine glass of white wine
Half packet of Parmesan - keep two teaspoons back for the Parmesan crisp. 
200g Turkey

Ingredients for turkey risotto

  1. Melt the butter and oil in a non-stick saucepan.
  2. Add the spring onions and garlic and soften for 3 minutes.
  3. Add the rice and stir to coat the rice, cook gently over a low heat for 3 mins.
  4. Add the glass of wine and cook till nearly all the liquid is absorbed.
  5. Slowly add your stock bit by bit as with the wine let it almost absorb before adding more stock.
  6. When all your stock has been added and you have the consistency you want (it should look creamy with a slight bite to the rice) add your peas and turkey.
  7. Turn the heat off and stir through your Parmesan.

To make the Parmesan crisp
  1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 4 \ 180 deg.
  2. On a flat baking sheet spoon 1 teaspoon of Parmesan into a small cooking ring and pack down to resemble flat discs.
  3. Cook in the oven for 4 minutes.
  4. Remove the discs with a plastic spatula immediately.
  5. You can shape if you want by laying the discs over a rolling pin, I left mine flat.
The Parmesan crisp
Its a good idea to pour yourself a glass of wine to drink whilst making this dish as risotto can't be left alone it needs constant attention (stirring) that said it's a very relaxing dish to cook.

That's it enjoy!

Turkey risotto

Monday, 24 December 2012

Purl, London

Watching a food programme a couple of weeks ago, there was a cocktail section and one drink in particular made me sit up and take notice. This cocktail was called the "Aviation", it contained a liqueur called Creme de Violette.
Now if this cocktail had a hint of the sweets I used to love as a kid "Parma Violets" then this was the drink for me!

The barman was Tristan Stephenson co owner of a cocktail bar called Purl in London where this section was filmed. I loved everything about the look of his bar and the type of drinks he was making.

This is no ordinary cocktail bar, Purl offers to invite you to a multi sensory experience by bringing the drinks to life and transport the guest to another place or time by playing with all your five senses, taste, touch, smell, sight and sound.

Purl's website says of their cocktail list:
    This is not a simple or elegant cocktail list.
    Be prepared for a sensory overload.
    Some of these cocktails are not suitable for those of a sensitive disposition.
    If you don't like fire, liquid nitrogen and loud noises, you will not like this.
    Some of these drinks include bells, whistles, steel drums and very big gongs.
    Don't say we didn't warn you.....

Now this was a red rag to a very thirsty inquisitive bull !
I loved the fact this was one of the classics but to my knowledge a rare one. You hardly ever see it on a cocktail menu and there is no mention of it in the several cocktail books I own. ( update, now in 2013 it has been making an appearance especially in speakeasy style bars)

So I searched the Internet for it's origin.
It seems it can be traced back to 1916 it appeared in a book called recipes for mixed drinks and was the creation of head bartender Hugo Enslin at the Hotel Wallick in New York.
Enslin mixed Two parts Gin to one part lemon juice, with two dashes each of Maraschino and creme de violette liqueurs giving it a slight blue hue.

I wonder if Enslin had in mind early pioneers of Aviation, the likes of the Wright brothers when he created his cocktail? After reading much about this drink it certainly conjures up images for me of an era when it was glamorous to fly.

But there are many versions of this drink minus the creme de violette there is some confusion as whether this was due to the lack of creme de violette during the prohibition in 1920s and 1930s?
Today Creme De Violette more widely available and made by many different Liqueur producers. You won't however find this down your local off licence or see it on supermarket shelves. Hunting a bottle of this beautiful purple liqueur can be found in specialist drink suppliers on line. One such company I find brilliant is The Whiskey exchange company.

The Aviation is now available as it should be with that beautiful blue hue. That said looking at many images and reading much it seems mixologists still argue over the proportions of it's ingredients.

I was paying a visit to London last weekend so I just had to pay a visit to Purl, as for me this was my first introduction to this drink so it seemed right and fitting i should try it here.

Purl is based on the US Speakeasy movement with the modern twist of molecular mixology now if this doesn't interest you I don't know what will?
My inquisitiveness led me to research molecular mixology and through the wonders of Youtube I watched Tristan mix some drinks with fascination. One other drink caught my eye it was called Mr Hyde's fixer upper, that was also target drink number Two, more of that later.

Arriving at Purl really does have that early victoriana feel about it, a basement bar full of nooks and crannies adorned with antiques and nicknack's. I particularly loved the huge clear ice block on the back shelf of the bar from which the ice is chipped off for your drinks.

Purl is in the basement Of 50/54 Blandford street

We arrived 5 Min's after opening as we wanted ring side seats (at the bar) a small four seater affair but this is where you see all the magic happen.

On arrival and without even glancing at the cocktail menu we ordered the Aviation and a Mr Hyde's fixer upper.

The Aviation
Was good but it lacked the colour I was after and taste I imagined it to be, it seems even in the same bar it's made differently from bar tender to bar tender. On the TV appearance Tristan used 50 mil of Tanquery Gin, 15ml of Bitter truth violette liqueur,10ml Luxardo mariccino liqueur and 25ml lemon juice. Watching the mixologist make my Aviation he only put a bar spoon of violette liqueur in which holds 5ml. This made for a very pale drink, and it was minus the cherry ! they had run out ! it was still good but I epected some sort of floral note, I couldn't detect this probably down to the small amount of violette.

Not too worry I had pre bought the ingredients necessary to make this drink at home so I would make this using the amounts I had seen Tristan use.

The Aviation at Purl minus the cherry !

The Mr Hyde's fixer upper.
This was one of those drinks that looks so interesting you want one before you even know what's in it ! Underneath all the drama and dry ice is a smokey rum based cocktail in fact the longer you leave the drink in its sealed bottle the smokier it tastes.

To watch Tristan make this drink, click here.

Another neat and quirky thing about drinking at Purl is your drinks come with these little sandwiches that act as a palate cleanser.

Once home I made an Aviation using Tristans Measurements, this to me certainly makes a more atractive looking drink !

I'll take mine Blue !

Avaition made at home

Friday, 21 December 2012

The Electrolux Cube with Tom Kerridge

On Saturday the 15th December I had one of the most unique and exciting dining experiences of my life. The venue was the Electrolux Cube in London, the chef was Tom Kerridge.

The Cube is a pop up restaurant created by Electrolux, there are currently two doing the rounds of Europe taking up residencies on top of iconic buildings.
The chefs are all Michelin starred. At London Sat Bains, Claude Bosi, Daniel Clifford and Tom Kerridge are amongst the few.

In Brussels it was perched on top of the Parc du Cinquantenaire. Here guests were treated to never seen before views of the city. Once inside the concealed dining table dropped from the ceiling! In Milan it was positioned on the roof top of Galleria vittorio emanuelle overlooking the main Pizza Duomo.
Stockholm place of residence was atop the The Royal Swedish Opera House.

In London it arrived ( by the look of it ) from out of space and took up it's residency on top of the Royal Festival Hall.
Originally popped up in June it was suppose to pop back down in September, but it's popularity ensured it an extra stay until the end of December.

I missed the opportunity to visit in July as it was fully booked on the weekend I wanted.
After discovering the extended stay we decided another attempt to book would be ludicrous to miss.

Checking the cubes rota of chefs we saw Tom Kerridge was cooking the week of the
10th - 16th December. I rang the reservation team and was thrilled to secure a booking.
Tom Kerridge runs the very successful Hand and flowers in Marlow, the only pub to be awarded Two Michelin stars. He also appears as a judge on the great British menu.

The concept of the cube is to offer guests the ultimate dining experience with unparallelled views over the city, stunning food prepared by hand picked Michelin Stared chefs from all over the British Isles. Each chef preparing their own selection of dishes, showcasing the food they serve at their restaurants and some specially created for this experience.

The kitchen is in full view of the diners offering opportunity's to watch the masters at work,ask questions and take photographs. Basically in a very privileged position to get up close and personal and privy to a world that is usually closed off to diners when they visit a restaurant.

Arriving at the Royal Festival Hall we had to take the singing lift up to the sixth floor where we checked in at the members lounge then waited for our guide to take us up to the Cube.
It was strange and exciting to be taken through a secret door behind the bar through a series of corridors then up more steps to the roof where the cube was situated.

The first thing that strikes you is the magnificence of the building itself, a white and glass structure illuminated from within, it really did look like a spacecraft had just landed. Then there is the view, 360 degrees of jaw dropping scenery.

Waiting outside the craft were a couple of waiters offering us Champagne, taking a glass we went on board to meet Tom, his crew and our fellow diners.

There are quite a few unusual things about dining at the Cube.
a)   It's on a roof
b)  The menu is kept top secret
c)  There is one long communal table so you are seated with diners you have never met 
d)  You can stand at the pass and watch the chefs and their teams prepare the meal, 
      ask questions, take photographs and you are encouraged to do so.

This is what I imagine entering the Big Brother house must be like on the first night.
Put in a room full of people you've never met and plied with booze!

My partner and I were lucky to be seated next to a couple of people we got along with brilliantly from the off.

I suppose all 18 diners have one thing in common and that is a love of good food as seats are not cheap £175 for lunch and £215 for dinner per person with accompanying wines, But let me tell you it was worth every penny!

Tom started the proceedings by introducing himself and his team and what we can expect from the night, then pointing to the fridge he said " It's full of booze, it's Saturday night so lets have a good time"! from that moment on it felt relaxing and it was understood no one was expected to be on their best behaviour.

We partied in the sky and it was fantastic , we ate the most amazing food in the most amazing setting. For all us foodies this was living the dream !

Chef Tom Kerridge plating up the Amuse bouche's

Potato & Montgomery's cheddar croquet with truffle mayonnaise

Tom explaining the process of making first course

King oyster mushrooms with the blue cheese and garlic butter, before soup is poured over.

The Pumpkin soup 'en croute' was brought to the table

Tom carving into the 'en croute' to reveal the pumpkin soup

Pumpkin soup 'En croute' with king oyster mushrooms and garlic butter.
Accompanying wine Soc Grenache blanc, Domaine Ey, IGP Cotes Catalanes, France 2009

 Pigs head with Jerusalem artichoke , pancetta and crackling
Accompanying wine, Fiano Di Avellino, Terre di Diora, Terredora, Campania, Italy 2011

I believe this was made from the shredded meat, skin, tongue and brain from the pigs head bread crumbed then deep fried. Despite the sound of this it was absolutely Delicious.
The Pancetta was also fantastic it had a slight aniseed taste to it and crackling is always a winner. 

Hake and grapes
Accompanying wine, Clos Poggiale Blanc, Skalli, Vin de Corse 20011
This was a lovely dish, the hake was very delicate and wrapped in vine leaves. I think Tom said the sauce was a veonique?. As veronique means "with grapes" I think I'm safe describing it as so. Very buttery and light I loved it and I'm not a big lover of fish!

Next dish up was interesting and had us all over at the pass. A salt baked shoulder of lamb had been in the oven for the best part of the day, Tom was removing the salt crust, then after blow torching the skin the lamb was shredded.

Salt baked shoulder of lamb with salsa verde, pomme boulengere and buttered Brussels tops.
Accompanying wine, Le Pas de Zarat, Domaine le Cazal, Minervois, France 2009

When Tom told us how he had made the salsa Verde it seemed like the list of ingredients was endless, I think anything green went into this it was spine tingly good !

Forgive the presentation on this course we served ourselves and by this time we were feeling the effects of the Champagne and wine ! we were all so relaxed it felt like we were round at a friends for dinner. People started getting up from the table chatting with the team, taking photos and generally milling about, it was great fun.

Final course of the night was a Creme Brulee, this could have seemed very ordinary for this occasion but after all that food I was glad of it and it was perfect just the right amount of bitterness on the brulee which was perfect with the shot of beer that accompanied it.

Me and Tom Kerridge

Aaron & Tom

These two young chefs were also brilliant and they clearly love what they do, reading their Tweets afterwards confirmed this. Regularly claiming they have the dream job, well done boys you sure did "Smash the Cube" !

Signed copy of the menu

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Chocolate Martini

I love a Chocolate Martini and have had a few over the years but the best one I ever tried was in the bar of the Waldorf hotel in New York.
After asking the barman what ingredients he used there was only one I could remember and that was Van Gogh Dutch Chocolate Vodka.
A Chocolate Martini can be made in many different ways. Pick your favourite base spirit such as light rum, vodka or brandy to mix with a chocolate liqueur.
The other ingredients in this recipe are a mix of what I have seen in various recipes on the Internet and have chosen these for my personal taste.

2 oz Base spirit (vodka, light rum or brandy) I used the Van Gough Chocolate vodka.
1/2 oz Chocolate liqueur
1/2 oz Dark crème de cacao

Shake all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and strain into a martini glass.
Ingredients for Chocolate Martini

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Damson Vodka

Before I started this blog I had made some Damson vodka. I made two batches one for last christmas, leaving the second batch to mature longer. Today I bottled the second batch.

This is the recipe I followed from a book called : Gifts from the kitchen By Annie Rigg.

Infusing the Damsons in the vodka


Damson or Plum vodka
Makes 1x 70 cl bottle


500g Damsons
125g caster sugar
1 cinnamon stick
Pared zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
1x 70cl bottle of good quality vodka

Rinse the Damsons under cold running water. Prick each Damson 4 to five times with a fork and place them in the sterilised wide necked preserving jar with a capacity of 2 litres.

Add the caster sugar, cinnamon stick and lemon zest and pour over the vodka. Secure the lid and give the jar a good shake to dissolve the sugar. Leave in a cool, dry, dark place for at least 3 months, shaking the jar at least once a week or every time you walk past.

After 3 months your vodka will be a deep plum colour and deeply flavoured by the Damsons. Taste and add more sugar if desired. Strain the vodka through a colander into a large bowl. Strain again, either through muslin or paper coffee filters, into sterilised bottles. Seal the bottles with sterilised stoppers and attach labels.


It is important to sterilise the bottles and jars you are going to use.

Sterilising is quick and can be done in the oven or dish washer.

Heat the oven to 180*c / 350*f / gas mark 4 - don't be tempted to heat the oven any higher as you will run the risk of the glass breaking. Wash and rinse your jars in hot soapy water then place them on a baking tray making sure they are not touching. Heat the jars and bottles for 20 mins. Using thick oven gloves remove the jars and bottles and place them on a heat proof board.
Alternatively, wash and clean jars and bottles in your dishwasher and , when they are ready let them cool down before adding your vodka.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Miller and Carter, Aughton.

On Saturday we decided to take mum for a birthday lunch, we wanted somewhere close to where mum lived. The name Miller and Carter had come up on two separate occasions.

A quick Google search revealed this had formerly been the Swan Inn, Marco Pierre White's upmarket eatery. Now I reckon anyone taking on a celebrity chefs former restaurant has to be pretty confident in serving good food. The menu and prices for a set lunch seemed excellent value. Being only two miles from mums this seemed to be the perfect choice.

We were greeted warmly on arrival with staff holding the door open for mum, a good start.
The restaurant was empty on our arrival which I thought strange for Saturday afternoon. I usually like a lively atmosphere, nothing worse than eating in an empty restaurant ! but this turned out to be fine and was hardly noticeable as we had a giggle with the staff who were friendly and very efficient ...OK it wasn't busy but still....Oh and they were smart as hell (as in turned out )

The restaurant is a steak house but on offer at the moment is a festive set lunch with a choice of four of each starter, main and desert.

The Bull that greets you in the lobby

Miller and Carter describe themselves as having a stylish yet informal steak house, they have that spot on! The bull is the theme here with pictures of them everywhere, your even presented with a over sized steak knife the size of which suggested you had to kill your own bull for lunch !

                                           Interior of Miller and Carter , Aughton

We started with a couple of cocktails which were very good, a chocolate Martini for me a Strawberry Daiquiri for Rach and a mocktail for mum (not a drinker) so she didn't feel left out. Cocktails where very good.

This is what we ate.

This dish was the choice of my seventy five year old mother and I loved her for it !! she could have played safe, gone for the soup? the pate even? but no she said "I've never tried chorizo I'll have that". Seventy five years old and experimental!

On her best behaviour and struggling to eat the skewers with her knife and fork, she was thrilled when I suggested she should pick them up with her fingers. She went all Henry VIII
I thought she might flick the empty skewers over her shoulder and shout bring me the Bull !!

28 day aged 8oz rump, with fries and onion loaf

Sea bass fillets with spicy red pepper & watercress dressing, herb crushed potatoes, green beans.

This fish dish was mums, she had originally opted for the risotto with goats cheese fritters when I read the menu to her. Being a war child and knowing my mother she heard the word fritter and I just knew she dreamed of spam inside. I had to disappoint her by telling her they where goats cheese fritters, after a slight two second quizzical look she said "fish love I'll have the fish". Now this was another surprise as it was sea bass and not war child cod or haddock!
Seventy five and having all her own teeth I thought she would opt for the steak or chicken, but no she was experimenting again, and a clean plate ensured she loved it.

But with desert there were no surprises at all. First on the list was a pudding made from suet .. Yes the war child picked what she knew and loved and why not, a good old pud that sticks to your ribs..

Baked suet sponge, Christmas spiced fruit, toffee sauce & custard

Creme Brulee

A couple of coffees finished the meal. Two and a half hours later we left knowing we will be returning in the summer. As on the way in mum loved the outside area and suggested we all (the whole family) come in the summer for a meal on her! now this was before we even stepped foot in the place so it was a good job the food was up to scratch.
So a happy Threesome will become an Elevensome in the summer and the war child's paying RESULT ! :0)

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Slow roasted pork belly with sea salt and fennel

I often cook roast pork at home. Belly pork is a favourite of mine. Slow roasted so the meat falls apart and a crispy crackling flavoured with sea salt and fennel seeds , it's a marriage made in heaven.
Very simple to do this is my recipe for the pork belly which I think is one of the tastiest cuts.

No matter how sharp I think my knife is I still struggle to get decent cuts in the skin. This is essential for great crackling. Even if I buy a joint from the supermarket that has been pre-scored it's never great there's usually just a couple of haphazard cuts so I always use a scalpel and score lines close together. This gives great results and makes carving easier, plus each person gets a nice slice of crackling.

Preheat your oven as high as it will go to get the oven hot whilst you prepare your pork.
Pat dry your pork and score lines in the skin close together .
Rub a small amount of oil over the meat and skin then sprinkle with sea salt and fennel seeds making sure you get plenty within the score lines and all over the skin.
No amounts necessary for this just simply put on the amount you like. I like a lot of fennel .

Once your pork is ready lower the oven temperature down to gas mark 3 and put in your pork and cook for 4 hours.
No need to blast it for 1/2 hour on high heat then turn temperature down as some recipes suggest this method does work and it's fool proof .
Keep an eye on it at 2 to 3 hours if it looks like the skin is getting too dark just cover the top loosely with foil for the remainder of cooking time.

Don't worry when you take the pork out of the oven if the skin appears soft it will harden up during its resting time .

That's it, carve and enjoy .

Score skin close together

Make sure you get Fennel seeds and salt right in between the cuts

Lovely crispy crackling

Lovely moist meat and crispy crackling