|Cranachan: The most amazing dessert in the world|
Last night we had our own little celebration for Burns night (complete with horribly mispronounced Address to a Haggis). We rounded out the meal with a quintessentially Scottish dessert; cranachan. As I’ve said before, it’s one of my favourite deserts to make because you can easily scale it up or down to suit your needs. It can be made ahead, and the separated ingredients travel well – making it perfect for pot-luck dinners and picnics. On top of all this, it looks and tastes amazing!
1 cup of rolled oats
2 tbsp heather honey
60ml scotch whisky
1 cup cream
1 cup raspberries
Scatter the oats over a baking tray. Melt one tablespoon of honey and pour over the oats.
Bake in the over for 10 minutes at 180°C. Your oats will be beautiful and golden and the honey will be all caramelised and crunchy.
Melt half a tablespoon on honey, mix with 30ml of the whisky and drizzle over the raspberries. Let sit in the fridge for a couple of hours until the raspberries are whiskey-flavoured, sticky and glistening. Whisk together the cream with half a tablespoon of honey and 30ml of whisky until it’s all fluffy and dreamlike.
Once you’ve prepared all the basic ingredients all that remains is to put them together! You can let everyone help themselves, but I like to layer everything in pretty glasses. I shouldn’t need to tell you to serve it with a glass of whisky on the side… Et viola That’s it!
|Cocktail Hour | Blackberry Bramble|
Happy Friday everyone! I thought the best way to wrap up my week-long fascination with the blackberry would be to post a recipe for the classic cocktail the Bramble. The Bramble was invented by Dick Brandsell in the eighties and features a very simple and tasty combination of Gin, lemon and Creme de Mure. I have written about variations on the Bramble before, but maybe it’s time we visit the original recipe.
30ml lemon juice
20ml simple syrup
20ml Creme de Mure
Blackberries to garnish
Fill a glass with ice and add the Gin, lemon juice and simple syrup. Stir well. Add the Creme de Mure but refrain from stirring a second time. Garnish with fresh blackberries. I find they’re easier to fish out at the end if skewered on a toothpick. Find a comfortable chair and sip to your heart’s content!
Super easy , yes?
|Blackberry Mania! | Pie|
More blackberries! This time a beautiful blackberry, elderberry and brambly apple deep-dish pie.
This is perfect on cold evenings. I can attest that it is especially tasty when eaten while watching Dr Who. It’s also good for breakfast! If you’re
lazy energy efficient like me you can use store bought shortcrust pastry. If not, Epicurious has a super recipe for shortcrust pastry that you can use. You can try doing fancy latticework (My Kitchen Addiction has a really nifty how to) if you’re feeling brave. I like to cover my pie the normal way and add cut out pastry shapes on top. This recipe works fine in a normal pie dish, just cook for less.
Wild Deep-Dish Blackberry Pie
1 brambly apple
1/4 cup caster sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup instant tapioca
400g shortcrust pastry
Pre heat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Roll out your pastry and gently press into a greased 12 x 8 inch casserole dish. Grate the apple into a large bowl and add the juice, berries and sugar. Mix together and let sit for fifteen minutes. Mix in the tapioca and spoon the mixture into the casserole dish. Cover with more pastry; a normal pie crust or lattice crust or whatever you prefer. If you’re using a normal pie crust, be sure to cut vents so the steam can escape, or use a pie bird for extra credit! Bake in the oven for an hour, checking every fifteen minutes to make sure it doesn’t burn.
Carefully slice and serve in bowls with dollops of cream or ice-cream.
|Blackberry Mania! | Jam|
I’ve discovered blackberries! They’re these saucy little berries that grow in abundance by the roadside this time of year. If like me you’re drawn toward the idea of relatively cheap and delicious food, and you’ve found yourself with a bucket load of blackberries then this recipe is for you!
Wild Blackberry + Elderberry Jam
600g granulated sugar
Old and squishy berries contain less pectin, which is the compound that reacts with sugar and heat to create jelly. Young berries contain heaps of pectin, but they can be hard and too tart to eat. Your best bet is to use berries that are just ripe. You can add extra pectin (easily bought from your local supermarket) if you’re not sure, or half a cup of fresh lemon juice will also help set a nice firm jam. The elderberries in this jam are optional. I added them for a bit of variety and because I had heaps left over from my last foray in the hedgerows.
Begin by sterilising your jars and lids. Make sure they are spotless and then let them sit in an oven at 70 degrees Celsius for about half an hour. Take them out just before you bottle your jam. You can also sterilise your jars by boiling them in a pan of hot water, microwaving them, or sticking them in the dishwasher on the steam cycle.
After picking your berries and cleaning them thoroughly in cold water, add them to a large non reactive pot (i.e. one that isn’t aluminium, copper or cast iron). A gas stovetop works well for this so you can quickly control the heat if it looks like things may bubble over. Bring the berries to boil. If you like, use a potato masher to crush the berries so your finished product isn’t so chunky. Personally, I like chunky jam :)
After boiling for ten minutes, lower the heat and add all of the sugar. Stir until dissolved.
Once the sugar is dissolved, turn up the heat and boil rapidly for ten minutes. DO NOT stir mixture at all at this point. If it looks like the mixture may bubble over, gently turn down the heat and wait for the bubbles to subside before returning to the boil.
After ten minutes, test the jam to see if it is ready by spooning a small amount onto a cold plate. After about a minute or so a skin will form, letting you know that your jam has set. If not, keep boiling and test again every two minutes. Once set, turn off the heat and let the jam rest for fifteen minutes or so.
Decant the warm jam into sterilised jars using a sterilised ladle or a funnel. Cap straight away. The expansion and contraction of heat inside the jars will reactivate the safety seal on recycled jars. This recipe was enough to fill four 200ml jars with a bit left over.
Add nifty labels to your jars. There are heaps of label templates out there, but I prefer to doodle my own. Be sure to include the ingredients and the date it was made.
Give a few jars to friends and keep a few for yourself. A lovely reminder of sunny Autumn afternoons. Cheap too, these four jars cost me 60 pence in sugar and nothing else!
|Cocktail Hour | Tom Collins|
The Tom Collins hoax of 1874 is infamous. A friend would greet you and ask “Have you seen Tom Collins?” and then begin to relate all the horrible things that this gossiping Tom had been telling people about you. “He’s been trash-talking you all week! But wait a second, there’s a bar just around the corner that he likes to frequent! Let’s confront him!” As newspapers of the time chronicled, this lead to many young men frantically running around town, seeking to confront the slanderous Tom Collins as a matter of honour, and seeming to act foolish in the process.
The original Tom Collins recipe dates from 1876, just two years later. Bartenders have been christening their creations after inside-jokes ever since. The Collins is made with old fashioned lemonade mixed with gin and is usually served in a Collins glass. I like mine in a high-ball with a straw. Divine on a hot day.
Tradition calls for the juice from one ripe lemon. You can use less if like. I like to chop my lemons into quarters and muddle them in glass, but squeezing them with a citrus squeezer is perfectly alright.
Aha! Remember this? Add 15ml or more of simple syrup. Change your ratio of lemon to syrup to taste. Lemon cordial is also a delicious substitute.
Add the gin of your choosing. This time, it’s good old Tanqueray Ten which is ripe with citrus and blends with the lemon to make something truly heavenly.
Top up with soda water (or tonic if your feeling sour and sassy). The 1876 recipe calls for only two cubes of ice. I say bah humbug. If you want lots of ice, add lots of ice. Garnish with a maraschino cherry if you like. I find they’re too sweet for my tastes and prefer a lively cocktail umbrella instead. These things cost $2 for a pack of 12 and they make life amazing. I promise.
So, have you seen Tom Collins?
|Cocktail Hour | Hendrick’s Gin Martini Amuse-Bouche|
We celebrated New Years with a fancy dinner party for two. I knew that I wanted to serve an Amuse-Bouche that had something to do with cucumber and thought that cute cucumber cups (like the ones made by Monika at Vegetarian Surprises) would do the job. But what would I fill them with? I made a simple chilled cucumber and dill soup that I thought I could serve in the cups. Maybe I could add some honeydew melon somewhere? But then we went to the bottle shop and I saw the miniature bottles of Hendrick’s Gin. I was more excited than any person has a right to be in public. A light bulb went off in my head. Why didn’t I see it before?!
Hendrick’s Martinis in Cucumber Cups
1 Lebanese cucumber
50ml Hendrick’s Gin
Honeydew melon to garnish
Cut the cucumber into 4cm rounds. Peel skin and scoop out flesh leaving a 1cm layer at the bottom. These keep in the refrigerator for a few hours if you want to make them ahead of time. If you’re using the 50ml Hendrick’s botttles, chill them in the fridge or freezer beforehand. Otherwise, shake or stir the Hendrick’s Gin with ice and pour into the cucumber cups. Add any aromatics, such as cocktail bitters or a dash of rosewater. To garnish, use a melon baller (I used a tiny measuring spoon) to scoop out little globes of honeydew melon and style on a toothpick, like you would with a martini olive. Enjoy!
They ended up being delicious! I served the chilled cucumber soup alongside the martinis. It made for a refreshing start to the meal.
Chilled Cucumber Soup
1 Lebanese cucumber
8 springs of dill
1 cup vegetable stock
Place everything in a food processor and blend till smooth. Strain through a muslin and serve chilled. Also makes a great base for savoury cocktails!
|Cocktail Hour | Champagne Cocktail|
My Grandfather used to work on a cruise ship. He said that when they made fancy Champagne cocktails for the first class passengers in the ship’s bar they would use cider instead of Champagne and no one could tell the difference! The traditional Champagne cocktail was garnished with a cherry or twist of lemon, but the orange works well, especially if you want to be fancy and add a dash of Cointreau or Grand Marnier.
I love Champagne cocktails, they’re the perfect way to spice up a bottle of cheap sparkling white wine. Here’s my no fuss four step recipe.
|Blend Your Own Masala Chai|
Mmm. Chai tea. What’s not to love? On cold rainy days I get the urge to brew a big pot of chai tea and wear fluffy socks. Ya know? There are some amazing chai blends out there, but making your own can be really fun. It’s also easy, and you probably have one or two of the spices in your cupboard right now.
Traditionally, masala chai is made with ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, pepper and black tea blended with milk and honey. I like to add a bit more spice with nutmeg, star anise and sweeten it all with a touch of vanilla. It’s also traditionally brewed over a stove, but this blend is just perfect for a tea pot or press.
There isn’t any hard or fast rule when it comes to the proportion in which you use your spices, or even which ones you choose to use. If you’re not a big fan of cardamom, leave it out. I will say that with spices, the fresher, the better. But if you can’t find cinnamon quills or fresh ginger, use cinnamon powder or dried ginger powder. Add dried apple, orange peel or cranberries to make Christmas tea. Mmmm.
Masala Chai Blend
2 tablespoons cinnamon
2 tablespoons black tea
1 tablespoon ginger
2 teaspoons cardamom
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
the tiniest amount of star anise possible!
Mix it all up and add to a pot of freshy boiled water. Let steep for three to four minutes. Serve with warm milk and honey. You can scale up this recipe and keep it in an airtight jar, away form direct sunlight. If your willpower is strong enough, it should last for several months.
I like to start by breaking up a couple of cinnamon quills. You could use a mortar and pestle for this, but I’m tough and macho and like splitting them open with my fingers.
Add ginger. I’m making this masala mix to use later, so I decided to opt for dried ginger chips. You can use fresh ginger, or the powdered kind. Or, you know, whatever.
Cardamom smells lovely. You can use the whole pods, or the tiny black seeds inside. Grocery stores will sometimes sell both kinds. I like the pods because they’re a pretty shade of pistachio green.
Cloves can be overpowering, so beware of using too much.
Like cloves, star anise can be really overpowering. Break off bits of the star a piece at a time. A little goes a long way!
Grate your nutmeg using a microplane, or just use the powdered kind. It has such a spicy sweet smell.
I used a black tea that had bits of vanilla through it. Then I mixed up a big bowl and scooped it into cute paper bags to give away as gifts. Now my friends can have something warm to drink the next time it’s cold and rainy!
Are you a fan of masala chai?
|Homemade Vanilla Extract|
Inspired by Luxirare, I thought I would try my hand at making my own vanilla extract. It’s very easy and works out to be so much cheaper than the stuff you buy in the supermarket. Even imitation vanilla extract is expensive these days.
I used 42 below vodka and Tahitian vanilla beans from the Natural Vanilla Store. Before you begin, make sure that you’re using clean utensils and that the jar for your extract is sterile. Elaine shares three very easy ways to sterilise your containers here.
The vanilla beans were sooo fragrant! After I opened the bag our whole apartment smelled amazing. I slit them open lengthways to allow the seeds to infuse more readily. I felt like a lecherous old lady with sticky and delicoius vanilla innards all over my hands. Yesss.
I used one vanilla bean for every 50ml of vodka and then added one more for good luck. Pour the vodka in, seal the jar and leave in a cupboard somewhere for four weeks.
Wait a bit…
…Four weeks later and you’re all done! Decant the extract into cute little bottles. It also makes a lovely gift!
|Cocktail Hour | The Bellini|
Giuseppe Cipriani, founder of the famous Harry’s Bar in Venice, invented the Bellini roughly sixty years ago. Cipriani was inspired by the beautiful glow that seemed to emanate from the paintings by Giovanni Bellini and decided to name his latest drink after the artist. The original cocktail was made with white peaches macerted in white wine and then puréed. It’s a delightful drink in summer and works best with firm ripe white-flesh peaches and chilled prosecco.
Remove the stones from three ripe peaches. Chop roughly and add to a blender with 30ml of peach liqueur or for a floral touch, 30ml of Saint Germain elderflower liqueur. Purée till smooth and velvety. Your peach nectar can be kept refrigerated for up to four days.
Pour 50ml of the nectar into a champagne flute. Add more peach liqueur or Saint Germain if you’re feeling saucy.
Top with chilled prosecco and enjoy immediately!
For a lovely non-alcoholic version, substitute the prosecco for soda water and the liqueur for elderflower cordial. It’s sublime at the end of a hot day.