Back in the summer, I was sent a rather lovely looking bottle of Foxdenton Rhubarb Gin and asked if I would like to come up with a recipe for it to post here on my blog. I enthusiastically agreed (being a big gin lover AND a big rhubarb lover) but then life got in the way and SEVERAL polite reminder emails later, I found myself at Christmas and the bottle, still unopened. Thankfully, my brother has stepped in and heroically taken up the gin drinking, cocktail making mantle. I'll leave him to tell you the rest....
Meddling with the classics can be a risky business.
However, as the film director Baz Luhrmann showed in 1996 with his award-winning adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, and the car manufacturer Jaguar achieved in 2013 following the launch of the F-Type as a successor to a quintessential English sports car, its predecessor – the e-Type, experimentation is distinctly satisfying when the results are so warmly received.
Christmas in particular is a time when altering tradition can be viewed with disdain, however, then it was that upon receiving a bottle of Foxdenton Rhubarb Gin, I found myself challenged to create a delicious alternative to one of my all-time favourite drinks, a G&T.
I delved into some distant memories from working in a cocktail bar near Leeds while at university there (Suburban Style Bar in Horsforth if anyone knew it?!) – about ten years ago depressingly – and after giving the contents of my new bottle of mother’s rhubarb ruin a good sniff, decided to add two of my favourite cocktail ingredients…
After filling a (recently acquired) G&T glass (a collins glass would work equally well) with crushed ice, I poured in 70ml of the Foxdenton Rhubarb-y goodness, followed by half a 330ml can of ginger beer, a few dashes of Angostura bitters and garnished with a slice of orange.
The mixture needs a good stir, or better still, shaken over ice in a cocktail shaker before pouring over the crushed ice; and the result? A refreshingly punchy drink that works as comfortably post-Christmas dinner as it would on a summer’s evening, sat in the garden as the sun goes down.
All that’s left is to give it a name. The temptation is to be simple and go with ‘Rhubarb Gin and Ginger’ but for my money this lacks imagination. However, after drinking two or three of these, the mind’s not as sharp as it was, so I leave it to you, dear reader…send your suggestions on Twitter and mention @EatDrinkCookUK or add it to the EatDrinkCook Facebook page.
As long as I live, rock will never die.
Nick ‘the guest writer’ Nixon
Just the word ‘nibble’ fills me with a kind of girlish glee. I love the guilt free abandon of it all. Nothing that can be described as a ‘nibble’ can possibly be bad for you for goodness sake! Plus, nibbles tend to come in groups and I’m all for variety in my food. I love nuts for sure, but I also enjoy a good olive, perhaps some blini or even a crostini. Perhaps a Cheesy Prosciutto Puff?
So read on my little vol-au-vents and I shall share with you the secret (or now, not so secret) recipe for Cheesy Prosciutto Puffs (squeee!) They’re bite-sized pieces of puffy heaven that really pack a Mediterranean punch. Flaky pastry; as light as air, a slight tang of pesto with beautiful Prosciutto adding depth and Grana Padano cheese, an extra richness that makes them really elegant and completely indulgent.
I’m confident that you’ll want to make some of these little babies for your next summer gathering…and that your guests will thank you for it!
1 x 320 g packet of ready-rolled puff pastry
4 tbs pesto
1 pack of prosciutto
75 g grated Grana Padano Cheese
1 egg, beaten
I was recently sent some beautiful samples of Grana Padano cheese and Prosciutto di San Daniele. To be honest, they were both so good that very little would beat just eating them au naturel (no, I’m not being paid to say that – promise!) but that would have made for rather a dull post so I tried to come up with a recipe that would show off the beautiful flavours and allow them to compliment each other. I hope that’s what I’ve done… 🙂
I also had help from Mary Berry and her fantastic book Mary Berry Absolute Favourites, where her Cheesy Cheese Spirals gave me the idea for the recipe above.
What are your favourite summer party nibbles? Let me know in the comments below!
I’m a big fan of anything that helps make my life easier in the kitchen and so I was delighted to be asked to do a collaborative post with Panasonic and a bit of a shout out to their new range of bread makers. I have a bread maker of my own and I’m not sure whether I love it more for the ease with which I can whip up a loaf or the fabulous smell that fills the house when I use it…
There’s something about brunch that I rather love. It’s a bit more exciting than breakfast – a spot of Champers in my orange juice? Ooh, why not?
And it’s rather less formal and intimidating than lunch don’t you think? No need for starters and… well, courses in general. It’s perfectly acceptable to just lay out a feast of your favourite foodstuffs and dig in!
So here’s what I’d like you to do (hopefully you’re used to my unreasonable demands by now); I’d like you to invite a few chums over one free Sunday and serve them a sumptuous, luxurious brunch. It’s ok – I’ll tell you exactly what to do to make it perfect 🙂
The whole experience should start the moment your guests come through the door. Imagine being welcomed by the wonderful aromas of freshly baked bread and brewing coffee… If you have a bread maker, get this going in plenty of time before your guests arrive so you can present it triumphantly, still warm and just waiting to be drenched in butter, drizzled with honey or covered with jam.
No bread maker? Take a look at these bread makers by Panasonic and keep your Sunday brunch stress free but croissant-full…
Minimum fuss, maximum impact – that’s what we’re looking for here. A simple table cloth, the papers spread out for people to peruse and plates and cutlery left in piles so that everyone can help themselves. If you want everyone to feel relaxed (which is an absolute MUST for Sunday brunch) then you need to be relaxed too. Keep things easy peasy and you’ll be breezy! (Too much? Sorry…)
I know this is a food blog, but today there will be no recipes. This is just about the enjoyment of good food and great company without any of the stress of preparation. Here then are a few ideas for simple but delicious eats for your brunch guests…
Fresh fruit – slices of melon, bowls of strawberries or just a big fruit salad
Pastries – a few favourites from your local bakery
Assorted breads and preserves – perhaps a crusty loaf, some croissants or some lovely muffins served with jam, honey or perhaps a spot of lemon curd….mmmmm
Eggs & Bacon – I can’t bring myself to leave these weekend breakfast staples out! A big bowl of buttery scrambled eggs and a plate overflowing with crispy bacon. Hard to resist!
As suggested in my opening, the beauty of brunch is that a spot of booze can be added to the mix without too many raised eyebrows 🙂 My brunch faves are bucks fizz (a combination of orange juice and Champagne) and Bloody Mary. The latter can be tricky to get just right but I love this recipe by Felicity Cloake.
As well as this, then a pot of hot tea, coffee or if you’re feeling particularly naughty, creamy hot chocolate.
Now go – bake, brunch and be happy!
A friend of mine recently posted a picture on Facebook of their first BBQ of the year (yes, I’m looking at you Matt!) and I have to say, much as I love a good BBQ, I have found the weather a little too much on the chilly side to be tempted to the dust off the grill and fire-lighters just yet (and by that, of COURSE I mean, get hubby to dust off the grill and fire-lighters). That being said, I definitely feel like the season of outside eating is just around the corner, and it’s definitely not too early to start planning that first spring or summer BBQ with friends…or to start taste testing this fabulous Grapefruit Gin and Tonic Slushie to make sure it’s up to scratch. You’re such a good friend to care so much about getting it just right! 😉
Apart from the fact that it’s just more pleasant to eat a meal in the garden, the warmth of the sun on your skin, the sound of birds singing in the trees; it also makes entertaining so much easier and somehow less formal. People can be ushered quickly through the house (before they notice you haven’t hoovered) and out into the garden, where you welcome them with a little drinky…
(I’m sorry. I had to. It was just too good).
…Which brings me to the purpose of this post. Assuming you’re not as brave as my friend Matt and you haven’t yet had your first BBQ of the year then I urge you to include these as an aperitif when you do.. They’re a (ahem) ‘citrus’ twist on an old classic and they’re both refreshing and just alcoholic enough to kick your afternoon or evening off with a pleasant buzz.
I’ve been meaning to post this recipe since before Christmas but I kept making it and then eating it all before I remembered to take a photo!
It’s one of those magical dishes which requires minimum preparation (if you can even call chucking all the ingredients into your slow cooker and giving them a quick stir, ‘preparation’) but which, when left for a few hours of gentle heating, transforms into something so special, so truly treatsome (yes, that’s a word!) that it both comforts and revives at the end of a wearisome day.
Imagine yourself outside your front door. It’s dark. It’s freezing. I mean freezing. You’ve been rushed off your feet all day and you think you can feel the first signs of a cold. What’s worse, you can’t find your keys. You’re scrabbling about in your bag but it’s too dark to see anything properly and your hands are so numb you can’t make your fingers work.
After what feels like about an hour of bag scrabbling, you finally find the elusive keys and put them triumphantly into the lock. One quick turn and you’re in.
Suddenly, the cold of the day is behind you. The warmth of your home greets you like the welcoming smile of an old friend and the smell? Well, the smell of tender beef, red wine and rosemary fills your nostrils and drives out the tiredness, the cold and the problems of the day.
All that’s left to do is to grab yourself a bowl and greedily ladle it in. Then settle into your favourite chair and with a big sigh, enjoy….
Try these for size…
I’ve always loved the Crispy Seaweed that you get at the Chinese. I think it’s the combination of sweet and salty along with that satisfying crunch – plus hey, it’s one of your five a day right? So when I recently discovered that, for the most part, it isn’t actually seaweed at all, but rather, cabbage or kale, I’ve got to say I felt a bit let down.
Once I got over my initial indignation, I realised that this could actually be a good thing! It meant I could recreate one of my favourite takeaway treats in my very own kitchen (without having to take a trip to the beach first…)
Now the good thing about this dish (other than the whole ‘no need for waders’ thing above and aside from the fact that it’s bloomin’ tasty) is that it’s unbelievably easy to make. You are no more than 10 minutes away from tucking into a mound of sweet and salty, crispy seaweed stylee kale and succulent, pink, salmon with just a hint of the orient. A Chinese whisper if you will…
For the fish, I use my George Foreman grill, thanks to my lovely Mother-in-Law who recently served us some perfectly cooked salmon using her’s and so inspired me to dig mine out of a cupboard and dust it off after months (ok, years…) of neglect. If you don’t have one, then a frying or griddle pan will do just fine.
Those of you who have read my monthly posts on seasonal foods will know that I’m a big fan of eating food when it is at its freshest and best – that is to say, when it’s in season.
This year, more for my own interest than anything else, I’ve started to keep a food diary, recording our evening meal each day so that I can refer back, both for inspiration and for sheer curiosity.
I’m pretty sure getting into a food rut isn’t a problem that’s unique to me so I’ve decided that each month I’ll share a few of our family favourites from the previous one in the hope that it may spark a few ideas or even inspire you to try something new. Some may be seasonal, others just something from a much loved cook book or even a family favourite passed down from my Mum.
We’re not Scottish but I can’t let Burn’s Night pass by without making the most of an excellent excuse (as if I need one) to eat haggis. Now, if you’re one of those people who crinkles their nose in disgust at the thought of haggis – then take my advice and don’t think! It tastes like beautifully spiced mince. It’s warming, comforting and I love the stuff.
We eat it with: Mashed potato, Marrowfat peas and gravy.
This was the perfect recipe book for me in January. It’s full of simple, nutritious meals. The kind that are comforting enough for even the coldest of January days, but also full of great ingredients that you can feel doing you good and restoring you after the festive season of excess.
My favourite 3 recipes this month were;
…a simple, spicy pasta dish with tomatoes and crispy bacon. Quick to make and with a kick that warms you through to your cockles (to use the medical term).
This is a lovely, simple way to cook fish. The flavours are subtle, but fragrant and delicious. Beautiful fillets of cod are coated in a spiced yoghurt that is speckled with mustard seeds which add a satisfying crunch. The dahl is the perfect accompaniment and if possible, it’s even easier. Just lentils, coconut water, a cinnamon stick and cardamom pods make up this lovely little side dish.
When I first presented this to hubby, it was with a certain amount of trepidation. No meat, just a plate of cauliflower and chickpeas. Somehow though, this combination of a few simple ingredients just works. I mean, really works! Even hubby is converted and has since asked to have it again. As the book’s title suggests, this recipe is simple. It’s also delicious, filling – and super healthy. Hurrah!
This is the time of year when we all look at our waistlines and sigh (if you’re reading this and thinking ‘not me’ – then lucky you!)
It’s the time when we give up all those things we enjoy in the hope that THIS will be the year that we attain our body goals. The last of the Christmas chocolates and booze finally gone, we fill our cupboards with fresh veg, seeds, perhaps some coconut water or low fat yoghurts as a special treat…
I’m a big believer in starting the day right. A healthy breakfast is great motivation to stay strong and stick to the straight and narrow. Let’s face it, if you’ve had a big, greasy full english for brekkie, then it’s very easy to write off the whole day as far as healthy eating goes and to put off the start of the diet until tomorrow.
These breakfasts don’t work miracles but they are quick and easy to make and they’ll give you a spring in your step and a start to the day which sets you in the right direction.
A boiled egg. Such a simple concept but with SO many cooking variations out there. For me, I add my pierced egg to a small pan of boiling water and at the same time put a slice of wholemeal toast in.
4.5 minutes later, out comes the egg, to be eaten with buttered toast soldiers dipped in the still runny yellow yolk and a little salt and pepper. Pretty much perfection as breakfasts go.
Filling up on a few portions of your five a day is pretty satisfying, both in terms of appetite and(perhaps more importantly) the rather smugness-inducing knowledge that you’ve been good to your body.
It’s not just your body that will feel better though, who can help feeling a little bit happy in the presence of the wonderful colours and smells of fresh fruit?
Here are a few ideas to get your started…
There are some great varieties on sale – check out the options at your local supermarket or health food shop. Mixed with some fresh berries and creamy natural yoghurt, this is a great way to fill up on nutrients and to fill up till lunch.
Alternatively, have a go at making your own granola, filled with your favourite things. Here’s an example to get your started 🙂
Talk about unprocessed, right? No kitchen skills required, no cooking or long list of ingredients. Just beautiful, fresh fruit, full of goodness and absolutely delicious.
Grapefruit is one of my favourites. I always used to add sugar but one day decided to try it without and now find it tastier ‘au natural’.
Why not try some beautiful, juicy melon or mango?
Some sliced pineapple, some papaya with a squeeze of lime juice or even just a good old banana?
There is a world of possibility when you start adding things to toast. Marmalade, jam, Marmite – obvs. But here are a few other ideas to keep things interesting…
Banana and peanut butter
Mashed avocado with a squeeze of lemon
Nothing ground breaking – just a few of the healthier breakfasts that I enjoy and hopefully a bit of inspiration to brighten up your morning routine.
Here’s to us all achieving our perfect bodies this year! 🙂
This year, at the ripe old age of 38, I hosted my first ever Christmas at home. It was nerve-wracking, exhausting, exciting, fulfilling and well, wonderful.
We didn’t have a big crowd so I was eased in gently. My brother and his girlfriend joined us on Christmas Eve for some festive fizz and a gorgeous baked ham (can I call it gorgeous if I cooked it? Oh well, my blog, my rules!)
Then on Christmas Day, after a simple breakfast and some stocking opening, they left and both lots of parents arrived – bringing with them many and varied offerings towards the day’s eating and drinking.
Only 30 minutes later than originally planned, we all tucked into our roast turkey and trimmings. Plates were cleared, so I take that as a good sign. Although there are several tweaks I will make next year.
So what did I learn? After much pondering, I have decided that there are 12 key things that I’ll take away for next year. The 12 tips of Christmas if you will…
Those of you who are seasoned Christmas hosts may smile wisely at these and please feel free to add more of your own in the comments!
Before you plan your Christmas food extravaganza, make sure you actually have both the fridge and oven space to cope with it all. If, like me, you only have one oven then it makes things trickier – it’s not impossible, but careful planning is required. Thankfully, turkeys can rest for a good hour or two without any harm coming to them so you can do all your potatoes and parsnips etc once the bird is out and relaxing in its foil.
Fridge-wise, if you have a garage or shed then make use of these for veggies etc. Those of you with any outdoor space can fill a bucket or crate with water and leave it outside with all of your drinks.
Oh, and before you buy your ridiculously expensive turkey, for goodness sake, make sure it’ll fit in your oven! Just sayin’..
Of all the Christmas feast and festivities, there is very little that cannot be at least partly prepared beforehand. Puddings and cakes – obvs. Perhaps less obvs, prepare all your veg the day before. Potatoes need to sit in water once peeled and chopped, then just pour out and give fresh water when you’re ready to par-boil. Carrots, parsnips and sprouts (or most other veg) can be peeled, chopped and stored in freezer bags in the fridge quite happily for a day or two.
Check your recipes and where possible, make what you can in advance!
Throughout the whole process, I found myself constantly questioning whether there would be enough food to satisfy my guests. Would the turkey be big enough (despite the fact that I’d purposefully ordered one that would serve 2 more people than were actually coming). How many potatoes to do? How many parsnips? The fact is, with so many different things on offer, people tend to have smaller portions of everything and chances are, you’ve done more than enough!
I come from a family of drinkers. I’m not saying we’re booze hounds but we like our wine…and our gin…oooh, and a spot of port…and Champagne for goodness sake, it’s Christmas after all. With that in mind, I was sure to get in plenty of supplies to see us through. Chances are though, there will be at least someone who won’t be partaking, be it due to driving, pregnancy or infancy. These poor folk shouldn’t feel that they’re being left out of the frivolities so make sure there’s something special for them too. This year, I did a combination of 1 part orange juice, 1 part apple and 1 part cranberry in a large jug with plenty of ice. It went down very well with children and drivers alike!
It may be that you and yours aren’t big drinkers and so the non-alcoholic choice is plentiful. If that’s the case – then you should reverse this and remember to provide for your more boozy buddies!
I’m not at all creative or arty but I really wanted people to arrive and feel surrounded by festive spirit and cheer. Short of plying them all with sherry at the door, I was a little stumped. It turns out that it really isn’t too tricky (or expensive) to create a spot of festive sparkle. A few fir cones, a bunch of baubles and a whole table (well not quite) of tea lights and suddenly your home is like a little corner of pure Christmas.
I see you rolling your eyes but seriously, this will make you feel so much more in control and will also let you know when you have free time for important things like unwrapping presents and drinking Champagne Cocktails (more on those later..)
It’s a bit of a pain to do – you need to work out all of the timings for all of the things you need to prepare. I mean everything. When do you need to pre-heat the oven? When does the water go on for the veg? When do you heat the fat for the potatoes? Once it’s done though you’ll feel calmer and more relaxed – and if you’re calm and relaxed then your Christmas guests will be too.
Oh, and keep it for the following year! It’ll make life easier when you’re doing your next timetable.
Huh? Ok, so I don’t mean completely forget it, but DO allow yourself to be flexible. The chances are that something will happen to throw the timetable out slightly. Don’t let this ruffle you. The timetable is there to put YOU in control, not to control you. If a few tweaks are needed along the way, then go with it – show that timetable who’s boss!
If you’re anything like me then it will be easy to turn into a bit of a control freak. You’ve done your planning, you’ve got your timetable and everything is under control goddamit! The only thing is, there are probably a few people there who would actually quite enjoy being involved, getting stuck in and well, helping you. Don’t see this as showing weakness or failure. Christmas is very much a team event. Let people help, get everyone involved and share the fun!
Equally, people don’t like to turn up empty handed so if they ask you what they can bring – don’t say ‘oh nothing!’. Christmas is pretty pricey and frankly, any offerings should be gratefully accepted. Your guests will feel happier that they’ve been able to contribute and your bank balance will definitely thank you.
I hate to break this to you but something will go wrong. It may be a whopper, like forgetting to buy the turkey, or it may be something so small that no one will even notice. Whichever it is, don’t let it ruin the day. If something doesn’t go according to plan, then change the plan, have a laugh about it and get on with enjoying your day. It’s not about the perfection of the meal, or the beauty of the decorations. It’s about you and your loved ones being together and sharing Christmas.
Who wants to be scrubbing greasy toasting tins on Christmas Day?
This is a tradition passed down from my parents. I’m not sure which side it came from originally but I am sure that it’s an absolute essential. Here’s what you need:
In your Champagne glass;
Add 1 sugar cube and a couple of drops of Angostura Bitters. Cover the sugar with brandy, add a slice of orange and then top up with Champagne (or any other fizz that you have to hand).
Drink and be merry!
Hopefully, you’ll have spotted this as a general theme throughout. It can be so easy to get completely caught up in the plan and in the moment, that suddenly the day ends and you realise that you didn’t speak to your loved ones apart from in barked orders or sharp retorts. So fraught were you, that you didn’t notice your children as they frolicked with their wrapping paper. So tense were you that you completely missed the hilarity when Dad fell asleep and his paper hat fell on to his face.
Don’t miss these moments. Let the potatoes burn. Let the sprouts go cold. Enjoy your family. Love your people. Happy Christmas xxx
With the festive season upon us I must confess I’ve been rather slack on the blogging front (sorry!) I have however been working on one little piece that I’m rather proud of and that I hope you’ll try this Christmas.
Recently published on wayfair.co.uk, here’s my recipe for Cranberry Glazed Poussins with Festive ‘Bauble’ & Squeak…