Minted Pea and Watercress Soup

Minted Pea & Watercress Soup

When I first moved to England, I was mystified by the presence of watercress on the shelves alongside more common salad greens like spinach, “baby leaves” and arugula (“rocket”, that is). It’s available all year round, though it’s at its best April through September.

Still, even when watercress is at its prime, I have a hard time dealing with it raw – it’s flavour is bitter, slightly peppery, which I often find overpowering when served in a salad or as a garnish. So I’ve been exploring watercress’s other uses, treating it more as an herb, and in the process have discovered some great ways to use this pungent green outside of the salad bowl.

The sweet peas and refreshing mint in this recipe balance the peppery watercress, and it’s super delicious garnished with croutons, toasted seeds, or a hard boiled egg (or all of the above!).

This soup requires a blender – I use a Froothie power blender which blitzes even the toughest of pea membranes and watercress stems into a fine puree. If you are working with a stick blender or something less powerful, you can strain out any stray solids after blend it to get a silky smooth and luxurious soup. Enjoy!

Minted Pea and Watercress Soup

Serves 4

  • 1 bunch of watercress, large (washed)
  • 800ml of vegetable stock
  • 30ml of sunflower oil or olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 potato, cubed
  • 1 bunch of fresh mint, roughly chopped
  • 400g of shelled peas, fresh or frozen

Method

  1. Coarsely chop the watercress, stalks and all, and place in a small saucepan with the stock. Bring to a simmer for 5 minutes, then remove from the heat and leave to infuse
  2. Heat the oil in a large pan and add the onion. Cook on a low heat until softened but not coloured. Add the potato, stir, cover and cook until soft. Add the mint, peas and infused stock and watercress. Season and simmer for 2 minutes
  3. Place the soup in a blender and purée, then return the soup to the saucepan (you can strain the soup through a sieve if you like, to get rid of any tough-to-blend stalky bits, but if you have a powerful blender like a Froothie, it should be able to purée everything into a silky smooth soup)
  4. Serve warm garnished with boiled eggs, toasted seeds, a swirl of sour cream, croutons, or whatever you like – meat eaters might enjoy a sprinkling of crispy bacon

Just a heads up: this post contains affiliate links to the Froothie website – I’m a ambassador for their brand because, well, their blenders rule!  

Tor View Shepherds Hut, Somerset

Tor View Shepherds Hut, Somerset - Ted's Hut

For two people whose holidays typically consist of sleeping in a tent somewhere in the middle of nowhere and cooking on a tiny camp stove, last weekend’s stay at Tor View Shepherds Hut in Somerset was serious luxury, without taking away from any of the things we love about the outdoors. Tor View has two shepherds huts – Len and Ted – and we were very grateful to be invited by owners Phil and Amanda to stay for a weekend in Ted, their newest hut.

Tor View Shepherds Hut, Somerset

Just to get you up to speed, particularly for my U.S. friends who may never have heard the term, a shepherds hut gets its name from the traditional shepherds huts used in the 19th and 20th century by shepherds during sheep raising and lambing. Today shepherds huts are typically used as a summer house or workshop, but even modern shepherds huts usually maintain the traditional iron wheels and corrugated iron of yore. And “Ted” was no exception.

Tor View Shepherds Hut, Somerset - Ted's Hut

As you can probably imagine, shepherds huts run the gamut, from run down shacks to totally pimped out micro-palaces. Ted was definitely on the micro-palace end of the spectrum: solar powered lighting, gadget and mobile charging points, large en-suite shower room, log burner, super comfy bed, and fully equipped with all of the kitchen kit you’d ever need. And that’s just the inside. Outdoors you get a wood-fired oven and an “eco hot tub” (also wood-fired).

TedsHut-pizza

Add to it all the setting – a hay meadow overlooking Glastonbury Tor – and you have a pretty solid recipe for an awesome escape!

TedsHut-hottub

The highlight of the hut for me had to be the wood-fired oven and its unlimited supply of firewood, kindling, and fire lighters. We used it both nights to cook numerous creations: roast vegetables, tandoori chicken, endless varieties of pizza. It was awesome! Definitely a thing of envy. We have vowed to have one of our own someday soon.

TedsHut2

Something that particularly impressed us was how thoughtful the layout of the place was. Ted is small, but the clever design means that it feels surprisingly spacious – ingenious planning ensures that it all packs away neatly and you won’t be tripping over your bags at every turn (there is plentiful and easily accessible storage under the bed).

Any complaints we had would be nitpicking. We wish we had a bigger table outside for food prep and a sun umbrella for shade in the afternoon. And of course, we missed our dog, Lucky (no dogs allowed at Ted). But all of that was pretty minor compared to all of the other awesome stuff going on. If you’re ever travelling to Somerset and are looking for something a little different than the usual hotel, with peace, quiet, and really cool wood-fired things, check out Tor View Shepherds Hut and tell them Monica sent you!

Tor View Shepherds Huts
torviewshepherdshuts.co.uk
Thrupe Marsh Farm, Maesbury, Nr Wells, Somerset, BA5 3HB
Telephone: 01749 841 401
Mobile: 07970 066 459
Grid ref: ST60997,466936
Latitude: 51:13:05N (51.21793)
Longitude: 2:33:33W (-2.55917)

More pictures of Ted on Flickr

Protein Puff Granola – High Protein, Low Sugar

Protein Puff Granola - Pulsin Protein Crispies

Most granola is filled with lots of carbs and sugar that make it anything but a health food. This high protein granola uses Pulsin Whey Protein Crispies combined with jumbo oats to pack a protein punch and an awesome crispy texture. This isn’t super sweet – I use a bit of honey and no sugar or dried fruit – but seriously you won’t miss it.


High Protein Granola

Makes about 6 servings

  • 1 large egg white, lightly beaten
  • 1.5 cups jumbo oats
  • 1.5 cups protein crispies
  • 1.5 cups chopped nuts (such as almonds, pecans, pistachios, or walnuts)
  • 1.5 cups coconut shavings
  • 1/2 cup honey or agave syrup
  • 1/4 cup olive oil or warmed coconut oil or cacao butter
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • a pinch each of ground ginger and nutmeg
  • 1.5 cups coconut shavings

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 300 F / 150 C.
  2. On a big baking sheet or roasting tin, mix together the oats, protein crispies, nuts, sesame seeds, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.
  3. Whisk together the egg white, honey or agave, and the oil. Pour over the dry ingredients, mix thoroughly, and spread evenly across the baking sheet.
  4. Bake for 30-40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until the granola is golden brown and dry.
  5. Let cool (it will crisp as it cools). Mix in coconut and serve.

Protein Puff Granola - Pulsin Protein Crispies

You’ll notice that this recipe uses Pulsin’s Cacao Butter Buttons for the oil (don’t go eating them like chocolate drops as we did when they first arrived). You can of course substitute coconut oil, olive oil, or other fat of your choice.

Protein Puff Granola - Pulsin Protein Crispies

If you do have a sweet tooth, you can always do as Andrew does and just add chocolate! (Bonus: Pulsin’s chocolate drops have no added sugar.)

Protein Puff Granola - Pulsin Protein Crispies

I personally like to have my granola with yoghurt and sliced banana!

Protein Puff Granola - Pulsin Protein Crispies

 For a more traditional granola recipe, checkout my awesome Christmas granola!

 

Big Agnes King Solomon 15 Sleeping Bag Review

Big_Agnes_King_Solomon_Review-2

If you’re part of a couple that likes to sleep in a tent, whether you camp with a car, or like to put all of your stuff in a backpack as we do, sooner or later you’re going to struggle with being separated from your co-conspirator by a piece of down-filled fabric. You could either go for zipping together two single-person sleeping bags, or you could go for a purpose-made double bag.

We decided to try the Big Agnes King Solomon 15, an ultralight two person sleeping bag filled with DownTek (that’s water-resistant down, for the uninitiated). Why a two-person sleeping bag rather than zipping together two bags? We reasoned that a two-person bag meant less excess material, and you get a zip on each side of the bag so you don’t disturb your partner if you get out of the bag. More than anything, though, the whole thing just feels more fit-for-purpose than trying to get two single bags to zip together. We decided to test the theory during a weekend in Snowdonia.

Big_Agnes_King_Solomon_Review

Integrated sleeping pads

The King Solomon’s killer feature is the ability to slide your sleeping pads (in our case, a pair of Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlites) into pockets on the underside of the bag to stop them sliding around. Sleeping bag and sleeping pads become integrated, and it makes a phenomenal difference. Not only does it bring an end to the constant sliding around trying to get back onto your sleeping pad in the middle of the night, but you’ll just find that there’s more space inside the tent and that everything becomes at once orderly.

This killer feature is also the bag’s number one potential drawback, however. Not only does the pocket system force you to use the pad for insulation, which means you can’t use the bag without it, but you’ll find yourself having to slide the pads into the bag outside of your tent. That means you’ll have to be fast in wet weather if you want to avoid a wet sleeping bag.
Big Agnes King Solomon Sleeping Bag Review

In reality, we use sleeping pads all the time, so we weren’t concerned about being forced to use the pocket system. As for the rain issue? Well, this is a water repellent down bag, and as we get used to the bag, I suspect we’ll figure out how to set everything up inside the tent.

Big_Agnes_King_Solomon_Review-5

Design details

Any quibbles we had with the product do really boil down to that: mere quibbles, particularly when you consider the quality of the product, and when you take into account the attention to detail in the design. It’s as though the designers at Big Agnes have actually slept in sleeping bags before, and the result is that you get a bag without zips that jam in the middle of the night (they’ve stitched in protective fabric that keeps away from the zips), and with a pocket for you to make a makeshift pillow. There was even room for our (admittedly petite) dog.

Price and Weight

We bought our Big Agnes King Solomon 15 from ultralightoutdoorgear.co.uk for £419.99 (in the USA, rei.com presently stocks it for $449.95). At just over 2 kilos, this is a big bag, with a price tag that might make you think twice. However, when you consider that a comparable one-person sleeping bag costs over $250 and weights about 1.3kg, the Big Agnes King Solomon represents extremely good value for money in terms of both cost and weight.

Facts about the Big Agnes King Solomon 15

  • Rated at -9°C
  • 600 fill DownTek water-repellent down
  • 2040g
  • Integrated pad sleeve
  • Integrated pillow pocket
  • Zips along both sides
  • Comes with a large mesh bag and a stuff sack (but you’ll need to get a compression sack if you’re using a backpack)

Big_Agnes_King_Solomon_Review-3

UK people like us can buy the Big Agnes King Solomon 15 from ultralightoutdoorgear.co.uk. My friends in the USA can buy from rei.com.

Have any other adventuresome couples out there grappled with the sleeping bag issue? What’s your solution? 2-person? Zip together? Or are you so hardcore on the trail that by the end of the day you’re too tired to care!? Let us know in the comments!

Froothie Optimum G2.1 Power Blender Review

Froothie Optimum G2.1 power blender

My blender is without a doubt the most popular gadget in my kitchen. I use it at least once daily for smoothies, and often again for soups, dressings, spice blends, dips, hummus, pestos, and for a treat, cashew-based cheesecakes. My first power blender was a Vitamix. It was expensive (costing more than my first car, which admittedly was no Rolls Royce) but I’ve never looked backed. Since then I’ve been converted to the Froothie range of power blenders for their extra horsepower, more reasonable price-tag, and unbeatable warranty. A high-powered blender is an enabler. I’ve already achieved great results with the Froothie Optimum 9200 and Froothie Optimum 9400, so was very excited to try their latest model, the Froothie Optimum G2.1.

Froothie Optimum G2.1 Blender Review

Froothie pitches the Optimum G2.1 as its most sleek, sophisticated and advanced blender to date, featuring an elegant LED touchscreen panel, six automatic one-push programmes as well as manual functionality, and a combo wet / dry 6-blade jug that can accomplish all sorts of blending tasks.  It’s currently on sale for £399 making it about £150 cheaper than a Vitamix, with credentials that definitely err in the Optimum G2.1’s favour, particularly the more powerful motor, the combo wet/dry jug, and the longer warranty.

Froothie Optimum G2.1 vs Vitamix

But how do these credentials play out in practice? Let’s face it, though cheaper than a Vitamix, the Optimum G2.1 is still a significant cash investment. I was keen to see how this blender compared to others I’ve tried, both expensive power blenders and more “cheapo” blenders alike.

Power

One of Froothie’s biggest claims to fame is that their blenders can blend stones! Well, I can’t say I tested this, but I did try blending my own nut flours and spice blends, both of which the Froothie handed brilliantly, turning both into a very fine powder, perfect for my recipes. It also seemed to do this quickly and effortlessly, meaning I didn’t have to spend loads of time turning on and turning off the blender, scraping down the sides.

Jug

It may seem a small matter but the jug is a big deal when it comes to blenders. My Vitamix required separate jugs for wet and dry needs (e.g. a wet jug for smoothies and soups, a dry jug for grinding flour, spices and, um, rocks?). The other key difference is that the Froothie jug has a 6-blade assembly verses Vitamix’s 4-blade assembly. The two extra blades are situated under the main 4 blades and allow the Froothie jug to better suck ingredients down and create a blending vortex. No more chunks of stuff left unblended in the blender!

Like the Vitamix, the Froothie also comes with at tamper tool that makes it easy to stuff things down into the blender WHILE it blends. Really handy for thicker blends like hummus and ice creams. Andrew is a massive fan:

Froothie Optimum G2.1 Review

Noise

Well, it’s a blender. But it’s not as noisy as you may think given its huge motor. I’d say it’s comparable to the Vitamix and other blenders of its kind.

Heating ability

The Froothie Optimum G2.1 blender is so powerful that it can cook hot soups through the power of it’s immense motor alone. Case in point: my Easy Blender Tortilla Soup.

Style

I admit that I have always been a fan of the Vitamix’s simplicity. But the Froothie Optimum G2.1 is SLICK. The LED touch panel is, in two words, super cool. And there are nice little touches like the blender beeps every time you remove the jug. If you want to feel like you’re on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise while making your smoothies, this is the blender for you.

Froothie_Optimum_G21_Panel

One Touch Programmes

Something I’ve grown to love is the ability to set the speed and time and get on with other business while the blender does it’s thing. It’s a small luxury but it’s that extra bit of effortlessness that enables frequent usage of the Froothie Optimum G2.1. There are one-touch programs for sorbets, nut milk, soup, sauces, smoothies, and nut and seed flours. See what I mean? Star Trek!

Reliability

I’ve been using the Froothie Optimum G2.1 several times daily for the last three months. Andrew and I use it at least a combined 3 times daily for our pre- and post-workout smoothies. We also use it regularly to grind spices, hummus, baba ganoush, raw cheeses and cheesecakes, the list goes on. Here we are making salsa macha, a Mexican blend of spices and nuts – the Froothie Optimum G2.1 handles it with aplomb!

Froothie Optimum G2.1 Blender making Salsa Macha

Other benefits of the Froothie Optimum G2.1 blender

  • 30 Day Free Trial with a Money Back Guarantee (including return postage)
  • 10 year warranty on the motor and 5 year warranty on parts
  • Pretty awesome support team who are super responsive
  • A free recipe book and nut milk bag because, yeah, recipes and nut milk rule!

At present the Froothie Optimum G2.1 blender is on sale for £399.00 (from £599.00). Not a bad deal!

If you’re looking for some awesome blender recipes, check out my smoothie recipes or go make some hummus because you can never go wrong with hummus. Also, you need salsa macha in your life. Seriously.

Disclosure: I am an ambassador for Froothie and some links in this article are affiliate links. But hey I’m not biased! All product reviews are based on my honest opinion. If you’d like to know more about Froothie blenders and juicers, or this machine in particular, please visit the Froothie website for more details.

Photography: How to Make Cider at Home

Cidercraft_Magazine_Cider_at_home

I am delighted to have my photography featured in Issue 4 of Cidercraft Magazine in an article that’s all about a topic near and dear to my heart: making cider at home! It’s a great magazine devoted to a delicious drink and a wonderful craft.

If you like cider and are interested in home brewing, then be sure to check out the original source of the images my own write-up about making cider at home.

Stuffed Tomatoes for British Tomato Week

Tomates Farcies - French Stuffed Tomatoes

This week is British Tomato Week, timed to coincide with the arrival of fresh British greenhouse tomatoes in the nation’s supermarkets, farm shops, and farmer’s markets. If there’s any food to convince you to “buy local”, then tomatoes are it (just buy a tomato during the winter months if you don’t believe me). So for those of us in Blighty who’ve been forgoing our tomato fixation during the long winter, it’s time to celebrate the return of this marvellous Mediterranean veg and get cooking with tomatoes that have been grown on our home turf.

Where to begin? There are a few staples you could go for: tomato soup, tomato salsa, or even straight up sliced tomatoes with salt, pepper and olive oil. Great British Chefs has a fantastic collection of tomato recipes (you really can’t go wrong with gazpacho).

Heirloom tomatoes for British Tomato Week

For me, the ultimate way to celebrate tomatoes is with this recipe for Tomates Farcies, a stuffed tomato dish that originates from Southern France and which I learned on a cookery holiday with Demuths Cookery School. It’s truly a celebration dish, perfect for serving a crowd. The key is, of course, to use the ripest, tastiest tomatoes you can find. The filling is based on rice, but you can adapt the veggies to suit what you have to hand.

Tomates Farcies (Stuffed Tomatoes)

Recipe courtesy of Demuths Cookery School
These are vegan without the cheese.

  • 200g Camargue red rice (or whatever red rice you have on hand)
  • 250ml white wine
  • 750ml hot vegetable stock
  • A few sprigs of bay, rosemary, thyme and oregano (or a pinch each of dried)
  • 6 ripe but firm large tomatoes
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 350g finely chopped vegetables (red pepper, mushrooms, leek, carrot, kale, whatever you have around)
  • 4 tbsps olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 3 tbsps chopped fresh basil
  • handful of chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 100g Parmesan, or similar cheese, grated (optional)
  • salt & pepper

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/390F.
  2. Cook the rice in a medium saucepan with the vegetable stock, the glass of wine and herbs. Stir occasionally and simmer until just cooked through, which takes about 15 minutes for red rice, make sure the rice isn’t over cooked as it is cooked again inside the tomatoes. Drain. Set the rice aside.
  3. Cut a thick slice off the top of each tomato; leaving on the stalk if you can and reserve the tomato tops. Cut and scoop the seeds, pulp, and juice from each tomato into a small saucepan. Simmer the tomato pulp for 15 minutes and then strain through a sieve, reserving the pulp and discarding the seeds.
  4. Oil the bottom of a baking dish, big enough to fit the tomatoes snugly, with 2 tbsps of the olive oil. Place the hollowed tomatoes in the prepared dish.
  5. To make the filling. In a frying pan fry the onion gently in the remainder of the olive oil, until soft and starting to caramelise. Add the garlic and fry for a minute before adding the vegetables with a little salt and pepper. Gently fry for five minutes and then add the strained tomato pup. Cook for a couple of minutes and then add the parsley, some of the cheese and rice (add as much so that the rice to veggie ratio is just as you like – you might have some rice leftover). Combine well. Add the tomato juice to achieve a moist filling. Taste and season well.
  6. Spoon the rice mixture into the hollowed tomatoes, mounding slightly. Sprinkle leftover stuffing on the bottom of the pan. Drizzle entire dish with olive oil and the remaining cheese. Place the reserved tomato slices on top the tomatoes. Bake until the rice is heated through, about 20 minutes.

Salsa Macha

Salsa Macha - Mexican condiment of awesome!

Salsa macha has become a coveted kitchen staple of mine. This magical combination of dried chilies, garlic, nuts and olive oil is highly addictive, and the perfect vehicle for discovering the world of dried chillies out there.

When I first came across the recipe, I almost didn’t make it because it calls for 500ml (two cups) of olive oil. But when all was said and done, I ended up with a “salsa” that has completely blown my mind and changed my world. I’m not exaggerating!

It began with a recent good fortune: a while back I won a “goody bag” of dried chillies from the Cool Chile Company. I rarely enter competitions, and win them even less, so I was pretty psyched to receive a weighty parcel of dried pasilla, ancho, guajillo and chipotle chillies, and a bonus sack of masa harina.

Chiles from Cool Chile Co

Ever since, my mind’s been reeling over what to do with them. One of my objectives is to use this opportunity to get to know the unique flavours of these chillies. I’m very familiar with chipotles and their wonderful smokiness, but the others are a bit of a mystery to me.

I first made the ancho lentil tacos, where I discovered that anchos (dried poblano peppers) are milder than chipotles, though still a touch smokey, and sweeter. I’ve also made tortilla soup, which includes pastilla chilli, which seems similar to ancho to me, except is possibly milder.

Moving on from these recipes I wanted to take advantage of something that was really all about the chillies, so started hunting for salsa and sauce recipes. Rick Bayless’ salsa macha caught my attention because it was suited for any one or a mix of dried chillies, and also included some interesting ingredients like almonds and sesame. I only noticed the oil quantity after I’d mentally decided to make it. But I’m so glad I pushed on.

Salsa Macha

This isn’t a “salsa” like the kind you find in jars at the grocery star. It doesn’t contain tomatoes or lime or cilantro. This is more like chile pesto, a puree of dried chillies with nuts, seeds, garlic and a little salt, vinegar and Mexican oregano. And the flavour is out of this world.

I used six guajilla chillies and four chipotle chillies, plus some of my homemade apple cider vinegar. The resulting “salsa” has an awesomely sweet and smokey aroma with a flavour to match. There’s only a little bit of vinegar in the recipe, but it’s just enough to make the puree seem almost “fresh”, despite all the oil. The nuts and seeds, which have been fried in the oil, add further depth of flavour and balance out the chillies.

Guajillo and Chipotle Salsa Macha

So it’s good, but game-changing? Well yes, for someone who was until recently a vegetarian and unaccustomed to eating foods that are so deep, rich and satisfying. Although I didn’t eat meat at the time, I can now understand why some meat-eaters would find it difficult to go vegetarian because it’s very difficult to duplicate meat’s, well, meatiness in vegetarian food (meat-eaters, maybe you can explain this phenomenon?).

Guajillo and Chipotle Salsa Macha

Still, eating this salsa made me feel very much like one feels after eating a good steak. I used the salsa macha in something very simple: a bowl of sautéed onions, potatoes and greens (a bit of egg would have been good here, too). I included some of the salsa in the saute pan, and then added a little more at the end. The flavours were so intense and wonderful that I finished the meal with a weird satisfaction that I’m not really used to.  It had nothing to do with spiciness – in fact, the guajillo and chipotle combo resulted in a pretty mild heat – but pure flavour.

Potatoes and greens con salsa macha. Inspired by @coolchileco @rick_bayless. (A little macha goes a long way.)

I think the phrase “awesome sauce” is appropriate here. I see myself using this all over the place – potato, eggs and tofu come to mind. I can also see adding it to other salsa and sauce recipes to add deeper flavour. Rick has a recipe for Slow-Cooked Fennel where salsa macha is used almost as a baste. He also does lamb chops with salsa macha for any meat eaters who are keen to give this a try. And you should, because it really is a life changer. And I can’t stop opening the jar just to have a whiff.

Salsa Macha

Salsa Macha

Ingredients

  • 60g dried chillies (I used about 6 guajillos and 4 chipotles)
  • 40g (1/3 cup) almonds (or other nut)
  • 1 Tbsp sesame seeds
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
  • 500ml (2 cups) olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • A generous 1/2 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano

Method

  1. Stem the chiles, then break or cut them open and remove most of the seeds; break the chillies up roughly into thumb-sized pieces.
  2. In a large saucepan, combine the almonds, sesame seeds, garlic and oil. Set over medium-high heat and cook until garlic and sesame seeds are golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the chiles. Let cool 5 minutes.
  3. In a small bowl, mix the vinegar with the salt until the salt dissolves, then add it to the pan along with the oregano. When the mixture has cooled to room temperature, pour it into a blender and pulse until everything is chopped into small pieces (I use a Froothie Optimum 9400 power blender for this). You don’t want a super smooth puree – leave some texture in there.
  4. Pour into a jar and store in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use.

Gin journey at The Pump House, Bristol

Gin and Tonics at the Pump House in Bristol

I’ve been developing a taste for gin recently, thanks largely to Andrew Burtenshaw, internationally renowned supertaster and my co-hort at The Ugly Chapatti. Until recently I had no idea how the nuances and botanicals of different gins contributed to a completely unique gin and tonic experience. I suppose I knew this on some level, having enjoyed many gin & tonics made with Hendricks gin and cucumber, which were so good that I thought it was the end all be all gin. But thanks to Andrew, and to various bottles including Gin Mare, Bathtub Gin, and Trevathan gin (just to name a few), I’m discovering a whole new world of gin and tonics, where the gin, the tonic and the choice of garnish all contribute to a beverage that’s uniquely its own.

This was illustrated to (mostly) exquisite standards last night at The Pump House in Bristol, reputed for its vast gin collection. We stopped in for a quick G&T before dinner and experienced a gin journey that far exceeded our expectations.

Psychopomp Woden Distilled Gin

Psychopomp is a Bristol-based distillery whose flagship gin contains botanicals including juniper berries, coriander seed, angelica root, cassia bark, grapefruit zest and fennel seed.

This gin boasts a rich juniper flavour that is complimented by the coriander, angelica root and cassia bark. Grapefruit zest provides citrus notes with a slight bitterness that is rounded by the distinct but subtle fennel seed on the finish.

The Pump House served Psychopomp with Six O’Clock Tonic garnished with frozen grapefruit (a move I’ve copied since for other gins).

Psychopomp Ogmios Gin

This is Psychopomp’s seasonal spring gin, containing hints of lemon zest, honey suckle & lemongrass. Served with Six O’Clock tonic with ice cubes containing edible flowers. I thoroughly adored this and avowed to make some edible flower ice cubes of my own ASAP.

Skin Gin (Reptile Brown)

Skin Gin is a German dry gin, distilled near Hamburg, made with juniper, Moroccan mint, lime, lemon, grapefruit, orange and coriander. Cool bottole, too.

The Pump House served Skin Gin with Fentimen’s Light Tonic, kaffir lime leaves and white peppercorns. (Other suggested garnish is orange peel and rosemary, but we’re thinking about getting hold of a bottle so we can try something a little spicier in the garnish.) Regardless, this was by far the most memorable gin and tonic of the evening, totally different from anything we’d had before.

Hepple Gin

Hepple Gin boasts a three-stage process to bring out three levels of juniper. Although we’ve previously enjoyed Hepple Gin with Fever Tree Light, we were probably least enamoured with this particular iteration of gin and tonic (here garnished with apple and lemon twist). It seemed watered down somehow, particularly compared to the other drinks we were having.

The Pump House
Merchants Road, Hotwells, Bristol, BS8 4PZ
the-pumphouse.com

Hummus diaries: Chickpeas with red chillies and cumin

Hummus with Red Chillies and Cumin Seed

First in a series of blog posts that explore the various types of hummuses (hummi?) one could put together.

Here we riff on a fairly basic recipe: chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lemon. This probably all sounds familiar to someone who’s made hummus before. But wait, we throw in some red chilli and toasted cumin seed and suddenly everything changes. You’ll want some fairly hot red chillies (around 100,000 Scoville Heat Units – a cayenne pepper would be fine). Don’t skip a step by using ground cumin – take the minute or two to toast whole cumin seed and grind them after toasting in a mortar and pestle. But most importantly, don’t be afraid to experiment. Taste and adapt as you go. And don’t forget your garnishes! We love giardiniera, but you could equally garnish with good olive oil, smoked paprika, dukkah, whatever strikes your fancy. Top tip: serve with fresh chapati.

Hummus with Red Chilli and Cumin

  • 2 cups chickpeas
  • 2 heaped Tablespoons tahini
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1-2 red chillies (to taste)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • a generous teaspoon of cumin seed, toasted in a dry pan
  • water as needed
  • a good pinch of salt

Method:

  1. Put everything in a good blender and blitz to a smooth consistency, adding more water as needed.
  2. Taste. Does it have enough salt? Lemon? Tahini? Chilli? Add more ingredients to suit your tastes.
  3. Serve with your favourite garnishes, and make sure you make enough for several days – you’re not going to want to stop eating this!