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!

 

Rum and Persimmon Punch

Rum and Persimmon Punch

If you’re like me and spend a lot of time in the fruit aisle at the grocery store, then you’ve probably noticed the arrival of Spanish persimmons, a delicious fruit with a sweet delicate flavour akin to mango. They are available from mid-October until January which makes them all the more precious, and their sweet orange flesh can provide a much welcome burst of sunshine on dark winter days.

For this reason, I decided to showcase them at my recent supperclub in a welcome cocktail featuring rum, lots of lime, and ginger ale. The result is undeniably festive and, when garnished appropriately, looks as beautiful as it tastes. Something to consider for your Christmas and New Year parties. At my party, it even inspired some artwork!

CocktailArt-1

For more information and recipe ideas for persimmons, visit spanishpersimon.co.uk.

Rum Persimmon Punch

Make it a mocktail by skipping the rum and ginger wine!

Preparation: 10 minutes | Serves: 8-10

Ingredients

  • 3 Spanish persimons
  • 3 limes, thinly sliced
  • Juice of 6 limes
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 tbsp dark muscovado sugar
  • 350ml dark rum
  • 150ml ginger wine
  • Ice cubes
  • 1 litre ginger ale
  • Mint sprigs, to decorate

Method

  1. Remove the leafy tops from the persimons, slice the flesh thinly and add to a large punch bowl with the sliced limes, lime juice, cinnamon sticks and muscovado sugar. Allow a few minutes for the sugar to dissolve.
  2. Pour the rum and ginger wine into the punch bowl. Add the ice cubes, then top up with the ginger ale.
  3. Serve in punch glasses or tall glasses, decorated with mint sprigs.

Cook’s tip: You could make this with light golden Barbados rum instead of dark rum – either way, it packs a punch!

Healthy Fermented Gazpacho Soup

Healthy Fermented Gazpacho Soup

The folks from Great British Chefs (for whom I occasionally write) have recently launched a new website called Great Italian Chefs featuring inspiring recipes from the chefs behind Italy’s best restaurants, most of which are admittedly outside of my price range. So it’s reassuring to have some of their recipes collated on one website so that I might try them for myself.

One such recipe was this Healthy Fermented Gazpacho Soup by Fabrizio Marino, head chef at Italy’s only Michelin-starred vegetarian restaurant Joia. I’ve already been having fun experimenting with fermented foods, but my pursuits have largely been limited to sauerkraut, kefir and sourdough.

This soup, made with carrots, beets and celery fermented with umeboshi plum, gave me the opportunity to push my fermentation boundaries. And with the added bonus of smoked celeriac, I learned a bit about about home smoking, too (news flash: it’s easy).

The result? Totally delicious. I served the soup to friends who described it as “amazingly good”. You could serve either the soup on its own or the smoked celeriac on its own – both our amazing in their own right. But the two together are truly a case of the sum being more than the parts.

I definitely recommend having a browse through Great Italian Chefs for Italian inspiration beyond the usual pizza and pasta. These are recipes that will push your boundaries, impress your friends, and reward you with outstanding edible creations that are as beautiful to look at as they are delicious to eat.

Healthy Fermented Gazpacho Soup

  • 200g of carrots, grated
  • 200g of celery, grated
  • 500g of beetroot, raw and grated
  • 1/2 sprig of rosemary
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 2g of salt, plus extra to season
  • 2g of sugar
  • 4g of umeboshi
  • 600g of tomatoes, de-seeded and chopped
  • white wine vinegar
  • extra virgin olive oil

Celeriac croutons

  • 1kg celeriac, peeled and grated
  • 70g of extra virgin olive oil
  • salt
  • 50g of wood chips, cherry wood
  • 8 slices of wholemeal bread, thinly sliced

To plate

  • cress, to garnish
  • 1 stick of celery, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 4 strawberries, sliced
  • extra virgin olive oil

Method

  1. Place the grated vegetables into a bowl along with the herbs, salt, sugar and umeboshi. Transfer the mixture into a vegetable mill and push down to compress the vegetables. Leave to ferment in the fridge for at least two days, until the vegetables develop a slight acidity
  2. Once the fermentation process has finished, remove the vegetables from the fridge and blitz in a blender (I use my trusty Froothie Optimum 9200). Add the seedless tomatoes and blend until you obtain a smooth mix. Pass through a fine sieve and season to taste with a little vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and salt
  3. Place the celeriac in a saucepan and cook for 10 minutes with the lid on. remove from the heat and add a little extra virgin olive oil, salt and allow to cool. When cool, blend the celeriac to a smooth purée and transfer to a metal bowl
  4. Place the wood chips into the bottom of a deep metal tray, then place a wire rack over the top. Rest the bowl of celeriac puree on the wire rack and cover with another metal tray acting as a lid. Transfer this to the hob and heat until the wood chips begin to smoke, then remove from the heat and leave to cool with the bowl still covered
  5. Grease the bread with a little extra virgin olive oil and season with salt. Lightly toast on each side in a hot pan, then spread the celeriac purée onto the bread ready to serve
  6. To serve, pour the gazpacho into a bowl or deep plate. Balance the croutons on tops of the soup and garnish with cress, vegetable cubes, strawberry and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Andy K’s No Bake Protein Bars

No_Bake_Protein_Bars-1

Easy and versatile, these no bake protein bars are perfect fodder for experimentation. Try amping up the spices or adding different dried fruits, nuts and seeds. Be creative! I like a combo of Willie’s 100% Cacao, cranberries, and pecans, with a coating of cacao nibs. Sometimes we even add chilli (dry or fresh).

Credit to my CrossFit Cirencester friend, Andy K, for introducing me to this recipe!

Andy K’s No Bake Protein Bars

  • 2 cups oatmeal
  • 1 cup protein powder (I use Pulsin’s Organic Whey Protein)
  • 1/4 cup almond butter or peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries (or other dried fruit)
  • 1/4 cup almonds (or other nut)
  • 1/4 cup milk (dairy or non-dairy)
  • 1/4 cup apple sauce
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chunks
  • 1/2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • pinch of salt

Method

  1. Mix together dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. In a medium saucepan, warm the wet ingredients and stir until combined.
  3. Mix the dry mixture and the wet mixture together (you can let the wet mixture cool a bit if you don’t want the chocolate to melt).
  4. Place into 8×8 container lined with clingfilm. Use your hands to press flat. Refridgerate until firm, then cut into 6-10 pieces. Keeps for a week.

No_Bake_Protein_Bars-2

The Elderflower Restaurant, New Forest

TheElderflower 2

Good things happen when…

  • You ask to see the chef
  • You go to the New Forest
  • You enthuse
  • You embrace the magic of elderflowers

And so it was. Halloween 2015. Emily and I, elderflower enthusiasts and wearers of capes, happened upon The Elderflower Restaurant in Lymington, following an epic day of mushroom foraging in the New Forest (and a humble pub crawl through this small village). We were already sold on the name, but the atmosphere and the stellar reviews convinced us that we needed to try this place. So we booked in for lunch the next day and experienced a meal that was nothing short of rock & roll.

TheElderflower_Mushrooms

The standout dish was by far the mushrooms served on celariac puree, topped with crispy kale and toasted pine nuts. And while there was some contention about the use of foam on their rhubarb dessert, I maintain that their pudding was the most inventive and delicious execution of rhubarb I’ve ever had, made all the better with fennel-infused Turkish delight.

TheElderflower_Dessert

The food is the work of chef Andrew du Bourg who runs the place with his wife Marjolaine. They are a dream team, and I am particularly grateful to them both for our grand finale: a cocktail lesson featuring their own elderflower cordial, an exchange that wouldn’t have happened were it not for our shared love of this magical perennial plant. (The cocktail later played a role in our Samhain festivities which I may get around to writing about at some point.)

And if all that weren’t enough, The Elderflower has a dessert called “British and French Cheese Journey”. Unfortunately we had a long drive ahead of us and weren’t sure if a full stomach of cheese and wine was really wise for the road. And after all, better to leave wanting more. We’ll be back soon!

The Elderflower Restaurant
4-5 Quay Street
Lymington
Hampshire
SO41 3AS
elderflowerrestaurant.co.uk

smarter fitter supperclub – winter edition

On Friday 4th December we celebrate early sunsets, candlelight, comfort food and winter produce. (Welcome to the dark side…)

Candlelit feast with pleasantly unintrusive live music

Essential information:

  • when: Friday 4th December, 7pm
  • welcome cocktail
  • vegetarian menu
  • awesome people
  • Cotswolds countryside location (near Cirencester)
  • camping optional (but recommended)
  • cost: £30 (or £50 for camping + breakfast)
  • booking: pay by PayPal to monica.shaw@gmail.com

The food

The menu is TBD but the focus will be on comforting, wholesome vegetarian food, much of which will be vegan and gluten-free, too. For a taste of the kind of food I make, check out my pictures on flickr and instagram, read the recap from my last supperclub, or read food with mustard’s review. Any dietary restrictions, just let me know.

Dinner is served

The Venue

The supperclub will be held at my cottage in the countryside, a hidden oasis in the middle of wildflower meadows with an orchard in the backyard and an awesome dog named Lucky. You can get a preview of the grounds and interior in my Airbnb listing. Like all good cottages, mine is cozy and so supperclub seating is limited. Book now to secure your place!

Camping Option

Particularly handy for those who want to get their drink on! And a great opportunity to truly immerse yourself in the Orchard Cottage way of life.

Those of you who would like to stay the night and have breakfast in the morning are welcome to bring a tent and pitch in the backyard. I am really good at breakfasts and encourage you to take advantage of this offer! There will also be a campfire and hopefully s’mores, too!

OCCamping

How to book: 

Pay by PayPal to monica.shaw@gmail.com. Upon receipt of payment I will send you all necessary info and directions on how to get here. Come for the food, stay for the company!

Mushroom Foraging with John Wright

Mushroom Foraging with John Wright
John Wright waxing poetic about one of the 60+ mushroom varieties we found.

Last Friday, I went on a mushroom foray in the New Forest with John Wright from River Cottage. This was a day to experience and appreciate the incredible diversity of this marvellous country. The edible-ness of each variety was a mere side note, for every fungi had a story, as well as beautiful (and sometimes rude!) Latin name. Here are a few choice captures from the day.

Mushroom Foraging with John Wright

My “desert island mushroom”. Hygrocybe conica, Blackening Waxcap. Just beautiful.

Mushroom Foraging with John Wright

Forager’s nip: Épine, a boozy infusion made with blackthorn leaves.

Mushroom Foraging with John Wright

John was with us in photographing the moment. Even for a seasoned forager, the exciting finds never cease.

Mushroom Foraging with John Wright

Best part of the mushroom foray: the stories! And John Wright is an exceptional storyteller.

Mushroom Foraging with John Wright

Edible species: only 4 of the 60+ mushrooms we found were edible. Enough for a fry up at the end of the foray.

Mushroom Foraging with John Wright

Our foraging spirit guide? “Myc” the gnome. He’s a fun guy.

Recommended reading

Carrot Cake Bircher Muesli

Bircher muesli with carrots

This is a riff on my usual bircher muesli recipe, with added carrots and cinnamon. The picture shows almonds in the mix, but feel free to use whatever nuts you have on hand. Walnuts or pecans would be more carrot cakey, but I really like brazil nuts. No cream cheese frosting here, but yogurt makes a delicious and much more nutritious topping. It you want to add extra decadence, try sprinkling with some toasted pecans just before serving.

Carrot Cake Bircher Muesli

Serves 1

  • 50g oats
  • 7g flax seeds
  • 10g raisins
  • 10g nuts
  • wedge of lemon
  • 1 large crisp apple
  • 1 carrot
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • pinch of salt

Method

  1. The night before breakfast, put the oats, flax seeds, raisins and nuts in a bowl and add water until JUST covered.
  2. The next day, grate the carrot and apple. Add to the bowl with a good squeeze of lemon juice and pinch each of cinnamon and salt. Mix well.
  3. Serve with or without toppings – I like mine with yogurt, coconut flakes and sliced banana.
Carrot_Cake_Bircher_Muesli

Bircher muesli in situ… have I mentioned that this breakfast travels brilliantly? And it matches autumn!

Here are a few more creative ways to get your oat fix:

I’m submitting this to the #ExtraVeg linkup hosted by Veggie Desserts, Michelle Utterly Scrummy and Fuss Free Helen. Because mmmm, more veg!!

Green Apple Smoothie with Avocado & Lime

This is a signature smoothie of mine during autumn months when the orchard is in full swing and kale is in season. It’s easily adaptable to suit other fruits and greens (spinach, chard, etc).

I use a juicer and a blender to make this (see my favourite products for making smoothies) but don’t despair of you don’t have a juicer. Just put all the ingredients in your blender (squeeze in the lime juice and cut the ingredients into small blender-friendly pieces) and add water as needed to blend to a smooth consistency.

Green Apple Smoothie

Serves 1

  • 1 large apple (or pear!)
  • 1 stick celery
  • 1/4 cucumber
  • a big handful of spinach or kale
  • 1/2 lime, peeled (or lemon, rind on)
  • small slice of ginger (optional)
  • 1/4 avocado
  • 1 Tbsp psyllium husk (optional; makes it thicker and adds fiber)
  • 5g flax seeds
  1. Juice the apple, celery, cucumber, spinach, lime and ginger.
  2. Put the juice in your blender along with the avocado, psyllium husk and flax seeds. Blend until smooth, about 20 seconds (if using psyllium husk, I suggest waiting for a minute or two and then blending again, as it takes a few minutes for the psyllium to absorb the liquid).
  3. Serve as desired with your favourite garnishes (I like grated carrot, muesli, goji berries, and lots of spirulina!).

My recommended tools for the job: the Froothie Optimum 600 Slow Juicer and Optimum 9200 Blender