Pimms Winter Carrots

Before I forget. Last night we had Christmas Eve again, and I bought some little salmon en croute parcels (which were actually fairly boring). They had ginger and spinach in them, and I'd decided on quite plain veg, with steamed new potatoes, frozen peas, and a dish of carrots. I'd bought the carrots already cut in batons, with the intention of poaching them in fruit juice and a bit of butter. In went the ends of the nice juices in the fridge – ruby breakfast, orange, and clementine. A sprinkling of salt, and a knob of butter. Looking at the salmon and thinking it would be quite dry, I wanted to keep the carrots wet with a lot of juice to make a sauce. And I thought I'd pep it up a bit as well. On the way to the spice cupboard I passed the drinks bar still laid out from New Year, and sat right at the front was a bottle of Pimms No 3, the winter brandy-based one with orange and spices. A few good slugs of that, some at the beginning and a bit more at the end to freshen the sauce. Brilliant.

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Chicken Liver Parfait

Another one based on Glynn Christian's Pies, Pates and Terrines. Scaled up, with variations. Makes a beautiful smooth mild creamy pate, great for parties. Keeps well in the fridge if sealed with fat on the top.

  • 150 gms butter
  • 1 medium size onion, finely chopped (about 6 oz)
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 750 gms chicken livers, cleaned, but left whole (3 tubs if you bought frozen)
  • 5 fl oz double cream (or possibly more, you want about 6 tablespoons of whipped cream by the end)
  • seasoning and flavourings, see below
  • butter / goose fat to seal

Melt the butter, in a fairly big heavy frying pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook gently until soft but not coloured, don't let the butter scorch. Add the chicken livers, and cook for about 5 minutes – don't stir them or poke them about, just let them set in the warm butter. They should still be pink inside. After 5 minutes, turn them over once, so the pink side is down, and turn the heat off. This is important now, let the mixture cool, not until it's set solid, but so that the fat is thickening and it's definitely not warm. It can easily take over two hours, especially if your kitchen is warm, so go find something else to do. Process in the whizzy-thing until perfectly smooth – the solidifying fat gives a good air content and a moussey texture. Whip the cream until thick, in a big bowl. Fold in the pate mix, and your chosen flavourings. Salt of some kind is good, and about 6 tablespoons of some kind of liquid – alcohol is usual.

Today I'm using brandy and crushed green peppercorns, but we've also had pernod and dried tarragon, prunes and calvados, or any plumped-up dried fruit left over after making flavoured vodkas.

Smooth into a serving dish, with a bit of room left at the top. Melt butter, let the solids sink to the bottom, and pour the clear fat onto the top to seal. You can put bits of greenery into that to decorate, or peppercorns, or whatever. Or you can just melt butter and poultry fat together, and use that. Make sure it's well covered to seal. Keep in the fridge, I think it's best left for a day or so to mature the flavours.

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Baileys Custard Brioche

This is back to the severe naughtiness with Drambuie Eggy Croissants, just a different twist. Again from a Baileys ad, in Good Food December 2005. Serves 4.

 

  • 100 ml Baileys
  • 2 medium eggs and 1 egg yolk
  • 25 gms light brown sugar
  • 50 ml milk
  • 4 brioche finger rolls, sliced in half lengthways
  • 25 gms unsalted butter
  • Clotted cream and Chinese 5-spice powder to serve

Whisk eggs, yolk, sugar, Baileys and milk together until smooth.

Soak brioche for 20 mins, starting with the cut side down and turning over once.

Heat the butter and fry, 10 mins, starting cut side down and turning over once, til golden on both sides.

Top with cream and dust with spices.

This could be really gross. It doesn't have the orange tartness in the Drambuie version, which has orange zest in it as well. And it could be really sickly. But on the other hand …

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Drambuie

I just lurve Drambuie. I drank a whole bottle one night, on a St Patrick's Day in a jazz bar in St Paul. I thought I was starting off well with a black coffee at around 5 pm, but a friend of mine of an Irish persuasion turned up and ordered a double to go in it, and the night spiralled from there. And I had quite a lot at one of John's birthday evenings, may even have been the one the night before we had to go and queue up at stupid o'clock to get our wedding licence for the time and date we wanted. But since the diabetes it's been a no-go, at least in quantity. A small glass in the winter, sometimes. It's one of those drinks that suits being served hot or ice-cold, but even cold I don't seem to have a taste for it in the summertime.

I've had it with whisky as a Rusty Nail, but not tended to use it overmuch as a cocktail ingredient. However, I have found these. An advertorial for the stuff, in fresh magazine, June 2005.

Dolce Vita – three parts of champagne to one D and sprinkle with cinnamon

Vanilla Spice – shake one part D, one part vanilla vodka, one and half parts cranberry juice

Mojito – squeeze half a lime into two parts D, add six mint leaves and a large dash of tonic or soda

Passion – two parts D, one part passion fruit puree, one part apple juice and a dash of lime

Summer Sizzler – one part D, one part Pimms, lemonade to taste (or try ginger ale)

I can see the champagne one working, the vanilla and cranberry sounds revolting, the lime / mint would be good but where's all the muddling and messing about? Passion could be sickly, but bunging it into Pimms might work. I have a Winter Pimms lurking downstairs, it might go even better with that.

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Vodkas (and extensive menu suggestions)

Another one from Umrats. We've since wandered off into dessert vodkas – Turkish Delight, Mint Matchmakers, jelly babies … My favourite is still dill and garlic, though.

We use Kilner-type jars, which makes it easier to drain the vodka off the flavourings if it is getting too strong. Jars with metal lids don't work, as the metal gets eaten away.

For the Thai one, we used a large jar, and added a knob of ginger about as big as the ball of your thumb, sliced up, two stems of lemon grass, crushed, the shredded peel of one lime, two roughly chopped chillies, seeds and all. We did say that next time we would add some basil and maybe a little honey, and if you're not partial to chilli you could reduce it to one and/or leave the seeds out. That took about two-thirds of a bottle of vodka. Cheap is fine, in fact it would be a waste of the good stuff. Something from your local backstreet offy or off the back of a Ford transit is good, provided the alcohol count is high.

Stick booze in with flavourings, seal and put in the dark and cool for about a week, shaking every day. If it seems to have picked up enough flavour, you can decant it and label it, or leave it for longer if you like. If you're in a hurry, you can mix it all straight in the bottle and keep in the freezer, which speeds it all up by breaking down the cellular structure of the organic material in the flavourings, and takes about 24 hours rather than the full week.

If you've used sweet or fruit flavours (berries, melon, etc.) you can keep the fruits after they've marinaded and use them for filling gateaux, roulades, or as ice-cream toppings.

The Russian way to drink it is with zakuski, which is their idea of starters. Every other New Year we have a Russian evening, with a great variety of vodkas, and lots of little foods – last year's draft menu was:

Zakuski (Starters)

* Whole cold salmon with orange hollandaise
* Whole Ham baked with seed and mustard crust
* Hot chicken/turkey Satsivi (mild walnut korma)
* Hot meatballs in plum and cinnamon sauce
* Hot meatballs in sour cream and paprika sauce
* Hot meatballs in dill pesto
* Mushroom pirogi (little pies)
* Cabbage pirogi with caraway seed crust
* Onion and egg pirogi
* Cheese pirogi

Salads including beetroot in sour cream, beetroot with walnut, cucumbers, mushrooms, celery, radishes, egg, potato, green salad.

Pates including Mushroom and Bulgar (cracked wheat), *Chicken Liver, Celebration Cheese Pate.

Cold Meats.

Smoked Fish including *Smoked Mussels, *Smoked Oysters, Smoked Salmon.

Variety of marinated herrings.

Breads and biscuits including pumpernickel, rye bread, cheese straws, plain bread.

Pickles & Sauces including *Mushrooms, *Pickled Pears, *Sweet Spiced Prunes, Dill Pickles, Mustard and Dill Sauce, Cranberry Sauce.

Cheeseboard.

There is no main course.

Desserts

*Individual Rum Babas
*Double Chocolate Rasberry Truffle Cake
*Mazurek (Polish Christmas Glace Fruit Bars)
*Cold Rice Pudding with Hot Cherry Sauce
*Stem Ginger Trifle
Non-alcholic trifle for kids
Fresh fruit.

Flavoured vodkas we have on the go are:

Lemon and lime
Sour cherry
Dill
Peach
Cinnamon
Caraway
Chilli
Thai
and there will be some sweet gloopy vodka-based liqueurs as well.

(end of menu)

The vodka is stored in bottles in the freezer, so it is served ice-cold and accumulates a coating of solid ice as the condensation on the outside of the bottle refreezes.

The eldest person at the table starts by making a toast, and then the toasts go around the table. For each toast you pick a mouthful-sized bit of food, and an appropriately flavoured vodka. (This is where the dill and garlic vodka comes in, it is fantastic with smoked salmon.) To make sure the flavours meld properly, you:

1) breathe in
2) knock back the vodka in one
3) pop the food in your mouth
4) breathe out slowly through your nose
5) chew and swallow
6) start again

The flavoured fumes pass over the taste sensors in your nose and mix with the food. Pick the wrong choice and you're in big trouble … toffee and chocolate vodka does not go with cabbage in sour cream sauce, trust me on this one!

Some of the sweet ones are excellent: we mixed a melon vodka with green ginger wine, or made more "artificial" ones using industrial food flavourings supplied by a friendly chemist. There's a Delia recipe for glace / crystallised fruit soaked in Madeira, which works on the same principle, but where the fruit is the main end result, not the liquid.

If you want to add to the finished product, you can add honey or a sugar syrup for sweetness, glycerine for a more solid, gloopy, liqueur-type texture. If it is fake liqueurs you're after, try the flavour concentrate they sell next to the coffee in good supermarkets, or in independent coffee shops – in America you used to be able to get concentrates that told you in Very Broad Hints what they were mimicking, with instructions about which base booze to add them to.

Experimentation is the key to fun!

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