Rhubarb Cordial
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Recipe: Homemade Rhubarb Cordial

Homemade Rhubarb Cordial

Homemade Rhubarb Cordial

There is a lot to be said for the sunshine and a big bright sky. It brings cheer after a long harsh winter – and I know I haven’t experienced most of it – but London has become a dour place, and it seems as though as a city, it has been suffering from a severe Seasonal Affective Disorder.

So, what joy the sun brought with its big sky and warm sunshine. Everyone was cheerful and the parks were full. I was inspired to cook something bright and joyful. I wanted fruit and I wanted a refreshing non alcoholic drink. My mind turned to rhubarb cordial.

I love homemade cordials, I have one in my book and make many at home all the time. I finish them off with sparkling water and ice and sip as I work. After work, they sometimes end up in a cocktail.

The cordial I made is a fresh version to be consumed within the week. If you want to preserve it so that it lasts a few months, use citrate (also called citric acid) in place of the lemon (1 teaspoon for the recipe quantity below). Citrate is available in pharmacies generally although no longer in the UK, you can however order it online.

I used bright English rhubarb, not forced rhubarb but normal stuff. It was a lovely bright pink, if broader and tougher than its slender cousin. After a brief period of cooking, the cordial mixture is allowed to strain gently through a fine mesh sieve (or some muslin), releasing the bright pink cordial and leaving the darker fruit fibre behind. This incidentally, is great mixed in with yogurt for breakfast.

This recipe also works really well when you combine it with blood orange or rose extract when you are cooking the rhubarb. I make both, and adore them.

Enjoy! This is so easy and is really so delicious. The vibrant flavour and colour are something that you don’t get in the shop bought stuff, unless you are buying an artisanal one (which is also homemade, just not in your home :)

RECIPE: Rhubarb Cordial
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Some Curling and a Recipe for Hendrick’s Hot Gin Punch

Hendrick's Trip

Curling Stones

Folks, I’ve found my sport. SPORT, on a food blog? Does it help if I tell you we played for haggis? And what about if I told you that what this post is actually about is a recipe for Hendrick’s Hot Gin Punch?

HOT GIN PUNCH? I know, so bear with me while I tell you about, *cough*, sport.

So, sport, eh? I found my sport, and my sport is curling.

I wasn’t happy about the idea of going curling initially, and spent the entire trip there thinking up schemes to get out of it, but one hot gin punch later, I thought I would give it a go.

Chasing a 20kg granite stone up and down the ice with a sweeping brush – I hate them too, almost as much as sport – sounds like a nightmare, but it proved to be fun. The ice won’t allow you to run, or it will take you with a fall, so measured giggly forays up and down the ice with a sweeping brush proved entertaining. SWEEP | SWEEP | SWEEP they called, and sweep I did. We came second.

Hendrick's Trip

Curling for a Haggis

We got to play for a haggis but sadly we didn’t win it. Next time! I hear I can play it in Surrey, and I actually plan to. It is fun you see.

Hendrick's Trip

Second! But I did get to wear this awesome hat.

We thawed out after curling with a delicious Hendrick’s Hot Gin Punch. Magical in many ways, I love that it has been adapted from Charles Dickens’ own recipe. Now, where are my fingerless gloves?!

“Punch, my dear Copperfield, like time and tide, waits for no man”

Hendrick's Trip

Hendrick's Hot Gin Punch

HENDRICK’S HOT GIN PUNCH for 6 people

Three brimming teacups of Hendrick’s gin
Another three of Madeira wine
Three cloves
Pinch of grated nutmeg
Large teaspoon of cinnamon powder
Two teaspoons of brown sugar
Six large lemon and orange twists
Small slice of orange
One fresh pineapple
Four large spoons of honey
Juice of two lemons

Mix all ingredients in a pot. Warm but not quite till ebullition. Let your concoction cook without boiling for 20 minutes to a half hour. While it cooks the taste will change, make it to your own taste balancing the sweet/sour balance with honey and lemon. You can also re warm the mix, sometimes the punch will get better and better as you cook it more and more. When you think it is ready, pour in a teapot and serve hot in tea cups with gingerbread on the side.

Adapted from the original 1850 recipe found in the book Drinking with Dickens by Cedric Dickens, Great-Grandson of Charles Dickens, this recipe is inspired by Charles Dickens’ own gin punch recipe, so it is the etiquette to quote while pouring the first cup: “Punch, my dear Copperfield, like time and tide, waits for no man”, David Copperfield, 1850.

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An Evening with Hendrick’s Gin and Bompass & Parr in Glasgow

Hendrick's Trip

The Hendrick's car with bar in the boot!

Hendrick’s. It’s not for everyone. Or so they say, but really who can resist? I love the stuff.

I quite like gin anyway. I am a big fan of boutique gin operations, as you may have seen, given that I have written about London based Sipsmith before. They love to experiment, as it turns out Hendrick’s do too. The appeal of Hendrick’s for me is the gorgeous complex botanicals and the freshness and aromatics introduced by the rose and cucumber notes  that are added post distillation. There are many other botanicals in there too like elderflower and coriander, but more on that later. More than anything, I do love the Hendrick’s G&T with ice and a slice (of cucumber). Try it sometime.

Hendrick's Trip

The flying cucumber at the front of the Hendrick's car

Recently, I found myself in Glasgow for a dinner which brought together an explosive pairing: Hendrick’s Gin and London’s own Bompass & Parr. Picked up at the airport by a gin mobile, the fabulous Hendrick’s car, complete with a rose for gear stick, a silver cucumber with wings on the front, and a bar in the boot – yes – BAR IN THE BOOT, we started our morning with a G&T with ice and that slice in the airport car park. I was won over.

Hendrick's Trip

Bath of Hendrick's G&T with cucumber & rose

For dinner we were whisked to a stately home outside Glasgow where we were greeted by the eccentric and well wrapped Lord Von Hendricks, smoking jacket and all. Cocktails were served initially from a bath in the entrance hall filled with G&T, slices of cucumber and rose petals. Gorgeous.

Hendrick's Trip

Lord Von Hendrick's with his highly strung wife

Hendrick's Trip

Trusty nervy lieutenant

A tour through the house with his trusty, although slightly useless staff, somewhat highly strung wife, and lieutenant in tow, brought us to the Bompass & Parr canapés and more lovely gin cocktails. Favourites were the Hendrick’s cured salmon, and the tongue-in-cheek take on a chicken nugget, whole breaded quail breast with cucumber jam.

Hendrick's Trip

Hendrick's Gin Punch

Hendrick's Trip

Whole Breaded Quail Breasts with Cucumber Jam

Hendrick's Trip

Dinner in the wonderful kitchen

Dinner was in the kitchen, a most beautiful room that I could happily live in and never need for anything else. We had a two course meal (we had had rather a lot of the canapés) at a large table, dressed with pink and green jars and two pigs heads (freakishly with glass eyes), catered by Bompass & Parr with two Hendricks’s cocktails to match.

Hendrick's Trip

Crab Starter

Hendrick's Trip

Hendrick's Cucumber Sours

We started with a light crab dish with cucumber jelly, cucumber and tomato served with a deliciously tart celery sour, slick with egg white. Not too much at all, I loved this, and it was necessarily light, as the main course, and cocktail were quite meaty.

Hendrick's Trip

Bath chaps, boiled potato bones with mushroom marrow and chestnuts with fried salsify, Hendrick’s mustard and Hendrick’s picallili

Hendrick's Trip

Hendrick's Bullshot - Hendrick's Gin with Beef Consommé

Mains were bath chaps, boiled potato bones with mushroom marrow and chestnuts with fried salsify, Hendrick’s mustard and Hendrick’s picallili. A wonderful play on food with the potato looking like a bone complete with marrow. The bath chaps were a resurrection of an old recipe from, yes, Bath, are the lower half of pig cheeks, and these were tender, falling apart at the touch of a fork. The star of the show though was the carnivorous Bullshot, billed as a Matador’s Dream of Hendrick’s Gin with beef consommé. The rich, oily beef consommé provided an intense partner for the Hendrick’s gin and the meal. It was delicious but intense, almost too much. I loved it though, and it sparked the table, polarising opinion as it went.

Hendrick's Trip

Bompass & Parr

Hendrick's Trip

Er... some scientists :)

We retired to another room for dessert and indulged in a selection of Bompass & Parr gin jellies, and candyfloss Hendrick’s gin cocktails.

Hendrick's Trip

Hendrick's Candy Floss Cocktails

Hendrick's Trip

Bompass & Parr Jellies

Hendrick's Trip

Piper

It was a wonderful evening, so much fun, so much great food and drink. And I am sorry that I can’t share it further by letting you know how you can go sometime soon. BUT, I did get some of the recipes and I will blog some tomorrow. One will be perfect for this weather, Hendrick’s Hot Gin Punch. :)

Thanks to Hendrick’s and Bompass & Parr for a wonderful evening. Do keep an eye out for the events they host in London, like the recent Hendrick’s Horseless Carriage.

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For What Ails You: Lemon, Ginger & Honey Tea

Lemons & Limes @ Borough Market, London

I’ve been ill again. I don’t ever remember a time in my life where I have had such a succession of bugs and annoyances. This time, the visitor was a most unwelcome norovirus, commonly known as the winter vomiting bug. I am sure there are much better ways of describing it, it is the most vicious, invasive, overwhelming bug that I have had the misfortune to be slayed by. It brought me around to thinking about the food that we eat when we are sick, to get better.

Everyone has their particular favourites, some offer comfort from childhood, most are family remedies. Often they make no sense at all. Almost everyone seems to turn to fizzy drinks when ill. Even me. And I won’t touch them when I am not ill, unless they are partnering a spirit. The sugar is good, and some like ginger ale have ginger, but isn’t it better to go straight to source and make a fresh ginger tea?

Now, I know it sounds laborious, and when your sick, struggling to the loo is probably the most you can manage, but it’s easy, quick, delicious, and it’s of enormous benefit in times of tummy upset. Ginger relieves nausea, stimulates digestion, relieves gas and bloating and helps stop diarrhoea. Lemon juice with honey aids bowel movement. Honey is soothing for distressed throats and oesophaguses. Lemon is alkalinizing for a poor acidic stomach, this means it neutralizes the acid, or at least starts to.

This is not insipid like a herbal tea from a tea bag, it’s full of flavour and texture. I drink this regularly, as it’s really tasty and comforting,  I find it especially soothing at times like these.

Want to make it? Per mug I make mine with fresh ginger, peeled and sliced, about an inch of it, the juice of half an organic unwaxed lemon and a teaspoon of honey. I top this up with hot water, leave to infuse for a few minutes and drink slowly.

Everything that passes my mouth now has intense diplomatic negotiations to face once they hit the stomach, and the folks down there are slow and gurgly. They like this lemon, ginger and honey tea though. It seems about the only thing that has diplomatic immunity at the moment!

What do you eat and drink when ill?

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A Perfect Evening for Mulled Wine

Mulled Wine

If lazing and grazing were a sport, I would be a gold medallist. I treat it as an art form. Cosied up in the finest of fleece pjs, I slink around, from bed to kitchen to sofa, and many other possible permutations, munching on treats, planning the savouries, brewing some coffee, and catching up with myself, my books and some films.

Lazy? I am afraid so. In my defence, I have been so horribly busy that I have had no time to laze, and not much time to graze for many months now, so I am making up for lost time. In fact it’s an absolute necessity, I’ve reached the point that if I don’t stop volunatarily, my body will make the decision for me, and I will get ill. I can feel it in my bones.

What a perfect day St Stephen’s Day is for this (we don’t have Boxing Day here in Ireland). After the build up and heavy weight of expectation that preceeds Xmas Day, the sluggishness following the epic Xmas feast and the mellow crevice that is the 26th is most welcome.

Traditionally in our house, we went to Cork to visit Grandparents and relatives. We loved it when we got there but the departure was always traumatic. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was always on TV and we were always distraught at missing it, even though we’d seen it many times. I still love that film, it’s the perfect balance of good and sinister with bright colours, sweets, songs, oompa loompas, what’s not to love? Let’s not speak of the Tim Burton version.

More than any of the above, St Stephen’s Day was always about the ham sandwich, with leftover Christmas ham in bread. We never had leftover Turkey, I was always envious of those who had, but ham we had a lot of, and on arrival in my Grandmothers house we would be greeted with a plate of it.

We would watch the Wren Boys arrive, an old Irish tradition, where children would dress up, and parade around with a fake captured wren on a stick, and knock on the door singing “The wren, the wren, the king of all birds, St Stephens day got caught in the furs”. They would be rewarded with some money, and we would look on enviously. It seemed like a second Halloween to us, but the tradition is very localised, much celebrated in Cork and Kerry, but not so much in Waterford, where I am from.

Those days are gone now and we spend Stephen’s Day at home, but we still have the ham, and better still goose. Leftover roast potatoes, some oxtail this year, and stuffing. Chocolate cake, which I keep sweeping past and cutting slivers off, convincing myself that it’s not very much, then washing it down with a truffle.

For perfect lazing and grazing, I reach for the cheese (Irish of course), spiced nuts, hot port and mulled wine. Hot port is a traditional Winter drink in Ireland and you can get it in every pub. It’s a warming and comforting drink, how I wish the tradition would catch on in the UK. I make them at home, and on occasion treat myself to one at The French House in Soho, the only pub I know in London that serves them. Anyone know any others? I have my own recipe for spiced nuts but that’s for another day.

Today I am all about the mulled wine. Fiona Beckett posted a lovely piece about mulled wine here, and I have followed her advice,  but my recipe includes some of my own additions. I love the fragrance of fresh bay leaves and nutmeg in addition to the cloves, cinnamon and star anise. I also like to include a whole tangerine per bottle, tangerines are so Xmas-y, and I love the citrus and the sweetness.

I wholeheartedly agree with Fiona, never mull a wine that you wouldn’t drink, the same goes for cooking. If it tastes bad before you cook it, it ill still taste bad after, so don’t. Today I am using a Montepulciano D’Abruzzo, it carries the spices & fragrances nicely and has enough body to stand up to them. I use whatever port I have to hand, a nice rich one, today a vintage one, about a wine glass full, roughly 175ml.

I stud the tangerine with about ten cloves, and cut it in half, adding it to one bottle of wine, 175mls port, a cinnamon stick, one star anise, a fresh bay leaf and a little fresh grated nutmeg. Be warned, the nutmeg grated finely will be floating in the end product so if you don’t like it, leave it out. I think it’s worth it for the flavour. To sweeten, about 4tbsp of caster sugar will do, although this is to taste and depends on the wine and your own preference. Bring to the boil, and leave to infuse for half an hour or so. Pour through a sieve and heat the wine gently, taking care not to boil the alcohol off, and serve.

Perfect Xmas fare with minced pies, cheese, spiced nuts. Also on its own with a cheesy Xmas movie :)  Enjoy!

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And I’m back…

Hola! I went awol there, apologies. An unintended break and longer than expected, life intervened, as it tends to do. I’ve been busy with work, on a particularly demanding project which has just wound up. Work aside, I have been personally busy, lots of events, visitors and unpacking (still ongoing and in the slowest manner possible – I have a mental block with it!).

I am in the process of making some changes here too, but it’s taking a little time so watch this space. I failed to write the last two (was it three?) monthly round ups, this was deliberate because it felt like I wasn’t blogging enough throughout the month to do them, but I will resume next month. It seemed senseless to start summarising so few posts.

This little blog had it’s second blogiversary, which, in the flurry of activity that was last month, went unnoticed. Happy Birthday Blog! I also celebrated my birthday and my first niece was born the day before. I visited an English vineyard, found a new favourite curry house, went to Dine with Dos Hermanos at Casa Brindisa. And that’s just the tip of it.

What a month! Brilliant.

7 hour roast shoulder of pork

My birthday deserves a mention, and only for the food. I roasted a magnificent pork shoulder over 7 hours, and roasted a leg of lamb with anchovy, garlic and rosemary. I’ll blog the details soon. We washed it all down with lots of cremante, prosecco and rhubarb, rose & raspberry bellini’s with a sprinkling of eighties music. Bonnie Tyler, anyone? There’s a story behind that, but I’ll not get into it now. I had planned elderflower bellinis but failed to finish the syrup in time, having started it, oh 3 hours before the party. Doh. I tidied up the weekend with some more rhubarb bellinis in the park the next day with a gorgeous sunny picnic, I love the urban decadence and I plan to fill the summer with such days. I do need to even out the horror of a farmer’s tan that I acquired that day!

roast leg of lamb with anchovy, garlic and rosemary

Roast leg of lamb with anchovy, garlic & rosemary

Roast leg of lamb with anchovy, garlic & rosemary

Lots of other stuff happened. London Food & Drink Bloggers, we now have a group on Ning, do come join us if you aren’t there already. We had a fantastic wine tasting with Catavino at The Westbridge recently, and lots more similar events to come. Gabriella wrote a great post about it here.

Rhubarb & Raspberry Bellini

But, what of the bellini? You’ve been reading for ages now and still no recipe? Apologies, here it is. It’s freeform, but really, it’s easy, I promise. Trust your nose. I experimented lots with the bellini so keep an eye out for more recipes incl. elderflower bellinis. Yum!

Ingredients:

Some rhubarb, chopped into 1 inch chunks (4 or 5 sticks will suffice, but make as much as you like, this is great with yogurt etc. too)
Raspberries, 1 per bellini
Sugar, to taste
Rosewater to taste
Some nice fizzy, prosecco recommended

Method:

Boil the chopped rhubarb with some sugar and water. It will start to come apart after 5 minutes or so. Add sugar to taste.
Allow to cool and add rosewater until you get a hint of fragrance. Depending on how much rhubarb you have, you may need to add a lot. I had to add half a bottle or so!
Add a raspberry to your champagne flute (or wine glass if you’re going to the park like me and don’t want to risk your crystal!), crush with a teaspoon.
Add about twice the amount of rhubarb.
Top up with prosecco, or whatever sparkling wine you are using.
Enjoy the rest of your decadent day with many more bellinis!