Friday, 30 May 2014

Notes on domestic bliss

Apparently The Husband loves granola. I'm not sure where this love affair started but he was going through it at such a rate that I feared for our solvency. As we had been talking about cleaning out the kitchen cupboards for about six months it seemed like a good time to attempt making granola with what we had at hand. 

After a mooch through my cook books, a quick Google and a stock take of the aforementioned kitchen cupboards I was ready to go. I came up with the following formula and it worked a treat. It leaves room for variation dependent on what you have available and of course your personal preference. Apart form a near miss with an open pack of ground turmeric it was really easy to do and once packaged up in a Kilner jar I was left feeling like a premier league domestic goddess. The Husband was impressed.

This is my basic formula which can be customised as you choose:
3 cups of grains
2 cups mixed nuts, seeds, coconut
1/2 cup dried fruit
1/2 cup sweet stuff (honey, agave nectar, maple syrup)
1/2 cup oil (coconut oil, vegetable oil, olive oil)
1 tsp salt

Aoife's granola

2 cups porridge oats
1/2 cup rye flakes
1/2 cup barley flakes 
11/2 cups mixture of pecans, whole almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds
1/2 cup coconut flakes
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
~1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1 tsp salt

1/2 cup agave nectar
1/2 cup sunflower oil

1/2 cup raisins

Preheat the oven to 170C. Mix all the dry ingredients (apart from the dried fruit) together in a big bowl. Mix together agave nectar and sunflower oil in a separate bowl and add to the rest of the ingredients. Mix well (I used my hands) to ensure all the ingredients are well coated. Spread mixture on to a baking tray (I used my grill pan lined with parchment paper) and bake for approximately 30 minutes, stirring and turning regularly, until golden brown. Allow to cool and add the raisins. Store in an airtight container and enjoy.

The Husband likes a big mound of granola with a little yoghurt. I'm more partial to yoghurt topped with granola, fruit and a little blackcurrant syrup. Either way breakfasting on homemade granola is an easy way to propagate domestic bliss.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Eat Cambridge: rhubarb sour

The recent Eat Cambridge festival has left me rich in new food and drink ideas. I'm looking forward to next year's events already although I might have to go a bit easier next year (the three courses of beef at the Pint Shop may have been a step too far).

The main event in The Corn Exchange was great fun. So many fabulous local producers and suppliers. I managed to get my first Pint Shop scotch egg, it was definitely worth waiting for.

I was delighted to have been asked to give a talk on cocktails and I took the chance to sit in on all the talks in the afternoon session I was speaking in. Tim Hayward gave a passionate speech on food trends and I really enjoyed Bev Sedley's talk on sustainable food which gave me a lot to think about. The audience at the Chocolat, Chocolat talk almost revolted when no samples were forthcoming so I was quite relieved I had brought cocktail samples with me.

In fact I had been up early making a big batch of my rhubarb sour cocktail. The things I do for you, Cambridge. I only juice lemons before breakfast for very special people. I wanted to use the talk to describe my fail safe cocktail formula which often gets me out of a tight spot and allows me feel creative and inspired when I'm actually knackered and zombie-like. If you missed my talk (you better have a good excuse) then I suppose I can let you in on the secret:

4 parts alcohol: 2 parts sour: 1 part sweet

That's it. A good example of a classic cocktail that follows this formula is a whiskey sour. There is also a variation:

  2 parts sweet alcohol: 1 part sour

A great classic cocktail which follows this formula is the amaretto sour.

What I love about the formula is that it enables me to use my homemade spirits and simple syrups without having to think too much about creating a brand new cocktail each time. With minimum tasting and tweaking I can produce an extremely tasty cocktail. Some of my most popular combinations are sloe gin, rosehip syrup and lemon juice; blackberry vodka, lemon verbena syrup and lemon juice; blackcurrant vodka, star anise syrup and lemon juice. And then of course, my darling rhubarb: rhubarb vodka (or gin), lemon verbena (or lemon balm) syrup and lemon juice. This is the cocktail that the lucky folk of Eat Cambridge got to taste and they seemed to enjoy it.

I've given away my secret but I hope it inspires you to make a cocktail. It's really not difficult, don't let anyone tell you it is.

rhubarb sour (serves one)

rhubarb vodka or gin 60mL
freshly squeezed lemon juice 30mL
lemon verbena (or lemon balm) infused simple syrup 15mL
3-4 drops rhubarb bitters

Combine all of the ingredients in a large glass or cocktail shaker. Add plenty of ice. Stir until chilled. Strain into a prepared cocktail glass.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Cocktail of the month: sherry cooler

I'm a little bit late getting this post up. Eat Cambridge was so delightful and so busy I haven't had a moment to get my Flavour ramblings down on the page. I'm going to be tying those pieces much more closely to the blog from now on so expect to see more "Cocktail of the Month" blog posts as they come up on Flavour. Don't forget to tune in or subscribe to the podcast, it's lots of fun to chat directly to you.

This month I had a great chat with Alan Alder about sherry and how it might be possible to use it in a light summer cocktail. I do love a good sherry, particularly the light crisp Finos and Manzanillas. At first I thought it might be sacrilege to mix sherry with anything as vulgar as water but with a little bit of research I discovered that sherry has formed the basis of many punches and cobblers throughout cocktail history. Another newsflash for me was that sherry in combination with 7up/sprite (a Rebujito) is an extremely popular drink in Spain. All things considered it was time to try my own version.

When I first started experimenting with this drink, elderflower was just beginning to show its pretty face in the hedgerows near me. By now it should be in full bloom. It really is the perfect time to make some elderflower cordial or perhaps some elderflower liqueur. Or you could just be lazy, like I was this time, and buy some; I won't judge. Either way you need some for this drink.

I was quite surprised just how delicious this drink was when I tried it. The delicious flavour of the sherry comes through but it's well balanced by the lemon and elderflower. It's light and refreshing, the perfect drink for a sunny day in the garden. I'd highly recommend scaling the proportions and making a big jug.

sherry cooler (serves one)

100mL fino sherry
25mL eldeflower cordial
30mL freshly squeezed lemon juice

sparkling water
mint, lemon balm leaves or elderflower blossom to garnish

Combine the sherry, cordial and lemon juice in your glass of choice. Taste at this point and add more lemon juice or cordial as needed. Add plenty of ice and top up with sparkling water. Add any pretty garnishes you have handy.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Easter in New York

Part One: Williamsburg

I think I'm getting a bit obsessed with America. This trip to New York was our fourth trip in five years. After tramping all over California, it was time to go see the relations. Not really such a bad deal when they live in Brooklyn, New York. 

We had such a good time I came back feeling like we had concentrated a month's worth of fabulous company, great food, fantastic sights and wonderful drinks into five days. I'm starting with my favourites from Williamsburg as this was where we stayed and we spent a good bit of time mooching around the neighbourhood.


Now, I'm no stranger to baked goods so I know what I like. Everything here was incredible. I'm glad I don't live next to this place. I would not be able to contain myself. Highlight has got to be the biscuits, like a scone but more buttery (no picture, I ate it too fast).

I got a LOT of reaction when I posted the picture below on twitter. Brioche french toast with candied bacon. Not much more to be said really. I just wish I had more time to go back and try the Eggs Rothko (egg cooked in brioche with cheese on top) which sounded similarly artery clogging and delicious.

Peter Pan Bakery (really in Greenpoint but pretty close to Williamsburg)
The best donuts I've ever had. Light and airy and incredibly addictive. This place is old school. As well as the donuts we sat at the counter with the old timers, drank coffee and ate a flagel stuffed with egg, cheese and tomato. A real highlight of the trip.

Dinner and drinks:

We came here first to have a cocktail in the sunshine in their hidden garden (tipped off by someone in the know). We brought The Relations back to try it out for dinner. Tasty comfort food, delightfully friendly service and a very cosy dining room (I'm a big fan of cosy) made it an all round winner.


Almost overpowering chocolate smells and chocolate production in action right in front of you. A great place to pop in and pick up some goodies.

We were only in the country a couple of hours and we were already tucking into this delicious stuff. I was pretty tired at this point but I think the red one was raspberry peppercorn or something like that. Whatever it was, it was absolutely delicious (not unlike Cambridge's own Jack's Gelato). 

Monday, 5 May 2014

Eat Cambridge 2014

There are so many delights to look forward to at this year's Eat Cambridge festival. Personally, I'm thrilled I've managed to score a spot at Ozzy's Food Photography workshop at Alimentum on Sunday 11th May. I also couldn't resist the Steak and Honour plus Jack's Gelato feast at Fitzbillies on Friday 9th May so that's been booked for a few weeks now. Combined with the Street Food Market on Saturday 10th May, next weekend is looking pretty piggy. The best kind of weekend really.

Of course I have my cocktail talk at the main event to get ready for. I've spent this weekend filtering and bottling some delicious infusions that have been maturing in my cellar (or dining room cupboard if you want to get technical). I'm part of a wonderful line up so it's definitely worth stopping by. What can you expect if you take the plunge and come to hear me speak? Well there will be samples. I can hardly talk about cocktails and not give you a taste. I'm going to describe my scientific (think foolproof formula) for making wonderful cocktails, how I try to get the best out of our local ingredients (drinking Cambridge as I like to call it), coping with cocktail emergencies and the best places to get a cocktail in Cambridge (other than at my house). And if that's not enough, did I mention the samples?

See you on the 17th May at the Guildhall.