Tag Archives: vinegar

MANDARIN-BASIL SHRUB

Mr Colonial Cravings here, writing a guest post on my wonderful wife’s excellent blog! (you see I get to benefit from the fruits of Mrs Colonial Cravings efforts, so I really do think it’s excellent!)

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A few years ago, while in a sleepy Cornish town, I was party to a very British tradition, the pub lock-in. My ticket to such a prestigious event lay with the old bar piano, on which I had been entertaining the locals with increasingly messy versions of Delilah, Your Song and Hey Jude (amongst other less memorable sing-alongs), increasingly messy because the locals had been plying me with the traditional Cornish tipple Rum & Shrub. I came away with an almighty hangover, but also with a taste for this new delightful beverage, and its similar cousin Brandy & Lovage.

Not only do they taste great, but they have a great story too. Shrubs have been around for a long time, according to ‘The Ark of Taste’ it was a colonial drink whose name derives from the Arabic word sharab, to drink, but by the time they arrived in Cornwall they took on their own unique purpose. Cornwall was a hot-spot for smuggling due to its abundance of coastline littered with many small coves, and one of the big items to smuggle was booze, in the form of French Brandy and Caribbean Rum. Trying to get a barrel of booze, in the dark, onto a small boat, into a small cove in the notoriously fickle seas around Cornwall could easily result in a dunk in salt water leaving you with a tainted product. No problem, just adding some Shrub or Lovage would mask that salty taste – proper job (as they say in Cornwall!).

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Anyway, fast forward to the present and I find in our new stateside home that Shrub is back again, and back with a vengeance. I’ve even got a book on it now and have found out you can make all kinds of yummy shrubs by combining fruit, vinegar, sugar, water and herbs. So Mrs Colonial Cravings asked me to have a play with a new shrub concoction and write a post about it. This is a simple shrub combining mandarin and basil, it’s incredibly easy to make and can be used in all sorts of drinks both alcoholic and non-alcoholic.

Ingredients

2 mandarins
lots of basil (at least 20 leaves)
100g sugar
120ml white wine vinegar

Remove the zest from the fruit, trying to keep the amount of white pith to a minimum. Muddle the zest thoroughly with the basil and the sugar before covering and leaving it for 1 hour (this allows the sugar to extract the citrus oils from the zest).

Combine the oily sugar mix with the squeezed juice of the fruit and the vinegar. Stir it well so that the sugar dissolves and then strain the liquid into a clean jar and give it a good shake. Put the shrub in a cool dark spot and leave it for a couple of days for the flavours to mellow and mingle together. When it is ready store it in the fridge until you want to use it, the sugar and vinegar combined with the cold of the fridge should keep it fresh for a long time (although ours only lasted 6 weeks because we’d drank it all by then!)

Now you have your shrub there are many ways to use it, here are a few suggestions we tried but I’d encourage you to get creative and try others too.

Elderflower & Mandarin Martini – try this sophisticated drink for size.

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Ingredients

2 parts shrub
4 parts gin
1 part elderfllower cordial

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice, shake and then strain into martini glasses. Add a simple garnish of basil for presentation.

New-Fangled – my take on an Old Fashioned!

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Ingredients

1 part shrub
2 parts bourbon
1 tsp honey
2 dashes of bitters

Warm the honey so it will dissolve more easily and then combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker (without ice), shake and then serve over ice in a rocks glass. Add a twist of mandarin peel for presentation.

Mandarin-Basil Mocktail – even the kids can get involved in this one, it makes a very sophisticated and refreshing take on a soft-drink.

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Serves 2

1.5 oz shrub
1 tsp demerara sugar
big handful of basil
soda water

Muddle the basil (keep some leaves for garnish) with the sugar in a jug (or directly in the glasses if they’re sturdy). Add the shrub and then slowly add the soda water to keep the fizz. Serve in glasses with a garnish of basil leaves.

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SMALL BATCH BALSAMIC FUDGE

home made balsamic fudge

Regular readers may have noticed that I do love to make no-churn ice cream recipes. These recipes are great but, unless I make a double batch,they do always leave me with half a tin of condensed milk languishing in the back of my (cavernous American-style) fridge. This is quite a good solution to the ‘problem’.

Fudge making is somewhat of a Christmas tradition with my friends back home, every year we make a huge batch to give to our families. I have to confess that it’s not always that successful. It frequently ends up like grainy Scottish tablet rather creamy fudge. I think that this is partly because we try to make such big quantities in one go (never advisable) and partly because it’s also traditional for us to drink mulled wine whilst we make it which results in rather half-hearted beating.

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This is definitely the creamiest fudge I’ve ever produced. I think that like adding lime juice to Key lime pie fillings, the vinegar helps to thicken the fudge mixture. Mr Colonial Cravings favourite Hotel Chocolat chocolates are the balsamic caramels so I know that this will have at least one fan.
You can, of course, just use milk in the mixture but I like to add a touch of cream – you can take the girl out of the West Country but you can’t take the West Country out of the girl…

Ingredients

Cuts into 12 big pieces

200g condensed milk
55g butter
125g soft brown sugar
100g granulated sugar
40ml milk
35ml cream
1 tsp vanilla paste
1 tbsp good balsamic vinegar

Combine everything but the vanilla and the balsamic vinegar in a sizeable pan and melt it together over a low heat. Stir it constantly to make sure that the sugar is completely dissolved.
Increase the heat a little and bring the mixture to boiling point. Continue to stir it (carefully, you don’t want to splash hot molten fudge on yourself!) to stop the mixture catching on the bottom of the pan and burning. Let the mixture bubble for about 10 minutes, it should darken a little and have reached ‘soft ball’ stage when it’s done. You can check for ‘soft ball’ using a sugar thermometer or by dropping a little of the mixture into some ice-water. It should form, you guessed it, a soft ball.
Remove the pan from the heat, ideally put it on a cool, heat proof surface and start to beat the life out of the fudge. I have granite counter tops which are usually quite cool so I put the pan on them and find that it does speed up this process a little. After about a minutes beating add in the vanilla and then the vinegar.

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As you beat, the fudge the mixture should cool and thicken, it’ll be ready about five minutes after you think that you can’t possible beat it for any longer. Sorry, I promise it’ll be worth it.
Pour the thickened and cooled mixture into an appropriately sized (depending on how thick you want it to be) tin or dish, lined with parchment, and spread it out into a thick layer. Leave the fudge to set and become completely firm before cutting into squares and removing from the tin.

home made balsamic fudge

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BROWN SUGAR PAVLOVA with Autumn fruits

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Our last guests of this year visited us for our first Thanksgiving. I have done a bit of research into traditional Thanksgiving dishes to give me some inspiration for what to cook on the big day. To be honest some of the dishes scared me a little bit – I’m not really convinced that mini-marshmallows should ever be part of a main course.

Pumpkin pie seems to be the traditional pudding for the day but I think a lighter after dinner treat will be more popular following a hearty roast dinner. I often feel the same way about Christmas Pudding after Christmas dinner.
I still wanted to make something appropriate to what is essentially a harvest festival though. I have many fond memories of spending early Autumn days blackberry picking with my Grandma and they lend wonderful colour to this dessert. The pears add a little bit of freshness and textural interest and also seem suitably Autumnal.

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I love the idea of using brown sugar instead of white in Pavlova. It gives it a really lovely toffee flavour and an extra chewy texture which, again gives a really nice seasonal twist to this classic summer dessert.

Ingredients
serves 8

Meringue
2 egg whites
50g castor sugar
50g soft brown sugar
1 tsp cornflour
1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar

Filling
2 pears
120g blackberries
2 tbs port
2 tbs + 1 tsp sugar
300ml water

300ml double cream (whipped)

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Pre-heat the oven to 130°c.
Using a large, spotlessly clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks. Mix together the two types of sugar and whisk them into the egg whites in three or four batches. Keep whisking until the sugar has dissolved into the egg and it is smooth, glossy and stiff.
Pipe or spoon the meringue into a large circle on a baking sheet lined with grease-proof paper. Bake for two hours and then leave it on the tray to cool and dry completely.
Peel and core the pears and cut each into eight pieces. Dissolve 2 tablespoons of sugar in the water and simmer the pears in it for about 5 minutes until they are tender. Drain and set aside.
Cook the blackberries in the port for a few minutes then remove from the pan and mix them with the pears. Reserve the juice and add 1 teaspoon of sugar to this cooking liquor and reduce it until it is thick and syrupy.

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It’s best to wait to assemble everything until just before serving, or it can go a little soggy. Fill the meringue base with cream and pile on the fruit before drizzling on a little of the syrup. Elegant, and more importantly, yummy!

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TOMATO AND CHILI JAM

There is a café in Bath called Jika Jika that serves a breakfast burrito that can stand up to even the most tenacious hangover – I know, I’ve tested it on many an occasion.

This burrito is made using the most delicious tomato jam I’ve ever tasted. I don’t know if they make it there or if they buy it, but it is wonderful. Sweeter than a salsa but less vinegary than a chutney it’s almost like a mildly spicy chunky ketchup. What ever it is I miss it and I need it back in my life!

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This isn’t quite as good as the one from Jika Jika but for a first attempt it’s certainly not bad. I should imagine that the results will vary a bit depending upon the type of tomatoes that you use. I made mine with some quite large plum tomatoes simply because they were cheap but I think maybe next time I would be better off using cherry tomatoes to give a slightly deeper flavour.

This is, of course, a good way of using up those end-of-season fruits if you’re a bit of ‘Good Life’ grow-your-own type.

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Ingredients

makes two small jars (about 800ml)

1kg tomatoes

150g shallots

150g soft light brown sugar

1 large red chili

2 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tsp mustard seeds

1/2 tsp ground cumin

salt and pepper to taste (about 1/2 tsp each)

Dice the shallots and cut the tomatoes into smallish chunks. Finely chop the chili, leaving the seeds and membrane in if you like a little more heat, removing them if you want it milder.

Put all of the ingredients into a large, heavy based saucepan and mix well.

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Bring to the boil over a moderate heat and let the mixture gently bubble away for an hour to an hour and a half, stirring occasionally to ensure that it doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan.

Once it’s cooked you should have a syrupy, pulpy mush, which I realise doesn’t sound very appealing but it honestly is very tasty. Because this is the love-child of a relish, a chutney and a jam you don’t need to worry about it reaching a setting point.

Pour into sterilised jars, top with a wax disc and seal whilst it’s still warm.

As I’ve only just made my first batch I’m afraid I can’t really tell you how well this keeps but be sure to store it in the fridge once it’s been opened.

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Enjoy as a condiment with everything; cheese, sausages, burgers, falafel, tofu, tacos, eggs, cold meats, pies…the possibilities are endless.

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RASPBERRY RIPPLE MERINGUES with no-churn basil ice cream

I’ve always been a little bit in awe of those beautiful satiny pillow sized swirly meringues that you find in expensive delicatessens and continental patisseries. They are so stunning to look at it almost seems a shame to plunge a spoon into them and break them up. Somehow the promise of a chewy, marshmallowy centre always persuades me though. Obviously you can use other flavourings for the swirl in these. Chopped chocolate and cocoa powder work as do other fruit coulis.

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My basil plant has got itself all over-excited so I’ve been trying to think of a more interesting way of utilising it than a bog standard pesto.

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I’ve been a convert to basil ice cream ever since I had my first taste of it at Terre a Terre in Brighton. They served it with raspberry sorbet and strawberries dressed with balsamic vinegar. Serving it with something sweetly acidic really compliments the flavour of the basil. Even if you aren’t the meringue making type I would recommend that you serve this ice cream with either strawberries or raspberries in some form.

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I would love to thank whoever worked out that mixing cream and condensed milk results in flawless ice cream without having to put all that effort into remembering to beat it every few hours. Don’t get me wrong, for me very few things can surpass a ‘properly’ home made ice cream. My Mum makes a spectacular vanilla ice cream and if you drop enough hints also a wonderful Christmas pudding ice cream (does this count as a hint?) This cheats version requires a lot less effort, forward planning and ingredients so I have to say it wins me over every time.

Serves 4

Raspberry Ripple Meringues

Ingredients

Raspberry Coulis

100g fresh or frozen raspberries

15g icing sugar

Meringue

2 egg whites

1 tsp corn flour

100g caster sugar

1/2 tsp vinegar

Using a small saucepan cook the raspberries with the icing sugar until soft and a little mushy.

Push the fruit through a fine sieve to make a smooth fruit puree. Discard the remaining seeds and allow the coulis to cool. Set aside.

Preheat your oven  to 120°c.

Using a spotless bowl, whisk the egg whites until they hold their shape. Whisk in the vinegar. Continue whisking and add the sugar, a couple of tablespoons at a time. You want to reach the stage where the meringue will hold stiff peaks and if you rub a little between your fingers it is completely smooth without any gritty trace of the sugar. Once you have achieved this mix through the corn flour. The corn flour and vinegar will give the meringue a chewy marshmallowy middle once cooked.

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Drizzle one tablespoon of the raspberry coulis on the surface of the meringue mixture (don’t worry about the left over coulis, keep it to one side and use it as a garnish when serving.) Using a palate knife very carefully marble the coulis through the meringue, if you are too zealous at this point you’ll end up with pink meringues instead of rippled ones.

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Spoon four large, rounded, blobs of the mixture onto a baking sheet lined with baking parchment. Bake for 2 hours until the outsides of the meringues are shiny and crisp. Once they are cooked I tend to turn the oven off and open the door a little but leave the meringues in there to cool. Otherwise take them out of the oven but leave them on the tray until you are ready to serve them.

No-churn Basil ice cream

300ml double cream

175g sweetened condensed milk

40g basil

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If your using home-grown basil then it’s a good idea to wash it and gently pat it dry before you use it.

I like to steep the basil in the cream to really boost the flavour in the final product. It’s always worth remembering with ice cream that freezing dulls the flavour a little.

Scrunch the leaves up a little bit and pop them, along with the cream into a smallish pan over a low heat for 10-15 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Once the cream and basil is cool use a stick blender (or something similar) to blitz it all together. Strain this through a fine sieve into a large bowl. This should leave you will a muted green coloured cream without any bits of basil leaf left in it.

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It’s a good idea to chill this in the bowl for a bit – this will give you better results when you whip it.

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When you are satisfied that the cream is cold enough add the condensed milk and whip together until thick and fairly stiff. Pour into a freeze-able container and freeze until firm. Indulge.

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GINGERY NECTARINE CHUTNEY or Swiss army chutney

My husband has christened this ‘Swiss army chutney’ because it has proved itself to be extremely versatile. I tastes great with all types of cheese, especially grilled halloumi or paneer kebabs, cold pork, ham and poultry, as an alternative to mango chutney with curries and with seafood such as salmon or prawns.

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This recipe came about when the warm weather made the nectarines in my fruit bowl change in the blink of an eye, from rock hard to so ripe that I would need to borrow a bib from my niece to eat them.

We had eaten halloumi with peach salsa at a wonderful restaurant called Pumpkin in Philadelphia. My nectarines were too soft for salsa but this is sort of an extension of that idea.

I really wanted to use fresh red chili in this to give it a sort of sweet chili sauce edge but none of my local supermarkets seemed to stock it. If you can find fresh chili then please use that (as much or as little as you like) instead of the chili flakes that I’ve listed in the recipe.

I also slice the ginger into little shards because I really like the little bit of fiery heat on my tongue when I bite down on them. If you want more of a general gingery-ness then just grate it instead.

If you don’t have white balsamic, or don’t want to sling it into a chutney (it is a bit extravagant) then white wine vinegar will be fine. I just used white balsamic because that’s what I happened to have in the house.

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Ingredients

makes 1 medium size jar

400g ripe nectarines

50ml white balsamic vinegar

80g white sugar

1 inch fresh ginger

1 clove garlic

2 allspice berries

2 cardamom pods

2 cloves

1 inch cinnamon stick

1/4 tsp coriander seed

1/4 tsp chili flakes

juice of 1/2 lime

pinch of saffron

salt and pepper

Remove the stones from the nectarines and cut them into smallish chunks. You want them to cook evenly but you don’t want them to turn to a complete mush.

Peel the ginger and either cut it into matchstick shards or grate it. Peel and crush the garlic.

In a large, heavy bottomed, sauce pan toast the whole spices for a couple of seconds over a moderate heat. I do mean literally 2-3 seconds as they burn very easily, I got side tracked for a moment the first time I did this and nearly gassed myself on the fumes!

Add the fruit, garlic, ginger, chili, and lime juice. Sprinkle in the saffron, crushing it a little bit as you do so. Season with salt and pepper and pour in the sugar and vinegar and give the mixture a good stir.

Bring to the boil and then let the chutney simmer for around 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent it from catching on the bottom of the pan. The chutney should become a dark golden colour and as the fruit cooks down it should become thick and syrupy. If it tastes a bit too vinegary then add a little bit more sugar and cook for another few minutes. The amount of sweetness that you get from the nectarines is obviously going to vary from fruit to fruit so it’s hard to be precise.

Pour into warm sterilized jars and seal. Store in a dark place once cooled and refrigerate after opening.

If you dress the jars up a little bit then this would make a good homemade gift for cheese or curry lovers.

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