Interesting article in The Independent on the resurgence of Gin in the UK

“It ruined mothers (and fathers) and was an early harbinger of binge-drinking Britain before falling out of favour – and flavour. But now gin is back, thanks to a crop of aromatic new concoctions fuelling the biggest gin craze since the days of William Hogarth.”

The rise and rise of Mother’s Ruin

Ginger Witch

This may be a boozy day. Here’s another cocktail that seems to work well.

Add lemon (in our case meyer lemon) simple syrup to a tall glass. Add ice. Add 1/2 a measure of Strega and half a measure of Domaine de Canton. Add a full measure of Hendrick’s Gin. Fill the glass with soda water and add a splash of bitters – in this case I used Fee Brothers’ – Old Fashioned Aromatic Bitters. Blood orange or lemon bitters would work well too. Stir, add a slice of lemon to the rim of the glass and enjoy!


Lemony Snicket

A nice quick and easy cocktail.

Our Meyer Lemon tree has gone mad. Last year it produced just one lemon, this year it has gone ape. We’ve picked about 30 lemons and there are still a good number to go – at least another 30. The Meyer lemon, in case you’ve never tried one, is sort of a cross between a lemon and a mandarin – less sour than a lemon, with a deeper flavour.

Coming up with recipes is not hard – so far we have made Meyer-lemon bitters – they’ll be ready by Christmas, a Lemon marangue  pie, which was exceptional because of the Meyers. We’ve also made a simple syrup with them, which makes some of the best lemonade I’ve ever tasted – simply pour a bit of the syrup in a tall glass, add ice and soda-water and Bob is your proverbial uncle. Delicious.

As today s the first day of my vacation, I decided that we probably needed a cocktail, there being a “D” in the day and all. I decided to use the simple syrup as a base. First made it without the Grand Marnier, but it was missing a certain something. Oh Grand Marnier, you complete me, or at the very least, you complete this cocktail.

Take a tall glass, add meyer-lemon simple syrup – remember it’s very sweet, treat it a bit like the syrup drinks if yesteryear, and put about a centimetre or half an inch at the bottom of the glass. Add ice.

Add 1 measure of white rum (we used Treaty Oak Platinum Rum from Austin), and half a measure of Grand Marnier. Cointreau will also do, but remember that it is sweeter. Fill the glass with soda-water and add a splash or two of lemon bitter. Stir and serve.

Drie Fonteinen – Schaerbeekse Kriek

We both love Lambics, in fact while we were touring Belgium a couple of years ago, we drank a huge variety of them. Aside from the fact that they were so good, there were many Lambics that we simply couldn’t buy anywhere else, certainly not here in Texas where the TABC run the show with their bizarre regulations and laws favoring only the giant breweries.

Lambics are beers made using spontaneous fermentation, rather than by adding yeast, they use yeasts occurring naturally in the air, the most common being Brettanomyces bruxellensis. They are so called Sour Beers, which can be an acquired taste, but one definitely worth acquiring! To quote Michael Jackson (The beer expert, not the inventor of Jesus Juice): “The lambic family are not everybody’s glass of beer, but no one with a keen interest in alcoholic drink would find them anything less than fascinating. In their ‘wildness’ and unpredictability, these are exciting brews. At their best, they are the meeting point between beer and wine. At their worst, they offer a taste of history” (From The Great Beers of Belgium, 1991).

I personally had my lambic epiphany with Oude Lambiek, by Geuze Stekerij De Cam. We could only find it in  ‘t Brugse Beertje in Brugge, so had to go there more than once, just for one more, I promise, no really.

Lambics can be made more accessible by adding fruit, no fruit more iconic than the Belgian Kriek, which is a type of cherry. One of the beers we particularly enjoyed in this vein, was an aged kriek lambic by the Drie Fonteinen Brouwerij (Three Fountains Brewery).

The Oude Kriek leaps out at you as an excellent, very fruity lambic. Not surprisingly it gets 5 out of 5 stars in CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide – Belgium, so you can imagine how pleased I was when Angela arrived back from her trip to Portland with 2 large boxes of beer, one of which contained a Drie Fonteinen Oude Kriek. Or so we thought.

On closer inspection it turned out to be a rather special “Schaerbeekse Kriek” bottled on 28th April 2010. Turns out that these particular cherries are quite rare, grown only in a small area of Belgium. In fact in 2009, Drie Fonteinen only produced 6000 bottles due to the scarcity of the cherries. The cherry is a wild variety, growing close to the brewery, but the trees are disappearing. This, plus the fact that the brewery relies on its neighbours to provide them with the cherries, results in very limited production runs.

Schaerbeekse Kriek

In general, its is becoming harder to source kriek cherries, which is why some brewers are looking further afield for them, some as far as Poland. These cherries, while excellent for Lambics, cannot bear the name “Schaerbeekse”, because they are not from Schaerbeek, however, the good news is that Brouwerij Boon, has plans to plant an orchard of these wild, tart cherries, with hopefully more breweries following suit. Perhaps soon we may see a revival of beers using this unique cherry.

Drinking notes: On the nose, the first thing that hit me is a very dry champagne note, followed by sour cherry with a nice lambic funk.

The beer itself is very sour, somewhat mellowed by the almost 3 years of aging. The cherries add to the sourness, but bring with them a complexity that is magnificent. Shame we only had one bottle!

Sausage Rolls

You miss the strangest things when you live overseas. Often it’s stuff that you never gave a second thought to, in this case it’s sausage rolls. The Dutch make great sausage rolls – the bakers use a very rich, flaky and most importantly, buttery filo pastry, wrapped around nicely spiced sausage meat.

We’ve made quite a few sausage rolls over the years, they make great finger food at parties and serve as great snacks too. Here’s a recipe that we like, oddly enough it’s for Australian sausage rolls. It really is best to find a brand of frozen puff pastry that you like – it’s one of those things that actually making yourself requires so much effort that you’ll do it only once, and frozen puff pastries are usually pretty good.

* 1-1/4 pounds bulk pork sausage
* 1 medium onion, finely chopped
* 2 teaspoons minced chives
* 2 teaspoons minced fresh basil or 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
* 2 garlic cloves, minced
* 1 teaspoon paprika, divided
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 teaspoon pepper
* 1 package (17.3 ounces) frozen puff pastry, thawed

* In a large bowl, combine the sausage, onion, chives, basil, garlic, 3/4 teaspoon paprika, salt and pepper. Unfold pastry onto a lightly floured surface. Roll each pastry sheet into an 11-in. x 10-1/2-in. rectangle. Cut widthwise into 3-1/2-in. strips.

* Spread 1/2 cup of sausage mixture down the center of each strip. Fold pastry over and press edges together to seal. Cut each roll into six pieces.

* Place seam side down on a rack in a shallow baking pan. Sprinkle with remaining paprika. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Yield: 3 dozen.