Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Red Wine Cocktails - Ruby Renaissance By Andrew Brady

Now that we are into the month of May, some of us are starting to think about the Summer. Summer is a time when it's great to eat and drink al fresco. We eat less stodgy food, leaving behind stews and casseroles, and begin enjoying salads and barbeques. And we think about drinking lighter and often longer drinks; Pimm's with strawberries and mint, Sangria, and Summer fruit punches. 

Gallo wines are trying to meet that need for lighter, brighter Summer drinking with their Summer Red wine. Designed to be enjoyed chilled, it is a world away from the heavy reds of Winter. I was sent a sample, and asked if I would come up with a Summery Red wine cocktail.

It was a challenge. Red wine has a distinctive taste and either ends up being the dominant taste of the drink or needs something very strong to counteract it. 

Spain appears to be one of the places where there are plenty of ideas for how to mix red wine. Many of you, when travelling around Spain may have tried Kalimotxo, the famous cocktail served in a tall glass made of a 50:50 mix of red wine and coca-cola. It's not subtle, although many swear by it as a Summery drink. 

Tinto Verano, popular in Andalucia (in the south) is 1 part red wine with 1 part Casera (a less sweet type of lemonade than say, Sprite or 7up), served with ice and lemon. And of course, there is Sangria, which is somewhat ubiquitous, although always enjoyable in the sunshine. (I found an interesting and original iced Sangria slushie-type pudding idea here:

There are other ideas, based on Spritzers, Bucks Fizz (orange juice or a combination of orange and lemon), or mulled wine. However, I was not really happy with any of them. So I realised I had to call in an expert. 

Andrew Brady, is an English Mixologist par excellence, specialising in cutting-edge "Molecular" cocktails. Combining high quality spirits, freshly squeezed fruit juices, natural ingredients, they seek to combine flavours in daring and innovative ways. Adding unexpected ingredients such as the juices of grilled fruits, spices, chillies, fruit foams and liquid nitrogen gives another delicious twist.

Andrew Brady, Molecular Mixology Master

Originally from the Wirral, England, Andrew has worked in cocktail bars in Chester, Glasgow, and Nottingham. Now he travels the world as a master Mixologist, making noted specialist Junior Merino's "Liquid Chef" cocktail recipes, on Celebrity Cruise's luxury ships. 
Quick aside: Junior Merino is a Mexican born cocktail guru, an inductee of the Court of Master Sommeliers' Guild of Sommeliers, the winner of the International Bar Show's best cocktail competition in 2005, and cocktail consultant to Mexican Airlines, Celebrity Cruises, and 10 international restaurants and hotels, including The Modern in New York.

Back to Andrew: Andrew's passion is inventing his own Molecular cocktail creations, for which he has undeniable and considerable talent, as you will discover.

Andrew's flavour palette is vibrant and highly varied. Some of his creations have involved some strange, unlikely and highly innovative ingredients such as smoked apple, dry ice (frozen carbon dioxide), liquid nitrogen and bacon. Difficult to blend liquers such as Grand Marnier only seem to provide him with a challenge to meet. Grand Marnier is notorious, it's very distinctive signature flavour makes it difficult to blend with other tastes. He is hugely knowledgeable about classic cocktails and historical combinations, which he uses as his inspiration. 

I asked Andrew to help me invent a red wine cocktail. He immediately agreed, but was clear that he didn't want to do something which has been done before. He was determined to come up with something different and special. He experimented with a few combinations before settling on the cocktail recipe he was happy to share with readers of Snig's Kitchen. As ever, professionalism, care for his craft and a passion for perfection were apparent.

The resulting cocktail is called Ruby Renaissance. There are two variants, with the first being slightly sweeter and the second a little drier with a subtle bitter touch as a result of the addition of Aperol. We had 5 people try both versions to unanimously positive feedback. The Aperol version was considered to be a great aperitif cocktail, the sweeter version perfect for drinking in the sunshine, perhaps at a Barbeque party.

I would like to thank Andrew for his skill, patience and dedication. I hope you will give Ruby Renaissance a try!

Ruby Renaissance by Andrew Brady

(All measures are in fluid ounces)
1 fluid ounce = 28.4 ml

2oz Red wine, preferably a light red, such as Gallo's Summer Red or a Pinot Noir

1oz Vodka

1oz St Germain Elderflower Liquer

3/4oz Rose essence (preferably Dainzu brand or Monin)

1/2oz freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 rose petals for garnish

Variation: 1/2oz Aperol

Pour all the fluid ingredients into a cocktail shaker and shake liberally. 

Take a tall glass and fill the bottom with ice. Pour the shaken fluid over the ice. 

Top with the rose petals. 

Ruby Renaissance

Serve and enjoy immediately.

I would like to thank Gallo Wine for sending me a bottle to experiment with.

Obviously, and most importantly, I would like to thank Andrew Brady for his time, care and attention in developing this original cocktail recipe.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

May 2012 Favourites List

Here is May's collection. For anyone who is new to this blog, my Monthly Favourites List is where I collect together all the things which have interested me over the course of the month. The recipes and food articles have already been shared with my friends & followers on the Snig's Kitchen Facebook page (which you will find here: The Facebook page is regularly updated with interesting recipes, food conversations and interesting things I've tripped up on. The other things are books, films and music which have caught my attention. I just love sharing! I always like to feature some pictures, just to brighten the list up. This month's pictures are from Sri Lanka from my recent trip.

Sigirya Rock

Blogs Worth Following:

 ***WARNING: Contains copious amounts of very bad language***

Gissa Lift


Sriracha chilli sauce hot wings, with a Thai twist:

Vegetarian and vegan Cashew Tomato Soup:

Some very interesting ways to ring the changes for Spring; I particularly like the look of the Ham hock with pea and herb soup and the Thai green vegetable soup.

Angela Hartnett's Chicken with chorizo, peppers and sage with spiced aubergine sounds divine!

Wanted to make Green Curry but felt too intimidated? Here's a step by step guide:

Rhubarb syrup - for interesting and inventive Summer cocktails, perhaps?

It's an old article, which is not what I'm posting this for - it is the Beef shin with macaroni recipe at the bottom. Swoon!

Lamb Shanks - an overlooked cut which is full of flavour:

Okra curry recipe from Rahila Hussain, winner of ITV's Food Glorious Food cookery contest:

Wild Elephants

Articles, knowhow:

How to roast garlic when you have a large stock about to go bad:

Colourful infographic shows you what vitamins are in your fruit and veg:

Recently Brian Milligan tried to live spending £1 a day on food (article on the BBC website). He cheated slightly, since I don't know of a shop which will allow you to buy 2 leaves of lettuce and 1 clove of garlic. He ended up spending £38 on the ingredients! But Jack Monroe has done the challenge for real. Read all about it!



Project Nim

The Hunger Games


Villagers - Awayland

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros - Up From Below

Young Rebel Set - Curse Our Love

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Some thoughts and tips about Thai Curries... A Quick Post

I am not an expert on Thai food. I wish I were! I'm pretty great at eating it - it's my favourite food. But I'm an enthusiastic amateur when it comes to cooking it. I've watched lots of the dishes being cooked and read up on them, so I think I know a little bit.
I was recently asked by a friend for some alternatives to the regular Red or Green curry. So here are my thoughts.

Massaman Curry is dark, spicy and hot. So it generally suits beef, lamb or brown chicken meat (thighs/legs with bone in). Often it has potato added to give the dish more substance. I like to do this as the spicy sauce goes really well with the more plain taste of the potato.

Orange Curry has turmeric, lemongrass and spices, so is not quite so strong. You could make a curry with chicken, fish or prawns. This is not the same as Sour Orange Curry (Kaeng Som) which is a thin soupy stew which is made from seafood or fish.

Red or Green curry many of us have tried to make. Trying to make your own paste will give you something special - but it is time consuming and getting all the ingredients can be difficult. Even if I go to a Thai or Chinese Supermarket, I am not guaranteed to get hold of Thai Sweet Basil. You cannot substitute with Italian Basil, it is not the same. And I will warn you now that chopping galangal, even into chunks to put into your food processor, isn't easy - it's like wood!

If you make your own paste, I would only suggest you make enough for one meal. If you make double, you have to pour oil over the top and put in a sealed non-metallic container in the fridge and use within 5 days. It will lose vibrancy of colour over time.

You can get really quite good ready made pastes from the Chinese or Thai supermarket. Mae Ploy is a good brand. There are quite a few restaurants that actually use this paste, so I don't think there is any shame in using it.

One word of advice: PLEASE don't bother with the Sharwoods/Blue Dragon/Amoy/Loyd Grossman jars of Thai curry sauce - very bland and unsatisfying.

You can easily make a lovely vegetable Thai curry, and even if you are making a fish/meat curry, I would suggest you add some vegetables. The tiny little Thai (Pea) Aubergines are typical, but can be hard to find. You could substitute the small cream Aubergines (eggplants), chopped into chunks. Chunks of chopped capsicum pepper may not be traditional, but work well. Squash would be another tasty and healthy choice, as would French beans (though they will take quite a long time to soften). Even baby corn, cut in half on the diagonal would give some pleasant colour and an alternative texture. Go with what you like! 

You need some Coconut milk/cream. For the method I will set out below, which is the most traditionally Thai method, but not the easiest, you will need tinned coconut milk. Thai makes are the best - Aroy D is available even in some branches of Tesco. PLEASE DO NOT SHAKE IT!

You scoop the thickest cream off the top and heat until it splits. Then fry the paste for 1 min before adding the rest of the coconut milk. Heat through, then add your other ingredients. If you are using meat, it goes in first, with the veggies following suit. Beef may need 25-30mins cooking to become tender. Chicken will need at least 15 mins to be safe. If using prawns, fish or seafood, they will need a similar cooking time to the veggies (10mins), so could all go in together.

Once the ingredients are cooked (depends on whether using meat, fish or just vegetables), you can stir in a final flourish of fish sauce and lime juice.

If your coconut milk doesn't have thick cream on the top or you just don't fancy heating it until it splits, use a neutral oil to fry the paste - groundnut or vegetable will be great. Fry the paste for 1 min before adding the rest of the coconut milk. Heat through, then add your other ingredients.

Another way is to buy powdered (dried) coconut milk/cream. Reconstitute with water, then use oil to fry the paste.

Thai curry just HAS to be served with Thai Jasmine rice. It is worth searching out because of its wonderful aroma. Steamed for 10-12 minutes, it is a the perfect accompaniment!

Do any of you have any other tips for Thai curries?

Friday, 10 May 2013

Hélène Darroze at the Connaught

Every now and then you have to treat yourself. You need to take your feet off the metaphorical treadmill, relax and give yourself a little of what you fancy. Because it does you good. We cook a lot at home, and often shop around for food and groceries here, to save a little money there. So that when we want to really go to town, we don't feel guilty. Obviously, Hélène Darroze at the Connaught is a classy place. It has 2 Michelin stars, for goodness' sake! So we were expecting luxury, great food, and a memorable experience. Thankfully, our expectations were deliverered all round.

Hélène Darroze comes from the Landes / Gascony region of France. She comes from the south west of the country, close to the Spanish border. In this area, there is some cross fertilisation between French and Spanish ingredients and techniques. This region is home to foie gras and armagnac. Wine making and brandy distillation are key industries. Being on the coast, it is no surprise that food in Landes features a lot of fresh seafood. 

We opted for the 3 course lunch with two glasses wine, petit fours and tea or coffee for £42.00 each. As I said, this was a treat, and not something we would do frequently. Every now and then, when you've worked hard you must say to yourself the words of the advert 'because I deserve it'!

Before we began the meal proper, was the customary offer of a bread roll with butter. The bread smelt irresistable; freshly cooked and still warm! There was a choice of a mini-baguette, wholemeal roll and this rather unusual looking offering:

Upon enquiry we were informed it was a Butter Roll, and that it was our waitress' favourite of all of the breads available. Very rarely have I been steered wrong by a recommendation, so I was more than happy to give it a go. It turned out to be fluffy yet moist and completely and utterly buttery. It smelt of butter, had the colour of butter inside, and was just full of buttery perfection. Did I mention it was buttery? My arteries will probably not thank me for eating it, but my tastebuds and tummy both groaned in delight.

Black and creamy Carnaroli Acquerrello rice, sautéed calamari with confit tomato and chorizo, slightly bitter jus with parsley, Parmegianno Reggiano foam
Well, other than the Parmeggiano foam, I have to confess that this dish looks horrible. And the squid ink is so thick, it coated my lips, making Him Indoors more than a bit worried that I looked like a complete nutter. However, in terms of flavour, it is wonderful. I've had Arroz Negro in Barceloneta, and Squid Ink linguine in Sicily. I enjoy the subtle seafood flavour and creaminess that squid ink gives a dish. But this is a new level of wonderfulness. Seriously. It is a triumph of contrasting flavours, counterpointed textures and masterly technique. The parmesan foam is full of umami flavours, balanced by the paprika oils oozing from the chorizo. 

Brittany cauliflower ravioli with mascarpone, blue lobster, black truffle condiment
The blue lobster was light, fresh and cooked until literally just done. The ravioli made of handmade pasta which was neither heavy nor thick. Just enough to envelop the cauliflower filling without becoming dominant. The gentle aroma of truffle brought all the flavours and textures together; the aromatic yet gentle cauliflower, creamy mild mascarpone, delicate lobster and toothsome pasta. 

Roasted XXL Scottish scallop on its shell with yuzu butter from Maitre Bordier, razor clams marinière with Japanese mushrooms, spinach and shiso baby leaves, lemongrass cappuccino
Scallops should be slightly sweet, meaty in texture and completely delightful. Only, however, if they have been cooked until JUST done. Once beyond that point, they run a very substantial risk of being chewy, rubbery and tasteless. I know, i've tried cooking them several times. Quite literally a minute over, and they're quite ruined. It's a stress that I'm not sure I can cope with, if I am completely honest. So, scallops are a dish I often order in restaurants. Better that people who are good at the critical management of timing cook them; they are noble beasts, scallops, and should be done justice. Here they certainly were. 

Parmentier of "Axuria" milk-fed lamb from Pyrénées, white coco beans from Bearn with pimientos del piquillo, pissalat jus with anchovies from Cantrabrique
The lamb itself was tender and full of flavour. The sauce, I confess was a little rich for me. A full portion of the dish would have been overwhelming. 
 I didn't order this dish; Him Indoors had the following verdict:
"Very tender, beautifully cooked. The sauce was very strong. You wouldn't want too much. Still enjoyable, however. I do feel it may have been overseasoned with salt. The bean accompaniment was fragrant and flavoursome. Beautiful smell, beautiful taste."

Pineapple, long pepper cream, lime and vanilla granite, crispy banana
The biscuit in the picture is flavoured with vanilla and is light and crispy. It complements the granite and cream perfectly, allowing for textures and flavours to meld and yet contrast and complement each other. The picture makes it look unfairly plain and uninteresting, which is a terrible disservice. This was a lovely dessert, made  with great love and care. 

Carupano chocolate and feuillitine slice, fresh candied kumquats, cocoa almond crumble

You will see the smooth chocolate sauce being drizzled over the dish in my picture. It looks great, doesn't it? 

Well, it tastes as creamy, rich and gorgeous as it looks. The slice is just the right balance between chocolatey indulgence and lightness. The kumquats provide a bit of a syrupy sauce, whose citrus freshness cuts through the creamy richness of the chocolate. The subtle crumble gives a contrasting texture. This pudding was recommended to me by the staff, and they didn't steer me wrong in any way. 

The waiting staff were helpful, courteous and recognised when to leave you well alone. I found them to be extremely warm and professional. In particular our Sommelier was kind, obliging and full of the enthusiasm for his subject. I greatly value service of this kind when making a substantial investment of hard earned cash into a 'special' meal out with my hubby, Him Indoors. 

Time Out said of Darroze that she is "sincere, thoughtful, restrained". I would agree; she has achieved a wonderful mix of comfort, luxury and refinement without being fussy or precious. It is classy, but without undue formality. It is elegant without being rigid. Definitely worth visiting, particularly for a special treat (birthday or anniversary would be ideal).

Him Indoors and I deferred paying to our next credit card bill. It has taken me so long to post this review that the bill has now been paid in full.

Hélène Darroze at the Connaught
Carlos Place
(020) 7499 7070

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