Sunday, 30 November 2014

Tangerine Gin

This is a seasonal drink that's very easy to make, tastes lovely and might even be described as festive if I were the festive type. I decided to make some when I was thinking about how much I missed Belfast gin. There are some very fine gins available, but back in the 1980s Belfast gin with its citrus flavour was always my favourite. Sadly I believe the gin disappeared sometime in the 1990s. This is definitely not a recreation of Belfast gin, it’s just inspired by it. In fact it’s more a way of producing a posh and expensive tasting liqueur without spending too much time or money. Once the Seville oranges arrive in the country you can use those in place of the tangerines.

This is quite an old recipe - there's a version of it in the Ocklye cookbook of 1908, for instance - but it deserves a revival. You can drink a little nip as a winter warmer, mix it with tonic or sparkling water for a longer drink or add it to cocktails. The tangerine combines well with lemon or with summery flavours like elderflower and some people mix it with ginger ale, although I'm personally less convinced about that. You can even sprinkle a little tangerine gin onto desserts or ice creams. Like quite a few liqueurs this is relatively sweet so cut down on the sugar if you prefer a more gin-like flavour.
Tangerine Gin
For any readers of my generation out there please note that it's Tangerine Gin and not Tangerine Dream. I can't guarantee that even after a few snifters of this gin you won't be running from the room should anyone press play on the Phaedra album.

8 or 9 tangerines
175 g granulated sugar
Half a bottle (375 ml) gin (a neutral, but pleasant gin - a cheap one should be fine)

Wash and dry the tangerines. Sterilise a suitable jar or container (allow a bit of room in the jar for shaking the contents). Use a fine vegetable peeler to remove the outer peel of the tangerines and place in the jar. (Try to avoid peeling any pith from the tangerines, although a small amount won't do any real harm.) Add the sugar, pour over the gin and seal the jar tightly. Shake the jar to dissolve the sugar.

Put the jar to one side for 4 or 5 days but shake the jar whenever you remember it (at least 3 or 4 times a day would be good). After those long days have passed, filter the gin through muslin and pour into a nice bottle. Seal, label and put into a cupboard. (It's possible to leave the peel in for much longer for a stronger and more matured flavour, but I'm not sure that’s the way I like it).

Now in theory, even after filtering out the peel, you should leave the gin to mellow for a while before drinking. There are some old recipes that suggest leaving it for a year or two. Well, that's a nice idea but a bit unlikely in my house. I promise you that it still makes a very pleasing drink after just 3 or 4 weeks in the bottle.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Turnips with Vinegar and Maple Syrup

The other day I put my Panama hat away in the trunk marked “Not Needed In Winter”, my butler poured me an autumn Armagnac and I found myself looking back on this year’s crop from what I laughingly call my vegetable patch. It was probably a decent return for very little effort. (Mind you, I'm still very grateful that there’s a large pick your own farm just up the road).

The homegrown vegetable that I've enjoyed most has probably been the humble turnip. I've wittered on about quick growing turnips before, but I'm still very impressed by them and I can’t understand why they’re not more widely grown. I get most of my seed from France where they’re grown far more often but small British varieties can give an excellent return as well.

This is a sweet and sour take on the turnip which is very simple but does rely on the use of good, small turnips as well as decent quality vinegar and maple syrup. You can use any sort of wine vinegar but one made from a sweet wine or sherry works particularly well. I used a vinaigre de Banyuls (not an expensive one) in this recipe, but that’s a bit obscure outside of France so a sherry vinegar or a mix of cheapish balsamic with a standard white wine vinegar would do nicely instead.
Turnips With Vinegar and Maple Syrup
This will serve 2 as a generous side dish.

350 g small turnips
3 tbsp wine or sherry vinegar (see above)
vegetable stock
2 tbsp maple syrup
a generous squeeze of lemon juice

Peel the turnips and cut into small chunks. Season and fry the chunks in a small amount of butter until they start to take on a little colour. Stir in the vinegar and add just enough vegetable stock to cover the turnips. Cover the pan loosely and simmer until the turnips are almost completely tender. The time this stage takes will depend on the size of the chunks and the age of the turnips, but 15 - 20 minutes will be about right for fresh, young turnips in smallish pieces.

Once the turnips reach the almost tender stage, remove the lid and increase the heat to reduce the liquid in the pan until there’s only around 2 tablespoons of it remaining. Stir in the maple syrup and continue cooking and stirring until the turnips are coated evenly with the sauce. Finish with the lemon juice and adjust the seasoning. A little extra black pepper added at the end is usually a good thing.
Vinegar and Maple Syrup