White cherries aren’t really white; they’re gorgeous pale yellow blushed with rose.

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Fortunately for me, the small fruit stall just outside the office where I currently work has had them on sale recently and I’ve purchased so many the stall holder probably assumes I’m a weird cherry addict. When I told him this bag were destined for cherry rum liqueur, he asked me to bring him a taste of the finished hooch!

I’ve been sharing images of these beauties online and friends have asked if they’re rainier cherries, a variety developed in Washington (and named for Mount Rainier) in 1952. All the stall holder could tell me is that they were grown in Spain, so I’m not sure whether they’re rainier cherries or not.

Regardless of variety, they’re utterly delicious and I felt inspired by twitter friend @ShochuLounge to preserve some in alcohol. Their tip about leaving the pips in to infuse almond flavour notes was an extra push as stoning cherries is a thankless task.

The strawberry vodka liqueur I made a few years ago turned out wonderfully well and since then I’ve made a few more random fruit liqueurs simply by combining my chosen fruit with lots of sugar and whatever clear spirit I have to hand – I tend to amass bottles of spirit that languish in the drinks cupboard for years, so am determined to make something interesting with as many of them as possible.

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Home Made White Cherry Rum Liqueur

Ingredients
300 grams white cherries
200 grams sugar
500 ml white rum

Note: You can switch the fruit for whatever is seasonal and the spirit for whatever you have to hand. A clear spirit is best, with a flavour that marries well with your chosen fruit. Adjust the ratios of fruit, sugar and alcohol to suit your tastes. I have a sweet tooth so am aiming for my liqueur to be rich and sweet.

Method

  • Wash the cherries and remove the stems. Use a sharp knife to cut into the cherries and slice at least half way around, without cutting them in half. This makes it easier for the sugar and alcohol to take on the flavours of the skin, flesh and pips.
  • Place cherries, sugar and rum into a clean airtight glass jar and seal.
  • For the first few weeks, shake and turn regularly, to help the sugar dissolve and the flavours to mix.
  • Leave to mature for at least 3-4 months; the longer the better.
  • Strain through muslin for a clearer finished result, before bottling your finished liqueur.
  • Enjoy the alcohol-soaked fruit as a bonus dessert – lovely with double cream or vanilla ice cream.

I’ll update this post with a photo of the finished cherry rum liqueur in a few months but I’m confident it will be another really delicious home made tipple!

 

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I’m entering this into Ren Behan’s Simple & In Season Challenge, the No Waste Food Challenge (hosted this month by Utterly Scrummy Michelle) and the Four Seasons Food Challenge (hosted this month by The Spicy Pear).

 

Following a recent invitation to discover some of the food and drink highlights available at St Pancras International station, Pete and I had a lovely morning visiting Benugo’s Espresso Bar, Searcys Champagne Bar and Sourced Market.

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Unlike the downstairs branch of Benugo, the upstairs coffee bar (near the Martin Jennings sculpture of poet John Betjeman) is much quieter and cooler. An original tile floor leads to the service counter; the seating area next door has been designed to evoke rail travel of old; gentle jazz music completes the retro feel. During our morning visit, we tried coffee and cake (the shop has one coffee blend for espresso and espresso-based drinks, and another for drip filter coffees). Manager Ondrej was on hand to give further information about all the options, including some good quality loose leaf teas, for those who aren’t in a coffee state of mind. I particularly enjoyed my chocolate, pear and rosemary tart and the biscotti served with coffee.

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Searcy’s champagne bar might seem like an option better suited to summer, given that the concourse is open to the elements at both ends. But booths have little heaters at foot level, and guests are offered blankets and hot water bottles too, so it’s actually rather cosy as a winter destination. I found my hot chocolate excessively sweet but Pete enjoyed his rose champagne tasting trio (£19 for 50 ml each of Henri Giraud Esprit Rose, Besserat Cuvee des Moines Rose and Laurent-Perrier Cuvee Rose). It’s also a lovely spot to admire the beautiful architecture of the station.

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Sourced Market, downstairs, was a revelation. This little store has crammed in a lot of great products into their wide but shallow floor space. As well as delicious lunch options such as a variety of pies (with mash, gravy and peas), sausage rolls, scotch eggs, charcuterie and cheese platters, soups, sandwiches, salads and more you can also buy ingredients to take home. Pete was particularly impressed by the excellent selection of bottled beers, with small London breweries particularly well represented. I loved the cheese counter and the bakery table. There were lots of delicious treats and I’ll certainly pop in again before long. My only gripe about this lovely place was that all the seating provided was stool-style chairs and table, which are really challenging for those of us with hip, back or mobility problems, not to mention difficult for small children.

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Kavey Eats were given a guided tour of the above venues at St Pancras International.

 

I have always had a sweet-tooth. I’m overly sensitive to sour and bitter flavour profiles, so much so that I find regular wines make my jaw muscles clench in reaction to the taste – to me even those usually described as medium taste far too much like vinegar. It’s also the reason I struggle with beers, especially given the current trend for bitter hop monsters.

So I usually opt for sweeter choices such as dessert wines, sweet sherries and ports. I have a soft spot for liqueurs too, though I’ve not included any in this list. Next time!

Here are my sweet choices for Christmas 2013.

 

Peller Estate Cabernet Franc Icewine (375 ml)

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When I tried this beautiful dusky pink icewine at a Morrisons’ press event, I was amazed to be told that no, it didn’t have any strawberries in it, so clearly did that fruit flavour sing out to me. Raspberries, rhubarb and pomegranate come through too. In fact, this dessert wine is made wholly from Canadian Cabernet Franc grapes, picked when naturally frozen by winter temperatures of around minus 10 C and immediately pressed.

ABV 11.5% – £45 from Morrisons

 

Harveys Pedro Ximenez VORS (50 cl)

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I adore PX; an intensely rich,  gloriously sticky, syrupy-sweet sherry with its flavours of figs, prunes and raisins is utterly redolent of Christmas. Made in Jerez, in the heart of Cadiz province in Andalusia, this is a drink I enjoy all year round. I have tried many brands over the years and this is one I go back to again and again. Harveys’ VORS tag tells us this PX has been aged using the traditional solera process for at least 30 years. A shot over good quality vanilla ice cream makes a simple but decadent dessert.

ABV 16% – £21.00 from Waitrose Direct

 

Neige Core de Glace Premiere Ice Cider (375 ml)

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Listed as ice wine on the Harvey Nichols website, this is more accurately an iced cider – apples are picked and pressed in a frozen condition, using the same techniques applied to grapes to make ice wine. Produced by François Pouliot in his Québec cidery La Face Cachée de la Pomme (The Hidden Face of the Apple), it is described as crisp and sweet and, of course, full of apple fruit flavours. I think it would be a delicious alternative to the usual grape offerings.

ABV 11% – £28.50 from Harvey Nichols

 

Yalumba Museum Reserve Muscat (375 ml)

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The muscat grape is not only fabulous to eat, it also produces a wonderfully perfumed wine. This golden Australian muscat is made from partially raisined grapes, and fortified with neutral grape spirit, to preserve the floral and citrus notes inherent in the grape. Beautifully sweet, it’s a classic dessert wine.

ABV 18% – £11.99 from Morrisons

 

Kourtaki Mavrodaphne of Patras (75 cl)

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I was first given a bottle several years ago by a friend who was intrigued by the idea of a properly dark red dessert wine, and one made in Greece at that. I’ve bought it again a number of times since, appreciative of its full-bodied black berries and dried fruits richness. The mavrodaphne is a black grape variety indigenous to the Achaea region of Greece (the capital of which is Patras). The wine is vinified in large vats exposed to the sun; once matured, distillate prepared from previous vintages is added, and then the wine is transferred to underground cellars for maturation; there, the solera method of adding older vintages to new ones is used to create a balanced blend.

ABV 15% – Priced from £5 to £6.50 a bottle, available from major supermarkets including Tesco and Morrisons.

 

Quady Winery Elysium Black Muscat (375 ml)

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Another muscat, produced by Quady Winery in the United States, Elysium Black is, as the name suggests, made from black grapes. I first came across it on a restaurant wine list a few years ago and have enjoyed it a few times since then. Rich and sweet, with a very floral flavour.

ABV 15% – £12.50 from Fortnum & Mason or £12.49 from Majestic Wine (available vintages may vary)

 

Royal Tokaji Aszu Gold Label 2006 (50 cl)

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Tokaji is wine made in the Tokaj wine region of Hungary; Tokaji Aszu is the region’s well known dessert wine. It is produced by harvesting grapes after they’ve been shrivelled by botrytis (noble rot), which concentrates their natural sugar content. Categorised according to sweetness (on a scale of 3 to 6 puttonyos), I’ve particularly enjoyed the sweeter Tokaji Aszu wines I have tried. I’d dearly love to try a Tokaji Aszu Essencia, an even sweeter variant with an unusually high residual sugar count, but am yet to come across this at an affordable price. I’ve not tried this specific 6 puttonyos Aszu from Majestic, but I have loved others by the same brand, The Royal Tokaji Wine Company.

ABV 9% – £28 from Majestic Wine

 

Rubis Chocolate Wine (50 cl)

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I came across this chocolate-flavoured fortified wine at a food festival or show. A nice balance between chocolate and the fruity tempranillo grape, it’s best served chilled. My only criticism of this product is the lack of information about which chocolate is used and how it’s sourced.

ABV 15% – £14.38 (incl. delivery) from Amazon UK

 

Maynard’s 30 Year Old Tawny Port (75 cl)

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Tawny Ports are aged in wooden casks rather than in large tanks or bottles, like their Ruby counterparts. The wood gives them a lighter body and colour, and a wonderful smoothness on the palate. I love the nutty sweetness, with far less tannin than other styles of port. Most commonly served at room temperature, I think tawny ports are also lovely chilled. Although I’ve not tried this 30 year old, the Maynard’s 10 year old that Aldi sold last winter was well reviewed.

ABV 20% – £29.99 from Aldi

 

Castelnau de Suduiraut 2009 Sauternes (375 ml)

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I adore Sauternes, with it’s intense floral and citrus honeyed notes and straw honey colour. I’ve tried Château Suduiraut a few times; it’s a much more affordable premier cru classé than it’s neighbour Château d’Yquem. Another to look out for is Château Rieussec, usually a touch more expensive.

ABV 14% – £11.99 from Majestic Wine

 

Please note that this post includes an Amazon affiliate link. The price you pay doesn’t change but I receive a tiny referral commission for items you buy after following such links.

 

Some of you know that my Pete is a keen home brewer. He often writes about his efforts over on Pete Drinks.

On Wednesday, he spent the day at The Bull, a wonderful pub in Highgate with its own brewery on site. With their brewer Jenna and assistant brewer Jack on hand to help, Pete made his own recipe coffee porter, getting properly stuck in at all steps – weighing the ingredients, cleaning and heating the mashtun, adding the ingredients, sparging, transferring to the kettle, boiling the wort, adding hops, boiling, adding the coffee, transferring to the fermenter, adjusting the gravity and pitching the yeast.

He said it was reassuringly like the process he follows at home, just on a larger scale with (slightly) fancier equipment! Read his post on the experience, here.

If you’re London based, please come along to The Bull on the evening of November 12th, when Pete’s Coffee Porter will be launched. You can view the Facebook invitation here.

(Don’t worry if you can’t make it on the night, the beer will remain on tap for a few weeks until it runs out).

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I hope you can join us!

signed,
Mrs Proud Wife

Aug 252013
 

Do you remember shandy ice lollies from the ice cream van? I only ordered them occasionally, flitting between my love for cornettos, those lollies with a thick fruit shell around a vanilla ice cream core and of course, the amazing screwball with bubblegum balls at the bottom of an inverted dalek of soft white ice cream.

I decided to make a grown up version – a slightly stronger flavour of beer mixed into traditional lemonade with less sugar and more sharpness.

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Grown Up Shandy Ice Lollies

Makes approximately 3 lollies

Ingredients
200 ml beer of your choice, not overly hoppy
200 ml traditional lemonade

Note: I used one of Pete’s home brew beers, a dark mild ale. Don’t use one that is too strongly hopped as the bitterness will be increased by the reduction process. For the lemonade, I used Ben Shaws cloudy lemonade, which has a sharp real lemon flavour.

Method

  • Over a low heat, reduce the beer by three quarters (till you’re left with 50 ml of liquid).
  • Add the beer reduction to your cloudly lemonade bit by bit until you’re happy with the balance. I added 30 ml to 200 ml of lemonade.
  • Mix well and freeze. I used my Zoku to freeze the liquid quickly but these would work perfectly well poured into traditional lolly moulds and popped into the freezer for a few hours. If you haven’t got lolly moulds, use small plastic cups!

The result was definitely more grown up than the shandy lollies of my childhood, with a decent lemon tang and real beer flavour.

 

This is my entry into the current BSFIC challenge – the theme is Chasing The Ice Cream Van.

IceCreamChallenge

All are welcome to enter, so please join in and have a go!

 

When I set the latest Bloggers Scream For Ice Cream as herbs, I knew already that I wanted to do a lemon and limoncello sorbet with a herb.

I was recently sent a copy of The Flavour Thesaurus, in which I looked up herbs that might be a good match for lemon. The book was alright… To be honest, I already thought of the obvious pairings before I read it – lemon and thyme, lemon and lavender, lemon and mint, lemon and rosemary. Perhaps it’ll prove more useful when I’m trying to find matches for more unusual ingredients.

I fancied something with an element of savoury to it, so went for Lemon, Limoncello & Thyme.

All the lemon sorbet recipes I could find online are essentially a variation of the same technique (juice the lemons, make a sugar syrup, mix together and freeze) but with wildly differing ratios of each ingredient. So I made up my own recipe according to what felt and tasted right.

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The basic recipe is a doddle so I’ll likely make it again to see how I like the other flavour pairings.

I like the idea of lime, mint and rum Mojito sorbet. And lemon and lavender could be lovely on a hot summer afternoon.

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Lemon, Limoncello & Thyme Sorbet

Ingredients
250 ml freshly squeezed lemon juice, strained
150 grams sugar
200 ml water
2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme. plus extra for garnish
50 ml limoncello liqueur

Note: I haven’t specified an exact number of lemons, since the amount of juice you’ll get from each will vary. My 6 small lemons gave me 250 ml of juice.

Method

  • Juice your lemons, reserving the discarded skins. (Tip: I find rolling the lemons firmly on a hard surface before cutting makes it easier to release the juice.)

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  • Gently heat the sugar, water and thyme together until the sugar is fully dissolved.

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  • Add the limoncello to the lemon juice.
  • Add your flavoured sugar syrup to the lemon juice in batches, and taste for sweetness as you go. If you’ve added all the syrup and your mixture is still too sharp, make up some more syrup using the same 3:4 ratio of sugar to water. (It’s hard to judge since some lemons are sweeter and some are much sharper).

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  • If you are happy with the thyme flavour, remove the sprigs of thyme now. Otherwise, leave them in the mix and refrigerate to cool. (If it’s going to be quite some time before you can churn the mixture, you may wish to taste it now and again and remove the thyme when it has infused sufficiently for your tastes).
  • Churn the mixture in an ice cream machine. (Alternatively, you can freeze, removing from the freezer and mixing with a fork at regular intervals).

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  • In the meantime, use a pair of scissors to snip and scrape as much of the membranes from the lemon skins as possible and slice off the very tips to make a flat base so the halves can stand, like cups.

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  • Once the sorbet is churned, you may need to transfer to the freezer for it to solidify a little further.
  • I used the lemon peel cups to serve, with a sprig of fresh thyme as garnish.

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In the heat of my kitchen, it melted fast! But it was a great reward and I was very happy with how it came out.

This is my entry for the June July BSFIC challenge.

IceCreamChallenge

You still have time to enter, so please do join in!

 

My walnut brittle was so delicious it’s a miracle I managed to set some aside to make ice cream as planned!

Once again, I opted to use fresh ready made vanilla custard as my base, adding coffee, rum and walnut brittle. Because Pete isn’t a huge fan of nuts, I made the coffee and rum ice cream first, and then stirred 100 grams walnut brittle pieces into half of it, leaving the other half nut free. To make a full batch, simply add 200 grams of walnut brittle into the ice cream during churning.

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Coffee, Rum & Walnut Brittle Ice Cream

Ingredients
500 grams fresh vanilla custard
30 ml rum
3 teaspoons instant coffee dissolved in 1 tablespoon of water
200 grams walnut brittle, broken into pieces

Method

  • Combine the custard, rum and coffee and transfer to your ice cream machine. Pour in the walnut brittle pieces. Freeze according to the instructions for your machine.

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  • If your ice cream machine produces slightly soft ice cream, transfer into a container and freeze for 20 minutes to solidify further.

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This is my entry into January’s Bloggers Scream For Ice Cream challenge.

IceCreamChallenge

 

Setting booze as a theme for December’s BSFIC seemed a no brainer! Tis the season to be merry, after all. Or perhaps full on tipsy verging on drunk!

Booze certainly brought out the best in you, with some wonderfully creative and delicious entries:

Monica

Both Monica from Smarter Fitter and I made our entries this month during a shared weekend of laughter, friendship, cooking, eating and relaxing. The Brown bread & Guinness Ice Cream she made from The Icecreamists book was wonderful, and she made extra caramelised brown bread to scatter over the top. We had this with home made treacle tart by Chef Legs! Delicious!

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I went for a super quick and easy ice cream using ready made chocolate custard and biscuits and a bottle from the booze custard. My Chocolate, Amaretto and Amaretti Ice Cream was a simple but perfect combination and needed only as long as the ice cream machine took to churn it! I’ll be making this one again!

Cognac and Raisins Ice-Cream

When I saw Michael’s Cognac and Raisin Ice Cream on his blog Me, My Food and I, I asked him whether he’d consider entering it into this month’s BSFIC as it’s such a super fit. As well as macerating the raisins with the cognac, Michael adds cinnamon, orange zest and vanilla to pack flavour into the custard.

malibu ice cream

Jo from Comfort Bites confesses that she’s previously been a bit too heavy handed adding alcohol to her ice creams and the result has been a sloppy watery mess. This time, she reined herself in and was much happier with the results! Her Malibu Ice Cream sounds like a taste of tropical summer!

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As has been the case more than once, Alicia from FoodyCat used the same core ingredient as I did to create a completely different treat! Her Amaretto Nougat Glacé features amaretto, Spanish turrón and dried apricots folded into a Swiss meringue base. Like the condensed milk ice cream I made a while back, this works well served in slices, cut straight from the frozen block.

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Claire from Under The Blue Gum Tree combined plump medjool dates (which she had leftover from a delicious sticky toffee run cake) and the zesty taste of oranges in her Cointreau & Date Ice Cream. I love how she’s made generously filled ice cream sandwiches to serve.

Zabaglione Tiramisu close up

Laura definitely knows How To Cook Good Food, as is evidenced by the appeal of her Frozen Zabaglione Tiramisu. She based her tiramisu ice cream cake on a recipe by Bill Granger but substituted the vanilla ice cream he suggests for a more decadent zabaglione ice cream recipe from Epicurious, flavoured with marsala wine. I think tiramisu is a great Christmas day dessert; even more so Laura’s frozen version!

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Pete was keen to take part in this month’s BSFIC, given how well the theme fits into Pete Drinks. Having played around with the perfect proportions for a whisky mac earlier in the year, he decided to make a Whisky Mac Ice Cream, substituting bourbon instead of whisky. For the ginger, he used chopped stem ginger and some of the syrup it came in. These were mixed into a no-churn whipped cream base. Having tried it, I can confirm how delicious it was!

Vanesther from Bangers and Mash shared the perfect recipe for using up some of your Christmas leftovers with her Christmas Pudding Ice Cream. All you’ll need is the leftover pudding, some brandy and a pot of vanilla custard! I made something similar a few years ago, and loved it and have made it again since, using ready made custard, as Vanesther does here.

rumraisin

Donna from Beating Limitations has been making wonderful home made frozen treats all year, inspired by BSFIC not to bother with the shop-bought stuff any more. This month, she made her mum’s favourite flavour, Rum Raisin Ice Cream. She used an adapted David Lebovitz recipe and Elements 8 Spiced Rum, which she recommends for it’s spicy and citrus notes.

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I love the way Christina from Little Red Courgette echoes her “year of excess” with her very indulgent Chocolate-Baileys Ice Cream with Spiced Pecans. Definitely not a diet recipe, she uses “two different types of chocolate, crunchy smokey-sweet pecans coated in a mixture of brown sugar, cinnamon and smoked paprika, and enough Baileys to fell a horse.” I don’t know about the horse, but I definitely want a taste!

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And that’s it for our boozy BSFIC! Thanks, folks!

You can find January’s challenge here.

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