Mojito sorbet

Mojito Sorbet

I first made this back in March, when my thoughts had turned to spring, and in turn summer. The recipe was born both from a love of mojitos and the desire to have a few recipe ideas up my sleeve for summer entertaining in our new home. (I’ve just realised how ridiculously middle class the phrase ‘summer entertaining’ sounds – I am evidently a closet Hyacinth Bucket.)

However, the Great British Climate had other ideas as usual, and we spent most of March freezing cold, with it snowing on several occasions throughout the month. Although this meant that sorbet was a little inappropriate for the time of year, I still enjoyed eating this – sneaking spoonfuls of it from the freezer whenever I was in the kitchen.

Thankfully, I’m finally now able to post this recipe in honour of the SCORCHIO weather we’ve been having lately. We knew it’d get here eventually…

Ingredients

  • 100g caster sugar
  • 80g granulated brown demerara sugar (plus 20g more to stir in at the end)
  • 200ml water
  • Zest and juice of 4 limes
  • 3 teaspoonfuls of white rum (optional)
  • 8g fresh mint leaves

Gently heat the caster sugar, brown sugar and water together in a saucepan, stirring until all the sugar has dissolved. Remove the syrup from the heat and pour it into a Pyrex or other heatproof jug. Stir in the lime zest and juice and the white rum. Cover and leave in the fridge until chilled.

Once the syrup is chilled, add it into an ice cream machine and churn according to the instructions.

Once the sorbet is churned, finely chop the mint leaves and fold them into the mixture along with the remaining 20g of brown sugar. I add the extra sugar at the end like this as I like the ‘crunch’ of brown sugar in a mojito. Transfer the mixture to a tub and put it in the freezer for at least 12 hours before serving.

By the way, I realise this isn’t a great picture – Food photography seems to be a skill I am yet to master. It tastes really nice though – honest!

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Damson gin and sloe gin

I’ve finally had the opportunity to make damson and sloe gin this year after some unsuccessful foraging attempts previously. I still haven’t managed to find a good spot to pick damsons or sloes, but luckily someone I used to work with did- and my god did she manage to pick a lot of them. Carrier bags full of the bastards. So, the spoils were shared, chilli jam changed hands by way of payment and I once again have the kindness of a colleague to thank for a blog post.

Sloes and damsons- a beautiful shade of inky midnight blue (there I go again with the Nigella-esque poetic food descriptions).

The idea with sloe gin and damson gin is to make them in September-ish so that they’re ready in time for Christmas. I was actually a bit late making mine, so I’m probably going to decant it in the New Year.

You might still be able to pick some sloes and damsons, although it’s likely that they will have already been found by other foragers by now. Alternatively, if you know anyone with a stash of them in their freezer, you could always try to sweet talk them into sharing. Damsons and sloes freeze well- I was given mine just before going on holiday in September so I left them in the freezer until I had time to use them. Freezing them is actually recommended, as it simulates a frost and splits the skins- a less labour-intensive alternative to pricking all the fruit individually.

I’ve tried to outline this recipe using ratios, as I realise not everyone has the same sized jars or the same amounts of fruit.

Ingredients

  • Damsons and/ or sloes- rinsed, dried and either frozen or pricked thoroughly with a skewer or fork.
  • Gin (I used good quality gin in a couple of my jars and cheaper gin in the other to see how different they tasted)
  • Sugar (I used caster)

Start by sterilizing some big sealable jars. I used 1 litre Kilner jars.

Fill the jars about two thirds full with your damsons or sloes. I put mine in straight from the freezer. This worked out as about 600g of fruit in each jar.

Add a third of the amount of sugar to fruit- so 200g per jar in my case.

Top up with gin and seal the jar. Give the jar a gentle shake to help dissolve the sugar and then invert it every couple of days until the sugar is completely dissolved.

Leave for about three months before straining through a muslin and bottling.

My plan is to decant my gin in the New Year, but save most of it until at least next Christmas, as apparently the taste improves with age. I also have plans to try making slider (no, not the tiny burgers) with the leftover sloes, although I think this might involve the use of demijohns and airlocks and what not (which could either be new and exciting or a total disaster).

Rose hip syrup (and jelly)

I’ve occasionally wondered what rose hip syrup would taste like, but had never got round to foraging any rose hips to make it. While visiting my dad this week, I realised that one of the bushes in his front garden was laden with rose hips, so thought now was as good a time as any to give it a go. My dad’s garden has proved useful to me in the past when it comes to making preserves, which helps make up for the fact that I don’t have a proper garden of my own.

Rose hips are rich in vitamin C, and people were apparently encouraged to make rose hip syrup during the war when citrus fruit wasn’t readily available. This was confirmed to me by an elderly gentleman who happened to walk past my Dad’s garden when I was collecting the rose hips for this recipe – he asked me if I was going to make syrup and said he used to collect them when he was a child.

I don’t want to get all ‘Nigella’ about this, but aren’t these the most beautiful Christmassy crimson colour?

After having a look at various different recipes online, I decided to follow roughly the following ratios of ingredients:

  • Rose hips (I had about 450g of them)
  • Water (about 1.5 litres per 500g of rose hips- I used 1.25 litres)
  • The same weight of sugar as rose hips (I used 300g of caster sugar because I only made two thirds of the liquid into syrup and the rest into jelly-see below)

The rose hips I picked were ripe, but not too squishy. I didn’t bother topping and tailing them or anything like that- I just gave them a good rinse and drained them. This is the method I used for the syrup:

Put your water in a pan and heat it up. Put your rose hips into a food processor and whizz thoroughly. (If you haven’t got a food processor, you could chop them up but this could take a while.) Scrape the rose hip mush out of the food processor into the pan as quickly as possible. I say as quickly as possible because apparently the vitamin C begins to oxidise as soon as the rose hips are damaged. I’m basing this on advice from the internet, which also suggests that despite the boiling process, much of the vitamin C will be retained. If anyone out there is scientifically minded, please feel free to confirm or refute this information…

Allow the water and rose hip mixture to come to the boil, stirring often. Once boiling, allow the mixture to simmer for about five to ten minutes. Turn off the heat and leave the mixture to steep while it cools.

Once cooled, put the mixture in a jelly bag or muslin and allow it to strain through into a bowl. Normally, I’d say don’t be tempted to squeeze the bag or you’ll end up with cloudy syrup, but this came out quite cloudy anyway. Incidentally, I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce the set up I use for straining things through muslin- it’s a wooden stand I persuaded my dad to make to my own specifications and it’s brilliant. He’s very good at this sort of thing, as well as having a garden which provides inspiration and ingredients for cooking projects:

Once the mixture had strained through, I had about a pint and a half of liquid. I decided to make some into syrup and some into jelly.

For the syrup, I added a pint of the strained liquid and 300g caster sugar to a pan and heated it gently, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Once the sugar was dissolved, I decanted the hot syrup into sterilized bottles.

For the jelly, I added half a pint of the strained liquid and half a pound of jam sugar (with added pectin) to a pan and boiled until it reached the setting point (about 104⁰C). This filled about one and a half sterilized jars.

Apologies for the hotchpotch of metric and imperial measurements by the way, but maths isn’t my strong point and this just made it easier for me to work out.

The verdict

It’s always a worry when making jams, jellies and syrups that the flavour of the fruit will be lost in among all the sugar. I could still taste the rose hips in this syrup though- they have an unusual taste which to me had a hint of tomato or perhaps physalis about it (I could well have imagined the bit about the tomato flavour…)

As for how to use it, I’d suggest drizzling it on ice cream, pancakes or porridge, using it in cocktails or topped up with champagne, or just taken by the spoonful when you’re feeling under the weather or a bit hungover.

Hot lemon, ginger and chilli drink for when you’ve got the lurg

I’ve just got back from holiday (more on which later), hence the lack of blog posts over the last week or so. For most of our time away, Owen and I had rotten colds which are still refusing to budge. So, one of the first things I did when we got home was to make a batch of this drink in the hope it’ll sort us out.

I’ve been making this for years and the recipe has gradually evolved over time (not that it’s terribly complicated). I can’t make any scientific claims to this potion’s medicinal properties, but it always seems to help clear my chest, throat and head and make me feel better. I automatically make it every time I’ve got a cold- it’s especially helpful in getting me through work (transported in a Thermos) when I’m feeling snuffly. Imagine, if you will, me sitting at my desk, surrounded by a fug of lemon and ginger aroma and a scattering of snotty tissues, while my colleagues look on with disgust as I cough and splutter my way through the day. Sexy.

Ingredients:

  • 4-6 lemons
  • A medium sized hand of root ginger
  • 2 red chillies
  • A stick of cinnamon
  • A few star anise
  • Sugar (white, brown, whatever)
  • Manuka honey

Start with a big pot. A stock pot of some sort would be ideal- I use a big oval cast iron one. You’ll need to put lots of water in this. I have two fridge jugs- one big, one small, that I fill with water and pour in, as then I know the mixture will be the right amount to fill them and store in the fridge. If you need an exact amount, this is about three litres, but you can make slightly more or less according to your own fridge storage receptacles.

Once you’ve got the water in the pot, put it on to boil while you zest the lemons. Add the zest to the water, then cut the lemons in half and squeeze the juice straight into the pot. Then chop the remaining lemon bits up a bit more and throw those in the pot as well.

Next, grate the ginger and add to the pot. I don’t bother peeling the ginger for this, as it’s all going to be sieved at the end anyway.

Halve and de-seed the chillies and add those to the mixture. I tried this without de-seeding once and it found the heat a bit too overpowering, but leave the seeds in if that’s your thing.

Break up the cinnamon stick and chuck that in along with the star anise. Once everything’s boiling nicely, give it a good stir, put the lid on (if you have one), turn the heat down and simmer for a while. There isn’t an exact timing to this- I usually just leave it there while I get on with other stuff, like washing up all the bits from its preparation. When it’s been simmered for a while, add some sugar until the edge is taken off the sharp sourness, but it isn’t too sweet (as you’re going to add honey later).

When it’s cooled, sieve the mixture (I usually do this in batches into a large Pyrex jug) and decant into your chosen jugs/ bottles to be stored in the fridge. When you want to drink it, heat up enough in a pan or microwave to fill a mug, and stir in some manuka honey to sweeten. As manuka honey is ridiculously expensive, I sometimes use eucalyptus honey instead if I’m feeling skint. Any other honey would also be just as nice, I’m sure.