Recipe Review: Lemon & Ginger Cordial

Lemon & Ginger Cordial is a perfect pick me up for this time of year when the cold and flu bugs start spreading.  I am particularly fond of this topped up with hot water and perhaps a dash of something alcoholic like rum, although it is also lovely with fizzy water.

It is really easy to make as well – chop up ginger, peel lemons, squeeze lemons, boil with sugar and water a couple of times, strain, cool and bottle.  Actually, a really important tip is to cool it fully before bottling it – as otherwise the sugar can re-crystallise at the bottom of the bottle.

This is a wonderful present to make for Christmas as you can do it in bulk (my potful above produced four 500ml bottles with just enough leftover for a mugful right away) – or just as a little gift for someone you know has succumbed to a cold/flu and is in need of something really lovely to help them recover.

Lakeland do wonderful swing top bottles here: http://www.lakeland.co.uk/15020/Cordial-Bottle 

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Recipe Review: Onion Rings

Every week my husband and I do a “takeaway” dinner where we make our own takeaway-style food at home – and for the last couple of weeks this has been to try to perfect the gourmet burger experience at home.  We are both rather partial to onion rings and we’ve gone through several recipes already, none of which worked particularly well, which we put down to the fact that we don’t have a deep fat fryer (and so were using a wok filled with about 1.5 inches of oil).  However, I think we’ve now found a great onion ring recipe here.

The main recommendation arising would be to use half an onion – even though we love onion rings a lot, one onion serves many more than just us two!  The rest of the onion can go into whatever mince mix is done for the burgers.   Secondly, when draining them on kitchen roll, don’t stack them as the ones underneath will get soggy.  That’s it, no more recommendations – the recipe is a winner!

Recipe Review: Beef Wellington

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Saturday was an opportunity to try out a really special recipe – Beef Wellington.  It was the seven year anniversary of meeting my husband, so after creating our anniversary cards using Photoshop in the morning, we went out to the pub where we met, and then went home to do some serious cooking.  I tend to be the one who cooks the most, but my husband is rather good at being given a recipe and just getting on with it (although sometimes he does do some interesting substitutions without asking!).  We both love beef, steak in particular, and there was an offer on Ocado for a whole fillet of 1.2kg for £30, which is cheaper than I’ve seen it elsewhere.  I cut it roughly in half for this recipe, and bunged the other half in the freezer for Christmas.

Here was the menu:

Truffle butter on brown toasts;
Pommeau de Normandie (apple juice mixed with young Calvados to make a fortified wine strength drink)

Beef Wellington served with Dauphinoise Potatoes and Tenderstem Broccoli;
St Emilion Bordeaux (one of the most reliable regions for good quality Bordeaux)

Sabayon made with Amaretto

The truffle butter was quite simply butter left on top of the coffee machine to soften, mashed up with grated truffles (from a French friend who has them growing around his house) then put back in the fridge until needed.  Gorgeous – love a simple recipe like that.

The Beef Wellington recipe I followed was the BBC Good Food version although I found the photos of each stage on Simply Recipes to be incredibly helpful (not sure why they don’t include the wine and thyme in the mushroom duxelle although they do use English Mustard which the BBC Good Food version doesn’t so perhaps that might be why).  I have to say that I think a lot of people will be put off by the apparent difficulty of this recipe – although to be perfectly honest, with the photos and tips from the Simply Recipes site it was incredibly easy, as well as being delicious.   I tend to do a lot of research on the internet before trying new recipes – I look to see what people are varying across each version and see what stays the same, as well as trying to find ones that don’t use ingredients I either don’t have or don’t want to use.  My variation was to use Charroux Pourpre de St Pourcain Mustard – a very mild fruity mustard which goes really well with beef/wine/mushrooms etc.  Unfortunately while Charroux original mustard can be found in speciality food shops (I hear it goes for $35 per pot in New York!) outside of the Auvergne region in France the Pourpre variety is unheard of.  It is made with red wine from the St Pourcain region and is a good mild mustard.  I am lucky enough to get to stay with friends who live about 15km away from Charroux (a medieval village worth a detour if you’re driving down the A71 in France) so I’ve been unashamedly eating it forever – and bringing home the 1kg pots  of the two main types for myself (and to decant for family and friends).  I think last summer when I picked up my most recent pot, it was still going for about €20 per kilo.  Not bad going really, since the one website I found it on charges $20 for the tiny 100g pots which are sold for €4.50 in Charroux.

The dauphinoise potatoes was the husband’s dish – I handed him a recipe from the BBC Food website and he just got on with it – and they came out just right.  Another reason I’m glad I married him!

The Sabayon is a super-secret recipe from another French friend – who has specifically requested it be kept quiet and not shared.  I’m pretty sure that most recipes for Sabayon are pretty similar, but I’ll give you a hint – the quantities are really important as all yolks are not the same size… so adjust your quantities appropriately!   The two tips for a successful Sabayon firstly is to keep whisking and make sure that the whole lot has emulsified properly before serving (liquid can be hiding underneath the froth and you want everything to be evenly frothy).  Secondly, beware of scrambling those yolks – never let the bottom of the bain marie bowl touch the water below.

Overall a very lovely romantic day spent with my husband finished with a ridiculously rich meal.  I think next time something a bit lighter for pudding might be a good idea…  A sorbet perhaps.