Saturday, June 27, 2015

Cocktails and Canapes for Women's World Cup 2015: Japan

I know penalty shoot outs are exciting but I hate to see a hard fought game decided that way, and felt really quite disappointed that last night France went out to Germany that way. So I'm hoping tonight's quarter final game of Japan vs Australia does not have to be decided by penalties. I'm going with Japan as the theme for my Cocktail and Canape and another rather off piste cocktail with a green tea mojito. Last night's wheat beer cocktail hasn't put me off experimenting so here goes with a variation of the mojito from web site japan food style:
Ingredients for 1 Green Tea Mojito
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
sprig  mint leaves
2 tablespoons sugar syrup
60ml strong brewed matcha tea or other good green tea
3 tablespoons white rum (or sake if you have it)
soda water to top up
mint garnish
Make a strong infusion of matcha  or green tea to give 50 ml, stir in the sugar and then chill

Place the mint (lightly crushed), lime juice, white rum, green tea, and ice in a tall glass and stir

Top up with soda and garnish with more mint and a wedge of lime.

For the canape I am serving teriyaki salmon on a lightly cooked slice of courgette with a yuzu flavoured mayonnaise and sprinkle of Japanese pepper. 

I ued a pre-made teriyaki sauce to marinate the salmon pieces which makes this very easy to put together. The courgette was simply sliced thinly and quickly blanched and dressed with a little rice vinegar and salt. The salmon should be boneless and skinless and marinate in the sauce for about an hour. You then fry it for just a few minutes on each side to get a browned outer crust. Cover the pan and turn off the heat to finish cooking. Yuzu is a citrus juice with a quite unique flavour that is quite hard to find. Waitrose supermarket had been selling it in small bottles but alas no more. You can find bottles yuzu seasoning more easily but I would rather have the pure juice. I just added about 1 part yuzu juice to 2 parts mayonnaise. The Japanese pepper mix Shichimi tōgarashi is sold in small jars and includes sesame seeds and orange peel. I love the fresh but quite punchy flavours in this dish.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Cocktails & Canapes for Women's World Cup 2015: Germany Quarter Final

The Women's World Cup Football quarter finals start today and the first game is Germany vs France, billed on the Fifa website as a 'Titanic duel', I am hoping for an exciting game. I have picked Germany for my canape and cocktail theme and not for the first time meatballs are making an appearance and these have a hint of caraway flavouring.
The cocktail is a wheat beer/orange mix, and very much a first for me. I'm finding it a bit weird but I'm not sure wheat beer is my favourite style of beer. It is a long time since I tried some Belgian fruit beers but this reminded me a little of that slight shock of the two flavours together.
 My meatball recipe comes from but instead of all beef I used half home minced leg of pork and half home minced topside of beef. I reduced the caraway to just a pinch and left out the parsley.This gave a very lean but well flavoured meatball that was served with a little sliced gherkin and a spot of mustard. The meatballs were just pan fried and cooked up to a nice golden brown.

The Citrus Beer Cocktail is based on a recipe from Foodie Misadventures
1 500ml bottle of German wheat beer
40ml citrus flavored vodka
20ml Grand Marnier or orange liqueur
60ml freshly squeezed orange juice
Orange slice to garnish

Carefully pour the beer into a tall chilled glass leaving any sediment behind.
Add the citrus vodka, Grand Marnier and the orange juice to the glass and stir slowly to mix.
Garnish the glass with a slice/wedge of orange.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Cocktails and Canapes for Women's World Cup 2015: England pt 2

So tonight my home country England play Norway, and I'm feeling nervous but hoping the England ladies will hold their nerves and play well. So what better way to steady your nerves and push up you energy levels than with a light summery Pimms cocktail and a sweet mini strawberry cream tea scone.
I love Pimms, posh adult  squash if you like, and rather expensive for what it is, but so filled with the celebration of summer.
The classic recipe is 1 part Pimms to 3 parts lemonade, and plenty of ice with a cucumber, orange and mint garnish.  Strawberries added to the glass just before serving make it even more summery. I like to pep up the alcohol a little by adding a measure of gin per person too. There is a rather nice looking Cranberry Pimms recipe on the House & Garden website. Other variations include using ginger ale instead of lemonade and there are rather a lot of flavoured Pimms on the market now but I have not tried any of those.
Mini strawberry cream tea scones make a very good dessert canape. My favourite scone recipe comes from Paul Hollywood, and the recipe is basically as posted here on my pecan orange cardamom scones post but you would leave out the cardamom, pecans and orange zest. I always leave the cut out scones to rest in a cool place for at least 15 minutes before baking in a hot oven as I am convinced this helps to produce a lighter scone. There are some very good notes on producing perfect scones over on the like a strawberry milk blog site, written by pastry chef Fanny Zanotti. Clotted cream is traditional but thick whipped cream will work too and even mascarpone cheese makes a reasonable substitute for clotted cream. Use the best strawberry jam you can find or home made.

Sadly the game does not kick off until 10pm uk time, and on a work night too. Good luck Lionesses!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Cocktails and Canapes for Women's World Cup 2015: Brazil

Tonight Brazil played  Australia so my theme had to include beef and barbecue style cooking. Brazil crashed out of the tournament losing one nil to Australia, and I really did not expect that but Australia must be feeling on top of the world.
My barbecue beef was inspired by the traditional Brazilian use of a cut of beef near to the rump called the picanha. Different countries cut their meat very differently so I am using a thick slice of rump steak that is pretty close to the traditional picanha or rump cap. It was simply cooked with nothing more than sea salt added. There are some good notes on this Australian web site on How to cook beef rump cap - picanha. I have a bought 'Brazilian style' barbeque sauce to serve with it, that may be completely inauthentic, but I was feeling lazy and it tasted fine.
The drink has to be Caipirinha which is often referred to as Brazil's national cocktail, made with cachaça, ice, sugar, and lime.
This is so simple but so good. You muddle sugar, cracked ice and lime and add the cachaca spirit which is made from sugar cane. Here are some instructions from About Food website
Tomorrow England play off against Norway and Pimms will be on the menu!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Cocktails and Canapes For Women's World Cup 2015: China

China PR
So as the Women's World Cup tournament enters the knockout stage I am trying to scoop up a few of the countries I missed earlier, even if these games are on so late I shall not be watching them. Tonight I shall be watching Germany vs Sweden, which should be a really exciting game, but I am cooking for China who are playing much later against Cameroon.

My Chinese themed cocktail is a Lychee Martini:
The main ingredients are: sugar syrup, pureed canned lychees (drained), vodka, lemon juice and orange flavoured liqueur. I have taken the recipe from, an American site, so measures are in cups/oz. I scaled back a little on the vodka and upped the fruit side to make a slightly softer drink, but only a little. This just tastes so innocent but there is a lot of vodka in there!

The recipe calls for a sugar syrup but as I have been making a few cocktails in the last week I had already made up a batch of sugar syrup. You can buy 'cocktail sugar syrup' ready made and it is often sold as Gomme. My syrup was just sugar and water but a true Gomme includes gum arabic which is there to give a silkier texture to the cocktail . Here is a post on making your own from food blogger SeriousEats.

For my canape I am making 'sweet and sour' style glazed chicken; but not as I remember sweet and sour from so many chinese takeaways which always seemed to involve battered pieces of meat in sickly sweet sauce.
 This is just a chicken breast stir fry that has a lime and mango chutney dipping sauce. The recipe comes from Yan Kit So's Party Eats, also written with Paul Bloomfield. This lovely author of chinese cooking passed away in 2001 but I have learnt some of my favourite recipes from her books and hope she will be an inspiration for generations to come.
Glazed Chicken Breast with Sweet & Sour Dipping Sauce

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Cocktails & Canapes for Women's World Cup 2015: France

So we have reached the last day of the first round matches and tonight's featured game is France vs Mexico with France being my chosen country.

I shall be serving a French 75 champagne cocktail
and a duck breast canape.

The recipe along with  little  history for the cocktail is here on the Independent newspaper website.

The French 75 ingredients are:
45ml Dry Gin
10ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
5ml sugar syrup (or a small teaspoon of superfine sugar)
Champagne (chilled)
The gin, lemon juice and syrup are shaken over ice. This is then strained into a champagne flute and the glass is then topped up with chilled champagne and garnished with a twist of lemon.

For the Duck Breast Canapes:
1 boneless duck breast trimmed of excess fat
30-40g good duck liver pate
baguette or ciabatta bread for croutes
2-3 kumquats sliced 2-3mm thick
salt & black pepper
2tbs olive oil for frying
  1. Cut the bread into suitable sized croutes
  2. Pan fry the duck breast in a little olive oil, skin side down, turn over and cook for a few minutes to brown the other side and then transfer to an oven at 170C to cook until just done how you like it.
  3. While the duck breast is in the oven pan fry the kumquat slices in a little olive oil until golden brown around the edges.
  4. Let the cooked duck breast rest for 10 minutes in a warm place and while it is resting toast the bread croutes.
  5. Spread a think layer of duck liver pate onto each croute.
  6. Thinly slice the duck breast and lay a few slices on top of the pate.
  7. Season with a light sprinkle of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  8. Garnish with the kumquat slices.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Cocktails & Canapes for Women's World Cup 2015: USA

I have been trying to match my cooking theme to a game that I am actually going to watch but as none of the games today kick off until 10pm UK time I will just have to miss out on them tonight. None the less I have chosen the USA as my theme for tonight's cocktail and canape. The USA are playing Nigeria who are struggling at the bottom of their group table.

I'll be drinking a Bronx cocktail:
 and nibbling mini bagels with cream cheese and smoked salmon:

The Bronx Cocktail consists of:
45 ml chilled gin
22 ml dry martini
22 ml sweet red/rosso martini
30 ml freshly squeezed orange juice

orange zest and maraschino cherry garnish


Shake the gin, dry martini, sweet vermouth and orange juice over ice.
Pour into a chilled glass and garnish with a pick of orange zest and cherry

Serves 1

My bagel recipe is another of Dan Lepard's from his Short and Sweet book with online recipe available here: Simple Bagels. I followed the note in the recipe introduction and reduced the amount of yeast and left the dough overnight in the fridge. It may sound like a faff to have to first poach the bagels before baking, but do not let that put you off making them. The poaching is very simple and brief. The resulting bagels are far better than the run of the mill supermarket ones. I scaled my canape bagels at about 40g of dough so these are small bagels but still a tad large for a canape. I did about half mini and half normal size. I did not have any poppy or sesame seeds on hand so mine have just been sprinkled with a little extra sea salt.
 They are then just split and filled with a low fat cream cheese and a flavoursome smoked salmon.
Tomorrow we are opening the bubbly and cooking for France.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Cocktails & Canapes for Women's World Cup 2015: Germany

Tonight's featured game is Thailand vs Germany and Germany is the chosen theme. I'm cheating a little with my choice of cocktail and canape mind. The Cocktail will be a Zombie, and the only connection I can give you is that I had my first Zombie cocktail a couple of years ago in Berlin. It was quite memorable not only for being rather strong but for the rather eccentric bar lady that served us and made the evening even more entertaining.
 I'm serving this with some German cold meats and a plate of saute potatoes accompanied by quark cheese and chives.
While in Alsace many years ago at a restaurant called Chez Yvonne I had an amazing plate of saute potatoes served with 'white cheese' and sprinkles of chives and finely chopped onion/garlic. I cannot cook saute potatoes anything like as gorgeous as theirs but I doubt I am starting with as good quality potatoes. England may have a long history of eating meat and potatoes but the quality of the potatoes for sale in this country is pretty dire. They seem to have so little flavour and all to quickly fall apart.
The combination of fried potatoes and low fat white cheese is rather good and I could consume a huge amount of this; and that might be a good idea when downing Zombies as you need something to slow down the alcohol absorption.

The Zombie is a bit of a kitchen sink cocktail all be it heavy on rum. Recipes seem to vary with how many 'extras' are added but the base always seems to be white rum, golden rum, dark rum and overproof rum. The juice is most commonly orange, pineapple and lime and quite a few recipes include grenadine.

This is the Zombie mix I used:
22 ml Bacardi
22ml dark rum
22 ml golden rum
15 ml apricot brandy
15 ml Grand Marnier
75 ml freshly squeezed orange juice
75 ml pineapple juice
30 ml freshly squeezed lime juice
15 ml grenadine/pomegranate syrup
15 ml overproof rum

Shake over ice and serve with a fruit garnish in a Hurricane glass (if you have one!)

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Cocktails & Canapes for Women's World Cup 2015: Spain

So tonight's featured game in the 2015 women's world cup is Brazil vs Spain and I have picked a Spanish theme for my cocktail and canape. We will be drinking Sangria and tucking into cubes of smoky paprika marinated pork.
I had my first glass of Sangria last month while on a short break in Madrid and how I got to my age without ordering one before I have no idea. I think this drink has been rather mistreated in the UK where in the past you might have expected nothing more than very cheap wine watered down with a lot of very sweet lemonade pimped up with a few slices of apple.
The weather outside today is more suggestive of mulled wine but never mind, I will just have to imagine those blue Madrid skies as I huddle under a blanket to watch the football on tv. At least my spiced pork dish is more in keeping with the need to warm up rather than cool down.
I have recently woken up to the fact that my county library has a lot of very good cookbooks and that the catalogue can be searched, and reservations made online; all from the comfort of home.  As someone that needs to stop buying so many books because their house is too small, the library is now my 'smokers e cigarette'. It really has kerbed my cook book purchasing addiction. Scanning recipes into a computer file is quite easy, so I still get to keep copies of the recipes I would really like to cook.
So, to get to the point, my Sangria recipe comes from my latest library loan book ' Tapas Revolution' by Omar Allibhoy, online recipe here. This is a bit involved, in that you have to make a fruit syrup first and allow that to chill down before you can mix up your drink. I think it does add depth to the flavours, so if you have the time, it would be worth trying. This drink really does slip down rather too easily.
The pork canape was very flavoursome but not so good as a canape in the way I cooked it, so I'm not going to try and give a recipe here. The seasoning was cumin, fennel, coriander, smoky paprika, oregano and lemon. I cooked the shoulder of pork very slowly and it was delicious but awkward as a canape. Next time I will use the same seasonings but with a tender cut of pork that can just be grilled quickly.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Cocktails & Canapes for Women's World Cup 2015: Australia

I am actually rather hoping Nigeria will win against Australia tonight  as their first game against Sweden was really good, but they only came away with a draw. The Nigeria supporters are fantastic, singing and dancing through the whole game.

So despite my support for Nigeria I have gone for Australian themed food, which as I mentioned before is a lot easier to come up with than for Nigeria.
For my Australian themed cocktail I am going with the shark theme and serving a rum based 'Shark's Tooth' which in keeping with it's name is actually quite sharp, and not at all sweet!

The canape is a swordfish skewer served with a chilli dipping sauce.

For the Shark's Tooth Cocktail:

1.5 oz dark rum
0.25oz lime juice
0.25 oz lemon juice
0.25 oz grenadine syrup
soda water

Shake the rum, lime, lemon juice and grenadine over ice and pour into a short collins type glass.
Add a splash of soda water.
This is quite a 'tart' cocktail with the only sweetness coming from the grenadine.

The swordfish skewer recipe turned out to be a very good way of getting tender juicy swordfish. All too often when I cook this fish it turns out quite dry. The dipping sauce I found a little too strong in molasses flavour and I would go for a lighter thai dipping sauce next time. The recipe came from Australian Gourmet Traveller - 'Party Food'

For the Swordfish Skewers with Chilli Dipping Sauce:

600g swordfish steak
bamboo skewers
110g ground rice
sunflower oil for frying

Chilli lime dipping sauce:
1/3 cup fish sauce
1/3 cup lime juice
2 tbs kecap manis (this has quite a molasses flavour, soy sauce would be lighter)
1 clove garlic finely chopped
1 fresh red chilli deseeded and finely chopped

Make the sauce by combining all the ingredients together.

Trim any skin and dark flesh from the swordfish steak.
Cut into strips approx 1.5cm by 8cm and thread onto bamboo skewers.
Sprinkle the ground rice onto a plate and coat each strip in the rice flour.
Heat enough oil in a frying pan to shallow fry the skewers.
Cook in batches until lightly golden brown on each side.
Drain on kitchen paper and serve straight away with the dipping sauce.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Cocktails & Canapes for Women's World Cup 2015: Norway

Tonight Norway ladies face Germany which could be quite a difficult game for Norway so I'm taking a Nordic theme and shaking up a fairly strong Fjord cocktail. The canape consists of smoked salmon on a rye cracker with a horseradish cream topping. These flavours really go well together so long as the horseradish cream is not made up too heavy on the horseradish.

Fjord Cocktail

30 ml cognac
10 ml aquavit
10 ml orange juice
10 ml lime juice
5 ml grenadine syrup
Ice Cubes

Shake all of the ingredients with ice and pour into a cocktail glass.
Garnish with a slice of orange.

Smoked salmon and horseradish cream on rye crackers

Small rye crackers or small slices of rye sourdough bread
Smoked Salmon
Creme fraiche (full fat)
Horseradish cream
Herb garnish such as dill

Make a horseradish cream by stirring grated/creamed horseradish into full fat creme fraiche to get a clear but not overly hot flavour of horseradish.

Lay slivers of smoked salmon onto each cracker, spoon a small amount of horseradish cream onto each and garnish with dill/watercress/parsley as desired.
I made rye crackers using a recipe from Dan Lepard but it can seem like a lot of work if you just want a few. The Peter's Yard rye crispbreads (left in picture above) are quite tasty but also quite large. To make it easier to cut up crackers I place a few in a warm oven for a few moments and when they are just warming and becoming pliable whip them out and cut them quickly with a sharp chef knife. This has to be done quickly while they are still warm, much like shaping brandy snaps.

Rye Crackers
250g rye flour & extra flour for rolling out
1 tsp sugar
0.5 tsp baking powder
1 tsp fine sea salt
25g unsalted butter
150 milk (I used a yoghurt/milk mix)

Oven 180C

Lined baking trays

Rub the butter into the dry ingredients and then form into a stiff dough with the milk.

You can roll these out as neat or rough as you like. On this occasion I was trying to be neat. I was also trying to get dimples with my much loved crispbread rolling pin. You need to get them thinner than I managed or they will be a bit hard and tough I am afraid.
There are some useful comments about getting them crisp over here on blog miskcooks

Place the crackers onto lined baking sheets and bake at 180 for approx 10 mins. You are baking until the crackers just start to colour around the edges. Watch them carefully as they go from under baked to burnt rather too quickly, speaking from experience, don't look in the bin!