Sloe Gin Fizz

Sloe Gin Fizz – Image Courtesy:

Now that my 2011 season Sloe Gin has been bottled and although it’s great just for sipping as a liqueur or as an aperitif or digestif, I’m always looking for interesting recipes to use it in.

This Sloe Gin Fizz is a delicious spin on the classic cocktail from Wayne Collins, a professional ‘Mixologist’ that has been on the BBC here in the UK for a couple of years, and is as good as it looks.

Serves 1, Gluten Free



  1. Fill a high-ball glass with ice
  2. Add the sloe gin, sugar syrup and lemon juice and stir well
  3. Top up with Cream Soda
  4. Garnish with a Blackberry and a sprig of mint and drink (responsibly)….


A definite for anyone’s Christmas Party Cocktail menu.

Simple Cocktail Syrup

Simple Syrup
Simple Syrup

As you start to track down those favourite cocktail recipes, you’ll come across ‘Simple Syrup’ as a key ingredient especially for the classic cocktails like the ‘Old Fashioned’, ‘Daiquiris’, ‘Fizzes’ and ‘Sazerac’. You can either buy it, as Gomme (or Gum) Syrup or just make it, the recipe is very simple.

The only difference between a simple syrup and the Gomme version is the addition of Gum Arabic, which stabilizes the sugar and stops sugar crystals forming in the syrup. It can also add a soft velvety texture to your cocktail, however food grade Gum Arabic is hard to source, if you do want to add it dissolve the gum in an equal quantity of water and add to the syrup below


  • 2 parts white granulated sugar
  • 1 part water


  1. Add the sugar and water in a pan and bring to a boil, gently shaking the pan to help the sugar dissolve. Never Stir as this will cause it to crystallise.
  2. Once the sugar has fully dissolved and the liquid is clear, take off the heat and allow to cool, leaving it to boil too long will make the syrup to thick and too sweet.
  3. Once fully cooled, bottle and use in your favourite cocktail.

The syrup should last for about a month if bottled in tight lidded sterile bottles and stored in the fridge.

A popular alternative to using white sugar, which gives a clear syrup, is to use Demerara Sugar. This gives a richer more mellow flavour but results in a brown coloured syrup which will colour your cocktail, the choice is yours….

Chocolate Bourbon Milkshake

Chocolate Bourbon Shake – Photo courtesy: West Egg cafe (

We were trying out cocktail recipes at the weekend, getting some pre-party season ‘mixologist’ practice in and getting that all important key cocktail menu together and this is DEFINITELY on the list. It’s luscious and creamy and is very easy to make too!

Serves 1


  • 50 ml Bourbon
  • 250 mls of a good quality Chocolate Ice Cream


  1. Place the Bourbon and Ice Cream into a blender
  2. Blend until smooth and a thick milkshake consistency.
  3. Pour into a Milkshake glass and add a straw
  4. Drink (responsibly)…….

These are easy to drink, just be careful not too get brain freeze and fall over….

Pasta Bake

Pasta Bake

I first saw this recipe in a television advert for Sainsburys many years ago, it had a voice over by John Nettles back when he was in ‘Bergerac’.  I suspect Jamie Oliver was still in school at the time!

Anyway, I’ve kept it as true to the original as possible, with only the addition of meatballs made from sausages. Leave them out for a vegetarian version and use Gluten Free Penne Pasta for a Gluten Free version (just cook the pasta fully before adding to the sauce and baking.

Use a good fresh sausage to make your meat balls, I like Sainsburys Sicilian Style(Gluten Free) or Pancetta & Parmesan. Any Italian style fresh sausage would work tho.

Serves 4


  • 2 Pack Mozzarella, cubed
  • 400g Fresh Italian style sausages, skinned and rolled into small meatballs (you should be able to get 2 per sausage)
  • 1 clove garlic crushed
  • 2 X 400g tin of Peeled Plum tomotoes
  • 150g Parmesan grated
  • 2 tbls Tomato Puree
  • 1 tbls Olive Oil
  • 300g Penne Pasta
  • 1/2 tsps Mixed (or Italian) Herbs


  1. Pre-heat oven to 200C(180c Fan Oven)
  2. Cook pasta in boiling water.
  3. Heat pan and add oil and fry sausage balls until the are browned, add the garlic and fry for a moment or two being careful not to let it burn (or it’ll become bitter)
  4. Add tomatoes, herbs, puree, half Mozzarella, parmesan to the meatballs in the frying pan.
  5. Bring tomato mixture to the boil and simmer on a low gas until pasta cooked.
  6. Drain Pasta and put into oven proof dish, pour over tomato sauce and stir.
  7. Sprinkle over rest of Mozzarella and a touch more Parmesan
  8. Bake in oven for 10 Min or until cheese has melted and is golden

For a Spanish take on this recipe replace the sausage meatballs with 150g roughly chopped Chorizo, it’s smoky paprika flavour works well with in the tomato sauce too….

Winter Solstice Brandy

Winter Solstice Brandy
Winter Solstice Brandy

This infusion captures the taste of winter, fruity and slightly spiced and banishesd those chill damp winds. Popped into some smallish and fancy bottles it makes a great gift, that’s if you can bear to let it go and not sip it yourself..


  • 3 small Navel Oranges
  • 1 Lemon
  • 2 Star Anise
  • 1/2 stick of Cinnamon
  • 1 Vanilla Pod, split lengthways
  • 24 Black Peppercorns
  • 70 cl Brandy

Preparation method

  1. Wash the Oranges and lemon, scrubbing to get rid of any wax dressing.
  2. Split the fruit into 4 pieces and drop into a Kilner Jar (or similar).
  3. Add the spices, vanilla and peppercorns
  4. Pour over the brandy, seal and shake.
  5. Shake daily for at least 6 weeks, can be left for 2 months but no longer..
  6. Strain the brandy through muslin into a sterilised bottle.

If you’re giving this as a Thanksgiving or Christmas gift pour into smaller individual bottles. Or just drink (responsibly, of course)…..

Butternut Squash Soup with Sage and Panchetta

Pumpkin and Panchetta Soup
Pumpkin and Panchetta Soup

This is a gloriously golden and rich soup, Just the ticket for today, which has been a grey, wet and windy Sunday in November.

Serves 4 and it’s Gluten Free too!


  • 3 tablespoons of Butter
  • 2 tablespoons of Olive Oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage leaves, finely chopped (about 3 leaves)
  • 200g thin pancetta slices, roughly chopped
  • 2  medium Butternut Squash ( should be 1 to 1.5 kg), peeled and diced
  • 2 tablespoons of Sherry
  • 1/8 th teaspoon of Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 litre of Chicken Stock (Use Gluten Free Stock for a Gluten Free soup)
  • 150 ml Double Cream
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to season


  1. Heat a the butter and olive oil in a large pan and lightly sauté the onion, garlic and sageuntil softened.
  2. Add the diced Butternut Squaash and saute for a further 5 mins.
  3. Add the sherry and sizzle for a few seconds to cook out the alcohol.
  4. Pour in the stock and Cayenne and bring to a boil.
  5. Cover with a lid and simmer for 25 minutes until the the Butternet squash is tender.
  6. Fry the panchetta until it’s crispy and pop on a piece of kitchen towel to drain off the fat.
  7. Biltz the soup until it’s smooth, I used my hand blender, you can use a food processor but I’d let it cool a bit first.
  8. Stir in the cream and check for seasoning
  9. Serve the soup in bowls, sprinkle over some crispy panchetta and eat…

Eat with crusty bread (like my Irish Soda Bread), it’s perfect comfort food for a blustery day.

A rainy and windy Sunday in November

Sloe Gin, Blackberry Brandy and Plum Vodka

It’s been a grotty grey wet and windy day, so it was an ideal day to catch up with the bottling of the booze that’s been infusing. My last batch of last years Sloe Gin, some Blackberry brandy and the last jar of plum vodka all decanted into clean bottles ready to be drunk through the holiday season ahead.

I also decided to get a batch of Winter Solstice Brandy on the go, it should ready just in time for New Years. On the food front I remembered that I had yet to get the Pickled Onions on the go some spent a cathartic hour skinning baby onions and getting them salted, these should be ready for pickling tomorrow or the day after.