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.

Minestrone Soup

Minestrone Soup

This is a classic Italian soup, full of many different textures and vegetables. But it’s also a little bit more than a soup – it’s almost a main course that you can eat with crusty bread for lunch. The idea behind most soups is to cook them as quickly as possible to keep all the freshness in. This dish is a prime example of needing to cook all the ingredients gently first in the oil and then adding the stock while it’s boiling. This way you’re not stewing it for hours and losing all the goodness out of the vegetables. The thickener of this soup, although it’s got tomato purée and all the vegetables in there, is the starch from the pasta, so don’t panic if the soup looks a bit thin at first.

Serves 4 and it’s Gluten Free too!


  • Olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
  • 250g pancetta or smoked streaky bacon, cut into lardons
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 small swede, peeled and diced
  • 2 sticks of celery, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 medium leek, trimmed and chopped
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 2 ltr chicken or vegetable stock
  • 100g spaghetti (use you favourite Gluten Free spaghetti, for a gluten free version of this recipe. You may need to adjust the cooking time slightly dependant on the time your particular brand takes to cook)
  • ½ a Savoy cabbage, shredded
  • 400g Tin of White Beans in Water (ie Cannellinni or Flagolet)
  • 15 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Pesto


  1. Heat a little olive oil in a large pan and lightly sauté the onion, garlic and rosemary until softened.
  2. Add the pancetta or bacon and cook without colouring for 3-4 minutes until the fat begins to come out.
  3. Add the carrot, swede, celery and leek and cook for 2-3 minutes until they begin to soften. Season the vegetables while they’re cooking in the pan.
  4. Add the tomato purée, stir, and continue cooking for 1 minute.
  5. Add the hot stock. Turn down to a simmer and continue to cook for a further 15 minutes.
  6. Put the spaghetti into a clean tea-towel and roll it up so you’ve got a sausage shape. Hold both ends tightly, then tap it over the edge of a table or work top so the spaghetti breaks into small even pieces.
  7. Add to the soup and simmer until the spaghetti is tender – it should take about 10 minutes. Add the cabbage, Beans and tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes more.
  8. Check the seasoning, then serve the soup in bowls and eat…

To get that authentic Italian feel, top with a teaspoonful of pesto. Eat with crusty bread (like my Cheese Soda Bread), it’s perfect comfort food for a blustery day.

Vespa Martini

Vespa Martini
Vespa Martini

This is my favourite Cocktail, it’s a strong one so don’t plan on drinking too many, otherwise plan a day in bed the following day..

The drink was invented and named by fictional secret agent James Bond in Casino Royale.

“A dry martini,” [Bond] said. “One. In a deep champagne goblet.”
“Oui, monsieur.”
“Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?”
“Certainly, monsieur.” The barman seemed pleased with the idea.
“Gosh, that’s certainly a drink,” said Leiter.
Bond laughed. “When I’m…er…concentrating,” he explained, “I never have more than one drink before dinner. But I do like that one to be large and very strong and very cold and very well-made. I hate small portions of anything, particularly when they taste bad. This drink’s my own invention. I’m going to patent it when I can think of a good name.”
Ian Fleming, Casino Royale


  • 3 measures (75 ml) 90% Proof Dry Gin
  • 1 measure (25 ml) 100% Proof Vodka (normally branded as Blue)
  • 1/2 measure (12.5ml) Lillet Blanc (Kina brand was reformulated in the  1980’s, to remove the Quinine and other bitter flavours. Lillet Blanc is the nearest substitute, although it’s a bit sweeter)
  • 1 thin slice of lemon zest


  1. Shake over ice until well chilled
  2. Strain into a deep Martini glass
  3. Garnish with the Lemon Zest
  4. Drink (responsibly)…….

Wear your best Dress Suit and Black Tie to complete the ‘James Bond’ experience…..

My name? Bond, James Bond!



This is one of my favourite Cocktails, second only to the Vespa Martini. It’s Brazil’s national cocktail  a wonderfully refreshing, zesty lime flavoured beverage that doesn’t taste too alcoholic and it’s very easy to make too!


  • 50 ml (1⅔ fl oz) cachaça
  • ½ Lime cut into 4 wedges (or tahiti lime, but not green lemon)
  • 2 teaspoons crystal or refined sugar


  1. Place lime and sugar into old fashioned glass and muddle (mash the two ingredients together using a muddler or a wooden spoon handle).
  2. Fill the glass with crushed (or shaved) ice and add the Cachaça.
  3. Drink…….

A wide variety of fresh fruits can be used in place of lime. In the absence of Cachaça, vodka can be used, making a Caipiroska or saki for a Caipirosaki.