Food & Drink/Recipes

Ungava Gin Tasting

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So, a couple of Thursdays ago a friend of mine invited me along to an exclusive tasting of a rather fine new gin known as Ungava.  Labelled as a premium Canadian gin, I didn’t really know anything about it till I went along but hey, I guess that’s what tastings are for, right?

Named after the region of Canada where the botanicals from which its made can be found, this gin is distinctly different.  It’s yellow in colour for a start resembling more a whisky and the aroma is herbal.  Its ingredients include Nordic juniper, wild rose hips, crowberry and also Labrador tea which gives it its unusual hue.

We started with a classic G&T (doubles no less) served with pink grapefruit and Fentiman’s tonic.  This tonic has less sugar than that of Fevertree so it contributes nicely to the drier, slightly sharper taste of this gin.

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My company for the evening tried the ‘Yellow Lady’ next which was a potent mix of just the right amount of sour and sweet.  I think this was our favourite!  We could easily have demolished a few more of these but school night and all that…

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Following on from the Yellow Lady was the Negroni Spritz which, for me, wasn’t a favourite.  As extravagant as it may look with fresh rosemary and orange peel, the overall bitter flavour did nothing to assuage my sweet tooth.  Campari and Vermouth are definitely not on my list of likes…!  Nevertheless, it was interesting to try as a completely different take on your usual gin cocktail.

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We made our way through a fair few of the doubles and another couple of the cocktails before calling it a night feeling definitely merry and pondering the possibility of what to have for breakfast in the morning to help with the sore head that would inevitably follow.  Until next time, Bar99.  More gin evenings please!

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Lindsey Makes: butternut squash and coconut soup

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All you need is love (according to the Beatles) but sometimes all you need is soup.  I’m full of the cold just now so looking for comfort in any shape or form and you just can’t beat a tasty, warming bowl of soup and this one is my absolute favourite.  Adapted from my nutribullet recipe book, I think I make this just about every week!  It’s so cheap to make and great to take in for lunches at the office along with some rice cakes or sourdough bread.  Plus being organised and taking in my own lunches to work makes me feel like I am so ON IT.  To make this you will need:

1 tbsp olive oil

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

2 medium apples (peeled, de-cored and chopped)

2 medium, or 1 large, butternut squash (peeled, de-seeded and chopped)

1/2 tsp thai seven spice or curry powder

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1 cinnamon stick (or 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon)

200ml coconut milk

1 pint of vegetable or chicken stock

salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat the oil in a large pan on a medium heat and add the garlic, onion and apple.  Sautee until golden (about 10 mins)

2. Add all other ingredients except the coconut milk and simmer for 25 minutes until the squash is nice and tender.  Remove the cinnamon stick.

3. Stir in the coconut milk at the end, heating for a few mins to warm through.

4. Blitz with a blender until smooth and serve with rice cakes or some fresh crusty bread and enjoy a super easy and delicious meal.  I also like to sprinkle some seeds, such as sunflower or pumpkin, on top too for a bit of added texture.

 

Lindsey xox

 

Lindsey Makes: Berry-Infused Gin

Ah, gin.  So many kinds to choose from these days all with something a little different.  But, sometimes it’s nice to add a bit extra to give it some pizzazz, don’t you think?  I’m usually in favour of  a good gin and tonic or vodka tonic with lots of fresh lime but after thinking about it, I thought ‘why not add some berries and see what happens?’.  I found this recipe on the BBC Good Food website so it’s adapted from that.  You will need:

700ml of gin (any kind, although maybe a cheaper one since it’s flavour will change a lot)

150g of caster sugar

450g frozen berries (cherry, strawberry, raspberry, blueberry etc. which can be found in most supermarkets)

a large ‘kilner’ seal top jar or similar (it has to have a proper seal on it though)

a sieve and something to strain the liquid into before bottling

glass bottles (I got mine from Lakeland here)

The method to this is pretty straight forward.  Defrost the berries slightly so they are a bit mushy and can be squashed a bit to get some of the juice out.  Add to the jar along with the sugar.

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Next, add the gin.  Seal the jar and leave to settle for 3-4 days, shaking twice a day to ensure the sugar dissolves properly.  When it’s ready, strain the mixture into a bowl then bottle it.  Simple!  Great for Christmas gifts (well any kind of gift really) or taking round to a pal’s house for Hogmanay.  I served mine with tonic and fresh lime.  Enjoy :)

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Lindsey Makes: Aivy Vodka Cranberry Cocktail

I’ve been searching for Aivy vodka for 3 years (!!) now and at last I found it, randomly, in a shop up Deeside just out of the city.  From the outside the shop doesn’t look like much but as you venture indoors you soon discover it’s fantastic booze selection!  I promptly purchased the vodka I’d been searching for, having tasted it the first time at a cocktail bar in Glasgow, and kept it for a day when I knew it would be appreciated.  I didn’t have to wait long for that as two of my best friends came over to mine last Saturday afternoon where we each made a different cocktail and swiftly got suitably inebriated.  Can you blame us?  This stuff tastes like juice when mixed with fresh cranberry!  I muddled it together with some fresh mint, pomegranate seeds and loads of ice to make a refreshing drink that went down a little too easy.  Aivy vodka is available in various flavours but the one I chose is the white: strawberry, pear and mint.  Delicious!  You can read more about Aivy vodka here.

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Lindsey Makes: Green Smoothie

What’s that you say?  Green smoothie?!  Yuck!  But, it’s actually rather nice & refreshing – think of it as a Hulk-like boost for your morning.  Lately, I have been much more conscious of what I’ve been eating.  I am trying to lose weight (11lbs so far and counting!) so eating healthily has been more of a priority for me.  It’s making me think ‘Do I really need to eat that sugary snack?’  Instead, cherry tomatoes, carrots, grapes and slices of melon have been my snacks.  Dinners usually involve a lot of salad & I’m eating a lot more fish too.  I love low fat yoghurt for breakfast with granola but it gets samey after a while so after seeing this recipe on Here Comes the Sun I thought I’d give it a go as means to brighten up my mornings.  Although it’s not as sweet as berry smoothies are, it’s much lower in calories and the health benefits are great.  To make this you will need:

2 cups ice cold water

1/2 head romaine

2 cups spinach

1 banana

1 pear

1 apple

1/2 lemon, juiced

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1. Put the romaine, spinach & water in the blender first and whizz till smooth.

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2.  Dice the apple & pear, add to mixture then blend so no chunks remain.

3. Add the banana, chopped, and the juice of half a lemon.  Whizz up until completely smooth.  Some lime juice is also good with this which you can add for a bit of extra zing.  This makes quite a lot, probably 3-4 servings, so I usually keep mine in the fridge with the lid on so it’s good to go for mornings before work.  Just remember to give it a shake before drinking as it tends to ‘settle’.  Enjoy!

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Lindsey Makes: Buttermilk-Blueberry Breakfast Cake

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Yesterday I spent the morning making a really easy recipe for blueberry breakfast cake.  It’s much the same as a muffin but in cake form – it was amazing!  I used this recipe from Alexandra’s Kitchen which was very simple yet delicious and perfect for a Sunday breakfast.  It was wonderfully crunchy on top whilst being soft and spongy inside with a nice burst of flavour from the blueberries.   Here’s how you can make your own:

Ingredients:

(the recipe is American hence the cup measurements)

1/2 cup unsalted butter

2 tsp lemon zest

7/8 cup of granulated sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla essence

2 cups flour (set aside 1/4 cup to mix with blueberries)

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

2 cups fresh blueberries

1/2 cup buttermilk (to make your own buttermilk, place 1 tbsp vinegar or lemon juice in a measuring cup and fill to the top with milk.  Let stand for 5 minutes then use only half of this mixture for the recipe)

1 tbsp sugar for sprinkling on top before baking

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 Fahrenheit).  Cream the butter with the lemon zest and 7/8 cup of sugar until light & fluffy.

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2. Add the egg and vanilla and beat til combined.  In a separate bowl, toss the blueberries with 1/4 cup flour.  Mix together the remaining flour, baking powder and salt in another bowl.

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3. Add the flour mixture to the batter a little at a time, alternating with the buttermilk.  Gently fold in the blueberries.

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4. Grease a 9″ square baking pan (or something similar) with butter.  Spread the batter evenly into the pan.  Sprinkle with the tbsp of sugar and bake for about 45 minutes.  Check with a skewer or clean knife for ‘doneness’.  Let the cake cool for 15 minutes before serving.

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Lindsey Makes: Pancakes (Shrove Tuesday)

It’s Pancake Day!  That’s right folks, it’s the one day of the year devoted entirely to the eating of pancakes in the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand & Canada.  Pretty good day if you ask me.  I made some American style ones for breakfast at the weekend as I couldn’t wait until today (will be having more tonight though!).  The recipe I used was this one:

Ingredients:

200g self raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 egg

300ml milk

knob of butter

150g pack blueberries (optional)

butter for cooking

golden or maple syrup

Directions:

Mix together the flour & baking powder with a pinch of salt in a large bowl.  Separately, beat the egg and milk together.  Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and whisk in the egg/milk to make a smooth batter.  Whisk in a small amount of melted butter and gently stir in any blueberries (I forgot to buy any berries so just made mine without).

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Next, heat a teaspoon of oil or small knob of butter in a large non-stick frying pan.  Drop a large tablespoonful of the batter into the pan to make pancakes about 8cm across.  Make 3 or 4 at a time.  Cook for 2-3 minutes until small bubbles appear on the surface.  Turn the pancakes over and repeat until golden.  Put cooked ones on a plate covered with a tea towel to keep them warm whilst you use the rest of the batter.  Serve smothered with syrup, more butter if you fancy and whatever fruit you like.  Any kind of berries are good with pancakes as is crispy bacon!  Or, like me, have them plain as you forgot to buy any additional tasty bits…*sigh*…

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At The Sign of the Black Faced Sheep

Some photos from my recent trip to one of my favourite spots for Saturday lunch, the Black Faced Sheep in Aboyne.  Almost hidden from view and not looking like much from the outside, this wee place is surprisingly cosy inside and is half home/interior shoppe, half cafe.  The food is simple, fresh and delicious where everything is homemade.  After a walk in the cold and snow it’s just what was needed….

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Festive Edinburgh

I thought I’d share some of my pics from my wee trip to Edinburgh just before Christmas.  Each year, they hold a German Christmas market packed with stalls selling various crafty wares and culinary treats.  They also have my favourite – mulled wine bars!  Trust me, when it’s freezing cold outside and the wind is howling a mug of mulled wine sorts you right out.  It’s got alcohol in it, tastes good and warms you up.  What more could you ask for?!  Plus, it’s served in mugs that look like Santa’s boots.  Hooray for festive cheer.  The weather was pretty miserable the entire time we were in Edinburgh – wind, sideways rain and really cold.  Pretty much the combination I hate most!  It makes me get my grump on (which I’m pretty sure Tommy will testify to).  I think I would have preferred snow…It was hard not to feel a smidgen Christmassy though sipping mulled wine from a Santa’s boot.  It was my first trip to the city in 5 years so it was good to get a change of scene before Christmas.

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The Witchery

The weekend before Christmas, Tommy & I took a festive trip to Edinburgh.  As a treat to ourselves whilst there, we visited a restaurant known as The Witchery which contains almost as much history as Edinburgh Castle itself.  It’s located at the top of the Royal Mile, right next to the castle, but you would be forgiven for hardly noticing it at all.  The restaurant we were in, known as the ‘Secret Garden Room’, was tucked away down a cobbled alleyway cheerily lit up by fairy lights which was a welcoming sight from the wind and rain outside.

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Through the archway was like stepping back in time – there was an almost eerie quiet when we stepped inside almost as if we weren’t to disturb the years of history that the walls had witnessed.  This feeling was soon alleviated though once we were taken down old stone steps to our table.  The restaurant was what I would describe as intimate & cosy with a whiff of  ‘Hmm, this feels exclusive – and expensive!’  The staff were warm, friendly and attentive though & very knowledgeable about where the produce on the menu had come from.

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We opted for the 3 course Festive Menu with a set price of £39.50 each which wasn’t totally unreasonable.  I opted for smoked goats’ cheese with a parmesan custard & beetroot jelly to start with then roast monkfish, smoked garlic, toasted almonds and green beans for my main.  It was delicious!  The quality of food really was excellent and the portions were just enough but not too much.  My dessert was probably one of the best tasting sweet dishes I’ve ever had – marmalade creme brulee with tutti frutti sorbet.  Believe it or not, I’ve never ever had creme brulee before!    Think I have definitely been missing out…

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If you fancy an evening of decadence at The Witchery you can check out their website.  If you’re ever in Edinburgh it is most definitely worth a visit.  It is also a small hotel, I think there’s only 8 rooms which can only be described as sumptuous, lavish, extravagant – all of these.

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