Drink: Beetroot caraway martini

Currently I have a little obsession with anything beetroot flavoured. After absolutely hating it as a child I can’t seem to get enough of the stuff now, it’s funny how our tastebuds change. Here is an interesting Nordic inspired cocktail that will give you some pep in your step, or rather beet on your feet.

You’ll need (per person):

  • 2 Shots of Vodka (I used REYKA Vodka, a smallbatch vodka from Iceland)
  • 1 Shot of  Dry Vermouth
  • 10ml Beetroot juice (I used James White organic beetroot juice)
  • Dash of sugar syrup
  • 1tsp caraway seeds

To garnish:

  • Some pickled beetroot

Combine all into a jug/pitcher and leave the caraway infuse the puce mixture for atleast five minutes to gain its aromats. When ready, strain into a martini glass and garnish with a slice of pickled beetroot on a cocktail stick. The earthiness will be quite beguiling, but it’s a definite to match with my vegan smørrebrød.

 

Cheers/ skål!

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Food:Pep up your porridge!

Everyone knows a good breakfast is the cornerstone of a good day, right?

 

Sometimes we skip it, thinking we’ll grab something on the way, or worse sometimes, we settle for a breakfast that’s merely adequate rather than sublime.

Now, most people wouldn’t think of porridge as being sublime, but the nice people at GRØD would humbly disagree. This Danish company has taken porridge (Grød, after all, is the Danish word for porridge) and in 2011 was determined to “show the world that porridge can be delicious, delicate and versatile”. It’s more than just chucking a load of ingredients in and hoping for the best, there is a knack to it.

Ever since I visited their porridge boutiques in Copenhagen, I’ve been inspired to make an original and interesting bowl of porridge every Sunday morning.

So, with that in mind, here’s a handy guide to bringing your ‘A Game’ to breakfast.

Compotes & jams.

Jams can make what was a dull, hearty gloop into a sweet treat! But, as much as ‘a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down’ you can use jams and compotes to elevate the humble porridge gastronomically.

Whenever I go abroad, I stock up with all of the interesting jams that you can’t get back home. For instance, In Germany I found a raspberry & passion fruit jam, in Poland – chokeberry, Sweden – Cloudberry and in Denmark – Sea buckthorn. My case is normally bulging from the jars & pots of things I’m determined to return home with! Whilst I’m not asking you to travel the world and smuggle kilos of sugary, interesting goodness back home, I’m asking to think laterally about the traditional flavour combinations that we regularly fall into doing in this country.

Compotes are an easy way to make your own flavour combinations. As I work in a supermarket, I tend to try and snaffle any reduced fruit they have, to make compotes. It’s a challenge sometimes, as some of the fruit I’ve never had before! However, through trial and error I’ve come up with some stonkingly good ones, like peach & rosemary, pomegranate & rose or liquorice and blackberry. Plus, making a compote couldn’t be easier.

Simply fill a pan, quarter way up with water, add a sugar of your choice and then the fruit. Bring up to a boil. This is now the time to add in the spices/herbs/botanicals of your choice, turn down to a simmer and allow to thicken. Once all the flavours are in harmony take off the heat to cool.

Salts.

Hear me out. If you look up the Traditional Scottish porridge they salt their oats, then add the sweetness later. Plus, salt over the past 10 to 15 years has become far more than just a seasoning.

These days you can get salts for everything in a variety of different flavours, all designed to bring some extra dimension to your culinary creations. Seasoning porridge is absolutely essential, otherwise, regardless of whatever else you add to it, the basic ingredient will be bland and lifeless.

So, why not go a little gourmet and interesting? One of my “go to” salts comes from Halen Môn, a homegrown company based in Anglesey (Ynys Môn). Their vanilla salt is a delight sprinkled on caramel, anything chocolate or used as a base for porridge. While the salt brings out the sweetness, the vanilla enhances it. If you’re looking for a variation you can go with Norður Salt, an Icelandic company, who specialise in a range of interesting flavours. They do a blueberry salt and a rhubarb salt which can be paired brilliantly with the other ingredients you decide to add to it.

Perhaps my absolute favourite (though, I may have one or two detractors on this one!) is Saltverk’s Liquorice Salt.
Creamy toppings.

Nothing seals the deal on a great bowl of porridge like a bit of cream! It helps balance the flavours, brings sharpness and adds a touch of velvety luxury. As I tend to cook plant based, the creams are dairy-free. I’ve found that a dollop of ‘Oatly crème fraîche’ (made from oats, naturally) is perfect for giving that extra bit of decadence to what was once a peasant staple. I also use soya products from Alpro like their soy yogurt and quark substitute, ‘Alpro Go On’. I have found that the soya yogurt tends to be flavoursome, a little sweet and quite runny, while the quark gives great acidity and has a great thickness.

Combine the salts, compotes and creamy toppings and you not only improve upon a very simple and hearty breakfast, but personalise it too. The combinations and possibilities are only limited by your imagination. Be creative, flex those flavour muscles and try something new!

Food: Chocolate, blueberry and liquorice tarts

To finish off my Icelandic themed Saturday, celebrating the end of the chillingly good Icelandic drama, Trapped, I decided to make some Icelandic themed, Vegan friendly treats.

Chocolate, blueberries and liquorice make an amazing combination, and they come together brilliantly in these little tarts.

Makes 4 tarts.

To make, you’ll need:

  • 2 packs of Oreo cookies
  • 80g Vegan butter, melted
  • 150g dark chocolate (80% minimum), chopped
  • 250g coconut cream
  • 1 tbs liquorice powder, sifted
  • 1tbs golden syrup (agave/cornsyrup will also work!)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 handfuls of fresh blueberries
  • 1tbs blueberry jam
  • 100ml water.

Making these couldn’t be simpler. Start the bases by crushing up the Oreo cookies into rubble in a baggy and a rolling pin. I then used my mini food processor to get them into fine crumbs – alternatively, if you’ve got a large food processor do it in that. Once they are like breadcrumbs combine them in a mixing bowl with the melted butter. Press the black sludge into 4 tart tins – make sure you get into every corner and press it out evenly so that you get a level amount of filling in each. Place into the fridge to set for 30 minutes.

To make the ganache, melt the chocolate in a glass bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stir minimally, until it’s all melted. Take off the heat and set aside. Next, stir in the coconut cream until it forms a ganache. After it comes together, you can add in the golden syrup, salt and liquorice powder. Stir until it all comes together into a nice smooth and silky filling. Leave to cool, slightly.

The crusts should be ready by now. Take them out of the fridge and pour the ganache into them. Shake them, so they are level and them place back in the fridge, for a good couple of hours, if not overnight.

Just before you are ready to eat them. Take them out of the fridge and put a saucepan on the hob on a medium heat. Pour in 100ml of water and 1tbs of blueberry jam. It shouldn’t take long for the jam to dissolve and with a few stirs – it should come together into a nice glaze.

Top each tart with a handful of blueberries and brush on a nice layer of the glaze. It shouldn’t take long to set and it will look so much more professional – straight out of an Icelandic bakery!

Now, devour and Enjoy!

 

Food: Kjötsúpa

As the Brilliant Icelandic drama ‘Trapped’ came to a close on the weekend, I thought, there’s nothing better (and more apt!) than to make my take on the traditional Icelandic soup (and cold cure) kjötsúpa. All of these products can be purchased from Asda.

Serves 4

To make, you’ll need:

  • 600g smoked lamb (I used 2 packets of Butcher’s Selection Honey & Mint Boneless Oak Smoked Lamb Shoulder- minus the sauce sachet)
  • 3 large carrots, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 small turnips, chopped
  • 1.5 litres water
  • 2 leeks, chopped finely
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tbs rolled oats
  • Handful of kale
  • Handful of baby potatoes (skin on), chopped
  • Sprig of lemon thyme
  • Salt & pepper

Begin by bringing a large pan of water to simmer. Prepare the lamb by cutting it into small cubes and finely chop the onion. Add both to the water, season and allow to simmer gently for around an hour.

Chop the leeks, turnips, carrots and potatoes into ‘stew’ sized chunks and add to the pot. I left all my veg skin-on for the extra rustic touch. Add the lemon thyme and bay leaves and let it carry on simmering for another hour. During the last half an hour take the lid off and let it reduce a little. Sprinkle in the oats to thicken the broth. Stir in the kale just before you serve. You can even take it off the hob and let the residual heat work on the kale.

It’s now ready to serve.

I served mine with a rye loaf and an IPA.

Enjoy!