bring some colour to a classic: a pink martini

this is a twist on a dry martini (which works well with a gin & tonic too):

pink martini

pink martini

the pink colour is from adding angostura bitter – which is deep brown in colour but as you only use little of it, it turns the drink pink (my camera makes it look pinkish orange …)!

mix 3 parts good quality gin (i used bombay sapphire) with 1 part dry vermouth (i used dolin) and two splashes of angostura bitter (try with one splash first, you might find it too bitter otherwise). shake well with ice and strain into a martini glass.

by bringing colour to this classic cocktail, you give it a much tarter taste – hence a great aperitif to a meal that has several courses!

roasted sweet potatoes with a coriander avocado dip … fully vegan and full of colour

time for some food again. as halloween is nearing i shall stay with pumpkin-colour, though this time not via pumpkins but via sweet potatoes:

roasted sweet potatoes with a coriander avocado dip

sweet potato and coriander guacamole

depending on the size of your baking dish, use one or two sweet potatoes (they are usually quite large – one is more than enough for one person). cut of the peel, halve them lengthwise and then cut into finger-thick chunks and quickly wash them. in a baking dish, drizzle them with melted coconut oil, season with fleur de sel, white pepper and chili flakes and a splash of lemon juice. mix well with your hands so the sweet potato chunks are evenly coated.

put them in a preheated oven at medium heat or under the grill and bake/roast them for about 20-30 mins. stir occasionally so they cook and slightly brown evenly. they are done when you can prick them easily with a fork. their flesh is quite succulent and sweet-moreish in taste 🙂

i prefer to let them cool down slightly before serving, as then you can eat them with your hands (it is a bit like having a fancy version of chunky chips!)

for the dip quickly mash up an avocado with a splash or two of lemon (or lime) juice with a fork – i prefer a fork to a food processor as the avocado will retain more texture that way, like in a chunky guacamole. add a finely chopped clove of garlic and a tablespoon full of finely chopped coriander leaves and season with fleur de sel and chili flakes. you can add a chopped fresh chili as well if you want the dip to have more of a hot flavour!

i would recommend to prepare the dip about an hour before serving as then the garlic and coriander can develop their flavour better – cover with cling film until serving and stir it again before bringing it to the table.

use chili flakes for garnish on both the sweet potatoes and the dip. i use chili flakes as garnish on most savoury foods, it always adds a nice touch of colour (not that the green dip and orange vegetables really require it though, but still…). serve with a nice glass of chilled white wine – a good chardonnay is a perfect partner!

limoncello basil gimlet

most people think of a gimlet as a drink with gin, but actually there are gimlets with vodka as well. mine comes not only with lime but limoncello as well:

limoncello basil gimlet

limoncello gimlet

limoncello is an italian lemon liqueur which has a very distinct lemon flavour, if drinken pure it always used to remind me of washing up liquid (due to the smell and colour, as it is bright yellow), but in cocktails it develops a nice lemon taste!

mix 3 parts of vodka, 2 parts of limoncello and 1 part of freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice in a cocktail shaker and add three leaves of fresh basil. shake well with a couple of ice cubes and strain into a martini glass. add the broken up basil leaves from the shaker to the drink as well. the basil only gives a ‘green and herby’ hint to the gimlet and mixes well with the lemon flavour!

vegan curried butternut squash soup with a side of poppadums

i seem to indulge in curried food fairly regularly, so why not a curried soup to welcome autumn?

vegan curried butternut squash soup (with a side of poppadums)

butternut squash curried soup and poppadums

luckily it is one of those all in one pot recipes (as actually all soups are). i used a whole butternut squash – they get mushier than hokkaidos, hence they are the perfect fodder for soups!

half the butternut squash, deseed it and cut off the hard peel (that goes fairly well with a sharp peeling knife), then dice it and put aside. in cooking pot heat up a teaspoon of coconut oil and shallow fry one chopped shallot, three smallish spring onions (cut into rings), one deseeded and chopped fresh chilli and a chopped piece of ginger (about the size of the upper part of your thumb) together with a pinch of fleur de sel. when it has softened, add a heaped teaspoon of curry powder of your choice, the butternut squash cubes and a dash of lime juice and stir fry for about a minute.

add a can of coconut milk, stir well and bring to the boil. cover the pot and let it simmer for about 20 mins – the butternut squash should be mushy but still retain some texture. season again with more fleur de sel, lime juice and some chili flakes (you can also add more curry powder if desired) to taste. just before serving, stir in a tablespoon or two of freshly chopped coriander and a teaspoon of creamed coconut for extra richness. decorate with chili flakes. a heartwarming soup is a good thing for autumn … and the ginger will keep the flu away!

i fried some poppadums as a crispy side dish. their lentily flavour goes well with the soup. you can get them in most indian or asian shops and they just need to be fried in oil for a couple of seconds. you can fry them in coconut oil or ghee (or a mix of the two … but by using ghee, you are choosing the non-vegan option), but i actually used rice bran oil as it has a very high smoke point and adds an ever so slight hint of jasmine rice to the poppadums.

advice: poppadums really need to be deep fried and swim in the oil in order to get a light and crispy result and the oil needs to be very hot. fry them one after the other. don’t worry, they will not retain much oil and will not be greasy (in any case you put them on paper towel after frying and that soaks up any extra oil). do not put them in the toaster as the result will not be the same … and they could catch fire (i am speaking from experience!!!).

a saffron martini and an upside-down vesper

cocktail time once more. this time: take two and be ‘ginspired’!

saffron martini

saffron martini

this is basically a dry martini but with a very perfumed tinge by using saffron gin. very easy to make your own saffron gin. take one bottle of dry gin and add a packet of good quality saffron threads (not the powder, but the whole threads … usually there is 0.1g in one pack) to the gin. shake well and let it macerate for about 10-14 days before using! you can leave the threads in the gin. after that time it will be of a wonderful deep yellow colour and have a quite perfumed saffron aroma (which is not to everyone’s liking!).

use 4 parts saffron gin (or if you only want a subtle hint of saffron, use 2.5 parts of regular dry gin and 1.5 parts saffron gin), 1 part dry vermouth (i.e. dolin or noilly prat) and a dash of orange bitters and shake well with ice. strain into a chilled cocktail glass and add a frozen raspberry as garnish. you will have a really perfumed pre-dinner drink!

upside-down vesper

upside down vesper

similar to a vesper but with the ingredients inverted or rather more balanced: 2 parts lillet blanc, 2 parts dry gin, 1-2 parts vodka and a dash of orange bitters. shaken in a cocktail shaker with ice and some orange zest. strain into a chilled cocktail glass (i have added an ice cube as well … optional though) and add the orange zest as garnish. it is lighter in taste and sweeter than an original vesper – but still it is a potent drink as a mix of gin and vodka is never to be underestimated! drink with care – one is more than enough 🙂

music music music … marcella puppini, pt. II: the continuation, the release!

i need to come back to this extremely talented lady  MARCELLA PUPPINI (see also my post from two months ago!), as it has finally happened and her solo album has been commercially released (albeit so far in italy first … the rest of europe will follow soon) – but with the help of private sellers on amazon you can already get your imported copy. which is what i did and it arrived in the post today.

WOW, it is one great album – plus it is fun to compare the pre-postproduction (which i had the pleasure of listening to since last december) with the finished product and even though the raw version was pretty finished in itself, there are a couple of slight and major finishing touches to the final released version – plus two extra tracks!

MARCELLA PUPPINI – everything is beautiful

puppini

puppini2

http://www.marcellapuppini.com/music

http://www.amazon.it/Everything-Beautiful-Marcella-Puppini/dp/B014QWLUTC/ref=sr_1_1_twi_mus_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1442591756&sr=8-1&keywords=marcella+puppini

https://youtu.be/OVpm-4OsjpQ

have a listen. tap your feet. electroswing along. be amazed! all thumbs up!

the .mp3 version via amazon.it even has 5 remixes not on the cd. being an old-school person i bought the cd though – it feels more real that way! do spread the word and be puppini-ed! 🙂

a dash of colour to the buffet: beetroot, egg and tarragon salad

having been struck down with a cold recently and looking after my godson beforehand, i had little time to sit down but lots of time to lie down (and also run around!). now things are getting back to normal and i am driving out the cough with lots of fresh ginger tea, which is the best for a cold!

nonetheless, i am still eating and have ventured into the non-vegan territory with a salad again: beetroot, egg and tarragon salad

beetroot egg salad

for the recipe you can either boil three fresh beetroots until tender, let them cool down and peel them or otherwise use the cooked variety which you can get peeled and vacuum-packed in most bigger supermarkets. do not use the pickled variety with vinegar, as the taste is completely different!

half the three beetroots and cut them into pieces about 3-5mm thick and put in a serving bowl. boil three eggs until the yolk is hard with a slightly moist centre, do not overcook as the yolks will become chalky. depending on the size of the eggs, it works well if you put them in a pan with cold water (the eggs need to be room temperature), put on the stove and bring to the boil. let it boil for 2 minutes and then drain the eggs in cold water. let them cool down slightly and peel.

half the cooked eggs and take out the yolks. cut up the egg white into slender pieces and put those into the bowl with the beetroot. in a small mixing bowl, mix the cooked yolks with some fleur de sel, freshly ground white pepper, a teaspoon or two of dijon mustard (or, if you can get it, dijon mustard with tarragon!), a splash of lemon juice and a very small dash of honey or maple syrup (don’t overdo the sweetness as otherwise the salad will be too sweet, the honey/maple syrup is just there to balance the lemon. the sauce needs to be quite sharp in taste). mix well with a fork until the yolk has fully broken up and dissolved. then add walnut oil and mix well with the fork: you need to add as much walnut oil as needed for it to turn into a thickish, slightly mayonnaisey, sauce. add a good spoonful of chopped fresh tarragon and season with more fleur de sel and pepper if needed.

add the sauce to the egg whites and beetroot and mix well. garnish with some chili flakes. can be eaten straight away, but the flavours develop better if you let it marinate (in the fridge) for about an hour or so. serve at room temperature. the earthiness and slight sweetness of the beetroot goes really well with the sharpness of the mustard and the aniseed flavour of the tarragon. colourwise it is quite a looker too!