Spring weekend

It’s been a while since my last post so I thought I would put up a brief update on my nice weekend.

We had the first properly warm weather of the year.

It was warm enough to light the garden fire pit and have a martini outside before dinner.

It’s so nice to get outside again. I took this picture because I thought the lower part of the log resembled sliced shime saba

We also got the chance to go to Calgary beach.

Canadians take note – this was where many islanders took the boat west to settle on your shores during the Highland Clearances.

These images are actually taken from the ruins of one of the abandoned settlements.

Evidently those who once lived here and moved to the New World named one of the more successful Canadian settlements after the bay.

Calgary in Alberta has since grown to a much larger size than the original!

On returning home I prepared some izakaya-style skewers for the barbecue. The above is lamb liver with spring onion, dipped in a sweet soy glaze with garlic and vermouth. Grilled for about 4-5 minutes on each side they went well with a drink, although I need to practise my barbecue skills.

I also wrapped asparagus with prosciutto and grilled for about 2 minutes on each side.

Easy and tasty.

After that it was time for drinks.

And our first sunset of the year enjoyed from the garden.


Some more martinis

Just another selection of recent martinis…

A dirty one.

A clean one.

Both dirty and clean – photograph courtesy of Dr. Kirsty.

Watching the sun set.

Seeing the moon rise.

Feeling the summer fade.

Watching seasons come and go in general.

I guess one thing about a martini is taking the time to pause and enjoy things.

They are the most ‘zen’ of drinks and I love them. 

Drink for Victory! Canapés made from leftover food

Yes, I hate waste, and so should you.

Winston Churchill would hopefully approve of these snacks to accompany a martini, and so would the war office.

It’s basically a dead easy way to turn leftovers into a tasty snack.

You will need some Bamboo skewers

And some cold leftovers, maybe from a roast dinner you made the day before. Essentially you can use pretty much anything that can be safely reheated. Potatoes are ideal. I’ve also used some mushrooms in this instance.

Slice up the goods into bite-sized pieces.

Remember that in many East Asian cuisines, particularly Japanese, a lot of attention goes into preparing food that is already bite-sized, so that the diner can eat one-handed and/or using chopsticks without having to cut things up on their own plate.

This is particularly useful for martini drinking because you will need your other hand free to hold on to your glass.

When you’re ready, thread the pieces onto the skewers.

Add some sort of glaze or flavouring.

Here I used an ancient soy glaze, also referred to in culinary circles as marmite. You can purchase it in specialist food shops such as Asda, Lidl. Vegemite or Bovril can also be used.

In fact, you could pretty much use anything here. Plum sauce, barbecue sauce, honey with salt and pepper, Umami Paste etc etc

Put the skewers in a pan and roast them on a high heat for about 20 minutes, or until fully heated and hopefully crunchy.

Serve with a martini and make Churchill proud! You’ve also done that little bit extra for sustainability.

In addition, I even tried making a tapas-inspired equivalent. The above consists of some of the skewers plus some other bits and pieces I found in the fridge, re-hashed into something new.

I took cold leftover chicken, mixed it with yogurt, mustard, lemon zest, a splash of vinegar, salt and pepper and spread it over bread. I even… oh my god this sounds horrendous… spread leftover cold vegetarian lasagne over bread. I then toasted both of these things and Lo! they were not terrible. I served it with a potato and lettuce salad and the whole thing actually fed three people as a full dinner and nobody died or complained. One doesn’t like to blow one’s own trumpet but Mum said they were nice.

So there you go. Enjoy Winston!

A Martin Miller’s Gin martini

I first collected a bottle of this gin in Madrid airport duty free. The unusual branding caught my eye. Made with pure Icelandic water with a traditional English gin technique, it sits in a tall, proud-looking bottle with straight lines and clean imagery. There are strong maritime tones to the bottles appearance.

The gin has a crisp, dry flavour that you can lose in a gin and tonic (make sure you choose a tonic that does the gin justice). In a martini, however, I thought it went very well.

It has a smokey-smooth character, not too strong on juniper, or indeed any botanicals, which helped make a subtle but simultaneously bold martini.

To hark to its Nordic links you could drink it around mid-summer (midsommar), or mid-winter, but to be honest it would work at any time of year. Like most classic martinis it will go well with seafood but there’s something about this gin which makes me want to pair it with smoked things in particular – fish or meat. 

It also went down very nicely in the smokey air as we waited for steaks to cook on our fire pit. Despite the beautiful sunset it was freezing up in the Hebrides when we drank this, but we kept warm with the strong spirits inside us as we stood around the fire. 

Feeling a little bit merry, I went for a nice wander in the trees shortly after. A lovely end to the day.

South African biltong

I love most foods that are raw, pickled or cured (with the exception of tinned tuna). A lot of them lend themselves very well to being a good martini accompaniment.

Enter the biltong. Usually (but not exclusively) made from beef, seasoned and dried in blocks, this South African delicacy was born out of hardy necessity to preserve meat, often ahead of long journeys into the interior of the country during early colonial days. The meat is normally cured with vinegar, herbs and spices before being dried to preserve it. It is similar to beef jerky but thicker and with a slightly more complex flavour.

I have cousins from South Africa who recently held a birthday barbecue (a braai). Served up on a magnificent, specialised chopping device was a block of biltong. You chop off a slice, which in itself adds a little bit of grandiose ceremony to the process, unlike jerky which you would simply pull out of a packet.

Slowly chew the meat with an accompanying drink, savouring the flavour and texture. Remind yourself that you are living a far cry lifestyle away from the hardships endured by biltong’s initial creators as they helped found a new nation.