The Hot and Dirty Martini

Grrrrrrrrrrr

  
This is a very simple variation on the classic martini, and its obviously got a very arresting name.
  
I first had a hot and dirty martini at the Mermaid Inn in New York. It’s an excellent aperitif as it really gets your digestive juices churning. It’s perfect before a special dinner, whether it’s Sunday lunch, seafood, a romantic meal for two or otherwise.

  
I have been sent a selection of goodies by the wonderful people at Fragata, a traditional Spanish firm specialising in olives, peppers, caperberries and other tasty goods.

  
I regularly eat their olives stuffed with anchovies. I think I’ve mentioned that a few times… I used these for brine.

  
I’m also a big fan of hot and spicy food and drinks so Tabasco sauce definitely features.

  
Tabasco Sauce has been officially appointed as a preferred supplier by Her Majesty the Queen. I really hope she would like this recipe.

  
Another delectable treat sent to me by Fragata was a jar of handpicked pimiento piquillo peppers.

These sweet members of the chilli family aren’t actually that spicy but they taste amazing.

  
Peeled then roasted over embers, they make a delicious sweet yet also savoury canapé/appetiser/tapas on their own.

But in a martini, they add texture, deep flavour and beautiful colour.

  

  • Add vermouth to taste to a chilled martini glass (usually between 1 tsp and 30ml depending on your preference).
  • Add brine from the tinned olives stuffed with anchovies. I would recommend between 2-6 teaspoons (I go for 4).
  • Add Tabasco sauce to taste (I like 5 drops).
  • Stir with one of the peppers and drop it in as a garnish.
  • Serve additional peppers as accompanying nibbles.

Make sure you’ve got a tasty dinner to enjoy afterwards!

Egyptian Duqqah to accompany a martini

Ground nuts, herbs and spices served with bread and some good quality oil.  

 I was born in a town in Scotland called Alexandria. It subsequently says Alexandria as my place of birth in my passport, which in turn has led to some interesting questioning by customs and security personnel at various airports I’ve visited in the Middle East.

“Are you Egyptian?”

“I will be whatever you want me to be, so long as you let me past your security desk and into your beautiful country that I have not yet had the chance to see yet thank you.”

I’ve always been drawn to Egypt, old and new. It’s such a fascinating country and while it faces many troubles today I can’t help think that it has faced worse in the past and should therefore be able to cope in the long-run (Inshallah). Whether or not you’re a fan of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi I wish him all the best luck in doing the right thing for the country.

Anyway, I digress. I am delighted to include Egypt in my blog with a contribution to the martini world.

  
Here is some Duqqah (دقة).

As a linguistic side note it is also spelt Dukka or Duqqa, although I have always preferred using the ta-marbutah ة and the correct transliteration of the letter ق – just to be absolutely clear!

However you spell it, the name comes from the Arabic verb ‘to pound’ and contains a coarsely ground selection of nuts (usually hazelnuts but also pistachios, almonds and cashews), sesame seeds and a selection of herbs and spices such as coriander seeds, chilli and/or cumin for example, although this can all be varied to taste.  

To eat it dip some bread into some good quality olive oil then dip it into the duqqah mixture to coat it.

For my recipe I lacked hazelnuts, so I made it as follows:

  • 8 pistachio nuts
  • 1 teaspoon black sesame seeds
  • 4 peanuts
  • Pinch of sunflower seeds
  • Pinch of flaked almonds
  • Pinch of cumin seeds
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Smidgen of pepper
  • Pinch of chilli powder
  • Pinch of turmeric

  
I roughly ground it with a mortar and pestle (but not too much) then served it with pitta bread and a small dish of extra virgin olive oil.

  
This serves two people.

However you can alter the quantities and the ingredients to suit your taste. The varieties are as numerous as Cairo traffic violations. You can even buy it in some supermarkets.

  
And if you were wondering about martinis… the answer is “yes”.

Of course it will go with a martini. However, by eating it, somewhat messily, with ones hands and oily bread, this isn’t perhaps the most elegant martini accompaniment. Save it for when you’re having a drink with more intimate company, not a first martini date. Don’t be deterred though, it’s tasty and interesting with a bit of bite.

  

The Lorena-san Michelada

This is my Japanese variation of a classic Mexican drink – the Michelada. I have named my version after my friend from Mexico City who introduced me to the concept. It’s not a martini but hey – I can’t drink martinis ALL the time! Plus, summer is coming and this is a great summer drink.

It’s very similar to a standard Mexican Michelada, which is essentially beer, lime juice and some additional savoury and/or spicy sauces served in a salt-rimmed glass. The drink is comparable to a Bloody Mary and very good for a hangover or alcoholic rehydration on a hot day. However, the mixture for the glass rim in my version is heavily influenced by Japanese ingredients. If you can’t get hold of them, I recommend you try a more standard recipe with beer, Worcestershire sauce, lime and salt at the very least, so you can experience this wonderful drink. The ingredient combination might sound unusual, alien and even unpalatable to some of you but trust me, I’ve had lots of experience.

You might ask me why I would combine a Mexican recipe with a Japanese tang. Well, it’s mainly because I tried this and it worked. Otherwise though, Japan and Mexico have more in common than might meet the eye. Obviously both countries feature heavily in the Kill Bill franchise. Both countries also have extensive experience of earthquakes. If there’s ever a rumble and a shake of the earth your Mexican and Japanese friends will be the first to jump under a table – fact! However, most importantly for the sake of this blog, the cultures of both countries hold flavours and cuisine in extremely high regard.

Both Japan and Mexico are blessed with climatic diversity, which in turn has led to very distinct regional variations in things like agricultural produce and other forms of naturally available food. This in turn has led to the evolution of a rich assortment of cuisine specialities.

In the case of Mexico I think that the highly sophisticated cuisines do not receive enough international acclaim. I love Japanese food and I am very glad that it has received a lot of global recognition, evidenced not least by the multitude of Michelin stars awarded to Tokyo.

Mexican cuisine however, does not seem to have had the same international recognition. It appears to have been hijacked by numerous profit-making rip-off versions, selling a business model rather than genuine Mexican food. Of course, there are exceptions, particularly in the United States (and there are a handful in London) but it is far easier to find an authentic Japanese restaurant than it is to find an authentic Mexican one. I hope that in the future Mexican cuisine will be given the acclaim it deserves.

But I digress… here is my recipe.

Run a tall beer glass under a tap and place it in the freezer for at least 20 minutes (preferably longer).

  
Grind a pinch of sea salt, a pinch of furikake (a salty-umami Japanese seasoning), a pinch of caster sugar, a pinch of chilli powder and a pinch of sesame seeds with a pestle and mortar. 

Slice a lime or yuzu fruit. Rub one half over the rim of the glass. 

 
Rim the glass with the ground mixture. Save any leftover mixture for later. You will need the lime/yuzu as well.

Add the following to the glass:

The juice of 2 limes or yuzu fruit

A dash of hot sauce (I used Sriracha)

A dash of soy sauce

A dash of Worcestireshire sauce

And last but not least… A light beer!

You can add an ice cube or two to cool it down, or even better, use frozen lime or lemon slices.

 

Serve with the leftover salt/chilli/sesame/furikake mixture in a side dish. Lick your finger and dab it in to taste, as you would with some salt with a tequila.

Serve with a wedge or two of lime/yuzu as well.

And it will go with a wide range of izakaya-style snacks too.

¡Salud!

乾杯!

Y muchas gracias Lorena-san!


A martini using gin infused with coriander/cilantro



I have previously mentioned that Coriander (cilantro) is the Marmite of the herb world (you either love it or hate it). I have also previously mentioned that I love it. So I infused some gin with it.

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Coriander is already one of the flavours infused into many gin varieties, although juniper is (or should be) the dominant flavour. Being a traditionalist I would normally want to preserve the juniper flavour as the key ingredient but I was curious to try out something new and wanted to satisfy my own love for the coriander flavour. It has a fresh, grassy, almost citrusy taste and pairs well with lemon and lime. Critics often describe the flavour as soapy, so be careful who you serve this to. Otherwise I think it’s delicious.

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To infuse the gin take a handful of coriander leaf per 100ml gin you want to infuse. Wash it, pat it dry then coarsely chop it.

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Add it to a clean jar, top up with gin, seal the lid, give it a vigorous shake, then leave it for around two days. Shake it once or twice each day.

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The gin should turn a nice green hue.

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Strain it and discard the coriander leaves.

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Then decant it into a glass container or two and keep in the fridge to store, and freezer if you want to use it in a martini.

When you’re ready to serve, pour the drink as a normal martini but with coriander gin instead of normal gin. Garnish with some coriander if you have any to hand (or a piece of lemon peel which compliments the zesty coriander flavour) and serve with some nibbles.

When I was testing out the coriander gin first I felt a craving for avocado so I decided to make some very simple guacamole.

I mashed 2 avocados with a square inch of onion, chopped, a handful of chopped fresh coriander, a squeeze of tomato purée, a sprinkling of chilli flakes and a squeeze of lemon or lime (whatever you have to hand) and served it with tortilla chips. This is a very basic guacamole recipe I just threw together with what I had to hand (it was a Friday night and I was exhausted). There are almost bound to be better recipes out there. My cousin in Scotland makes a good one!

The coriander martini also goes well with peanuts.



And seafood.

Here I served a plate of pre-cooked prawns with tiny drizzles of honey, sesame oil, lemon juice, mirin and rice wine vinegar, with further tiny sprinkles of grated lemon zest, chilli flakes and chopped coriander. I wanted to compliment the delicate prawns not anhialate them with a bazooka of sharp flavours.

All in all, I liked the coriander martini more than I was expecting. I also found that it went very well with certain nibbles. I would recommend it for dinner parties but you’ve got to be careful because some of your guests might be of the “I hate coriander” persuasion. 

A hot drink for a cold

Two days later and I’m still sick, at home, restless but lethargic at the same time. So here is a post about a hot drink I made to try and alleviate some of my cold symptoms.

You will need:
-Lemon
-Ginger
-Garlic
-Hot water
-Turmeric (optional)
-Chilli flakes (optional)
-Whisky or brandy or rum (optional)

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Take a piece of ginger around the size of your thumb. Use a spoon to scrape off the skin.

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Use a Japanese grater (one of my favourite kitchen utensils) and grate the peeled ginger to release all the juice. Squeeze out then discard the fibrous pulp.

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Pour the fiery ginger juice into a cup.

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Juice a lemon and add the juice to the mug.

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Peel then coarsely cut a single clove of garlic. Add the pieces to the cup.

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Add 1-2 teaspoons of honey.

Then, depending on your preferences you can add one or more or none or all of the following:

-1/2 a teaspoon of turmeric powder
-A pinch of chilli flakes
-A dash of whisky, brandy or rum

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It looks fairly alarming.

Top up with hot water, just off the boil, and stir to dissolve the honey and let the flavours diffuse into the drink.

Sip it slowly and be sure to eat/swallow the garlic. Yes it may give you very strong breath but if you’re feeling sick you should be in quarantine anyway.

Dishoom could pack a punch: 3.5/5

‘Dishoom’ is a traditional Bollywood onomatopoeic word (like ‘Kapow!’) used to express the noise of someone getting punched or slapped in an old film or comic book.

In London, Dishoom is a Shoreditch eatery inspired by Mumbai cafe culture. It is easily identified by the queue outside its doors most evenings.

Once again, from a martini perspective this good bar/restaurant loses points for its simple failure to keep its gin and glasses in the freezer.

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Otherwise, however, it gets points for its evocative, eccentric decor, attentive service and excellent array of food. Martinis probably aren’t their priority, but if they wanted to hit the full 5/5 rating I would recommend that they focus on the temperature of the drink, whilst serving them with a small selection of some of their fantastic nibbles (such as their delicious battered okra). Maybe they could try out the Raitini as well.

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Recycled cardboard menus, vintage posters and some other quirky features made it an interesting experience to dine there. I would normally refuse to queue for half an hour to enter a restaurant but at Dishoom they serve you warm masala chai while you wait, which is a nice touch, especially in winter.

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The actual cocktail making was also very impressive. I locked eyes with a Sri Lankan inspired Arrack-based drink on the menu (the Toddy Tapper) and asked which brand of Arrack they were using. The barman didn’t know but got out the bottle for me to read the label. I didn’t recognise the brand either. It looked very modern, whereas most of the (many) bottles of Arrack I’ve drunk in my lifetime have had very old-fashioned labels.

Anyway, the barman set fire to some alcohol and fennel seeds in a glass to release the flavour before adding them to my drink. This was visually impressive as you can see from the above photograph taken by my friend. Of course, we also ordered a martini to try.

The food was tasty, the service good and fast (after the queueing at least) and the atmosphere was pleasant. I would definitely recommend giving it a try, but be sure to wear enough warm clothing to queue outside.