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. 

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Martini Izakaya Dishes


An Izakaya is essentially a type of Japanese pub that specialises in food to accompany drinks. It’s basically my favourite type of drinks setting. I love the post-work, instantly friendly and relaxed atmosphere, completely free of pretension.


Comparable to Spanish tapas or Turkish meze, the Izakaya-way is healthier than simply guzzling down a bucket of booze before staggering off for some fish and chips or a kebab (yes I’m British, that’s what we do).


Izakaya dining tends to leave out carbohydrates (rice, noodles etc) until the end of the meal for when the customer wants something very filling to soak up the booze before they leave. Otherwise most of the carbohydrates in the meal are obtained from the alcoholic beverages.

 I normally like some sort of carbohydrate with my martinis (crisps or nuts as a particular culprit, including the above Japanese peanut snacks) but there are loads of low-carb alternatives out there and the Izakaya is the master of them. Here are some examples:


It’s fairly standard to start an Izakaya meal with edamame, here boiled in salted water for 4 minutes from frozen, drained, cooled and sprinkled with salt (or some of Laura Santtini’s Umami salt if you fancy it). There are loads of other sauces, dips and condiments you can serve them with. Try experimenting.

   
This is another common Izakaya dish: agedashi-tofu.

It’s deep-fried tofu cubes in simmered dashi stock. I made some here with fried peppers, grated daikon, sliced cucumber, sliced spring onions and sesame seeds. For a recipe I recommend my favourite online cookery show: Cooking With Dog.


Grilled meat and vegetables are also extremely popular. Here are some Yakitori skewers.


Korean-style spinach – Sigeumchi-namul is an easy accompaniment you can make in advance of serving martinis.

Here is some tamago-yaki (fried omelette) with a sweet balsamic vinegar glaze. This is also nice at breakfast by the way.

  
Izakayas are usually more relaxed than formal sushi restaurants and many serve Japanese interpretations of Western cuisine. The above Korokke for example is the commonly served Japanese version of French croquette potatoes, here served on a bed of noodles. Sacré bleu!

  
I produced these asparagus skewers with the Izakaya style in mind, even though they are not traditionally Japanese.


Behold! I think I have managed to insult the culinary traditions of at least three different countries with this one. Nigiri (fingers of sushi rice pressed individually with toppings) here with English mustard (instead of wasabi) Spanish chorizo, Italian prosciutto and salami, with a mayo-mustard-vinegar-honey-and-juniper dip and some Tsukemono on the side.


I won’t stop there. Here is some meat and cheese gyoza, a veritable abomination of traditional Japanese cooking, but it’s very easy to make and appeals to meat and cheese lovers. Similar to a normal gyoza (dumpling) in terms of appearance and preparation, the only difference is the ingredients. Place a spoonful of cheese into the middle of some thinly sliced chorizo or salami, fold the meat over to encapsulate the cheese and crimp it shut. You can serve it like that, or grill it for a minute or so until the meat crisps and the cheese melts. 

  
My brother made something similar by wrapping mozzarella pieces in thin salami slices and frying them. Not so good for the heart, but very good for the belly.


Speaking of bellies, here are some evilly good deep-fried pickled gherkins. A salt ‘n’ vinegar snack I first enjoyed courtesy of the Meat Liquor / Meat Mission guys in London. They’re easy to make. Just dip them in a simple batter and fry them for about 3-4 minutes in about an inch of hot, lightly smoking oil. They go well if you serve them with a soy sauce and balsamic vinegar 50:50 mixture for dipping.

  
That soy-vinegar mixture works well with quite a lot of things. Here I used it as a dipping sauce for wood ear mushrooms. Buy these dried, bring a pan of water to the boil, throw them in, take the pan off the heat, give them a stir, leave them to soak in the water for 30 minutes, drain then serve.


Okay, okay, I know, it’s just crisps. Carbs and not fancy, right? Well Izakayas aren’t pretentious. So all sorts of comfort foods can be served. Crisps will forever be welcome as a tasty martini snack.


This is more authentically Izakaya. Sliced aubergine (egg plant, if you must) stir fried then combined with a light miso sauce, with chopped spring onions sprinkled on top. It can be served hot or cold.


This is some fried spring onion with a soy glaze. Simple, easy and slightly unusual in the West, the recipe is here.

  
This is probably cheating but I served some deep fried squid I bought from a Chinese takeaway restaurant. No one complained. It actually worked very well. I’ve said it before, seafood goes very well with a martini. And if you’re going to dip that seafood in batter and fry it until it’s crunchy then that can only be a good thing. 


This wasn’t cheating but it was a lot more time consuming. It’s some thinly sliced rare beef with spring onions. I rubbed the beef with salt and pepper, cooked it lightly in a pan, chilled it in iced water, patted it dry, sat it in a sweet soy and onion marinade overnight then sliced it thinly and served it with spring onion.


It’s a bit fiddly to make for a canapé but it’s tasty if you can be bothered. The beef also goes well simply served on top of rice (especially sushi rice).


This is izakaya-esque. I just took some konbu (kelp) I had used while making sushi rice and turned it into a salty/umami garnish.


You can roll the konbu up and serve it as an alternative to the classic martini olive.

    

You can also serve konbu with that same soy-vinegar mixture shown above.

Here is some Shime Saba or lightly pickled Japanese mackerel. It’s one of my favourite things to make and eat and it’s very healthy. 

  
One of my friends complains about prawn sandwiches having a “high death-to-bite ratio” but this mussel martini has a “high death to sip ratio”… Much like those of James Bond’s… It’s not the most appetising garnish I ever made but life without experimentation is dull. I simply threaded some pre-cooked mussels on a toothpick and served it on the side of the glass.

  
And who could forget this experimental extravaganza? It’s more seafood, this time in the form of a squid-ink martini with octopus tentacles. Tentacle martini porn is now officially a thing!

  
And finally, as I said before, an Izakaya experience is often finished off with soup and/or noodles. I also think that a martini needs to be finished off with a good meal. You want to fill your stomach with something substantial after all that alcohol and you need something to look forward to. Otherwise you’ll end up just wanting another martini – which can get very dangerous indeed!

 
Above I served noodles in miso soup with dumplings, prawns, seaweed, courgettes and avocado topped with katsuobushi (dried tuna shavings). It’s very easy to throw together – even if you’re two martinis down. In fact, if you’ve got the miso soup, add the boiled noodles then you could just about throw anything in there. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

Kanpai!

A Dirty Martini with lemon olives

This is a very tasty variation on a classic.
  
It’s just a normal dirty martini but with an extra sour-silken touch of citrus.

 
I’ve mentioned previously that Fragata kindly sent me a box of goodies to try out.

I usually eat their olives stuffed with anchovies but now I’m trying out their olives stuffed with lemon.

While I still prefer to eat their anchovy olives on their own, these lemon ones really enhance a martini. 

If you can’t decide if you would prefer your martini with an olive or a twist of lemon then this olive combo is for you.

  
Slightly open the can and pour the brine into a glass. 

 
Open the can more fully and decant the olives into a dish.

 
Take a chilled martini glass and squeeze a freshly peeled strip of lemon rind into it. Rub the peel around the inside of the glass to transfer as much of the lemon oil into it as possible. Keep the strip when finished.

 
Add olive brine to the glass. I recommend between 2-6 teaspoons depending on your preference (I use 4 teaspoons).

 
Take a bamboo skewer and thread on some olives. I think convention dictates that it should be an odd number of olives but it doesn’t make that much of a difference. If you only have toothpicks to hand just thread on one or two olives.

 

Add vermouth to taste (1tsp – 25ml) then top up with gin or vodka (100-120ml). Stir with the strip of lemon (then suck the lemon, just for the joy of it) before discarding it.

Garnish with the olives.

  
You can serve more olives on the side as well, depending on your appetite. It’s especially good for sharing and will stave off your hunger before dinner.

Another selection of recent martinis

Here are some I made earlier…

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A frosty classic.
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A lemon drop martini with foam.

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An earl grey martini LINK with foam.

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A spicy Sriracha martini LINK

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A dirty Mr. Gibson (combining this with this)

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A tribute to the God of dirty martinis.

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A frosty classic with mixed nuts.

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A Gibson with olives and sliced pickled gherkins.

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Here’s a classic martini I made for my grandmother at Christmas.

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A dirty martini by the fireside.

Supersize my Dirty Martini

I recently posted about getting myself larger than normal toothpicks.

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I thought I would use them to make a larger than normal dirty martini, using this recipe.

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I am happy with the result.

Recipe:
1 measure vermouth (I use sweet vermouth)
1 measure olive brine
4-5 measures gin or vodka
Lots of olives

Use longer toothpicks to maximise your garnishes

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My brother commented that normal toothpicks were too short for my martini glasses. He is a very practical former Royal Marine and a keen perfectionist so I took his comments onboard and spent some time trying to think of an alternative.

The other day I found some slightly longer mini bamboo skewers in an Asian supermarket and thought they would do the trick.

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Here is a size comparison between a normal toothpick and my new, slightly longer mini skewers.

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You can fit a lot on them! Here is a combination of olives, pickled onions and a twist of lemon peel.

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And here’s a load of olives.

The longer skewer gives you lots more room to get creative with your garnishes. I strongly recommend them, especially if you’re feeling a bit inventive.

The Squid Ink and Octopus Martini

   
This one goes by many names…

  • The Octopus-tini
  • The Octopussy Martini
  • The Loch Ness Monstini
  • The Nautilus-tini
  • The Maritime Martini
  • The Tako-tini (tako no matini / タコのマティーニ)
  • And finally, the Spectre Martini

Add squid ink and octopus tentacle soaked in balsamic vinegar to make an unusual variation of a dirty martini and Le Jacques Coustini.

  

Get yourself some sea legs by drinking one or two of them. You will need:

  • Olives in brine
  • Squid ink
  • Balsamic vinegar (possibly sweet mirin as well if you fancy being fancy)
  • Boiled octopus tentacle (other seafood garnishes such as langoustine can be used as a substitute if desired). The octopus tentacle can be prepared from frozen as well as fresh.
  • Perhaps some seafood to serve as an accompaniment (optional – and see here for some ideas)
  • Vermouth
  • And finally, the hard stuff: gin/vodka (perhaps a brand with a maritime or seafood connection)

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First of all, I went to Borough Market, which pretty much supplies everything you need for a martini.

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I bought whelks and cockles as an unusual accompanying snack.

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I also bought some squid ink.

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When I got home I took some cooked octopus tentacles out of the freezer and soaked them in balsamic vinegar for several hours. There’s all sorts of weird and wonderful stuff in my freezer – here’s why.

You only need to soak the octopus for enough time for it to defrost but after 4 hours it will have absorbed a lot of flavour which is good. You could also soak it in a slightly japanese marinade combining balsamic vinegar and sweet mirin, of around 4 parts vinegar to 1 part mirin.

  
Remove the octopus pieces and pierce them with toothpicks (unless you want them to appear au naturale draped over the rim of your glass).

  

  • When drink o’clock arrives open the olives and pour some of the brine into a glass. Serve the olives to your guest(s). I use Fragata tinned olives stuffed with anchovies, because (a) the fish continues the maritime theme and (b) they taste amazeballs. The brine is also very good.
  • For each martini you intend to make transfer 4 teaspoons of the brine into a separate glass.
  • Into this glass squeeze about half a teaspoon of squid ink per martini and muddle it until it has broken into small globules. This is your brine and ink mixture to flavour and colour the martini. If I think back to chemistry class this might be called an emulsion but martinis have made me forget and I would have to defer to someone with superior knowledge.
  • In a chilled martini glass pour the brine and ink mixture (as above, 4 teaspoons of brine and half a teaspoon of ink per martini).
  • Add a dash of vermouth (or to taste) then stir.
  • Add 4-5 measures of gin or vodka then stir.
  • Rinse the vinegar off the octopus tentacle and balance it on the edge of the glass.
  • You can serve additional octopus tentacles with toothpicks as appetisers. 

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And there you go, it looks like some frightful creature crawling out from the deep of the black lagoon but I promise you it tastes nice. The brine and seafood will hopefully set off your appetite before a meal.

Given its appearance it might be a good drink to serve during Halloween, or if you’re having a James Bond theme party.

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Add more brine if you like your martini dirty.

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If you prefer your martini ‘clean’ you can simply make a classic martini and serve the octopus as a garnish.

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Voila. Fit for a Bond villain.

If you have any other potential name suggestions for this one let me know in the comments below.

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