What kind of martini should you serve before a curry? This one.
Indian summer? No, just a British one.
As much as I love a classic gin martini, sometimes it can leave your mouth just a little too raw before you eat a fiery dish, so I started to contemplate an alternative, something with less alcohol but more flavour to compliment the curry.
Of course, South Asia presents us with a wonderful array of flavours to play with, but at risk of creating something some people in the region might consider ‘insipid’ I choose fairly mild flavours to create a cooling and refreshing martini, based on mint and cucumber yoghurt raita, but without the yoghurt. Imagine a salt lassi with alcohol instead of dairy products.
The Raitini is born.
To serve two of these, take half a cucumber and grate it. I use a plastic Japanese grater I found on the internet. I have seen people use it for grating daikon/mooli but it’s perfect for this task as well.
Separate the juice from the pulp. Pour the juice into a glass and put the pulp into a bowl.
Next, peel a knob of ginger.
I was taught this peeling technique by a Sri Lankan friend. Use a teaspoon to scrape off the skin. It’s really fast and easy and you barely lose any of the juicy flesh underneath.
Next, grate the ginger in the same way as the cucumber. Really squeeze the ginger pulp to get as much juice out as possible, then discard the pulp. Pour the juice into the same glass as the cucumber juice. This adds a little bit of fire to the martini. If you really want to give it some kick you could grate in some chilli as well but personally I would save your spice for the meal itself. The drink should be cooling so as to contrast it.
Take a handful of mint leaves and chop then finely then add them to the cucumber and ginger juice. If you don’t have mint leaves you can substitute this with a teaspoon of mint sauce.
With the cucumber pulp that you separated earlier, you can now make an actual raita to serve with your curry.
Mix it with a few tablespoons of natural yoghurt and add a generous handful of chopped mint leaves (or a teaspoon or two or mint sauce) and you’re good to go.
Back to the martini, take a martini glass, add 1 – 1.5 parts vermouth, then 2 parts of the cucumber juice and stir. Top up with gin (about 2 parts), stir again and garnish with a slice of cucumber.
Fit for Aishwarya ‘Raitini’ Rai perhaps?
You can also use vodka for this recipe but I would recommend gin for those sentimental over the days of the British Raj. Bombay Sapphire would be a good choice for obvious reasons. Hendricks gin also goes very well with cucumber.
I predictably served these latest martinis with Bombay mix and pistachio nuts but there is an array of bites that could accompany these drinks: bhajis, samosa and poppadoms are easy to get hold of but there are loads of possibilities. I would be interested to hear other people’s suggestions.
And here’s the curry I served afterwards: marinated tandoori chicken with salad and grilled broccoli and a generous side helping of cooling raita made with the pulp of the grated cucumber.