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.

The Argentini (the Chimichurri Martini)

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Chimichurri is an Argentine sauce made from parsley, garlic, olive oil, oregano and vinegar. You can make an unusual aperitif by muddling a teaspoon into your vermouth before you pour a classic martini, to whet your appetite before a meal – especially if it’s a Latin American dish; a juicy steak for example. It will work particularly well if the dish you are serving for dinner has been marinaded in the Chimichurri as well.

I prefer variations of Chimichurri from other parts of Latin America that use a lot of coriander (cilantro) but the Argentine version is probably the one with the greatest appeal. My favourite Latin American sauce is green Colombian Ají, which would work very well for martini lovers who also have a penchant for hot spiciness and coriander flavour.

However, coriander/cilantro is the Marmite of the herb world: you either love it or hate it. For example, I love it; my mum hates it. I find it a fresh, clean, grassy flavour but people often complain that it tastes soapy or like washing up liquid. There doesn’t seem to be any middle ground.

If you’re not a fan, stick to the Argentine version of the sauce. Otherwise try this out with Colombian Ají – and preferably home made rather than the bottle I’ve used here.

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To prepare, muddle one teaspoon of Chimichurri sauce in a measure of vermouth (to taste, depending on how sweet or dry you like a martini). Top up with gin or vodka, then serve.

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It turns a milky-white colour like Pernod or Ouzo.

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As an accompanying meal I slathered more of the Chimichurri over some rainbow trout fillets and left them to marinate for half an hour while I poured – and drank – the drink.

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I then rolled them up, held them together with bamboo skewers and grilled them for around 15 minutes.

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I served it with salad and a yoghurt/Chimichurri sauce, drizzled with oil, a little balsamic vinegar and some dried oregano. It probably isn’t the most appetising meal you’ve ever seen, but that’s why I’m a martini-maker not a chef.

L’Escargot Restaurant, Soho, London, 3/5

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I went with some friends to this French restaurant in London, located on Greek Street in Soho. It was an occasionally perplexing and even tense experience, although the martini I drank before my meal was nice.

The staff were friendly and pleasant but there was a strange, intense and even chaotic element to the service. It was difficult to book a table, despite the fact that the place was empty when we turned up at our allotted time.

When I ordered two martinis for the table there was a terrifying episode when the first waiter couldn’t tell if I was saying two martinis or two ‘martinez’ (a variation on the classic martini recipe). The situation escalated until another waiter was called to assist in the translation but he was equally unable to understand my order. There followed vigorous pointing at the menu and eventually they seemed to understand, although during the time they were making the drink I was on the edge of my seat, terrified that they had made a mistake and that I would have to do the British thing of not mentioning it to them once they had served me. The trials of life!

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Fortunately one of the waiters soon returned to ask me how I would like the martini (sweet or dry? Olive or twist?). The drink arrived 10 minutes later and while I don’t think the gin or glass had been kept in the freezer it was still very cold. They had made the effort to serve a good quality martini.

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It didn’t come with any nibbles but we ordered snails which I have to say were utterly delectable and definitely the highlight of the meal.

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The decor of the restaurant was nice, my pate starter was tasty although the main of trout was a little underwhelming. Nonetheless, I will stick to reviewing the martini which I thought was a good effort. It wasn’t just a drink option the management had put on the menu out of pretension. It was made attentively and with care, despite the stressful ordering process.

In short, I would recommend you drop in for a martini and escargot, but probably eat your main course elsewhere.

How to make sage-infused gin (for martinis or gin and tonics)

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I have sage growing in the garden so I thought I would make good use of it. When infused in gin it adds a subtle dimension to a martini. It also goes very well in a gin and tonic.

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Pick a generous bunch of sage leaves, approximately 15 per 100ml of gin you intend to infuse.

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Wash, pat dry, then roughly chop the leaves.

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Add them to a jar and top up with gin. I used around 300ml. Give it a rigorous shake and leave it to brew for two days, shaking it once or twice more over the course of the period.

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When it’s time to pour, make a classic martini but replace the standard gin with your infused sage gin. Feel free to garnish with a fresh sage leaf.

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As an accompanying amuse-bouche try turning the heat up on a frying pan and add some olive oil. When it’s hot stir in some minced garlic, chopped walnuts and more fresh sage leaves. Stir fry for about a minute or two until the leaves are crunchy. Serve immediately.