A martini with sage

This is a very simple recipe for a snack that may or may not taste like fragrant Pringles made for the Gods…

 

While coriander is my favourite herb (controversial, I know), I also love sage.

I previously made a sage-infused gin which goes nicely in a gin and tonic. 

  

However, this sage recipe is very easy and infinitely faster than making an infusion.

  

Instructions

  • Pick around 8 sage leaves per person (or more if they’re small or if you want to eat a lot).
  • Fry them (potentially in batches) in salted butter on a high heat for about 2-3 minutes.
  • The butter should be foaming but be careful not to burn it (remove it from the heat if this starts to happen).
  • The leaves are ready when they’re crispy with tinges of brown colouring.
  • Serve immediately and eat with your fingers (although you can use a fork or chopsticks if you prefer).
  • Save the leftover butter to pour over food (like potatoes), perhaps if you have a meal after your martini and snack.

  
And there you go. It’s like eating fragrant, salty, crunchy air that slides over your tongue. It’s particularly satisfying if you’ve grown the herbs yourself.

  
And obviously these delicious, simple but slightly unusual snacks go very well with a martini…

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Martini with a sprig of thyme

  

This is a very simple variation on the classic martini.

Thyme is one of my favourite herbs. The mouth-watering smell evokes summertime, or some of the delicious za’tar manouche (savoury thyme-flavoured Lebanese wraps) I’ve eaten in Beirut, London and Dubai.

 
Take a sprig of fresh thyme (I’ve been growing some on the balcony), wash and dry it, then rub it around a chilled martini glass to transfer its flavour.

I also rubbed some lemon peel around the glass as well. The lemon and thyme combination might be especially good before a roast chicken dinner.
 Discard the lemon peel, pour the martini using the classic recipe and use the thyme as a garnish.

It adds a nice hint of aromatic flavour to the drink while providing a delicate and colourful garnish that looks so good in the spring as everything starts to turn green.

I think I might try infusing some into a batch of gin. Watch this space…

More snacks and nibbles to accompany martinis

Here is another selection of savoury snacks I’ve recently served and eaten with martinis.

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Roasted and salted soy beans.

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Prawns on lettuce with Peking duck sauce and fried spicy broad beans.

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You can get a lot of good stuff in IKEA.

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Fish roe goes well in Swedish croustades.

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Here are some of the filled croustades, as well as some Japanese nuts and seaweed snacks.

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Here are some more croustades with a smidgen of Sås senap and dill (a type of sweet Swedish mustard) topped up with Tångkorn (a salty seaweed extract) with a fleck of lemon peel to garnish.

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I like to keep a selection of things like peanuts, pistachio nuts, Bombay mix etc just in case you need an emergency martini (it happens).

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A simple favourite: Bombay mix and olives stuffed with anchovies.

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MUM’S ROAST BEEF!

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Sushi.

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Sage leaves fried in butter with garlic and walnuts (see here for the recipe).

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Steak. After you cook it, let it rest for about 5 minutes then slice it thinly.

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Scrumptious pieces of grilled Parma ham.

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Olives and squid.

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Elk and pork sausage.


Fried salmon skin.

Fried sage leaves again, but this time with no additions of garlic or nuts.

Ceviche.

Pistachio nuts.

 And finally, happiness is finding an olive (or three) at the bottom of your martini when you’re hungry, said a very wise man.

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. 

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.

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.

Rosemary’s Baby martini – not as terrifying as it sounds

Remember the Rosemary Martini I made the other day? I experimented slightly last night and have subsequently come up with a Version Two.
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Using the rosemary-infused gin/vodka from the same recipe, put together the martini using the following proportions:

1 part (or to taste) sweet vermouth
1 part rosemary gin/vodka
4 parts normal chilled gin/vodka

It’s more subtle than the full blown rosemary martini but I preferred it.

It also means that the infused gin/vodka lasts much longer. Which is good because rosemary takes bloody ages to grow.

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Best served with friends/family.