More martini snacks and canapes

I’m just going to leave this here…

  

What could be easier than olives and cheese-stuffed peppers that you picked up at the shops on the way home? I particularly like the colour contrast of these two. Oh and the taste.

You can’t go wrong with the lemony-buttery taste of Nocellara olive flesh, while the soft creamy cheese paired very indulgently with the sweet piccante crunch of the pepper.

  
This one was also a little bit last minute. I threw together some Bombay mix, prosciutto and olives when a friend popped round unexpectedly. The Bombay mix didn’t really go with the other two, but it’s definitely very nice on its own.

  

Here are some nuts, arranged mindlessly while I stared into space sipping my first drink of the night. Salted pistachio nuts are my favourite, although some nice big fat macadamia nuts would go well with a martini too.

  
Simple, easy, light, savoury, Twiglets are an underrated canapé snack. They are the flavour and texture opposite of the martini. Where a martini is cold, smooth, heady, citrusy and ever so slightly sweet, these are light, crunchy, salty and savoury. They don’t look particularly elegant but the flavour contrast really works. They’re a guaranteed winner for marmite fans.

  
This one is a bit more fancy. Asparagus skewers, blini with taramasalata, maki rolls, sigeumchi-namul, crisps, a martini and candles…

  
A simple but slightly more edgy snack, here are some wasabi peas with a simple classic.

  
Extremely simple, but very tasty, here is some lightly pickled baby beetroot. I’m sure we could create some kind of pink-coloured beetroot Gibson Martini, perhaps similar to the Beet Up Vesper Martini at the Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town bar in central London. 


Sea Aster is a seasonal coastal plant that flowers in the summer but is edible in the spring. Wash and eat raw or lightly boil for a minute or two. I got mine at a fish monger’s in Borough Market.


Mum bought these langoustines from Tobermory Main Street while I picked up the samphire on Oban pier on a trip back from London.


There’s a whole world of tapas-style ingredients and food types you could use. Above you can see chorizo, cold roast pork slices, feta cheese, olives, bread, houmous, oil  and duqqah.


You can turn the nibbles into your whole meal and really take your time with the martini. Above you can see crab open sandwiches, nuts, wood ear mushrooms, Korean-style spinach, roasted vegetables, seaweed, manchego cheese, Bombay mix, olives, bread, oil and houmous all to be slowly munched while you sip your cold gin.


Houmous is a relaxed martini accompaniment to have at home with informal company over a drink.


Here it is served with sliced pitta bread and a variety of mostly Mediterranean snacks.


My kind neighbour made me some lovely Middle Eastern sweets which I included in the meal.

The Arabic element of the food was especially good at soaking up some of the alcohol!


Dim sum was a surprisingly good – if slightly unconventional accompaniment.


Oysters are my favourite.


I also love creamy manchego cheese.


Finally though, the most classical martini snack will always remain the pitted green olive. If it’s all you have, you’ll be fine. And you won’t spoil your appetite for dinner.

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The Foxlow in Balham 4/5

  

My friend invited me out to lunch at the Foxlow Restaurant just around the corner from Balham tube station in south London.
 

The decor has a 1970s Scandinavian feel to it, with lots of wood and chunky fixtures that say practicality as well as style. The staff were also helpful, friendly and knowledgable. 

  

The food menu is unpretentious comfort food – but of very high quality. The chicken sandwich was generous, tasty, comforting and a real treat of contrasting textures. All the meat and fish is carefully chosen from high value and sustainable sources by the way.

  

I don’t normally drink martinis at lunch but when I saw the unusual option at the top of their cocktail menu I had to try it. I was told it involved a honey and Manzanilla olive brine mixture instead of vermouth. If in doubt, I almost always prefer a traditional classic but this sounded like a very individual, striking yet simple variation that I had never seen before so it would have been rude not to order one.

  
I was not disappointed. The oily circle of honey oozed playfully around the surface of the drink until the end while the sweet and briny flavours swirled pleasingly over the stoicism of the dry gin.

If I could recommend any changes I would suggest, as I often do, keeping the gin and glasses in the freezer so that the drink was even colder. I also prefer to drink martinis from a V-shaped martini glass rather than a coupe glass, but these are minor points.

The drink was good value for money for London and I particularly salute the creativity of someone who can take a tried and tested classic, innovate it with a subtle but unique alteration and create something new and pleasing, yet also reassuringly rooted in the classic martini recipe  style.

  
The drink was not served with nibbles (perhaps it could be served with complimentary Manzanilla olives for martini greatness) but the nibbles on offer in the food menu were creative and highly tasty.

We ordered the anchovy, onion and goats cheese served on rounds of crisp bread. They were absolutely delicious, with strong salty and umami punch, finished off with the pungency of the onion.
  
They were a fantastic accompaniment to the martini, although given their strong flavour I would recommend only eating them with someone you are comfortable enough to share anchovy-onion breath with afterwards. If you’re on a date you’d better buy two plates to share – your breaths will hopefully cancel one another’s out if you end  up kissing later – and if you have one or two martinis let’s be honest, there will probably be a fairly good chance of it.

A Martin Miller’s Gin martini

I first collected a bottle of this gin in Madrid airport duty free. The unusual branding caught my eye. Made with pure Icelandic water with a traditional English gin technique, it sits in a tall, proud-looking bottle with straight lines and clean imagery. There are strong maritime tones to the bottles appearance.

  
The gin has a crisp, dry flavour that you can lose in a gin and tonic (make sure you choose a tonic that does the gin justice). In a martini, however, I thought it went very well.

It has a smokey-smooth character, not too strong on juniper, or indeed any botanicals, which helped make a subtle but simultaneously bold martini.

  
To hark to its Nordic links you could drink it around mid-summer (midsommar), or mid-winter, but to be honest it would work at any time of year. Like most classic martinis it will go well with seafood but there’s something about this gin which makes me want to pair it with smoked things in particular – fish or meat. 

  
It also went down very nicely in the smokey air as we waited for steaks to cook on our fire pit. Despite the beautiful sunset it was freezing up in the Hebrides when we drank this, but we kept warm with the strong spirits inside us as we stood around the fire. 

  
Feeling a little bit merry, I went for a nice wander in the trees shortly after. A lovely end to the day.

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.

Swedish akvavit

It’s Christmas time and last night I decided to have a non-martini drink. I’ve previously mentioned my liking for akvavit for midsommar, but I also like it during the winter (to keep warm).
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I put some miniature bottles of akvavit (from Ikea) in the freezer for a day, then served them in heavy glasses and a single spherical ice cube. I like all the different infusions, as it adds a bit of variety to my normal gin diet.

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Skål och god jul!

The Frukostini (the Swedish breakfast martini)

The classic martini will always be my favourite, but of the non-classics, I think this is definitely one of the tastiest (even if it looks slightly alarming).

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The breakfast martini was invented by Salvatore Calabrese in the Lanesborough hotel in London. It involves gin, marmalade, lemon juice and Cointreau or Triple Sec. However, I’ve had some lingonberry jam in my fridge from my last Ikea trip which I thought might make a nice substitute for the marmalade. My imagination went from there.
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I muddled two teaspoons of jam with a laaaaaarge measure of gin (let’s say 3-4 measures). I then poured it into a frozen martini glass and topped up with some wild berry Swedish Rekorderlig cider.

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I dubbed this concoction of Swedish jam, British gin and Swedish cider the Swedish breakfast martini, or… more aptly, the Frukostini (frukost is the Swedish word for breakfast).

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To garnish, I made some toast, cut out a triangle, made a small slit with a knife, and spread on some of the jam.

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And then I drank it. And it was good.

Of course, it doesn’t need to be breakfast time when you drink these…

It reminds me just a little bit of Lucille Bluth from Arrested Development.

“Get me a vodka rocks.”
“Mom, it’s breakfast.”
“And a piece of toast.”

My favourite Arrested Development character.

https://www.drinkaware.co.uk

Skål!

Summer akvavit

Sunday evening, I didn’t want a full martini, just a little pre-dinner sip. London looks green, with the stirring of a summer haze as the sun sets. The approach of the solstice put me in mind of Scandinavian celebrations so I took a bottle of akvavit out of the freezer and poured some into a tall, frozen shot glass, with a twist of lemon peel for a bit of edge.

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