The Challenge: Soup For The Neighbours

One of the upsides of lockdown is that neighbours have suddenly become very neighbourly. Carrier bags of ‘stuff’ keep appearing at my gate; last week it was rhubarb, this week it’s lovage.

Of course this is all very nice, but it can be a bit of a double-edged sword. In order for me to reciprocate and enter into the neighbourly spirit, it seems I have to make things from said ‘stuff’ and return it whence it came. So, last week I was making rhubarb and custard tarts and leaving them on Mark’s doorstep, but this week… what the hell I can do with a bag of lovage is a far bigger challenge!

It’s not a herb we Brits use a great deal. It arrives in the garden mid to late spring and sticks around right through til’ autumn. It belongs to the celery family and really does resemble celery; tall, green and leafy.

Flavour-wise it’s super powerful; the Germans use it a lot and consider it a vital part of any bouquet garni. In Germany, it’s referred to as Maggi Kraut; (Maggi Herb), due to the fact that it has that unique Maggi-like, umami flavour. It also has healthful qualities… “good for flushing out the kidneys”, so I’m told.

Lovage works well with peas; so a pea, potato and lovage soup was a knocking bet. Neighbours love soup, right? It also works really well with raw tomatoes, in a salad with goat’s curd, broad beans and spring onions, although tomatoes aren’t really at their best right now unless you can find some Isle of Wight early varieties. It’s also surprisingly good deep-fried, either as it is or in a very light tempura-type batter. Prepared like this, it would give a lovely flavour hit to a roast rack of spring lamb with asparagus and Jersey Royals.

 

The Challenge: Lovage Soup For The Neighbours

 

Pea, Lovage & Jersey Potato Soup… For The Neighbours

 

Finely slice a small leek and sweat it slowly in butter with a pinch salt and a good grind of pepper. Add the vegetable stock and sliced Jersey potatoes. Bring everything to the boil and simmer for 6 or 7 minutes before dropping in the podded peas (frozen would also do nicely) and cook for another few minutes until the peas are nice and tender (not so long that they start to lose their colour though). Throw in a small handful of lovage leaves and liquidise immediately. Then tip into a bowl on ice to cool it quickly and fix the colour. Reheat and finish with a knob of butter and maybe a dollop of crème fraiche. A warm cheese scone alongside would be a welcome bonus.

Finely slice a small leek and sweat it slowly in butter with a pinch salt and a good grind of pepper. Add a litre and a half of vegetable stock and 200g sliced Jersey potatoes. Bring everything to the boil and simmer for 6 or 7 minutes before dropping in 400g of podded peas (frozen would also do nicely) and cook for another few minutes till the peas are nice and tender (not so long that they start to lose
their colour though). Throw in a small handful of lovage leaves and liquidise immediately. Then tip into a bowl on ice to cool it quickly and fix the colour. Reheat and finish with a nob of butter and
maybe a dollop of crème fraîche. A warm cheese scone alongside would be a welcome bonus.

Share your own neighbourly lockdown creations on social media using the hashtag, #21LockdownChallenge.

The Challenge: Cocktails at Home

We’ve all been adapting to ‘the new normal’ – whether that’s with a new working from home routine, fitness in the garden, heading up the home kitchen, or indeed mixing up something exciting from the drinks cabinet. 

This week, I challenged Ben, our Bar Manager at St Vincent, to see what he could do with this mixed bag. An accumulation of holiday tipples picked up over an untold number of years!

Let’s see what he’s come up with.

Over to you, Ben…

 

 

White Lady

This is an absolute classic, refined at The American Bar at The Savoy in the 1920s and 30s. It’s still just as popular in the ‘World’s Best Bar’ today.

INGREDIENTS:

1 part Cointreau (20ml recommended)
2 parts gin
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp sugar (or ½ part syrup)
Egg white (optional)

METHOD:

To make it you need to mix or shake these ingredients quickly, preferably with ice. You could do this in a cocktail shaker, but if you don’t have one use a blender, protein shaker or a Tupperware box with a lid.

Add all of the ingredients and shake for around 30 seconds or blend for around 10 seconds. Then strain or sieve the drink into a glass to remove any shards of ice left from the shaking or blending. Drink straight up, without any ice the glass.

You can use any sugar you have in (white, granulated works best) or make a quick simple syrup (1 part sugar to 1 part water in a saucepan over a medium heat and stir until all the sugar has dissolved). You also have the option to add the white of 1 egg to the recipe. This won’t alter the flavour, but will give the drink a lovely, silky texture.

 

Cherry Twisted Negroni

A beautiful drink to sip in the late afternoon sun and really straightforward to make.

INGREDIENTS:

1 part Amaro Montenegro (20ml recommended)
1 part Schlanderer Kirschwasser (cherry brandy)
1.5 parts gin

METHOD:

Simply add all of the ingredients to a short glass with lots of ice. Give it a quick stir for 15 to 20 seconds and it’s ready. This is fantastic with a nice, chunky wedge of orange as a garnish. If you find it too strong, just give it another stir to dilute the drink some more.

 

Armagnac Sidecar (3 Ways)

A sidecar is classically made using Cognac and is a great drink for later in the evening. Here, we’re going to use Armagnac instead of Cognac – and I’ve given a few variations for something a bit different. Some people like to serve a Sidecar with a sugar rim on the glass – it’s completely your preference – the drink is delicious either way.

INGREDIENTS:

1 part Cointreau, Schlanderer Williams Birne (pear brandy) or Aprikosengeist (apricot brandy) (20ml recommended)
1.5 parts Armagnac
Juice of half a lemon

METHOD:

To make a more traditional Sidecar recipe, add the Armagnac, Cointreau and lemon juice to a cocktail shaker, protein shaker or Tupperware box with a good amount of ice. Shake it vigorously for around 30 seconds until the drink is nicely chilled and diluted. Then, if you like, you can rim your glass with sugar (a glass with a stem is great, but a shorter glass or even a wine glass will work well). To do this, tip a small amount of sugar on to a plate. Then slowly rub the rim of the glass in the sugar until you have a nice coating of sugar all the way around the rim. If you’re struggling to get the sugar to stick then you can rub a lemon wedge around the rim of the glass before dipping it in the sugar.

Now, strain or sieve the drink into your glass without ice and enjoy. If you like you can garnish with a twist of lemon or orange. Take a long, narrow strip of peel and carefully twist it around the handle of a spoon and then drop it into the drink.

Alternatively, Armagnac works very well with both pear and apricot so, if you want something a bit different, replace the Cointreau with the Schlanderer Williams Birne or Aprikosengeist. You may need to use a little less than you would when making the drink with Cointreau and you could add a touch of sugar if you wish.

 

Share your own lockdown cocktail creations on social media using the hashtag, #21LockdownChallenge.