Monday, 27 September 2010

Star anise schnapps

A bottle of vodka and several green, unripe walnuts on a table in a garden

The picture above is rather misleading. Last summer, my colleague Martyn gave me half a dozen unripe walnuts from his tree, to make schnapps with. I steeped them in vodka for five months, according to this recipe, and left the liquid to mature for seven months. Just as the schapps should have been ready to enjoy, I moved house and the jar was spilled in the process.

Martyn gave me some more walnuts this year, the ones shown above. Unfortunately, it was too late in the year and they had already formed their woody shells. I cast about the kitchen for something to schnappsify, and found a bag of star anise. Here's a recipe for star anise schnapps from the same site.

This recipe had the advantage that it was a lot quicker to mature. (Being absent-minded, I still left the star anise in for a few days longer than recommended.) A week later, I served it to some friends as a digestif: seen below are Jenny, David and Dave.

The schnapps had a beautiful amber colour and a strong flavour of aniseed, with delicate undertones -- more complex than, for example, sambuca. The next time I make it, I'll probably leave the pods in for the same length of time and dilute it slightly with more vodka. I also want to try turning it into a liqueur and experimenting with the rest of the spice cupboard

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Beetroot and squash soup with red bean mash

When this blog started, the first couple of posts were of beetroot-based recipes, as Rachel had just gone to the market and brought back a lot of beetroot. This is once again the case, so here's some delicious squash and beetroot soup:

Recipe (serves 2)

  • 2 small squashes/pumpkins
  • 2 beetroots
  • olive oil
  • a stock cube
  • garlic paste, salt, a bit of cayenne pepper, and lots of cumin
Peel, de-core and cube the squashes and cube the beetroots. Put into pan with a generous amount of olive oil, some garlic paste, and the spices. Gently fry for 5-10 minutes. Then add the stock and enough boiling water to cover the vegetables. Simmer, occasionally stirring, for half an hour. The squashes will have dissolved, the beetroots softened, and the soup become thick, red, and creamy.

To go along with this, Rachel made a bean mash consisting of chopped spring onions, mashed kidney beans, lemon juice, tahini and pepper: