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Drinks

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I have decided that January will be an alcohol-free zone. Gone are the Friday nights in with a glass of red and the latest Lovefilm. Instead, I’m whipping up some tasty non-alcoholic versions of my favourite tipples to sip on.

I’ve been surrounded by inspiration this month, as both my parents are off the chardonnay and in the gym, my workmate is off the booze for a whole year as part of her marathon training and everywhere you look people are talking about Dry-uary. I admit I’ve jumped a little on the bandwagon here, but the thrill of saying no and having the willpower to have a diet coke instead of a tasty Brewdog is actually quite empowering.

I also admire people who don’t drink at all. Like TV presenter Jameela Jamil, who just doesn’t drink. No explanations given, and really who cares? She still goes out and parties, rolls into bed at 3am and presents the Chart Show with a sleep-deprived hangover. I have to say I find it pretty cool when people stand up for what they believe in, and even if it is just for this month that I give the ol’ liver a rest, then I think belonging to the fair-weather-teetotal gang isn’t such a bad thing at all.

So instead of my usual Friday night Pinot Grigio wind down, I’ve become more adventurous and tried new things to help me relax after a week in the office. Alcohol free beer has featured on the menu, alongside cups of green tea and fizzy water with fresh basil and raspberries. But this mock-tail was such a hit, I’d happily continue sipping it well into February. Sharp lime marries with mint beautifully, and it is that hit coupled with blueberry juice that implies fancy cocktail without a hint of rum. Topped up with soda, ice and fresh blueberries makes this cocktail look the part, and a lime sugared rim on the glass ensures a hint of sweetness as you take a sip. Even if you’re still on the booze this month, I suggest you give this cocktail a go. You never know, this recipe may even overtake your favourite Mojito recipe. Happy Dry-uary Friends!

 

Serves One (easily multiplied)

You Will Need

3 tbsp caster sugar

1 lime

A sprig of mint

Blueberry juice

Soda water

Ice

4-5 fresh blueberries

blueberry mock-ito ingredients

Put the caster sugar on a plate and zest the lime on top. Mix together until the sugar is fragrant. Wet the rim of a short glass with a little water then twist in the lime sugar. Cut the lime in half and squeeze into the glass, catching any pips. Pick the leaves from the mint sprig and add to the lime juice, muddling with a spoon. Fill the glass halfway with blueberry juice then top up with soda, ice cubes and fresh blueberries. Finish with a sprig of mint as a decoration if you like, then serve.

blueberry mock-ito

 

Cucumber Gin Crush Cocktail

I hate fussy cocktails. Sometimes I come home from work and all I want is a Cosmopolitan. Yet craving just one glass means traipsing to the shops to buy vodka, Cointreau that costs £20 and squeezing around three limes in order to get the right capful of liquid required. Then remembering I don’t own a cocktail shaker and then crying into a packet-made poor excuse for a cocktail from an American chain diner or worse, a drink that contains that classy ‘liqueur’ Sourz. No wonder I reach for the Pinot Grigio instead.

But as New Year draws closer and I have my eye on serving up some delicious alternatives to white or red wine, I have decided to delve into the latest addition to my cookbook library The Sprouted Kitchen for some drinks-piration. And boy does that book wield some winners. Grapefruit martinis, jugs of sparkling sangria and some tasty party nibbles ensure this book will become a staple in my library. But having noticed my most popular post of 2012 is – get this – my Spinach and Cucumber Smoothie, I thought a refreshing alcoholic version would be a nice way to round off the year.

Although I don’t have a fancy juicing machine or an icemaker on my fridge door, this cocktail makes for a classy, elegant drink that is perfect for parties with minimal fuss. The basic mix can be made in advance and stored in the fridge, topped up with crushed ice and sparkling water on arrival. Making around six to eight cocktails in one batch, these crushes can be served in old-fashioned glasses or high-balls depending on the strength you and your guests prefer. A perfect no-fuss party drink that is sure to bring in the New Year in style. Happy 2013!

 

Inspired by The Sprouted Kitchen

 

You Will Need

1 cucumber

1 lime

180ml gin (I like Hendricks or London Dry)

3 tbsp honey

1 handful mint leaves

2 handfuls of ice

Sparkling water

Cucumber Gin Crush Ingredients

Wash and dry the cucumber and cut eight circles widthways and set aside. Slice the cucumber lengthways and scoop out the seeds. Slice into half moons and place in a jug. Blitz with a hand blender until pureed then scoop the cucumber mix into a sieve placed over a bowl. Move the puree around to separate the cucumber juice from the pulp. This should yield about a mug’s worth of juice. Refrigerate the cucumber pulp and seeds if you wish to make a Spinach and Cucumber Smoothie later, as the waste is perfect for this recipe.

Roll the lime on a chopping board then squeeze into the cucumber juice. Stir through the gin and roughly chop the mint leaves before muddling in the mix. Whisk in the honey, adjusting to your preferred sweetness. At this point, the cocktail can be chilled for up to one day in the fridge before serving.

To serve, blitz the ice in a blender until snowy and scoop into glasses. Fill halfway or three quarters up the glass with the cucumber cocktail then finish with sparkling water. Garnish with the cucumber slices and add a straw.

Cucumber Gin crush

Some blog posts take seconds to appear from plate to page. Others take months; carefully tweaking, reading tips online and twisting and perfecting until the recipe is right for posting. This is one of those posts. I’ve been trying and well, not failing, but not doing well enough to recreate a classic coffee shop frappe. The icy cold temperature, the thick texture, the tastes of coffee and sweetness mixed together in a perfect summer time drink. The irony that the perfect homemade frappe has fallen in my lap in the beginnings of autumn hasn’t escaped me; I’ve been trying for days to get dry weather to shoot this recipe.

And what a simple recipe it is too! I found it on A Beautiful Mess, one of my favourite lifestyle blogs months ago, and pinned it in the hope that I would try it one day. And boy am I glad I did. The icy temperature I’ve been looking for comes from little coffee ice cubes. I know right, inspired! Simply brew a coffee strong enough to blow your socks off, cool and pour into an ice cube tray. Freeze. Pop out some cubes and get busy with your flavours. You can make a massive batch of cubes and keep them handy for last minute frappes. Simple, quick and just like the real deal, only heaps cheaper and you can stay in your pyjamas to drink it.

 

Adapted slightly from A Beautiful Mess

To make the coffee ice cubes, simply brew a mug of strong coffee with about 4 teaspoons coffee powder and a little hot water. Cool and pour into an ice cube tray. Freeze and then decant into a sandwich bag to store in the freezer. To make a large batch of cubes, simply brew 2-3 mugs of strong coffee to fill a regular ice cube tray and follow instructions above.

Serves 1

You Will Need

4 coffee ice cubes

2 scoops vanilla ice cream

1/3 cup milk (about 80ml)

A small handful of dark chocolate chips

½ teaspoon vanilla paste

Add all the ingredients to a blender and whizz until smooth. Pour into a glass and top with a few chips to decorate. Add a straw and drink immediately.

When life hands you lemons, what do you make? Do you reach for the Hendricks, pouring a large G&T and adding a twist of citrus? Or do you zest and juice into a toothsuckingly sweet curd to lay hidden under swaths of marshmallowy meringue. Or do you simply smile, juice and throw together the best of the fruit bowl and garden herbs to make some modern summertime lemonades. I personally would recreate all these situations in a flash – I just can’t get enough of lemon. It’s such a simple fruit, and yet paired with a whole manner of flavours, the depth of sourness mellows to create some delicious taste sensations. Lemonade is seriously simple to make at home and can be created in seconds: juice, sugar, water, flavourings, ice, sunglasses, sunbathe. Life hands you lemons, you dang well get on with the living, drink in hand.

Each recipe makes enough for one jug of lemonade – about 3-4 servings

Pink Grapefruit Lemonade

2 lemons, zested and juiced

½ grapefruit, zested and juiced

140g caster sugar

1 pint cold water

Ice cubes

Slices of grapefruit to garnish

Place the lemon and grapefruit juice and zest, sugar and half the water in a bowl and whisk until the sugar is fully incorporated. Add the remaining water and mix thoroughly. Pour into a large jug and top up with slices of grapefruit and ice cubes.

 

Blackberry and Mint Lemonade

3 lemons, zested and juiced

140g caster sugar

1 pint cold water

A handful of blackberries, halved

A handful of mint leaves

Ice cubes

Place the lemon juice and zest, sugar and half the water in a bowl and whisk until the sugar is fully incorporated. Add the remaining water and mix thoroughly. Pour into a large jug and add the blackberries. Lightly crush the mint leaves to release their perfume and mix into the lemonade. Top up with ice cubes.

 

Thyme Lemon and Limeade

1 lemon, zested and juiced

2 limes, zested and juiced

140g caster sugar

1 pint cold water

Ice cubes

A few sprigs of fresh thyme, washed and patted dry

Place the lemon and lime juice and zest, sugar and half the water in a bowl and whisk until the sugar is fully incorporated. Add the remaining water and mix thoroughly. Pour into a large jug and stir through the thyme sprigs and top up with ice cubes.

So after two weeks of drizzle, torrential rain and even hailstones in the glorious capital of the United Kingdom, I have returned to a bizarrely sunny Scotland, with its bright blue skies, beaming sun and every inch of grassy carpet covered with lazy day students who don’t have dissertations to write. Where is the justice?

My two week stint at delicious. magazine was a fabulous experience, yet the weather in London was rather abysmal. Stifling hot tube journeys to Monument station, then thunderous walks in the rain to the office often meant soggy tights, steamy glasses and an upturned umbrella akin to Mary Poppins. I even saw a stand-off on London Bridge where a man decked another with his horizontally held golf brolly. At groin height. So it is rather lovely to be back on Scottish turf, albeit with a dissertation to finish and the impending doom of graduation. But let’s not think about that.

Yesterday I was in a bit of a rut and my natural instinct lead me to the kettle for my umpteenth coffee of the day. Yet I took a detour, opened the freezer and instead threw this milkshake together in a matter of minutes. My brain needed a break and thus, I made a shake.

There is a simple formula in my mind when it comes to cooling smoothies and milkshakes. Bright natural colours from fruit added to cool milk and multiplied by vanilla ice cream. Brain food maths. You could add vanilla paste, toasted oats for an energy boost or some decadent whipped cream, but for me, this shake is great just as it is. Simple, cooling and summery. Hello sunshine, it’s nice to have you back.

Serves 2

You Will Need

1 handful frozen summer berries

6 scoops vanilla ice cream

½ pint of milk (add more for a thinner shake)

 

Throw all the ingredients into a jug and blitz with a hand blender until well combined. Add more milk if the shake is too thick and blend again. Divide between two glasses and serve with a straw.

 

For a while now, I have been threatening to make a spinach smoothie, which has been met with disgust by my flatmates. Wilted spinach pasta is tasty. Spinach salads are fine. Home-made Saag Aloo is positively divine. But the idea of spinach blended down into an Incredible Hulk shade-of-green smoothie is a thought that is positively terrifying for them. And honestly, I was a little sceptical too.

But just one sip of this breakfast smoothie and you will feel invincible. Its 10am. You’ve just had two portions of greens before even thinking about work. You could write a novel, you could whizz through the housework. You could go jogging. Or in my case, you could go to work when the sun is pouring through the sky and you’re stuck indoors in an ice rink. No big deal, the sun will be there when you finish work. It’s summertime after all. And it’s time for getting into those bikinis.

Ok, so maybe this smoothie won’t make you Heidi Klum beach-ready, but it will make you feel like you can take on the world. Packed full of iron-rich spinach, cooling cucumber, a twist of zesty lime and thickened up with some natural yoghurt, this breakfast smoothie is definitely on the good-food list. And if you’re feeling a tad sweet, blend in some honey for a natural sugar high. Its ok, the spinach cancels it out. And remember to add the ice cubes, because this baby is at its best chilled right down. And of course, because its summer, ice cubes are a necessity in all drinks. Natürlich.

So bring it on summer, that bikini hidden away in my cupboard will be making an outing.

 

Makes 1 Smoothie

You Will Need

A large handful of spinach leaves, washed

¼ cucumber, washed and sliced

1 heaped tablespoon natural yoghurt

A squeeze of lime

A teaspoon of honey (optional)

2-3 ice cubes

 

Place the spinach, cucumber and yoghurt in a blender and whizz until smooth. Alternatively place ingredients in a jug and whizz with a hand blender. Stir through the lime juice and taste. Add honey for a sweeter taste if desired, then blitz again. Pour into a glass or jar and add the ice cubes. Leave for 5-10 minutes to allow the ice cubes to chill the smoothie before drinking.

Peach is coming back into fashion. And no, I don’t mean in a foodie sense; I mean the literal fondant-coloured hue gracing catwalks, makeup palettes and bouquets of flowers. Gone is the hideous memory of 80’s dresses with a lurid satiny sheen, and in its place, a soft palate of eye-pleasing shades that truly make the mouth water. Of course, this is what leads us back to the literal peach; sweet, soft and a childhood memory in the form of James and said Giant Fruit.

Peaches love a dash of cream, and as my mother tucked into a plate of said combination last night, I thought that I could go one better and turn it into a frothy, delicate milkshake. And today, the weather couldn’t have been better as I sliced up some tinned peaches, scooped up some ice cream and blended in some milk to create a truly refreshing treat when the sun has his hat on. Forget the 80’s, peach is back big style, and with one of these milkshakes, you will feel like the cat that got the cream.

 

Makes 2 Large Milkshakes

 

You Will Need

3 tinned peach halves, sliced

1 heaping scoop good quality vanilla ice cream

½ teaspoon vanilla paste

1 glass of milk

2 ice cubes

Place all the ingredients in a blender and whizz until smooth and frothy. Alternatively place in a jug and whizz with a stick blender. Pour into clean jam jars or glasses and serve outside with sunspecs.

I appear to be on some sort of liquid diet at the moment. I think in the past two weeks, me and my flatmates have consumed over eight different types of smoothies, milkshakes and frappacinos, interspersed with the solid food group that is Kettle Chips. My logic, however skewed, is that all that fruit means I’m allowed to eat a large bag of said crisps as I watch Masterchef. Now there’s a foodie-contradiction.

But I’m reforming my ways. Partly due to having no Sea Salt and Malt Vinegar crisps left, but also my new breakfast regime. Gone are the days of two coffees and then finally eating about 2pm, I am now in love with my freezer muffins and a morning burst of fruit. Ok, so I might sneak in the odd coffee, but I’m trying to be good, honest. And what better way to do so than sip a smoothie that’s crammed full of vitamin C?

Kiwis are the answer it would appear. Filled with vitamins and a good source of fibre, they are the perfect start to a morning smoothie. Add a couple of juicy pears, a sliced apple and a squeeze of lemon and you have a breakfast smoothie filled with goodness in a totally healthy shade of green. Serve up with a straw and a Blueberry and Lemon Crumble Muffin and the day will start to look brighter already.

Makes 1 large smoothie

You Will Need

2 kiwis

2 pears

1 small apple

A squeeze of lemon

Slice the kiwis in half and scoop out the insides into a jug. Squeeze the skins as well to get out as much juice as possible and discard. Peel the pears and apple, then core and slice. Add to the jug alongside a squeeze of lemon and blitz with a hand blender until smooth. Taste and adjust with more lemon or a dash of honey if required. Serve immediately with a straw and a couple of ice cubes alongside a breakfast muffin.

Last week, one of our halls cleaners got a little clear-up-happy and decided to bin a load of nearly finished but still useable lotions and potions from our bathroom. One the casualties was my shower gel, so I duly trudged into town to Superdrug to grab a bottle to replace it. But as soon as I stepped into the eponymous aisle, I saw the one. It was a soft pink, in a pretty little bottle and was raspberry scented. I tentatively opened the bottle and was met with a gorgeous smell of vanilla and raspberry, in a heavenly partnership that had eluded me all my life. I had found the shower gel. It would make my showering days so fragrant and wonderful. I was in love. Then I noticed it was half price. I’ve never ran to a till fast enough.

I don’t think I’ve ever been inspired by a beauty product before, let alone a shower gel, but it got me thinking about milkshakes. Every time one of my friends orders one alongside an Extra Value meal in McD’s, I shudder at the prospect. I attempted Krusha as a child and yet I only wanted to mix the syrup with water to make diluting juice. Generally, I am a milkshake failure. But suddenly, I had a craving for some ice cold raspberries, a big hunk of vanilla ice cream and a pint of milk. And of course, a smidge of vanilla paste to double up the vanilla goodness.

This shake is so simple to make that you will throw out your Nesquik instantly and go au-natural instead. Ok, so it’s not exactly healthy, but it’s the perfect afternoon treat when the sun’s out. Just don’t break my heart and serve it with a burger, kay?

Makes 3 Milkshakes

 

You Will Need

175g frozen raspberries, plus extra for decorating

6 scoops good-quality vanilla ice cream

1 teaspoon vanilla paste

1 pint milk

Heat up an ice cream scoop in a mug of boiling water, then scoop the ice cream into a blender. Mix the vanilla paste into the milk and stir to evenly distribute the seeds. Place the raspberries and the flavoured milk in a blender and whizz until smooth. Pour into tall glasses and serve with a sprinkling of frozen berries and a straw.

Did you ever read that book at school? I think I only ever got to it once; at my first primary it was the most sought-after book on the shelf at reading time after The Jolly Postman. Despite only getting my grubby 5 year old mitts on Each Peach, Pear Plum once, its great name and bright pages were enough to stay with me 16 years later. A delicious blend of nursery characters, fruit and rhyme, the book won many awards for author and illustrator husband and wife team, the Alhbergs. Their children’s books, filled with colour and creativity, were so fun it was no wonder everyone was desperate to read them, in our bright blue jumpers and knotted green ties. And what better way to pay homage, than by creating a smoothie in Each Peach Pear Plum’s name?

Now, I may have reworked the title of the book slightly with this smoothie; swapping plums for blueberries, but the end product is still a great burst of fruit and fun. This is a great morning pick-me-up and so simple to make, that I’m surprised I never thought of using my stick blender to make smoothies before. All the prep that’s required is a little chopping and peeling, and then simply blend to make a colourful drink that will make up three of your five a day. That is fruit maths I can get behind. Now, if you will excuse me, I think I’ve spied Tom Thumb…

 Serves 1

You Will Need

2 tinned peach halves, sliced (alternatively, use one fresh ripe peach, peeled and sliced)

1 small handful blueberries

1 pear, peeled and sliced

1 sprig of mint, leaves removed

1 teaspoon honey

Add all the ingredients into a jug and using a stick blender, whizz until smooth. Taste, and add a little more honey if required. Pour into a glass or clean jar, top up with ice cubes if desired and add a straw.