Saturday, 12 April 2014

Muck and Brass

Presided over by a curious allotment frog, a tonne of manure has been delivered to the fruit garden. And we spent a few sunny hours carting it in, and spreading it about. It should have been done in the winter time so that all that rain could have driven the goodness down into the soil, but better now than not at all. Muck spreading has been part of soil improving for 8000 years with soil analysis from sites in Dorset and Derbyshire showing evidence of manure used to improve crops.  If it's good enough for the ancients it's good enough for Mother's gooseberries.

All thanks to Wickes for the generous donation of their handy trolley, keeping the wheels of the fruit liqueur (cottage) industry going. All the fruit bushes are good heart, and it looks as if it is going to be another good year with berries already starting to set on the gooseberries and currants.
In Cumbria it is blossom season for the world's best damsons. The Lyth Valley is famous for it's damson trees whose sweet fragrant fruit are listed in the Slow Food movement's Ark of Taste  as a part of important cultural/food heritage. In April the orchards turn the valley sides white with blossom. This weekend is Damson Day when people turn out to stroll among the trees and sample all things damson. If you are there, go and drink it in.

In Walthamstow it's time for the  E17 Designers spring fair, which is described in Time Out as better than Oxford Street. Possibly faint praise given the behemoth nightmare juggernaut of horror that is Oxford St (or is that just me?), but even so it's a great spot for local crafters and makers and Mother's Ruin has a tiny gin stall there too. So come by to The Asian Centre on Orford Rd E17 on Sunday 12th afternoon and say hello.

Finally, in honour of the mighty damson, a cocktail. It is a bit complicated but deliciously worth it.

The Public Purse
(created by The Violet Hour )

per person
1 oz damson gin
1oz gin
3/4 oz lime juice
1/8 oz creme de violette
1/2 oz simple syrup
2 drops bitters
1 oz egg white
Orange zest to garnish

Shake all together without ice for 30-60 seconds, then shake with ice for 20 seconds. Strain into a chilled glass, garnish with the peel. Raise your glass to prunus domesticus

Friday, 14 March 2014

A Wood St Brew

The rain has stopped for over a week now and spring is surely here (right?!?), the streets are warm and the small E17  front gardens full of flowers. In a quiet corner of the allotment I have found the first sloe blossoms. Although we are three months in, it is now that I feel the year begin.

And even though I am not there to see it, there must be magical March hares boxing in the fields in the early morning.
The very first rhubarb worth picking has been given to me, and the cycle of harvesting and growing and watching the weather begins.

The cocktail bitters I made a small trial batch of sold out in the space of a Saturday afternoon, so a batch three times the size is underway. We are enjoying a glut of fresh orange juice as I only need the peel for the bitters. So we are heading in to spring with glossy coats and bright eyes.

In Wood St a petition is underway to try and persuade the owners to reverse their recent decision to close on Sundays
The East London Gin Palace is dependent on weekend trade, as are the many small independent businesses  so we are hoping to

save the market from being turned into another block of flats. so if you get a moment and feel like supporting local traders do log on and sign our petition.

As a testament to the eccentric character of Wood St, I bring you an experimental recipe for marrow rum told to me yesterday by a proper East London Giffer who dropped in to the palace for a chat.

Ray's Marrow Rum:

One marrow, any size
Demerara sugar
A net to hang it in

Stand the marrow on its' end and cut off the top, setting it aside.
Scoop out all of the seeds and seed pulp, leaving the flesh only.
Fill the empty space with Demerara sugar packed in.
Put the top back on firmly and hang the whole thing up in its' net, lid uppermost.
 It needs a cool, not cold, dark spot. Leave for a while. I've no idea how long.
I think it depends on the size of your marrow. after a while the sugar will have eaten away the flesh leaving a relatively thin skin. Full of Ray's Marrow rum.
It's this sort of creativity which helped East London survive the blitz and fuelled the traditional knees up.
Good luck/drink responsibly etc....


Thursday, 27 February 2014

From the darkness

Deep in the Yorkshire rhubarb triangle  in candle lit sheds the forced rhubarb season is at it's peak.
And in the spring sunshine, in my long outdoor beds this year's new growth is in rude progress. A day in the orchard is spent cutting away old leaves feeding the crowns with bonemeal, whilst feeling the first of the warm light on my back.

 Mother's Bitter Helper is a classic aromatic orange based bitters with a modern twist of raw cocoa, vanilla and green cardomom.
In a base of pure over proof Russian vodka, fruit, spices, bitter roots and barks are infused over a period of 3 months. And by alchemy and a little patience a magical tincture is born 

It is Mother's belief that all the most fascinating of drinks of have a dark and subtle heart. And she has dreamt up these intriguing cocktail bitters to add depth and complexity to your creations. 
Bitters are one of the most ancient of cocktail ingredients, and featured in the first drinks as a tonic for the system as well as an intesifier of flavour.
Mother's Bitter Helper contains gentian root which is good for the blood and digestion. So by a tiny slieght of hand Mother re-invents the cocktail as the new super food.

The Old Fashioned
2oz of a fantastic bourbon
1/4oz simple syrup
2 dashes of orange cocktail bitters
orange peel 


In a glass, add the syrup, bitters and orange peel. Use a muddler to gently press the orange peel to release the citrus oils. Add the bourbon and stir. Add an ice cubes or two if you like, and stir again.


Saturday, 8 February 2014

I blame Chaucer

(Image from Chaucer Parlement of Fowles)

   On every bow the bryddes herde I synge         On every bough the birds I heard sing
   With voys of aungel in here armoyne              With voice of angels in their harmony
   Some busied hem hir bryddes forth to brynge Some busied themselves birds forth to bring
   The litel conyes to here pley gonne hye          The little coneys to here play did hie
   And ferther al aboute I gan espye                   And further all about I could see
   The dredful ro, the buk, the hert and hynde     The dread filled roe, the buck, the hart and hind
   Squyrels, and bestes smale of gentil kynde     Squirrels, and beasts small of gentle kind          

                                            (Image, Carl Wilhelm de Hamilton 1668-1754)

  So, - Valentine's - all was fine until 1328 when Chaucer finished his poem A Parlement of Fowles on 14th February. February has traditionally been seen as the month when the birds choose their mates, and Chaucer's poem has all the birds but one finding love. From this date the concepts of courtly love and romance were born. Love tokens, trysts, secret passions and exquisite seductions.

In the spirit of the bitter sweet, and the complex nature of love, Mother's Ruin has been brewing up some cocktail bitters and these are almost ready for public consumption. they should be on sale in The East London Gin Palace within a month.

Not everyone has the stomach for the sugary confection that Valentine's day has now become and for those needing dark solace a tiny playlist,

Lou Reed Pale Blue Eyes
Joy Division  Love Will Tear us Apart
The Cure  Close to Me

And a strong drink...
Grounds for Divorce:
2 oz Bourbon,
1/2 oz Amaro, Averna
1/2 oz Sweet vermouth,
1/2 oz Campari

Dash of Aromatic Bitters
Stir / Coupe
No Garnish
                                                                                   Mother's orange bitters macerating


Friday, 17 January 2014

Mother pans for Spanish gold

Deep in the January slough with Christmas and new year done, the days dark, the rain biblical and seemingly endless - there is a gift from our dear Spanish friends. The Sevilles are here! Turning up slowly at first with just the odd box at the more specialist fruiterers at New Spitalfields market,

but now here in large towering heaps, a brief bittersweet glut. A brutal 5am trip on the W15 bus has got me 35kgs of the rough knobbly wonders. Seville oranges, one of the few fruits left that are truly seasonal. And a short season at that, running from early January to the first week in February at the latest. All the way from Andalucia here they are on a cold and wet East London morning - here as they have been each winter since the fifteenth century to fulfill the British passion for marmalade 

And now filling my kitchen and dining room with their heart warming brightness as I knock up this year's batch of Bitter Orange Rum . This week has been spent boiling, zesting and chopping fruit as the house fills up with orange scented steam.

I won't tell you lies about how quick it is to make your own marmalade having stayed up into the small hours awaiting the perfect set myself. But it will taste divine.

As if marmalade and orange liqueurs weren't gifts enough the blossoms of the Seville orange also make orange flower water a key ingredient in the Ramos gin fizz. A delicate and restorative cocktail for these mid winter days. Close your eyes, imagine warm to your bones, imagine flower scented air.  

50 ml Gin
30 ml fresh lemon juice
20 ml Sugar Syrup
20 ml fresh cream
1 egg white
1 barspoon Bitter Truth Orange Flower Water
20 ml Soda Water

Shake all ingredients except soda water vigorously with ice and strain into a highball glass. Top up with soda water and garnish with a slice of orange.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Wassail Wassail 2014

Even when the year is at it's quietest there is yet much to be done. The first thing is to wish happy new year to the nieghbour's bees, sleeping in their hives in the hedgerow of the lower field, and to remind them that when the spring comes we will need them up in the orchard. The English bee keeping tradition of telling the bees says that the bees must be told all family news, and to this end I wandered down to pass a quiet minute chatting with them about plans for the coming year. Bees attended we then turned to the trees and the winter pruning of apples and damsons.

After consulting John's ancient copy of The Pomarium Brittanicum on orchard care which recommends a gentle winter pruning to remove, crossing branches, dead wood and suckers, we set out amongst the trees. 

A careful cut here and there to strengthen the tree and hopefully encourage heavy fruiting.

All that is left to now get the year off to a good start is to wassail the orchard to wake up the trees.

"Wassaile the trees, that they may beare
You many a Plum and many a Peare:
For more or lesse fruits they will bring,
As you do give them Wassailing.”

Crook Morris will be wassailing the damson orchards of the Lyth Valley this weekend. If you want to hear a joyful racket, watch a neat footed dance and toast the trees with some potent damson beer, (- and who wouldn't want such fun?) be in the Lyth Valley Hotel car park at 11.30 on Saturday 11th Jan. And for wassailing  E17 style catch the Walthamstow Wassail which will toast and sing to the bee hives of Bee17 and fruit trees as it makes its' way from the Nags Head 2pm, via Chesnuts Farm allotments and on to the Rose and Crown for 8pm.

A Hot Wassail Punch

Ingredients; 4 pints of cider, 1 pint of cranberry juice, 1/2 tablespoon of bitters, 2 cinnamon stcks, some allspice berries, an orange studded with some cloves and a cup of fine dark rum

Combine all and heat gently, serve hot from a Wassail cup, and hold in cold hands whilst stamping your feet and singing loudly. (Image by Pauline Baynes )

Friday, 13 December 2013

The mid-winter feast approaches

Winter comes to Walthamstow marshes, pearly and frozen. The days shrink down, and those anxious that the warmth may have disappeared for good bring the green indoors and plan grand winter feasts to comfort the soul and entice the sun to make its' return. 

The Lord of Misrule is appointed and for a few giddy days the world stands on its' head in an ancient festival of foolish delights. Mummers take to the streets in a rowdy straggle. The powerful are to be mocked, the profane is sacred. Drunkeness is sobriety. Mother takes her duties most seriously at this special time of year and the Gin Palace has extended it's opening hours to include Sundays. Come by for magical winter potions to illuminate the long nights.

Local vegan bakers and soup goddesses Norman Loves are preparing for the feast by putting together hampers including bottles of Mother's Ruin. In a storm of publicity they have hit the front page of the Jellied Eel  organ of London's ethical food scene. If you look very closely a bottle of Mother's best sloe gin is quietly trying to steal the show.

Courtesy of Grey Goose a Solstice cocktail
1 1/2 parts Grey Goose L'Orange
1/2 part Disaronno Originale
1/2 part simple syrup
3/4 part fresh lime juice
1 pinch powdered ginger
to garnish: sesame oil, sugar, star anise powder, star anise whole
Using your finger, rub the outside edge of a martini cocktail glass with sesame oil and then roll in sugar to coat rim.
In a cocktail shaker filled with ice add Grey Goose L’Orange, Disaronnno, simple syrup, lime juice and ginger. Shake vigorously, and strain into the prepared glass. Grate a pinch of star anise over the top, and drop in glass for garnish. Let the festivities commence.