Thursday, 30 May 2013

Something to Whet the Appetites

It's too unbearably early to talk about Christmas I know, but in the cause of local food bank charity Eat or Heat Mother's Ruin is knocking up a small batch of Christmas pudding rum and it needs a good few months to allow the flavour to fully develop. 

Sweet spices whole and ground, zest of oranges and lemons, Demerara sugar, sultanas and dark Caribbean rum.

 It's warm and spicy in the midst of this dark grey May, and as I split the vanilla pods, crack the nutmegs and zest the fruit the fragrance is intoxicating

June is almost here and with it the opening of the month long Appetite festival across Waltham Forest where all sorts of delicious goings on are happening in pubs, shops, restaurants and front rooms. Mother's Ruin and The East London Gin Palace is decamping for one glorious Saturday to set up stall at Auntie Maureen's  gourmet food fair. Come by and visit The Bell on the 29th of June for a chat and some gin.

Finally, no sense should be left neglected and in this spirit I ventured out to see the Spiers and Boden in concert at Cecil Sharp House, and hear their joyful Sloe Gin set performed here with the mighty Bellowhead.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Beer Alley

In 1751 Londoners discovered that beer was the key to social order and in that spirit the Gin Palace is now stocking locally made ale. From way over in Leyton E10, near the Lee Valley Ice Rink home of the Lee Valley synchronised  skating team comes Sweet Bee Honey'd Wheat beer. Made by the lovely David from Brupond a bottle conditioned nice Hefeweizen, traditional unfiltered wheat beer with a low bitterness and malty sweetness. The wheat yeast gives banana and clove flavours.  Melanoidin a highly flavoured barley malt is added to impart sweet honey notes. Delicious! - and this Saturday the 25th May sees the first Brustival. A collaboration with Wild Card brewery and East London meadery Gosnells running from noon til midnight at 15 Argall Ave, Leyton Studios 4, E10 7QE

In honour of this marriage of beer and spirits I bring you the very latest in cocktails, the hoptail

Shock me:

1/4 cup Brown Ale
2 tablespoons bourbon (such as Maker’s Mark)
1 teaspoon Southern Comfort
1 teaspoon pure maple syrup

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Fill with ice; stir gently for 10 seconds. Strain into an Old Fashioned glass.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Gooseberry Bushes and Gin Palaces

Taking time out from the East London gin palace I've been down on the allotment where everything is taking off! It's like April and May have all happened in one week with apple, cherry, dandelions and rosemary and the last of the daffodils all flowering at once. Thick green grass twined with goosegrass with the rasping feel of a cat's tongue has shot up. Weekly strimming and weeding starts here.

The new rhubarb and fruit bushes have established themselves and on close inspection beneath the branches I can report that there is something fattening up under the gooseberry bushes. Not sure if I really should be as excited as I am, but I never fail to be slightly amazed by the emergence of real proper food on a plant!

The gooseberries are destined for gooseberry and elderflower vodka. I'm keeping a watch for the first flowering of the elderflowers, so I can make the base floral liqueur. Although they are such a glorious match they are ready at different times, with gooseberries ripening about a month after the last of the elderflowers have gone.

In my endless quest to promote well being through the drinking of liqueurs I have been researching the health giving properties of gooseberries and elderflower. Both have been used in herbal medicine for hundreds of years, gooseberries to cool the blood and elderflower to treat flu and rheumatism.


 I also have discovered that witches congregate under the branches of fruit bearing elderflower trees. I'll let you know what I find next time I'm foraging in the hedgerows. For  more wondrous facts about the gooseberry and the great Northern tradition of gooseberry shows check out the Egton Bridge Gooseberry Society

Away from the allotment I've been deep into bottling and labelling for the E17 Designers Spring Fair which is next Friday 17th May 7-10pm. After a successful event to help raise funds for the newly opened William Morris Gallery in Lloyd Park, E17 Designers makes a welcome return to its regular home in the heart of Walthamstow village: the Asian  Centre on Orford Road. If you haven’t visited for a  while (and where have you been?), you are in for a treat with a dozen new designers on board this year. If you are a regular visitor, then you already know this is the borough’s hottest spot  for one night only – a great evening out, sociable shopping and service with a smile from E17 Designers.
Acoustic folk from The Coypus and ‘Flash’ belly dancing from Chloe

In honour of the mighty gooseberry I bring you the...

 Gooseberry Martini 

100ml gin
50ml elderflower cordial
Crushed ice
2 tbsp stewed gooseberries, chilled
Throw the ingredients together into a cocktail shaker and shake until well-mixed and the ice has broken up. Then pour into a cocktail glass and garnish with flowers.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Spring time in the orchard

Last weekend was spent in the orchard in the first warm sun of the year. Grass grown thick and green, with celandine and speedwell strewn throughout. It was a joy to be out doing a bit of weeding and looking at all the new growth. The gooseberry bushes and the rhubarb crowns seem to have establshed themselves best and are looking hearty and in bright sap green leaf.

John had spent the last week making lead plaques to attach to the fences, punching out the letters by hand and drilling little holes for the nails. Now we know which trees are where and also the year they were first recorded in Britain. The wonderful sweet and fragrant Lyth Valley Damson of which we have 13 young saplings has been recorded here since the 1600's.

Spare time at home has been spent bottling and labelling for upcoming local events. The  E17Designers Spring Fair on the evening of Friday 17th May from 7-10pm, and the upcoming Appetite food festival which will be running through the month of June to celebrate locally made food and drink.