Keema Naan

Having created a decent vegan version of peshwari naan last week I made a flippant remark at the end of the post that keema was next. Ironically I seem to have had as much interest in the latter as in the former.

I've only had keema naan once that I remember, which was about 15 years ago. I personally remember it as having tandoori meat inside (i.e. bright red), but all recipes I've found online seem to just use mince with ginger, cumin and garam masala. Thus for this attempt I did similar, using soya mince instead of lamb.

The results were pretty good. I'd make it again and would be happy to be served it in a restuarant, but can't vouch for its accuracy to the original.

The recipe uses the same dough and method as the peshwari. Update: Use 5ml agave (not 10ml) and 1 tbsp fresh chopped coriander in the dough for a better balance of flavour/sweetness.

Filling Ingredients
  • 100g Soya Mince
  • 1 Small Onion
  • 2 tsp Garam Masala
  • 1/4 tsp Ground Cumin
  • 1/4 tsp Ground Ginger
To ensure the naan don't split/burst when rolling the mixture needs to be dry and individal pieces not too large. I used Realeat frozen soya mince, which I reconstituted with boiling water, allowed to cool, drained then chopped throughly. Ideally I'd have tried Redwoods' soya mince, which is slightly finer and doesn't need reconstituting. Alas there was none in the fridge.

Finely dice the onion and fry in a little oil with the soya mince for 5 minutes, or until softened. Add the spices and continue to cook for 2 more minutes, ensuring that it does not burn. Allow the mixture to cool whilst you roll out the naan, then spoon the mixture on to them, fold over and re-roll in the same way as the peshwari recipe. Try to get them as thin as possible without bursting or the contents coming through the dough. You may find whilst rolling that you get air pockets forming, if so just pierce with the end of a knife. Cook and eat.

Peshwari Naan

It's with great pleasure that I bring to you decent vegan naan bread, made at home without a tandoor. I'm extremely pleased with the outcome - it's the best I've tasted in the past 10 years and as good as I remember naan from restaurants in my pre-vegan days. The vegan naan I've had in restaurants since has just been nasty.

I veganized a traditional recipe a few years back, but was unimpressed with results achievable through oven cooking. Even at the max temperature (260oc), using a pizza stone and then grilling afterwards the results were just no where as good as you can get using a traditional tandoor (480oc). Too stodgy and dried out. Ready made naan from supermarkets (sometimes vegan) is often chewy as well.

I revisited it earlier this week, using a blow torch after cooking to try and up the temperature. Whilst this gave better results it wasn't good enough to blog about (a shame, as I took some pretty blow torch pictures!). Last night I tried cooking directly over a gas flame, which gave by far and away the best home-made naan I've ever had.

I'd like to take credit for this discovery, but I owe it instead to a several hour long crawl of the internet. I'm pleased too, as my next idea involved using the BBQ and it's cold outside! You need a wire mesh to hold the naan whilst it's being cooked, but other than that you don't need any special tools.

I'm not sure how 'traditional' peshwari naan is outside the UK. Here it's a curry house staple, consisting of naan stuffed with coconut and sultanas. Apple and almond are common additions too. I worked out the ratios for each of the stuffing ingredients from commercial non-vegan products and used apple sauce for convenience (I know how obsessed Americans are with the stuff). You can change the stuffing ingredients/ratios as you please. If you make without stuffing then adding garlic and fresh coriander to the dough will give a bit more flavour.

Black Onion Seeds (the little black specks you see in naan) improve the flavour of the dough, but can be left out if you can't find them. In the UK they're sold in independent Indian shops (often convenience stores in areas with a high Asian population will have a spice section), though I believe our last bag was acquired from Waitrose.

Dough Ingredients (makes 3 naan):
  • 280g White Bread Flour
  • 1 tsp Dried Yeast
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Black Onion Seeds
  • 60ml Plain Soya Yoghurt
  • 10ml Agave Nectar
  • 1 tbsp Melted Margerine
  • 100ml Lukewarm Water
Stuffing Ingredients:
  • 4 tbsp Apple Sauce
  • 30g Shredded Coconut
  • 30g Ground Almonds
  • 50g Sultanas
Place the dough ingredients in your bread machine in the order specified by the manufacturer. Put on an italian/pizza dough program (45 mins on my Panasonic).

Chop the sultanas (leaving whole will make rolling out more difficult, as they will puncture it when pressure applied) and mix in a bowl with the rest of the ingredients.

The finished dough should be smooth and slightly sticky. Tip onto a floured surface, knead slightly and divide into 3 balls. Leave to rise for 15-30 minutes.

After rising knead each slightly, roll out thinly, spread the stuffing mixture over then fold over the sides. Turn upside down and roll out into your desired shape, being careful not to puncture the sides.

Rolling a teardrop is easiest if you start with a round disc, hold the side closest to you with one hand and push away with a rolling pin in the other. Try to get the naan as thin as possible (without puncturing), as this will make cooking easier/quicker.

Cook each naan in turn, placing on a wire mesh directly over your largest gas burner, turned to a low setting.

Keep the mesh close to the flame and ensure you regularly move it round so that it cooks evenly. After several minutes when the underside is starting to blacken and the top bubbling; flip it over with a metal spatula.

The photo below shows what happens when're you're busy taking photographs and not moving it around - the cooking becomes uneven!

When both sides are cooked brush with melted margarine and serve whilst still warm. If you're worried it may not be cooked slice one in half before brushing, so it can be transferred back to a lower heat if required. The first I made had the burner turned up too high, so needed a bit of extra time.

Next task - vegan keema naan.

Porcini Mushroom Risotto

Risotto; that slimy sludgy rice pudding stuff served up as the vegan option by omni chefs everywhere. I've had some truly bad ones in restaurants over the years, including one recently where the waiter assured me would be the best I've ever tasted. He lied (or thought I must be very uncultured, one of the two).

The problem is that other than using good quality ingredients you also need to stand and stir it for 30 minutes, which chefs are unlikely to have time to do. Some recipes lend themselves to being made in a restaurant environment (particularly those that require a lot of prep but not much cooking), but risotto is not one of them. Therefore; to be fully appreciated it's something that you should make yourself.

Porcinis (or ceps as they're also known) really boost and improve the mushroomy flavour, but any dried mixed wild mushrooms can be used. Equally, substituting some of the white mushrooms for chestnut or portabello can help develop the flavour.

Ingredients (for 2 people):
  • 250g Arborio Rice
  • 250g White Mushrooms
  • 15g Dried Porcini Mushrooms
  • Clove of Garlic
  • 1 Onion
  • 200ml Dry White Wine
  • 1 Litre Vegetable Stock
Make up a litre of vegetable stock and place 15g dried porcini mushrooms in it for several minutes. Stir and remove the mushrooms, then place in a pan over a low heat such that it remains at a gentle simmer. Thinly slice 250g white mushrooms, dice an onion and mince a clove of garlic.

Place in a large saucepan with the porcini mushrooms and a couple of glugs of sunflower oil. Cook for 10 minutes over a medium heat such that the onion turns translucent but doesn't start to burn. Add the rice and coat fully with the oil, then pour in the wine.

It should start to boil immediately. Set a timer for 30 minutes and stir the mixture until the wine is absorbed. Continue to stir, adding the stock a ladle-full at a time, ensuring each is absorbed before the next added. By the end of the 30 minutes you should have run out of stock and the rice be cooked.

Season to taste and serve immediately with wild rocket.

Sweet Pepper & Sundried Tomato Focaccia

Following on from last week's marbled focaccia; last night I had a go at a sundried tomato one.

One thing that I've not appreciated before is that a lot of the nice flavour in this bread comes from the pepper, and that just using slices of raw pepper doesn't allow it to hit that sweet and lovely taste. This time round I made a paste of sundried tomato and sweet red pepper, as well as using whole pieces of each. I also used the basil oil I made (see last post) to inject some extra flavour.

The result? I'm pretty pleased. I've not hit perfection yet, but I'd happily eat it again. The main mistake I made was to use pieces of tomato sold in a bag. I've used ones in oil in the dough before and it makes it too oily. What I didn't realise was that the tomatoes that come in a bag are preserved in salt and need to be washed first. Yuck! Thus I'm recommending anyone who tries this recipe that they use the type in oil, but just try to really dry them off and remove as much oil as possible before adding.

  • 1 tsp fast acting dried yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 350g White Bread Flour
  • Basil Oil
  • 210ml Water
  • 120g Sundried Tomatoes
  • 1 Sweet Red Pepper
Again I made the dough using a bread machine. Place the yeast, sugar, salt, flour, water and 1 tbsp of unstrained basil oil in the pan in the order specified by the manufacturer and set on an italian/pizza dough cycle (45 min on mine). I used table salt this time round because the sea salt used last time didn't give it enough of a kick.

Once the dough has come together (5 minutes or so) add 60g of chopped sundried tomatoes to it, removing as much excess oil as possible with kitchen tissue first.

Cut a sweet red pepper (the long pointy type) into slithers and lightly fry in some sunflower oil to soften. Blend half of the cooked pepper with the other 60g of the sundried tomatoes in a food processor, to create a paste.

When the dough has finished it's cycle roll it out on a floured board, spread the paste over it and top with the remaining pepper. Fold the dough up several times in a random fashion, adjusting the direction of each to marble the paste through it. I found this worked better than last week's twisting.

Place the dough in an oiled 9" springform tin, push it into a circle with your fingers and leave to rise in a warm place for 20 minutes. When risen, use your fingers to poke holes in the dough and fill them with strained basil oil (see first photo). Leave to rise again for 15 minutes, then cook at 200oc for 20 minutes, until the top is golden and oil absorbed. Allow the bread to cool completely before serving, to fully develop its texture and flavour.

Basil Oil

The recipe is; there is no recipe.

I made a batch of basil oil last night for focaccia round 2 (sundried tomato and basil), which I plan to make this weekend. I made this oil a few years back - it's super simple and far nicer than bottles of basil oil you can buy ready made.

Massacre a small basil plant (remove all its leaves). Shred the leaves (rolling up before chopping makes the process quicker), add to extra virgin olive oil and shake regularly. If and when you decide you want it strained use a sieve or coffee press. It can however be added with the basil leaves still in if you plan on using it soon.

How to: Make Roast Potatoes Really Crispy

This wasn't a planned post, I just happened to have my camera set up in the kitchen on Sunday already for the focaccia.

I debated whether to blog it at all. I figure that most people know how to cook roast potatoes already, so run the risk of patronising the few visitors I already have. On reflection however, due to some truly terrible roast potatoes served in restaurants recently I decided to anyway - it may be helpful to someone. Just give it a good ignoring if you know all this already.

Roast potatoes should (IMHO) have a well developed crispy exterior with a light fluffy (steamed) interior. To achieve this you need to parboil them first and then fry, before putting them in the oven.

Success of roast potatoes depends largely on the type of potato you use and what state they're in prior to cooking. Sometimes, however good your technique they're just not as good as normal. Always go for Maris Piper or King Edwards (or whatever is deemed best in your country), using potatoes sold for baking if neither are available.

Getting someone else to peel them for you makes the whole process much more pleasant (I normally end up peeling my own skin along with that of the potato when I try). If peeled in advance keep them submersed in cold water until required. When they're ready to be cooked cut them into chunks of roughly equal size: not too big, not too small.

Boil for 10 to 15 minutes, drain well an allow to dry slightly. Place a lid over the top of the pan (preferably a glass one so you can see what's going on) and give them a really good shake, enough so that the edges become fluffy (see below) but not so much that they break apart. If they turn to mash you've cooked them too long. If they don't fluffy they're not cooked enough.

Heat a large vitreous enamelled pan over a medium-high heat (either on a wok burner or across 2 hobs), containing enough sunflower oil to cover the bottom and rise to a height of a couple of millimetres (no higher - you don't want them to swim). You should be able to find a vitreous enamelled pan for around £10 (mine came from Morrisons 5 years ago). Using pans not designed to be used directly over heat (such as most non stick pans) will cause the coating to melt. When hot add each potato at a time (adding all at once will lower the temperature of the oil too much) and slide it around. If the oil doesn't sizzle the pan isn't hot enough.

Once all the potatoes have been added and are starting to brown begin to turn them over, ensuring they each get a good coating of oil. Add ground sea salt (to help crispiness and bring out flavour), herbs (we tend to use rosemary) and cloves of garlic (crushed/minced garlic will burn). Continue to fry for up to 10 minutes, such that all sides are starting to brown.

Cook in a 200oc oven for an hour or so (or until they are done), taking out and shaking/basting/turning every 20 minutes. If you find that a few stick don't worry, assuming there is enough oil just dislodge them and they may end up even crispier. Use kitchen tissue to remove excess oil prior to serving.

Black Olive Marbled Focaccia

Focaccia is wheatylicious. And yes, we do have a chaise longue in the kitchen. You'll also notice that I like my focaccia deep, not thin like it is traditionally made.

There is a reason for this. The best focaccia I've ever had the pleasure of tasting is that formally sold by Waitrose, in a pack of 3 called Focaccia Trio. It to was in this format, with 3 breads each making up a third: black olive, herb+seed and tomato+pepper. I wasn't fussed by the herb, but the tomato was divine. The olive wasn't as nice, but pretty damn good. Waitrose sold it for years and was vegan according to their website. It was popular and always selling out. Then, one day, they replaced it with some rubbish with milk powder in. Since when did Italian bakers use milk powder?

I attempted to recreate it but failed - all focaccias I tried (including those in Carol Field's focaccia book) weren't up to scratch. I'm guessing the Waitrose one wasn't traditional and that Field does actually know what she's talking about, but anyway. The thing that set it aside was that it wasn't simply stuffed, the flavour was marbled through the dough and fully infused within it. Every mouth full was perfect loveliness.

I've not made focaccia for a while, and when I do make it these days I tend to go for caramelised red onion, garlic and rosemary. I decided this weekend however to try a black olive one instead. The results were pretty good I have to say (almost all of it got eaten between us within minutes of photographing), but it's not focaccia perfection yet. My criticism: could take more seasoning/flavour and due to it's height was ever so slightly doughy. I'm going to go for a slightly larger pan next time and use more salt. I'm blogging what I made this time round however and will revisit it another time.

Dough ingredients:
  • 1 tsp fast acting dried yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 350g White Bread Flour
  • 1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 210ml Water
Place the above ingredients in your bread machine in the order specified by the manufacturer. Put on an italian/pizza dough cycle (45 mins on my machine).

Meanwhile, blend 15 fresh pitted black olives (not the preserved type that come in brine) with 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 tsp dried thyme and 1 tsp minced garlic in a food processor.

When the dough is complete turn it out onto a floured surface and knead for a minute. Roll it out and spread with the olive paste.

Fold the dough over several times then take the ends and twist the whole thing. This is to try and get the marbled effect and evenly distribute the paste throughout the dough.

Move the dough to a 25cm oiled loose bottomed tin, cover and place in a warm place for 20 minutes. After the dough has risen make holes with your finger tips and pour extra virgin olive oil into them. Cover and leave in a warm place to rise again for 15 minutes, top with chopped olives and bake in a 200oc oven for 25 minutes, or until the top goes golden and starts to crack.

Wait until it has cooled before removing from the tin and cutting. I don't know how long it lasts but it's best eaten fresh.

Update: The small amount that was left the morning after tasted better. I think next time I'll make slightly thinner, use no garlic, more salt and infuse the EV oil somehow with olive before using.

Cucumber Gin

Having made Mint & Strawberry Sorbet last week I've been considering ways to get some cucumber flavour into my Strawberry Pimms Cocktail. The obvious answer is cucumber gin, however the stuff that is commercially available isn't cheap and vegan status unknown. Thus I embarked on making my own.

Creating soft fruit infusions is very easy; you just need fruit, alcohol, a jar and between 2 days and 1 week. Cut the cucumber into thin slices and add to the jar with the gin. I used Juniper Green Organic Gin, which I know to be vegan. When last checked both Gordons and Bombay Sapphire were also vegan, however I save the latter for drinks where the gin's flavour will be fully appreciated.

Seal the jar and give it a good shake and put it somewhere where you'll see it regularly, giving it another shake each time you do. After shaking be sure that all the cucumbers are covered, as you don't want them going mouldy. When complete strain the cucumber out and bottle. I can't imagine it going off any time in the next year, so it should be good for the summer.

Pistachio Macadamia White Chocolate Truffles

It is with great pleasure that I bring to you the best vegan truffles I've ever tasted.

I spent years trying to make white chocolate. Tracking down food grade cocoa butter in the UK was hard enough and eventually involved pretending to run a chocolatiers, setting up an account with a commercial supplier and paying the small order fee of £25. When I had the ingredients I made quite a few of what can best be described (and were subsequently used as) deliciously tasting massage bars - not chocolate.

Organica was a major let down for me. Some people love it, but it's not a great substitute IMHO. The dairy free white buttons that have surfaced recently however are awesome.

I've made several things with them so far and a few nights ago attempted a cashew cream ganache for another recipe I'm working on. It sort of worked, but wasn't as good as I hoped. I decided last night on the way home from work to try making macadamia cream instead, something I've not heard of before but hoped would work better.

As such I ended up making macadamia ganache which worked extremely well. I wanted to add another dimension - a bit of crunch, crack and complimentary flavour. Thus they got rolled in dark chocolate then lightly toasted, chopped pistachios.

  • 75g White Chocolate Buttons
  • 75g Macadamia Nuts
  • 100ml Water
  • 75g Dark Chocolate
  • 50g Pistachio Nuts
Soak the macadamia nuts overnight in water. This will make them softer and easier to blend. I should mention that this is a wasteful recipe - I needed to use at least this quantity for my my mini food processor to work properly. It does mean however that you can use this amount of macadamia cream to make more truffles.

Blend the drained macadamias with 100ml of water in a mini food processor until you have a mixture that looks a lot like cottage cheese. Transfer to another container and use an immersion blender to get it as smooth as possible.

Strain the mixture through a sieve to remove the larger pieces. Discard the nuts that do not pass through the sieve or find another use for. You should now have a mixture looking like the bellow, which has only fine grit left in it:

Melt 75g white chocolate gently in a microwave (4 mins at 50% in my 850w, stiring halfway through). Mix 25g of the macadamia cream with it and place in the freezer for several minutes, then move to the fridge.

Finely chop the pistachio nuts (rocking a large, sharp chef's knife back and forth over them is much quicker and far safer than using a small knife) and toast for 30 seconds under a hot grill on a baking sheet.

When the ganache has firmed up divide it into 7 or 8 spoonfulls. Roll each in your hands into smooth balls. You find that washing your hands in very cold water first (and drying) helps keep them cool and the surface smooth.

Place the balls in the fridge to firm up. Melt the dark chocolate and if you know how/can be arsed (I couldn't) temper the chocolate after. Tempering will help the chocolate set quicker and give a pleasing crack when bitten into. It also gives chocolate its shine, however as we're coating it this won't be appreciated.

Dip each ball in the melted chocolate and roll in the pistachios. Truffle dipping forks like the one in the photo cost less than a quid in cookware shops and are very useful, but you can use a fork if you've not got one yet (hint hint).

Ensure that you get the balls fully coated in chocolate and that you let excess drain away before coating. After rolling you may find that sprinkling extra pistachio on the surface and pushing gently helps get a full coat.

So many ideas to try and so little time. I am genuinely extremely pleased with how these turned out however and will certainly be making a larger batch next time.

UK Vegan Food Blogs

So, it would seem that online blog directories tend to suck at letting you see UK only blogs. Thus I've decided to share my list compiled from forums, twitter, google searching etc of blogs with posts in the past 6 months. They are divided by country and ordered by last post date.


Brighton: Vegan in Brighton
London: Artichoke Zine
London: Wednesday Food Blogging
Midlands: Cooking the Vegan Books
Midlands: Increasing Veganicity
London: To Happy Vegans
London: The Gluttonous Vegan Loves YOU
Buckinghamshire: Ready, Veggie, Cook
Southeast: The Messy Vegetarian Cook
Essex: Maple Spice
London: Laminated Cat
Surrey: Alien on Toast
London: Intellectual Blackout
London: Sipping On the Sweet Water
Brighton: Vanilla Sugar
London: Student Vegan from the UK
London: The Great Vegan Conspiracy
Midlands: Vegan Foody
London: Ankes Cocktails


Bathgate: Skint Vegan
Edinburgh: Thistle and Yellow Rose
Glasgow: Glasvegan


Gluten-free tries Vegan

If you know of more then please comment and at some point I'll update this list.

Stuffed Crust Pizza / Stuffed Doughballs

This a super easy bread machine recipe that I don't make often enough. Since discovering good frozen vegan pizza bases a couple of years back I've been super lazy. I'm totally going to make this again though soon as it is better to eat fresh than from frozen.

The pictures are from 4 years ago in my little flat, when I didn't really understand good lighting or use of depth of field (large aperture does not guarantee a good photo).

Ingredients for 1 pizza or 12 doughballs:
  • 225g White Bread Flour
  • 3.5g Dried Yeast
  • A Pinch of Salt
  • 150ml Water
  • 1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Place all ingredients in your bread machine in the order you normally use. Select the italian dough setting (45 min on my Panasonic). Remove when complete (with the help of some extra flour if too sticky) and knead for a few minutes on a floured surface.


Roll out to a diameter a few centimetres larger than you need. Cut meltable vegan cheese (or anything else you want to stuff it with) into strips and place in a circle 1cm from the edge. Work your way round the pizza, rolling the dough over the cheese and tucking it under, pressing down slightly to make a seal.

Blind bake for a few minutes on a heavy pan or pizza stone at 220oc. If you don't have a pizza stone yet, buy one. They cost a tenner and are great for all types of bread. Remove from oven, pierce any bubbles of air in the centre of the pizza and top as you please. Cook until done (10-15mins).

If you don't blind bake you run the risk of the topping sinking into the dough and making it soggy.

Favourite toppings: sundried tomato paste, pesto, grilled artichokes, roasted peppers, olives, vegan cheese (several types), capers, tomatoes (remove excess juice/seeds), garlic, mushrooms, olive oil, herbs.

Less is often more - tomatoes, garlic, oregano and olive oil is a simple yet winning combination:


Doughballs are great eaten with soup or just on their own. Divide the above dough into 12, roughly roll out each into a circle (smaller than the size of your palm) using your fingers, place a small amount of filling in the centre and fold over the sides and pinch, making a tight seal. Roll around in the hands to ensure there are no cracks. Place on the tray you're baking them on upside down, so that the seal is at the bottom.

Don't be tempted to overstuff them or they could explode, which is less exciting than it sounds.

Meltable cheese and sundried tomato is my favourite filling, but garlic & herb margarine works too. I can't remember how long they need cooking for, but it's probably around 10 minutes at 220oc.

Decent Hot Chocolate

Decent hot chocolate is easy to make and uses real melted chocolate; there really is no excuse for bad stuff made from powder.

  • Soya Milk
  • 2 squares Chocolate
  • 1 shot Kahlua
  • 1 tsp Sugar (optional)
  • Squirty Vegan Cream (optional)
  • Chocolate Shavings (optional)
Fill a mug 90% full with soya milk. Add 2 squares of chocolate and microwave until hot (2m 20s in our 850w). Add the shot of kahlua. If using unsweetened soya milk add a tsp of sugar. Stir, taste and garnish with squirty cream and chocolate shavings.

Vegan Cocktails for Beginners

If you enjoy creating flavours you'll probably enjoy making cocktails. It's like cooking but way faster and there's loads of scope for new discoveries. Imagine your favourite dessert, in a glass.

Cocktails make alcohol taste good. That's not to say their only use is to disguise the taste and make getting drunk more pleasant. Typically I have 1 or 2 cocktails in a sitting - enough to enjoy the flavours but not enough to get drunk off. Non-alcoholic cocktails can also be good.

Making cocktails yourself is way, way cheaper than buying them in a bar. It's not uncommon for £1 of ingredients to cost £7 if someone else makes it for you.

You Will Need....

You don't need to go overboard with ingredients and equipment to start with.

You can pretty much get going with:
  • Gin
  • Vodka
  • White Rum
  • Bitters
  • Brandy
  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Fruit Juices
  • Simple Syrup (make your own)
  • Soda Water / Lemonade / Tonic
Angostura bitters were vegan when last checked. If you want to make vermouth based drinks Noilly Prat was vegan when last checked. The white (dry) is in UK supermarkets, the red (sweet) online and in specialist shops (I buy mine from Soho Wine Supply on Percy Street in London). Look for non alcoholic grenadine made without cochineal (such as Bardinet, sold in the UK in Morrisons) if you want to use it, of make your own. The novelty of sunrises wears off pretty quickly however. Don't waste expensive booze (£30 a bottle plus) on cocktails.

Many cocktails don't require any special equipment beyond a measure. A cocktail shaker (dishwasher safe if you have one) is a good start. A measure that sits on top of the glass and can be tipped into the glass is highly recommended, so you don't spill booze over your hands. You can muddle with the end of a rolling pin and strain with a standard sieve if required. Black straws, cocktail umbrellas, stirrers etc can be purchased new off ebay a lot cheaper than in shops. IKEA sell cheap glasses; get a few types. A blender is useful for puréeing fruit/crushing ice, but not essential. WMF (in John Lewis, House of Fraser etc) make the nicest cocktail equipment IMHO, but it comes at a price.

Currently on the cocktail shelf:

Some Tips....

Not all alcohol is vegan.

You probably knew this already, but I had to say. This includes Martini (clarified with egg).

Fortified wine (vermouth, sherry, port etc) is made from wine, which can be clarified with gelatine, egg, blood etc. Spirits can be filtered with bone char and have had lactic acid added during fermentation (some also have colourings - particularly absinthe). Whisky is often stored in unwashed ex sherry barrels (particularly scotch) to pick up the flavour. Liqueurs can contain cream, colourings, flavourings, preservatives, sugar etc.

The best but far from perfect (the whole question and reply is often not stated) list online is - beware other sites with outdated information.

Don't forget that you can make your own flavoured spirits. I've made sloe gin, sloe brandy, damson gin, peach & lychee gin, Christmas vodka and cherry vodka so far.

I buy a bottle every few weeks. My booze collection a couple of years back (bigger now!):

Figure Out The Type of Cocktail You Like

Long? Short? Very Alcoholic? Non-alcoholic? With lots of juice added? A dash of juice? Hot? Ice cold? Fruity? Creamy? Chocolatey?

Despite it's fame, most people find martinis quite unpleasant. Don't feel like you need to conform.

If you've got an idea before you start looking for recipes you'll make less cocktails you don't enjoy.

Personally I like creamy cocktails and fruity cocktails. I'm not into overly bitter drinks or those containing only spirits.

Avoid Crap Recipes

There are a *lot* of crap cocktail recipes on-line. This includes video demonstrations of techniques where the actor clearly has no clue. Don't judge books by their pictures; they may well be stock photos.

You can waste a lot of good booze if you're not careful. If a recipe looks nasty it probably is.

Look for recipes on drink manufacturer websites, as they're likely to have had a professional go over them. Blogs can be good, particularly those with comments from people who have tried them and verified they're good.

Wikipedia has IBA ingredients for cocktails listed, however it doesn't often have the method included. Whilst standard, IBA ingredient ratios/product choices don't suit everyone.

Figure Out What You Want To Make Before Buying The Alcohol

Unless you have loads of money you'll want to collect bottles over time. Don't blow your budget then find you can't make what you want.

Follow Recipes - Don't Take Shortcuts

Muddling isn't the same as garnishing. Shaking is not the same as stirring. The temperature it is served at does matter.

How you make a cocktail will affect the result. If you take short cuts you will regret it.

You can often substitute brands for similar, but leaving an ingredients out (unless it's a garnish purely for decoration) can radically affect the success of a drink.

Watch Others

If you do go to a cocktail bar and the cocktails are good, sit at or stand by the bar and watch how the cocktails are made.

Make Sure You Have Enough Ice

Many cocktails require large amount of ice, which is often discarded after mixing. If you'renot lucky enough to have an ice maker consider buying ice cubes ready made or invest in a couple more trays. Keeping regularly used booze in the fridge can help too.

Strawberry Pimms Cocktail

A simple cocktail using the aforementioned sorbet.

This is really what I had in mind when I made the sorbet. It is however just as good eaten without the alcohol.Shake the ingredients together and serve immediately.

At some point I'll experiment with getting some cucumber flavour in too :)

Mint & Strawberry Sorbet

Continuing on the theme of grossly out of season recipes.

Whilst out shopping a few days ago we acquired 2 punnets of organic strawberries, down from £2.99 each to 49p each. Perfect condition, just in need of eating quickly.

Recipes on line for mint-strawberry sorbet seem to involve mincing/shredding/blending the mint, which can surely only cause little specks that get stuck in your teeth like a bad mojito. The real taste of mint is in the oil, so I experimented with using muddled mint in syrup and discarding the leaves.

The result was pretty damned amazing; it's one of the nicest sorbets I've ever had either in a tub from a shop or in a restaurant. I'm guessing that part of the reason for this is the cost; I didn't use extra water or juice to bulk it out.

It's definitely a strawberry sorbet rather a mint sorbet, however the flavour totally comes through. The sugar and the lemon really lift the taste, but there's only a small amount of sugar added - it's a reasonably healthy recipe.

  • 400g Hulled Strawberries
  • 18g Fresh Mint Leaves
  • Juice of Half a Lemon
  • 2 shots Simple Syrup
Hull the strawberries and blend until totally puréed.

Wash the mint and tear off leaves. Muddle with 1 shot simple syrup. Pour some of the strawberry purée in, combine then add back to the rest of the strawberry. Force the mixture through a sieve to remove the mint, which should then be discarded.

Whisk in another shot of simple syrup and the juice of half a lemon. Transfer to a freezable container and place in freezer for 15 minutes. Take out and whisk briefly then place back. For the next 2-3 hours repeat this process of whisking every 15-25 minutes, to ensure that no large ice crystals form.

Before serving (if your freezer has turned it very hard); remove from the freezer and allow to sit for a few minutes before scooping.