drinks

Orange spiced gin

I'd intended to make this back in December as a Christmas drink - it's a Waitrose recipe for Spiced Clementine Gin.

But I didn't get round to it in time and then thought perhaps I would make it in January instead - using oranges though, January being that time for Seville oranges and when marmalade is made.

But these aren't even Seville oranges, and this certainly isn't marmalade!

I used lovely sweet juicy Naval oranges as thought that Seville would be too bitter.

So for this beautiful jar of sunshine, I just mixed:

70cl bottle of London Dry Gin

2 Naval oranges, unpeeled and sliced

200g caster sugar

5 cloves

2 star anise

... and then poured it into a Kilner jar - but use any wide-necked jar or bottle - and left it to infuse for two weeks.

Rachel Redlaw Orange Spiced Gin
Rachel Redlaw orange spiced gin

Strain and decant into bottles.

Serve on it's own, as a liqueur, with slices of fresh orange.

Or try a little orange spiced gin topped up with fizz.

Or in a tall glass over ice with soda water.

Rachel Redlaw orange spiced gin
Rachel Redlaw orange spiced gin

Yes, it would have been perfect for Christmas - but it's also perfect for dark, cold January.

There's something just so cheeringly sunny about this that even looking at the jar makes me smile.



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Favourite lemon cocktail sours / virgin mocktail style

Well, the strange thing at my recent Tiniest Thai supperclub ... the vodka lemon sours went down as if they had no booze in them (er, they really did) and the virgin version ... everyone commented that it didn't taste any different to a 'normal' ie with alcohol cocktail!

I think it's the lovely super citrus lemon flavour that both masks the vodka if you're making that version, and yet gives the mocktail a cleanness and clarity of taste you often don't get with overly sweet fruit versions of other cocktails.

These are really simple and very delicious - and absolutely not an inferior version at all.

You do need to make a simple sugar syrup, but don't be put off by this, it really IS simple (and will keep in the fridge for ages once you've made a bottle).

Make the sugar syrup in advance as it needs to be completely cooled down - just put one cup of sugar and one cup of water into a saucepan and bring to the boil on the lowest heat possible.  Then boil for a couple of minutes, remove from the heat, cool then bottle or put into a jar and store in the fridge.

And then to make two virgin lemon sours I just put in the blender:

a big handful of ice cubes

four shots of coconut water

two shots of freshly squeezed lemon juice

one shot of sugar syrup

one egg white (optional) 

And blend! 

Taste and add another shot of sugar syrup if you prefer it sweeter - just stir in or give it another quick blast.

The best mocktail I've made yet - do try it!


Home-made (almost) Amaretto

I can't imagine anyone in the world not liking Amaretto ... and whilst it's not exactly the same as that gorgeous Disaronno - it IS super-easy to make a good home-made version.

It makes a great gift too - when I've given it as a present in the past, I've bought a couple of little pretty vintage glasses on eBay to go with it.

All you need is to make a simple sugar syrup by putting into a pan:

200g white sugar

100g demerara sugar

200ml (plus a splash) of water

Very slowly bring it the boil, stirring now and then to dissolve the sugar - when it's come to the boil and the sugar has dissolved, immediately remove from the heat and leave to cool.

Pour half a bottle (37.5 cl) decent vodka into a big jug and when cool add the sugar syrup and stir.

Then add:

4-5 teaspoons natural almond essence

2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract

Rachel Redlaw Amaretto
Rachel Redlaw Amaretto
Rachel Redlaw Amaretto

Stir, taste, adjust if necessary ... and that's it! 

Just pour into a bottle and it's ready to drink. 

This today happily made a full bottle plus a small glass for the 'chef' :) 



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Swedish glögg (mulled wine)

Now, I don't like traditional mulled wine.

I don't know what it is but it's too rich for me, just too much and makes me feel a bit dizzy, hot and not great.

But give me Swedish glögg and I'm happy.

THIS is how mulled wine should be!

Absolutely delicious, it's easy to make and easy to drink ... AND it keeps for a few weeks so makes a brilliant present too.

Or you could just keep it in the cupboard and warm a little glass every night of course ...

 
Rachel Redlaw Swedish glogg mulled wine
 

Ideally you want to infuse the vodka mixture for a day or so, so do leave enough time (although it'll still be delicious to be honest if you have to make it all in the same day!).

OK, to make a bottle (and a bit) you'll need

1/2 cup vodka

2 or 3 cassia bark or cinnamon sticks

a piece of fresh ginger, peeled

about 1 tsp cardamom pods

The peel of a lime (try to peel in thin strips, without any of the white)

The peel of an orange (again try not to have the white bits)

1 bottle of light, easy-drinking, red wine

1 cup of caster sugar (but normal granulated is fine if you don't have it)

1 vanilla pod (optional)

raisons and whole almonds, to serve

Put the vodka in a bowl with the cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and citrus peels, cover and leave in the fridge for anywhere from a few hours to a day or two to infuse the flavours.

When you're ready to make the glögg, put the vodka mixture into a big saucepan with a bottle of red wine, the sugar and the vanilla pod (if using). Use a nice, light easy-drinking red - nothing too heavy. My favourite right now is 'Yellow Tail - jammy red roo' which is perfect.

Heat gently, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and bring to almost boiling - but don't actually let it boil.

Strain into a jug.

Rachel Redlaw Swedish glogg mulled wine
Rachel Redlaw Swedish glogg mulled wine
Rachel Redlaw Swedish glogg mulled wine

To serve, add a few raisons and almonds into glasses or cups and pour the hot glögg over.

Or you can pour it into a bottle and keep in a dark cupboard where it'll be good for a few weeks - just gently heat (and don't boil) before serving.

with bottle.JPG
Rachel Redlaw Swedish glogg mulled wine

I really hope you try this - it's a delicious drink! (And a great, home-made gift too).



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Home-made drinking chocolate

At this time of year you need a jar (or a bar) of drinking chocolate in the cupboard - so why not make your own? And t's such a great home-made gift idea too.

This recipe came from one of my sisters - she gave me a jar of her drinking chocolate and I (pretty much immediately) asked for the recipe.

And here it is - simple, delicious and not-too-sweet (which is why I love it, not having a sweet tooth).

125g good quality cocoa powder
175g good quality milk chocolate chopped
50g sugar
1tsp cinnamon (I don't like cinnamon but liked this drinking chocolate! But when I make some, I might try a little chilli powder instead)
1.5 tablespoons vanilla extract

Put all of the ingredients into a food processor and mix until powdery.

Rachel Redlaw drinking chocolate
Rachel Redlaw drinking chocolate
Rachel Redlaw hot chocolate

Add a couple of teaspoons to your favourite milk and heat gently, whisking or stirring to make sure it's all smoothly mixed in. And be careful not to let it come to the boil, it needs to be hot but not boiling or the milk can easily burn.

There's something lovely + gentle + nostalgic + old-fashioned + comforting + just all round good about having a jar of your own home-made drinking chocolate to hand.

Make it; drink it; gift it. 

And be happy.



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Flu fighters

Yep fighters. Fighters, but not outright winners, I'm afraid. 

When proper flu strikes - as it did this week for me - the only thing that actually 'cured' it was time. Time and rest. And sleep. And more time - even when I'd decided I'd had enough of being ill and would BREAK IT.  

I didn't win.  That surprised me as I famously have the 'constitution of an ox', because I believe that mind can win over body, and because, well, I'm just not used to it.

It was proper flu and proper rubbish.  

Kind friends suggested the following and I'm sharing them because - whilst they didn't cure my flu - they would all work if just a bit down with something, or a heavy cold and, they definitely helped me feel better. 

1. The one from the perfumier / aromatherapist / healer, my friend Karen Quinn.

She suggested two drop tea tree essential oil with one each of lemon and peppermint.  I put this mixture in the diffuser (using my doTerra oils, which I love), and it helped a lot with just breathing.  'Just' breathing, yep. Breathing had been a bit laborious.

 
Rachel Redlaw flu fighters
 

2. The one from my friend Neelam, who suggested warm turmeric milk, or 'golden milk'.

I'd actually heard about this before from Layla Saad, but hadn't ever got round to making it, much though I had thought it sounded a lovely warm milky evening drink.  Turmeric is also a wonder ingredient, packed with more health-giving properties than I think I can ever remember hearing.

I made mine by warming a cup of almond milk in a saucepan with 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, 1 teaspoon honey and a tiny pinch of sea salt. If you like cinnamon, I'd add 1/2 teaspoon of that too and another time I'll experiment with adding black peppercorns and a slice of fresh ginger (strain before drinking of course).

 
Rachel Redlaw flu fighters
 

3. And my friend Kate recommended slices of fresh pineapple with lots of freshly ground black pepper for any sore throat or cough.  

Now, I didn't dislike this ... and tried it a couple of times ... but I think I prefer my sugar/salt/spice dip (but I do believe in the power of pineapple) ... 

 
Rachel Redlaw flu fighters
 

Would love to hear your cold and flu remedies too ... do comment and let me know! 

 

 

 

Delicious, different & easy NYE cocktail party ideas

I have SO many recipes and ideas for things that are easy and delicious to make for a party that I thought it would be useful to do a quick round-up now just ahead of New Year's Eve.

These are not only easy and delicious but will be something a little bit different to normal canape fare - and I also believe that by this stage in festive proceedings, most people are more than ready for some fresh flavours and spice after a few days of rich - but bland - food.

Here's two of my favourite cocktail recipes: 

Lemon prosecco punch and lemon vodka sours (yes I like lemon and citrus flavours!).

And my very favourite snack to have ready and warm when guests arrive is spicy cashew nuts.

Raachel Redlaw spicy cashew nuts

Really easy to prepare ahead - chop and slice everything and then just fry before serving warm - is this larb gai.  It's a spicy warm salad and if you serve small portions in little gem lettuce leaf 'cups' it's a fresh and different canape.

A really nice veggie version are these mango, chilli and lime cups.  Just make sure to only prepare an hour before serving so they don't go mushy! 

Rachel Redlaw larb gai spicy salad
Rachel Redlaw mango salad

These pork and prawn balls are a guaranteed winner! Serve just two on a cocktail stick and with a dipping sauce - honestly, everyone loves them! 

Rachel Redlaw pork and prawn balls
Rachel Redlaw cucumber dipping sauce

No Name are delicious vegetable fritters - make ahead of time and then just fry before serving with a sweet chilli sauce

 
Rachel Redlaw No Name vegetable fritters
 

And I love chicken or pork stir fried with garlic and served (again) on little lettuce leaves.  Really tasty and different! 

Rachel Redlaw pad gratiem

Oops! Can't believe I nearly forgot these pork and prawn sesame toasts! Classic - and easy to prepare ahead and then fry just before serving with a little soy sauce for dipping.

Another winner! 

Rachel Redlaw pork and prawn sesame toasts

And to end ... how about these little balls of deliciousness, pimped up however takes your fancy?!

Rachel Redlaw bits of deliciousness

But the main thing is to host a party with love and spirit - so I'm sure your guests (and you) will have a great time no matter if you just put out bowls of crisps!

If you do try any of my recipes, I'd love to hear if you and your guests liked them so please comment below or come over and chat at my FB page.



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Homemade limoncello

I love yellow.  I love sunshine.  I love lemons. 

And yes, I love limoncello, that glorious Italian digestif that transports me to the lemon groves of Sicily (where, actually I haven't yet ever been, although I definitely plan to and it's where my friend Valentina is from).

OK then, so it transports me to somewhere sunny (since I don't know Sicily) where I can smell citrus and trees and hot earth and salty breezes, and feel the sun soaking into my skin like pure life force. Somewhere like that.

Yet it's winter, in fact the first frost of winter today.  And that, dear friends, is the power of limoncello. 

It's delicious, it's bottled sunshine - and it's easy to make.  It needs three weeks from putting the vodka and lemon peel together until it's ready-to-drink, so if we start it now, it'll be ready in time for some Christmas parties and for giving as (very welcome) gifts.

You'll need:

 
Rachel Redlaw limoncello
 

6-8 (depending on size and how you feel that day) unwaxed, organic lemons

I am specifiying unwaxed and organic as due to the amount of time the peel steeps, any nasties in it will also transfer to your drink.  To be entirely honest, I once made it with the only lemons available and that definitely weren't organic, and I'm still here to tell the tale, but it's just common sense to get the most natural, beautiful ones you can find).

A bottle of vodka

Sugar for the sugar syrup - but we don't need that until two weeks' time, so I'll come back and add that bit and update the photos then.

For now, all you do is start by washing the lemons, rinsing them and drying them.

 
Rachel Redlaw limoncello lemons
 

Then using a vegetable peeler or small sharp knife (or both) peel off the rind as very very thinly as you can.  The white pith has a bitter flavour and whilst it's going to be impossible not to have any of it at all (so don't obsess), it is important to be as careful about avoiding it as you can.

So, very finely peel 6-8 lemons - I did seven - and pop the bits of peel into a jar or bottle.

Rachel Redlaw limoncello
Rachel Redlaw limoncello

Top almost to the top with vodka (we need room for a cup of sugar syrup in a couple of weeks), seal tightly and put away somewhere cool and dark for a couple of weeks or so.

Update: three weeks' later ...  although two weeks would have been enough. 

OK, so right at the very last stage I went a bit loopy and made this much much harder for myself than need be!

What SHOULD have happened is that I should have made a couple of cups of sugar syrup.  Two cups sugar and two cups water, brought together very slowly in a saucepan, simmered for 2-3 minutes and then left to cool.

You strain the peel from your liqueur then add about half the quantity of sugar syrup and taste, and add more as necessary until it's the right sweetness for you.  Easy!

But what I did, was assume I had enough sugar syrup in the fridge as I'd made vodka sours this week for a supperclub.

Rachel Redlaw limoncello
Rachel Redlaw limoncello

There was nowhere near enough and my drink was horribly bitter.

And then, to make it even harder, I decided I couldn't be bothered to make up 'proper' sugar syrup, so I just put boiling water into half a cup of sugar and stirred til dissolved.  

 
Rachel Redlaw limoncello
 

When cool, I added this to my lemon liqueur and ... it was still bitter.  So I made another cup of my 'cheat's syrup' and added half of it.  

My limoncello tastes absolutely fine, despite all this messing around, if not the very best version I've ever made!

Leave it for 24 hours to settle and then keep in the fridge until needed.

 
Rachel Redlaw limoncello
 

At least it looks pretty ... and I hope you make it the easy way, not the totally-round-the-houses-way and that you like it! 

Would love to see what you make - do share.


Sloe gin

I love this time of year.

Autumn. Fall.  Call it what you will.  

 
Rachel Walder autumn Fall sloe gin
 

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness indeed (the photo is my local park this week). I love crisp mornings, sunny days and cosy evenings.

And I love making preserves, pickles and infusions that will see us through winter. 

It's the perfect time to go looking in the hedgerows for sloes - they're a bit early this year so now is probably about as late as you can leave it.  I'm lucky - my dad has sloes growing in the field and picked and sent me a box of them in the post ... 

So now's the time to the sloe gin started ready for Christmas.

If you make it now, it'll be good at Christmas. If you can wait, it'll be even better next year.  And even better the year after.

So simple to make - do give it a try if you can get hold of some sloes.

 
Rachel Walder sloe gin
 

All you need are the sloes, a bottle of gin and caster sugar.

First ... make yourself a G&T. Why not?

 
G&T.jpg
 

Then, using the point of a small knife, or a pin, prick each sloe a few times (unless it's so juicy it's already burst, as a few of mine have).

 
Rachel Walder sloe gin
 

Get a bottle or a jar to house the sloe gin until it's ready to strain and put into pretty bottles.  I used to have a huge jar that looked great, but have no idea where it's gone so today am using an old vodka bottle and a jar. 

Put in a layer of sloes and cover with a layer of caster sugar.

Keep layering until the bottle's full / the sloes are finished.

Rachel Walder sloe gin
Rachel Walder sloe gin

Then pour in the gin, leaving time for it to bubble through the sloes and sugar before pouring in more.

Just leave in a cool-ish and dark-ish place until Christmas, turning and tipping every few days - or whenever you remember - so over the next few weeks the sugar completely dissolves.

Rachel Walder sloe gin

When it's ready, I'll be back here to change that header picture to the beautiful ruby-coloured finished product! 




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Tiniest-Thai-tradition: lemon vodka sours

Let's kick off the weekend with a cocktail!  These vodka sours aren't Thai at all but they do go exceptionally well with these lovely spicy cashews  - plus they're just delicious and very very simple.

You'll need a blender and you do need to make a sugar syrup first but do not be put off please!  

The sugar syrup is super easy to make and it'll keep in the fridge for a few weeks.

Make the sugar syrup in advance as it needs to be completely cooled down - just put one cup of sugar and one cup of water into a saucepan and bring to the boil on the lowest heat possible.  Then boil for three or four minutes, remove from the heat, cool then bottle or put into a jar and store in the fridge.

To make vodka sours for two you just tip into a blender:

A handful of ice cubes

Four shots of vodka

Two shots of freshly squeezed lemon juice

One shot of sugar syrup

One egg white

Then blend! Blend until the ice is totally crushed and everything is frothy and delicious. Then serve with a strip of lemon zest if liked - it just adds a bit of interest as otherwise the drink is very white looking.

Simple and absolutely my favourite drink (of the moment).

 
The Tiniest Thai Rachel Walder vodka sours
 

Let me know if you like them too!



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Lemon Prosecco Punch

I was going to save this a day and take some prettier pictures and stuff before I posted it but then decided to just ... share already!

It's so easy and such a great drink that you might want the recipe straight away for Saturday, not have to wait until Sunday for it.

And if you're looking for a snack to have with it, I can recommend these spicy cashews.

Anyway, onto the punch.

You'll need:

3 lemons

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

1 bottle of Prosecco

1/2 cup vodka

Peel the lemons in nice long thin strips.

It looks lovely if you can do a single lemon spiral thing but although I try every time I haven't managed this yet.  Just try and make the strips as long as possible and make sure you only have the peel and leave the bitter white pith behind on the lemon.  Put peel to one side.

Squeeze the lemon juice from all three lemons and set that aside too.

Put the sugar and water into a small pan and bring to the boil very slowly over a low heat.  Stir to make sure the sugar is fully dissolved and then add the lemon peel and simmer for two or three minutes.

Remove from the heat and let cool completely.

Pour the whole bottle of Prosecco into a jug or punch bowl, add the sugar syrup and lemon peel, and the lemon juice and then the vodka.

Stir and serve!

Next time I make it I won't actually put the lemon peel in the glass as, pretty though it is, it was annoying to drink.

The Tiniest Thai Rachel Walder lemon prosecco punch

I also served it in wine glasses rather than flutes as I heard Prosecco should be served like this - does anyone have any thoughts or knowledge on the best glass to use?

I hope you like the punch - do let me know if you try it.



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Lemongrass vodka / lemongrass lychee martini

Less a Recipe, more a Reminder!

With three weeks until Christmas there's still time to put some flavours into booze to infuse away, then strain and bottle to give as presents.

I've had the sloe gin underway since autumn, have an apple schnapps brewing and am thinking of starting the annual 'Christmas Whiskey' soon - full of really seasonal flavours. If you need last-minute inspiration in a few weeks' time, vanilla vodkais probably best as it infuses so quickly and still looks good with the vanilla pod in the bottle.

Lemongrass vodka is as simple as it gets - three and a half weeks ago I put vodka into a clean jar along with four stalks of lemongrass, chopped. I put four because I had four, and would have put more if I'd had more - so just use what you have.

The Tiniest Thai Rachel Walder lemongrass vodka

Some additions create really strong infusions but the lemongrass vodka has a lovely subtle aroma and flavour that I think will be perfect for all sorts of long drinks and cocktails.

It's now time to bottle and label ... or perhaps not!  I've got time to make more after all and want to try making a very simple sort of martini.

For one: half fill a cocktail shaker with ice and add three measures (using the cap of the shaker) lemongrass vodka and one measure juice from a tin of lychees.

The Tiniest Thai Rachel Walder lemongrass vodka

Shake well and strain into a martini glass. Squeeze in the juice from a small wedge of lemon and then rub the lemon around the rim of the glass.

Add a tiny twist of lemon peel and a lychee to garnish.

The Tiniest Thai Rachel Walder lemongrass vodka

Oh, and talking of martinis just gives me an excuse to quote a warning from Dorothy Parker:

'I like to have a martini,
Two at the very most,
After three I'm under the table,
After four I'm under my host.'

Beware!

Tried this recipe? Let me know what you think.



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