Mashtun and Meow

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Advent Calendars 2014

They have arrived! Things of beauty, joy, and goodwill for all. Or for both of us at least.

Bonus bottle of festive Big Peat too!
We've gone for whisky and vodka this year, with gin, tequila, rum and cognac calendars also available from the lovely chaps over at Master of Malt.

You can view last year's round ups here, here, here and here - and since polishing off our Christmas Eve dram we've been waiting for pre-advent to roll back around. We'd heartily recommend them to anyone still trying to decide whether to invest in one... Yes, it's a fair dollop of cash, but the contents work out to be great value for money and we found absolute delight in things we wouldn't be able to afford full bottles of. A proper treat every day, and just the perfect way to warm yourself up for Christmas.

Bring on December 1st!

Cheers,

L&J

Friday, 7 November 2014

Great Balls of Fire: Whisky Tasting at the Broadfield

Is there anything as good as a drink and a curry? Well, we don't think so, and neither did the night's host - and when it comes to whisky tastings Ed (@whiskycurator) is an ace MC.

So for this event, the five whiskies and accompanying snacks were all selected with a bit of a kick in mind, whether it be from the spice of the food or the strength of the whisky. And so with a slight warning from Ed that we may need to "fight through the small pain barrier to enjoy the flavours beneath" we launched straight into the first cask strength whisky.

Benrinnes 16 Year Signatory Release (51.2%) is a beautiful sherry hogshead finished dram from a distillery that almost exclusively produces whisky for blends such as J&B. Opening with an aroma of grass and toffee with orchard fruit, the sweetness gave way to a punch of savoury heat on the palate, with a salty character tucked in there too. With a little drop of water, the initial sweetness really popped out as the whisky opened up to a wonderful almost fresh finish. This whisky overall demonstrates the finesse we've discovered in all of the Signatory bottlings we've been lucky enough to try.

Food pairing: Tarka Dhal and poppadoms

The second and strongest whisky of the evening at 60% came in the form of an award winning dram from Glenfarclas: Their 105 Cask Strength is highly regarded for its excellent value - priced at around £40. If the first whisky was a slap in the face this is outright hockey brawl... a heat that builds from the initial spark and continually grows for around 5-7 seconds. When the fire dies down a great molasses stickiness is left behind. Also on the palate we found sweet dark fruit, layered with a complex mixed spice. A splash of water again added great depth and enhanced the sherry character of the whisky.

Food pairing: Harissa straws

The third whisky came courtesy of a lesser known distillery - Dailuaine 15 Year - bottled by the fantastic folks at Master of Malt. Dailuaine again produce the majority of their whisky for blends (almost exclusively Johnny Walker). This use of whisky for blends means there is often far less money spent on the acquisition of casks, as in the long run it is less important than those producing single malt releases. So this bottling is somewhat of a rarity, and a frankly incredible find on the part of the guys over at Master of Malt, to happen upon this barrel in the right warehouse at the right time before it could be shipped off to what would have been a sorrowful end for this excellent cask. The 55.7% sherry-finished dram oozed with maple syrup and nutty earthiness in a far more smooth fashion than the previous few, with a gentle stickiness that allowed the spirit to glide down as you swallow. There was a lovely hint of lightly smoked sweet cured bacon, accompanied by an oily, rich finish.

Food: Goats and Chilli Arancini

After a short break, we returned to sample the Bowmore 10 Year Tempest Batch 3 - the only peated offering of the evening. This was a truly lovely, rounded whisky that did not solely punch of peat. The nose of tobacco sweetness prickled with a sweet, smoky, dried beef jerky that gave way into a burnt lavender. The palate held the classic Bowmore smoke and saltiness, with the expected savoury notes coupled with a fruity undertone of dried pineapple and fresh passion fruit that lingered with just a tickle of black pepper.

Food: Prawn tempura with soy and ginger dressing


Balcones Texas #1, the first single malt whisky to be made in Texas, rounded off the evening. This is also the first yard aged whisky, which happens to be as simple as it sounds. The crowd sourced tasting note for the initial nose got it bang on - the smell of opening a tin of Quality Street: heady notes of chocolate, toffee and light floral notes combined with an oddly appetising metallic character. The whisky had a silky, lightly oiled mouth feel, with a toasty malt sweetness and elements of overripe fruits. The finish left behind a soft sugar note with a great depth from the fresh American oak cask. Completely unique.

Food: Chilli jam (with a hint of Pedro Ximenez) and crispbreads


Another firecracker of an evening (see what we did there) was had by all - we'll be back in two short weeks for whisky and desserts!

Cheers,

J & L

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Whisky Review #3: Bunnahabhain 8 Year


We procured this bottle from the wonderful Lincoln Whisky Shop, a delightful shop a mere stones' throw from the castle... true purveyors of an excellent range of whisky, from all the proverbial corners of the world, as well as a vast selection of other spirits and wines.

We were tempted into buying the Gordon & MacPhail 8 Year Old Bunnahabhain, a highly peated whisky, after a wee nip of the delightful nectar from behind the counter. This struck us instantly as a surprising variation from Bunnahabhain's generally more un-characteristically Islay lesser-peated standard releases.

The scents on the nose are a cocktail of sweet apples and seaweed, coupled with an oaky tinge, that develops beautifully on the palate to a delicate, burnt tickly sweetness. Strong notes of more seaweed and sea salt come through the orchard toffee-ness to produce an interestingly varied, rounded flavour. There is a prickly warmth from the young(ish) spirit and a good level of peat heat that stays in the mouth and throat, giving a long, intense finish.

Overall, for the price this whisky is great "bang for your buck". I paid around £30 and it was definitely worth all of its meagre price tag. Bunnahabhain isn't usually one of our favourite malts, but this MacPhail bottling was a pleasing exception.

Slainte,

Jim

Monday, 27 October 2014

The Milestone Cookery School

The Milestone, for those who don't know, is one of Sheffield's greatest restaurants, serving high end food made from locally sourced seasonal produce, with a sincere passion (verging towards reverence) shown towards the ingredients. They run a variety of regular masterclasses, from day courses in pastry or pasta, to "A Pig in a Day", and half day courses in bread, Indian street food and the course I went on, all about sausage, bacon and black pudding. The cookery school experiences can be given as gifts in the form of vouchers bought from the restaurant or online here and this is how I found myself counting down the days to the visit.

When the day finally dawned, I arrived a little nervously clutching my golden ticket, to be greeted with a coffee and some pastries in the dining room downstairs, which is cosy and inviting for all occasions. After the full group of seven arrived, we made our way upstairs to what is usually another space for eating, which had been converted for the occasion into an makeshift cooking space with a single gas stove ring and a big knife each.


The Cooking

We started the proceedings by preparing the black pudding. This began its life as a tray of powdered blood and half a bottle of cider, to which we added lightly fried onions and some nutmeg, before passing it to Richard (our host for the day) to put in the kitchen's oven.

We moved on to the delectable bacon cure: a simple blend of equal parts sea salt and brown sugar, with the aromatic mixture of nutmeg and thyme to add a varied sweetness and a herby meatiness. Richard prepared the full pork belly joint for us, demonstrating an array of butchery techniques, leaving the short rib behind to provide us each with a tender fatty portion of meat ready to be cured.

As we placed the bacon to one side, word came from the kitchen that the black puddings were done, and they were brought forth, still in the steaming bain marie. As we were presented with the warm blood pudding, the next event was prepped. An exercise in plating up food, using the Milestone's very own burnt onion sauce, horseradish crackling and divine miniature apple jellies. I can't quite believe I managed to produce such a pretty plate of food!

The final activity was sausage making, an awkward skill for the clumsy set of hands I came with, but in the end a very worthwhile technique to know. We started by mixing to ground pork, a small amount of lightly fried onion with a great selection of fresh herbs, such as thyme and parsley as well as an ingredient that I had only heard in hushed whispers around whisky tastings... Smoke powder. This definitely lived up to my dreams - a seemingly magical white powder that filled the whole room with a smell of open fire. Once all the ingredients had been mixed and squeezed to the bottom of a piping bag we were ready for rolling.

The skin of these sausage was to be crepinette (known less exotically as caul fat). Rather than using the lower intestine, this French method of wrapping meat in bladder lining quickly became obvious as an easier method, than the filling of traditional sausage. Once piped as a strip onto the crepinette, all that was needed was a tight roll once and the outer would stick to itself. Once we had our sausages portioned, we cooked a few up and were presented with a hearty dollop of the restaurant's mash and their frankly delicious gravy.

Being able to leave with a bacon on the cure, a still warm black pudding and a fistful of sausages just meant I was hankering to cook it all.


The Eating 

What better way to eat a smashing homemade sausage than with Yorkshire puddings, roasted sweet potatoes, and lashings of tarragon gravy. The perfect Sunday tea.









Chicken, bacon and black pudding empanadas, and black pudding huevos rancheros.


The traditional English breakfast, remastered with a healthy dose of homemade bacon, some free range eggs and a pinch of chilli.


I'll definitely be making the bacon again, and would feel confident with the sausages and black pudding too once I'd paid a visit to a good butcher to acquire the right ingredients. All in all, the experience was a great day which taught me an array of new skills. Highly recommended.

Cheers,

Jim

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Toasted Sandwiches: Brewdog Sheffield

Everyone knows that sandwiches are the perfect hearty pub snack - one step up from the humble pork pie, but without needing to resort to a knife and fork. Sheffield's Brewdog have just announced a new toastie menu to accompany their range of hot Pieminister pies (you do get cutlery with this option!), and we were invited along to give them a try. On the night, Jim was stricken with an evil bug, so it was a solo Mrs Mashtun mission this time - it's a hard life!

The menu labels itself as "toasted sandwiches", but there were no flimsy triangles of disappointment here, oh no. Every sandwich is made on fresh ciabatta bread from Seven Hills Bakery, and stuffed full of tasty treats with an emphasis placed on quality local ingredients. They're also very reasonably priced, at between £4.50 and £6 for a filling sandwich with a couple of little accroutements on the side.

We were first treated to "The Big Italian" - a generous portion of Milano salami from the lovely folks at Porter Brook Deli, with goat's cheese, mozzarella, and little semi-dried tomatoes which gave a beautiful burst of Mediterranean freshness. I was covered in it after the first bite, so it's fair to say this was a little on the messy side, but cheese and meat on your face is an excellent way to get to know each other. A good sandwich for bonding. It came paired with Brewdog's Libertine Black IPA, and the citrussy, spicy nature of the beer cut through the richness of the sandwich really well.


On the side, we also got a little dish of Salty Dog steak flavour crisps, and a pot of the most adorable mini gherkins I've ever seen in my life. I'm an absolute cornichon whore and predictably I loved them.

The second toasted sandwich turned out to be my favourite. Cheese, cheese, and cheese, all melted onto the crusty bread to form a hefty portion of molten scrumptiousness. The cheeses in question were more mozzarella and goat's cheese, with a great tangy cheddar alongside. What made this one a cut above for me was that the whole piece of ciabatta is doused in Henderson's Relish (for those unawares, a Yorkshire and better version of Worcestershire sauce) before the cheese is melted onto it. After eating this, I don't think I ever want to eat a sandwich again that hasn't been treated to a Henderson's dip. A Weihenstephaner Hefeweisse was selected to go with this and the creamy freshness of the beer cut through the cheese at the same time as complementing it. The little accompaniment here was the world's longest sweet pickled chilli, which was delicious and another component of the meal which ended up coating my chin.


Up next was a Brewdog twist on the classic ham, cheese and pickle - the twist being that the pickle had beer in it! The menu advertises Punk IPA pickle, but on the night we were given 5am Saint chutney, to go with the beer we were drinking (5am Saint itself!). The sharp cheddar and frankly awesome chutney were both great ingredients but it was the thick cut ham from Trearly Farm in Wales (but again acquired from Porter Brook Deli) which made this sandwich stand out - just lovely. This would be a perfect lazy lunch.

The veggie option was also delicious - griddled aubergine and courgette, marinated in garlic oil, with an olive tapenade and some more of those lovely semi-dried tomatoes. Admittedly not the option I'd have originally picked as an out-an-out lover of meat, but definitely one I'd consider in the future although I think I'd choose to add on some goat's cheese (75p supplement). To go with this we were treated to the single-hopped Citra version of Brewdog's IPA is Dead, which provided a refreshing balance to the slightly salty sandwich.

Every Brewdog bar differs in kitchen facilities and this is reflected in their menus. The Sheffield team are proof that a lot can be done with just a single grill and a pie oven. The whole group was really impressed with the sandwiches on offer, and the fact that every ingredient has been clearly thought out and carefully sourced. These are toasties done proper, Sheffield style!

Cheers,

Laura

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Barley to Bake: Laphroaig and Coffee Cake

It's no secret that I love both baking and whisky. Until recently, for some utterly unknown reason I had never combined the two. However, when my fellow Islay-loving, whisky-drinking, baker extraordinaire friend Sarah of the Starbake Sisters posted an absolutely mouth-watering image of a Laphroaig coffee cake, I just HAD to pester her for the recipe! Sarah has been kind enough to share this, along with a little bit about why she loves the extraordinary Isle of Islay. Having made this cake myself I can absolutely attest to the recipe, and the result is delicious.

May I present...

A malt whisky cake inspired by the Queen of the Hebrides


"Islay: first discovered by the Starbuck family in Spring 2004, ever since that Easter holiday we all have a place in our hearts for this Hebridean island.  Its breath taking scenery and quaint, welcoming villages make it hard not to want to revisit… So we did just that, several times over the years.

Nestled between the expansive beaches and tumbling hills you will find Islay’s 8 malt whisky distilleries dotted over the island, and I can proudly claim to have visited them all. The huge quantities of peat that the island is built on make for remarkably distinctive flavours in the whiskies and yet each distillery has been boasting different tastes, smokiness and sweetness for hundreds of years.

I love food. It’s primarily this fact that sparks my interest and enjoyment of cooking and baking. I find little more satisfying than preparing nice food for family and friends, and seeing them (hopefully) enjoy it!  So it seemed a natural progression with my family’s long awaited return to Islay this summer to incorporate Islay malts into a new recipe. Not wanting to waste quality malt by being too extreme with my creativity, I decided to first come up with a cake recipe to use it in. 

Choosing a sponge flavour wasn’t too challenging. I felt a plain sponge wouldn’t quite enhance the whisky’s aromas, chocolate would have proved too sweet. I had also considered ginger, as my sister had tried out in Islay with Bruichladdich, but I didn’t want anything quite as strong to overpower the whisky, as I wanted the malt to be the main feature. Coffee cake struck me as the most appropriate.  
Now to choose a malt.  I went for Laphroaig 10 year old.  It’s a well-known whisky, with fantastic earthy peat flavours and sweet smokiness that I felt would be effective alongside a coffee cake recipe.  You could of course use your own favourite malt/blend, though I’m yet to experiment using other whiskies with other sponge flavours.

The trick with this recipe is not to add the whisky before baking. The characteristic flavours mentioned above get lost in the baking process.  So, still not willing to waste good malt, I used a trick I had seen in Primrose Bakery book when making mojito cakes with my little sister. They suggest making a syrup with rum, sugar and lime juice, and brushing it onto the still warm sponge fresh out of the oven. This method worked perfectly with just caster sugar and Laphroaig as well. Any syrup left over from the sponge I then added to the golden icing sugar buttercream.  This addition was even more effective and maintains the sweet, distinctly Laphroaig, smoky flavour throughout.


I was delighted with the results and even more delighted to hear my dear friend, Mrs Mashtun, wanted to try it too. I hope she and Mr Mashtun have enjoyed it as much as I and my family and friends have. 

Sláinte!"

Ingredients

Cake: 
150g caster sugar
150g butter
150g self raising flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
3 eggs, beaten
1tbsp hot (not boiling) water
1tbsp instant coffee

Syrup: 
4tbsp whisky to 2tbsp caster sugar

Buttercream: 
225g golden icing sugar
100g butter
About 1-2 tsp of the whisky syrup

Preheat the oven to 160, and line and grease 2 sandwich tins.

To make the cake, beat the sugar and butter together before gradually adding the eggs. Add the sifted flour and baking powder and fold in. Next, dissolve the coffee in hot water and add to the mixture.
Divide into tins and bake for 25-30 minutes. 

Whilst the cake is baking, warm up the whisky and sugar slowly over a low-mid heat until all the sugar has dissolved, and allow to cool a touch.

When the cake is done, allow it to cool enough to remove it from the tins, and cool on a wire rack. While the sponge is still warm, brush the tops with the whisky syrup (leaving a splash for the buttercream).

Beat the icing sugar and butter together to make the buttercream. When combined, add the remaining whisky syrup, and apply to the sponges once they are cooled.

A little Mashtun holiday photo!
And finally, for any cake fans lucky enough to be dwelling in Edinburgh, you can find the work of cake decorating genius Starbake Sister #2, Emily, at Banco.

Enjoy!

Laura xx