Mashtun and Meow: Sheffield Beer Blog: 2013

Monday, 30 December 2013

An unconventional Sunday dinner

After endless meals of Christmas leftovers, we decided to pop out with a friend yesterday and try something a bit different. We headed to Urban Choola on London Road, in Sheffield. It describes itself as an Indian Street Kitchen, which makes traditional Indian food including dishes which you don't tend to see in your standard curry house, and came to us highly recommended by friends and family.

Upon arrival, we were met by the friendly chef in the otherwise totally empty restaurant - I guess curry isn't the usual choice for Sunday dinner! The menu choices are extensive, with a great range of vegetarian dishes and snacks as well as meaty main meals.

I went for the Chicken Boti Kathi Roll, a dish I've never heard of before. It was delicious - succulent chicken, freshly made flatbread, and a beautifully sweet tamarind chutney. The meal also came with masala chips, which I will certainly be trying to recreate at home - a liberal sprinkle of a secret blend of spices made them really tasty and added a certain je ne sais quoi to the dish.
Jim ordered the Lamb Seekh Sizzler, an absolutely enormous dish!
The buttered naan was lovely, oozing with butter and yet still perfectly crisp on the outside. The meat was wonderfully cooked and seasoned really well, and the sizzling peppers and onions were a delight.

The rest of the menu looked great too, and had we gone for an evening meal rather than just for lunch we'd have also sampled some of the small plates. Overall, it was an excellent meal, and great value - we will definitely be paying Urban Choola another visit in the near future.

Laura x

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Love,

L, J and T x

Friday, 27 December 2013

Salt Beef and Pastrami

I have written previously about salt beef and brisket... it is one of my favourite pieces of meat as it becomes tender and delicious when cooked slowly and the fats in the meat dissolve deliciously and keep the meat juicy and tender.

This time I am using a full brisket, weighing about 2.5kgs, and two slightly different brines, one for the salt beef and one for the slightly sweeter pastrami. 

Ingredients:

Brine:
300 grams sea salt
150 grams sugar
30grams Prague powder #1
Half bulb garlic crushed
Large knob of ginger, chopped roughly
1 cinnamon stick, crushed
Tbsp mustard seeds
Tbsp cracked black pepper 
Tbsp Szechuan peppercorns
Tbsp cloves
Tsp chilli
(And for the pastrami only) 3tbsp honey

Coating for pastrami:

2 Tbsp Mustard Seed
2 Tbsp Corriander Seed
2 Tbsp Black Pepper


Method:
Boil the brine ingredients with 1.5 litres of water, dissolving the salt, then leave to cool. 

Whole Brisket
Split the meat into 2 pieces - use a thinner piece, about 1/3 of meat, for the pastrami. Undo the trussing on the smaller piece and open it out. Pierce both pieces of meat all over to allow the flavours and salt to permeate, and place each piece of meat into a plastic or ceramic bowl (don't use aluminium as it can react with the meat).


Split the brine over the meat, adding the honey to the pastrami brine. Make sure that you cover the meat completely in liquid - if you are short, top up with a little more boiled water.


Brining the beef
Once this is done, weigh down the meat with a plate to ensure it remains completely submerged in the brine. Cover the bowls in cling film and place in a constantly cool place, whether it be a garage or cellar, or a freakishly large or empty fridge. Turn the meat daily so as to get the best coverage of flavours through the meat.

Leave for between 5-7 days then remove from the brine and rinse if needed - test the saltiness of the meat by lightly frying the a small sliver of meat. Depending on the taste you may need to rinse more than once.

Boil the salt beef
The cooking method used is the major difference between the pastrami and the salt beef. The beef is simply simmered for around 3 hours with a bouquet garni and carrots, onions and leek (never on a hard boil as this will start to dry out the meat). The pastrami is slightly more complex, but definitely worth the effort...






Cooking the pastrami
Coat the Pastrami and place over the chips
Add a couple of handfuls of smoking chips to the bottom of a roasting tin. Place the meat on the grill tray and put into the tin. Start with a blow torch (if you have one) on the chips, or on the hob to get the smoke going, then cover with tin foil leaving plenty of space for smoke to cover the meat. This process can either be done completely on the hob if you have a good extractor or in the oven at about 170°c for around 90 minutes.





Seal the meat so that the smoke/steam is contained

The next step is to steam the meat, using the same pan as before. Clean the chips out from the previous step and add a layer of water to the bottom of the pan, again covering with tin foil. Place on a gentle heat for 90 minutes, checking that the pan doesn't burn dry.

Serve hot on sandwiches with pickles or sauerkraut.



Whilst salt beef does need a bit of patience, it is definitely worth all the effort put in, as the meat at the end is tender and moist and a real show stopper for any occasion.

Enjoy,
Jim

Visit Smokedust for Prague Powder and Smoke chips as well as other paraphernalia.
For more recipes and ideas visit Love Salt Beef





Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Happy Christmas!

A very happy Christmas to you all - hope you have a day filled with good food, drink and merriment.

Meow-ry Christmas!
Love,

L, J and T x

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Advent - the final batch of drams! 18-24

As Christmas day draws near, so more and more of our little advent windows are emptied. Here are our reviews of the last few drams...

Day 18
Laura - Greenhook Ginsmiths Gin. Another American one and I have come to expect good things from across the pond. This is a fine example of a classic gin, with a clean juniper flavour and a beautiful aromaticism. A good one to sip on!
Jim - Yellow Spot. An Irish whiskey of great quality with a nose of vanilla poached apricots, and a bourbon sweetness. This is accompanied by a velvet caress across the tongue tasting of fruits and a nutty touch down the neck.

19
L - St George's Rye Gin. You can definitely taste the rye! It's hearty, smooth and very rich. Once again this month, I have found myself surprised at just how unique a gin can be. It's described on the St George's website as "a gin for whiskey lovers" which I would definitely agree with - it even won over my usually gin-hating uncle, who was drawn in by the delicious malty aroma.
J - Auchentoshan Three Wood - two sherry casks and a bourbon come together to make this sweet, tropical fruit nose and a palate of treacle and dark fruits such as cherries. The colour of red bronze brings with it light nuts and a long finish of sticky sweet oak.

20
L - City of London Dry Gin. A fairly harsh (but not unpleasant) juniper flavour that softens into a lovely warm finish. I love the history and story behind gin, as well as just drinking it, and this company truly embodies this, even down to featuring plenty of fantastic Hogarth-esque imagery on their website. I'd really like to pay the distillery a visit!
J - Johnnie Walker Platinum Collection. Smells of pudding... fruits, custards and (oddly) smoke. All round, a very festive nose. A tickle of smokiness continues across the roof of the mouth. Fades to a nutty dark chocolate.

21
L - Professor Cornelius Ampleforth's Bathtub Gin Navy Strength. Surely a good sign when your gin is ever so slightly brown. This is 57%, and in Jim's words, "fucking incredible". It smells cinnamony, and a bit like a very tipsy gingerbread man. The key notes I got on the taste were brown sugar and cardamom, a winning combination. The finish lasts for AGES, and as well as the cardamom spice there's also some clove in there. I could rave about this gin for hours.
J - Scapa - malted toffee and rich caramel on the nose. Spiced oranges present in the taste, with a smoky finish across the palate.


22
L - Mason's Yorkshire Dry Gin. Being from Yorkshire myself, I was very excited to see this one. It is lovely - peppery, fragrant and clean. A credit to my beautiful home county!
J - Glenfiddich 15 year old Distillery Edition. Spiced custard on the palate, with a hint of freshly ground black pepper and a long finish of buttery sweetness, followed with flavours of sherry.

23
L -Breuckelen Glorious Gin - well this definitely lives up to it's name. Very aromatic, with a creamy, almost herby scent (rosemary is one of the five botanicals in this). The flavour is citrussy but with a malty hit that keeps it smooth. A long finish that tickles in the tum.
J - Yamazaki 12 Yr. A sweet tender tasting whisky, with a flavour of delightful flowers which skips across the tip of the tongue. The orange sugar flavours creep up the nose and down the throat, before the end slinks away with a fruity woodiness that fills the mouth.

24 - And so we reach the final dram!
L - Smooth Ambler Greenbrier Gin - a savoury character in the flavour soon gives way to a sweet, citrus finish that resonates in the throat for ages, which I particularly appreciated today as I finally polished off the last sip of what has been a great advent!
J - Glenfarclas 40 yr - Spectacular. Apples, and peppered dark chocolate drift across the nose, with a light sherry. The rich characterful texture gently caresses the tongue with medjool dates, and figs seasoned with spice and demarara sugar. The finish is much like chewing on a leather jacket wearing gingerbread man. Simply divine.

Overall... what can we say?! It's been a rollercoaster of flavour and an absolutely incredible ride! Both calendars were sensational, not a bad drink between them, and despite the fairly big outlay they represent fantastic value for money. We've both had the opportunity to taste drinks we would never have thought to buy a full bottle of, or even come across in a bar, and each revelation has been a delight.

This will very likely become an annual event - head on over to Master of Malt to join us next year!

Slainte,

Laura and Jim

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Mulled Cider

With Christmas comes the use of mulling spices to liven alcohols and soften moods. Whilst wine is the usual booze of choice when it comes to mulling, cider is another viable option, using a similar concoction of spices but with the addition of dried fruit such as raisins to sweeten and a vanilla pod if you are feeling fancy.

Start first by zesting an orange into a pan. Chop the orange in half then stud it with cloves. To that add 100g of sugar and a handful of raisins, then the rest of the whole spices...
A cinnamon stick
A vanilla pod
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp cardamon pods
And a roughly chopped thumb of ginger

Then add the cider. We normally use a 3L bottle which you can pick up at most supermarkets and corner shops, the kind often seen suspiciously full discarded by park benches - it will lose the fix as you mull it.  Heat this gently (never boiling as you don't want to lose the alcohol) for at least 30 minutes. The flavours will continue to improve the longer you leave it and the house will smell frankly divine.

Press the fruit to release a little of their juice and serve in heatproof glasses or mugs with a dash of dark rum and fine grating of nutmeg. Don't throw away the fruit - sprinkle the raisins over the top of ice cream or stir them into cream before serving with a christmas pudding.


Enjoy!

J and L

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Advent Calendar - windows 10-17

And so advent continues, each day bringing with it a delightful little treat. You all know the score by now, on with the tasting notes!

Day 10
L - Langtons Gin. From the Lake District, practically local! Tasty and smooth, interesting yet traditional.
J - Grant's 25 - sweet and malted, with just a little bit of tobacco in the nose. Cinnamon and nutmeg provide a light and spicy character.

11
L - Filliers Dry Gin 28. Mmmm! A juniper punch but with hints of citrus and something that might be thyme in the background. A good belly-warmer with a more lingering finish than any of the gins tasted so far this advent.
J - Mackmyra Brukswhisky - The Swedish Whisky. Sweet apples and other fruity notes resonate from the nose to the finish. Smooth and dangerously easy to drink.

12
L - Herno Dry Gin - the first Swedish gin I've ever tried. It is utterly lovely: overwhelmingly citrussy, un- usual, bold and refreshing.
J - Balcones Texas - Smooth and creamy with a vanilla flavour and hints of apple, that becomes a sticky treacle texture across the tongue ending in an intense malty flavour across a great long finish.

13
L - FEW American Gin. I drank this straight after the Herno, after getting a few days behind, and I could not have sampled two such different gins! Both delicious, but the FEW was as creamy and smooth (the key note being vanilla) as the Herno was crisp and fresh. I read up on this one too and love the history behind it!
J - Evan Williams Single Barrel (2003 Vintage) - a very strange whisky, completely different to anything I've had before, with a light amber hue and a nasal waft of honeyed and charred oak. The palate tickles with a spice that feels oddly unique, with a fresh citrus that ends in the heat of warming alcohols and spice.

14
L - Boudier Saffron Gin - this looks incredible... for a second I thought I'd got my calendars mixed up and opened Jim's by mistake! Whilst very nice, however, I'm not sure the saffron added much more than colour, other than a mild spice. Delicious with a slice of orange.
J - Tomintoul 14 year - This is the first bottle of the 14 whiskies so far that I have previously bought, having polished off a bottle earlier in the year. Today, I have been reminded that I am missing this lightly creamy butter scented pale coloured dram.

15
L - Sipsmith London Dry Gin - this is the first gin all month that I've a) heard of before and b) own a bottle of. For this reason I chose to take a nip from my full-size bottle, and save my little dram for a special occasion! It's a fantastic drink, whether neat over ice or in a cocktail - my favourite is with elderflower fizz.
J - Dalmore 16 year - this interesting limited cask release is a lightly spiced with hints of apple on the tongue and a prickly heat of almost chilli on the nose and down the throat, with a smooth wood finish.

16
L - Dr J's Gin - ooft! This really packs in the flavour and left my tongue tingling. Really zingy and full of citrus elements, with a sweetness that reminds me of marmalade.
J - Balvenie Caribbean Cask - This whisky sings of vanilla across all the relative senses, a nose of rum from the barrels its aged in. There are massive notes of tropical fruits like mangos, all summed together up with a heat of spice.

17
L - Blackdown Sussex Dry Gin - the weakest of Ginvent at 37.5% but no less yummy than the rest. It has an almost smoky nose and a traditional, juniper flavour. The finish is smoother than most and the gin as a whole goes down oh-too-well!
J - Glenlivet 16 year old Nadurra - Batch 0313W (Catchy). So vanilla sweet and fruity on the nose that Laura noticed the scent from across the room. A great alcohol heat from the 54.8% dram on the tongue with a similar sweet fruit this time with a honey spice that lingers on the tongue. The finish sits happily for a good few minutes gently down the throat, warming to the stomach with a dry nuttiness. It is simply delightful.

Our next post will follow our progress across the final 7 spirits, taking us all the way to Christmas Eve. Come back soon!

Slainte,

L and J

Monday, 16 December 2013

The Curator's Collection


So we are for the second time sat in the upstairs room of the Broadfield, confronted by 5 delicious and truly special single malts, with the smell of smoke and warmth of spice drifting nosewards. This collection was put together and led by the charismatic whisky curator at the pub, Ed (you can read his blog here), and was a fine showcase of delightfully selected contrasting and exclusive whiskies, all of which were from the home shelf of the presenter.



Yet again this was a wonderful evening of tasting leading to a potential new favourite, although I think buying a bottle may set me back a few pennies...

With five whiskies on the cards, it was set to be a delectable night of malted peaty goodness.
The evening opened with a Glenkeith 1983, a dram with a light delicate nose and a stroke of liquorice on the finish that slips neatly down the palate, despite the dry nature of the oak.

Next was a Canadian Club 1975 - a 6 year aged bottle that was well kept from the ages of yore before the name meant cheap American 'liquor store' blend. Instead we are confronted by woody smells, a sligthly chalky nose, but backed up with the delightful taste of almost rum-spiced quality.

The third dram of the evening was a Tormore 28 year, bottled by the incredible whisky fanatics at WhiskyBroker. It has a depth of flavour like an apple crumble, sweet and lightly spiced with hints of cinnamon, which comes with a helping of warm vanilla custard. On the exceptionally long finish across the tongue were hedgerow fruits and hints of nutmeg all levelled with a flavour of oak wood. This is a very well rounded whisky with great warmth and sweetness. 

Komagatake 1989, is a spiced dram from a far lesser seen Japanese distillery, compared with Nikka or Yamazaki. It is a delicate whisky with a strong black pepper character, which dissolves to a toffee sweetness on the tongue. The long finish sums up the previous spice with a slightly smoked oak character. This was Laura's favourite of the night.

Some people save the best till last, and this for me could be the best ever. Ardbeg 1977 is an incredibly complex mix of powerful peat, with subtle overtones that constantly dance around the palate, up the nose and down the throat. It holds a magisterial concoction of flavour reminiscent of cocoa and coffees, that become creamy in texture across the tongue: a texture that brings with it a real depth and the phenols of peat smoke with fruit after citrus fruit. Really there are for too many levels of flavour into which I could plunge as far as this whisky is concerned, but I can comfortably say this is the greatest whisky I have ever tasted and that I am probably ever likely to drink. This would sell in a bar for upwards of £80 per dram, and due to its small run and now limited supply, will only increase in cost sip by delicious sip. 

But at the same time this is not the one I would recommend anyone purchasing. Instead I would opt for the Tormore 28 (now succeeded by the Tormore 29 year on whiskybroker) - it is well worth the money at £65. 

With the addition of christmas crackers containing miniature festive treats from Master of Malt in the form of single serve drams akin to our advent calendars, this was a smashing evening.

We are already looking forward to what the next series of whisky tasting nights will bring!

Slainte,

Jim

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

A little update!


Just a very quick post today to let you all know that we are now on twitter @MashtunandMeow!

Head on over and say hello!



L, J and T x

Monday, 9 December 2013

Advent Calendar Update - windows 2-9

I think it's fair to say we are having an excellent advent, thanks to our fantastic Gin and Whisky Advent Calendars from Master of Malt. (You can find out more here if you missed our earlier introductory post.)

Day 2
Laura - On the 2nd day of Ginvent, my calendar gave to meeee... Dorothy Parker American gin. A crisp, clean, fresh tasting spirit with refreshing hints of grapefruit.
Jim - Talisker Port Ruighe is peated, like a smoky orange on the nose with a definite flavour of the port casks its been aged in and great hints of demerara sugar, ending in a strange note of grapes.

3
L - Today's offering was Monkey 47 - a gin from the Black Forest, comprising 47 botanicals, and bottled at 47% ABV. Quite distinct from yesterday's, it was warming, with hints of sherbet and berries.
J - Nikka From the Barrel 51% - a creamy, very lightly peated whisky from Japan, with a custardy vanilla flavour. It works well as a festive beverage with a lovely hint of Christmas spice. Its strength doesn't purvey the sometimes felt heat, and feels smooth across the palate.

4
L - Tarquin's gin, from Cornwall, was behind my little window today. It was very nice, but not the most exciting gin I've ever tasted. Traditional flavour and without a doubt a bloody good gin, but it was the first one so far that I've added tonic to.
J - Glencadam 21 year. Spiced apple/raisin flavour, containing all the smells that come with mulling cider, it tingles across the tongue bringing with it an oaky vanilla taste.


5
L - Two Birds London Gin today. Citrussy and soft, it had a rounded flavour with a delightful tang on
the finish. Having looked up the bottle, I've discovered it is a bargain at under £30 and the bottle has a cute design too. Very tempted.
J - Glen Garioch 12 year - The sherry aged cherry sweetness was coupled with a light oaky taste to finish. There is much more to the flavour that than one dram can give, I might need a bottle.

6
L - Professor Cornelius Ampleforth's Bathtub Gin. Today's Ginvent offering definitely wins the prize for most fun name, and it's a fantastic gin to boot. Felt a bit like a Victorian drinking it. A rich and unusual spirit.
J - Chivas Regal 18 year - an award winning blend that sings of spiced toffee and fruit, and a palate of dark chocolate and oak, that skips across the tongue and down the throat.

7
L - Geranium gin - this was my favourite of the week, a very different gin. Heavy juniper scent but a floral flavour, reminiscent of Turkish Delight. Jim was not a fan due to it's perfumed nature, however this perhaps makes it a better investment for me as no need to share!
J - Smooth Ambler Old Scout 7 year Bourbon - almost a caramel flavour, hints of brown sugar, and a lovely change being the first bourbon in the calendar, that is lovely and smooth.

8
L - Cold River gin today - another American one. I have to say I've been mightily impressed so far by my first three tastings of US gins. This one seemed a little harsh at first but got more delicious the more I sipped. Delightful caramel aroma too.
J - Blue Hanger 9th release - has a fruity sweet nose of the sherry cask, with hints of orange and caramel and a very light smokey flavour, and a warm finish down the throat.

9
L - Cream gin, made with ACTUAL CREAM. No surprises in the flavour of this one - it starts off in the mouth as the classic juniper and citrus combination, but this is quickly overpowered by a beautiful, rich creaminess that lingers on the palate. Yummy.
J - Bowmore 15 year old, Darkest - a warm sweetened light peat smell, that grows on the palate and ends curiously with the heat of Arbroath Smokies. With flavours of treacly fruit, it is definitely a highlight so far.

We'll be back next week to share the next batch of drams with you!

Slainte,

L and J

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Christmas Farmer's Market

This weekend saw the annual Nether Edge Christmas Farmer's Market, a fantastic event showcasing a huge variety of local businesses, including Christmas crafts, handmade art pieces and a huge assortment of food and drink. After a very busy weekend, we decided to have a wander round and pick up some bits for tea.

We started off our afternoon with a cup of mulled wine, just to get us fully in the festive mood!

With such an array of top quality produce on display, it was really hard to decide what to go for. The market was packed full of people and had a proper Christmassy feel. The stallholders were friendly, enthusiastic, and more than happy to talk about their goods. Sheffield seems to have had a bit of a revival recently, with numerous new companies popping up all over the city. 

One such business is the fantastic Forge Bakehouse on Abbeydale Road which makes absolutely gorgeous bread, setting unique recipes alongside the more traditional ones. We eventually selected a Mr Potato Bread, filled with rosemary and chunks of potato, and the intriguingly titled Cardamom Snurr (my new favourite thing). 
Before heading home, we treated ourselves to a mulled wine flavour cupcake!
Glittery cherry on top! From Cupcake Time - yum!
The rest of our post-Christmas tree decorating meal consisted of a venison and cranberry pie, a chicken, thyme and apricot pie, smoked trout pate, a creamy horseradish flavoured cheese and two Trippel-style "Drink Me" Mad Hatter ales, which I couldn't resist on account of the Alice in Wonderland theme, from new speciality beer shop Hop Hideout


It's so nice to be able to find such top-quality products right on our own doorstep and support small, local businesses at the same time. The whole meal once put together felt like a proper special occasion and was the perfect end to a great weekend.

Slainte,

Laura

Friday, 6 December 2013

Chicken Wontons

Crispy wontons are relatively complicated to construct. The filling is simple, as is the dipping sauce, but the dish as a whole becomes more awkward when folding is concerned. These are perfect for a large celebration, or as a starter for a dinner party. The crispy outer delicately gives way to a soft juicy centre, that sings with aromats and spice.

Begin by mincing a chicken breast - I used a knife, but the filling could all by done in a food processor, if you want to slightly speed up the construction for the sake of more washing up, although chopping by hand will achieve a better texture. To that add a tbsp of sesame oil, and the same of oyster sauce, a dash of fish sauce, a small tsp of ground Szechuan pepper corns, 2 finely chopped spring onions, a chilli and a couple of Kafir lime leaves, a grated clove of garlic and a small thumb of ginger. Once you have the mix together you can begin the wrapping: this is where technique becomes a factor.




1) Place the skin in front of you with a point towards you with a spot of the chicken mixture in the centre.
2) Then lift the bottom corner up to meet the top corner and press down, sticking these two points using a thick cornflour water mix brushed on the edges to hold them in place.
3,4)Next fold the two remaining corners up to meet the top corner. Again make sure the points are stuck so they don't open while frying.
5) Finally fold the two side corners to meet in the middle.

Once you have completed this process for all the wontons you will need to heat up some oil. It is best to do this after you have assembled the wontons as hot oil can of course be a hazard. You need the oil to fry a cube of bread to golden brown in about 15-20 seconds, or when bubbles start to form consistently around a wooden spoon. When the oil is up to temperature fry the wontons for 5-6 minutes until golden brown. Then place on clean paper towel to get rid of any excess oil and stop them being greasy.

Dipping sauce

Gently fry finely chopped chillis, ginger and spring onions in a saucepan. When softened, add a big glug of  3-4 tbsp rice wine vinegar and  3 tbsp of white sugar, and cook this into the chillis. This will all soon boil, removing some of the tang of the vinegar. After a minute or so, add two tables spoons of ketchup, this will thicken everything and give the sauce a sheen.


Serve the wontons either on a platter with the sauce as a starter, or with noodles and a veg stir fry.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Whisky and Gin Advent Calendars

As the preamble to Christmas is upon us, and advent has begun, some people are opening up the little numbered doors of hope to a vapid block of brown disappointment that some argue to be chocolate. But there is a solution to the Santa-shaped damp squib... instead of peering behind the door of anti-climax you can gaze toward an amber nectar and welcome the warmth of a whisky toward the the stomach to accompany to bed or out into the stiff winter morning air.

Whisky and Gin Calendars
These two advent calendars from Masters of Malt each contain miniatures of 3cl behind each door, just over the standard measure in the UK. This for me is a great opportunity to expand the number of whiskies I have tasted, and refine my palate, even to potentially find a new favourite drink to expand my collection. We have opted for two different calendars: the Craft Gin on the right and a collection of whisky on the left, each containing less seen spirits from as far afield as Japan.

The first whisky I start with is a Balvenie 17yr Double Wood, aged in sherry casks, after the usual bourbon cask, leaving a creamy vanilla nose and a light honey depth on the taste: overall a very tasty whisky.

Laura's beGinning spirit is an American drink called Death's Door - an aptly festive name for December 1st! It's a lovely light gin with a simple yet powerful flavour, having only three botanicals. Whilst delicious neat this is a gin which would also work well in a cocktail.

The little bottles look great and the servings they contain are surprisingly generous.



We will keep you updated about these festive delights each week throughout December.

Slainte!

J and L x




Monday, 25 November 2013

The Old House, Sheffield

With an ever-excellent, seasonally changing food menu, and an always stellar (never Stella) beer selection, including local and guest ales and an array of continental lagers, The Old House, on Division Street in Sheffield, is one of the great bars run by the mini-chain of gastro pubs, Forum Cafe Bars, and our favourite of the group.

With its walls adorned with music and alcohol memorabilia - from Johnny Cash to Havana Club, from Leo Sayer to Timmermans (plus a massive Hogarth print and some Prohibition propaganda), this is a place that oozes nostalgic cool.



We've eaten here a number of times, and 9 times out of 10 we choose the pie. The pie menu changes daily, and there are always four homemade varieties on offer, including a veggie option. Unusually, tonight we both went for the same - the intriguing sounding chicken, chocolate and orange. Weird it was indeed but in a very good way - tasty, meaty, and just the right combination of bitter and sweet. Pie-lights of the past have included beef stroganoff (with tiny little pickled onions!), ham hock and cranberry, and harissa beef and kidney. The pies are excellent value at £7.95 which includes mushy peas and handmade chips.

The rest of the food menu is also worth a mention, with locally sourced produce and good old-fashioned English recipes.

Whilst the puddings looked yummy, neither of us could quite fit one in after our hearty main meal, so went instead for a beverage-based treat. Jim went for a tasty dram - the Macallan Gold - and I selected a speciality cocktail, the Whiskey and Stout Flip. Containing bourbon, dark ale, caramel and A WHOLE EGG it is smooth, sweet and utterly delicious.


As well as being a great place just to relax over a post-work drink or meal, The Old House also hosts a variety of special events, including themed evenings and gin tasting nights, which we would also highly recommend. The staff are without exception friendly and always willing to offer suggestions from the extensive menus.

The only downside on this occasion was that we didn't manage to drink enough beer to get the "Coming Soon" ale, my favourite Titanic Plum Porter, onto the bar!

Slainte,

Laura

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Christmas Salt Beef Test Run

So it is coming round to that time of year, where the season of bitter cynicism meets the festive marketing of toys and other crap we don't need wrapped under the guise of joy and giving. A time of year where shops and radio stations feel it is their duty to play the turgid 'Christmas hit' loop with an air of enforced regimented happiness that always makes the yuletide gay. (Note from the wife: these are the opinions of Jim and are not representative of the household as a whole!) With this enforced frivolity comes a time where being drunk at 10 in the morning can be excused with words like "I'm just taking in the christmas spirit". The Coca-Cola red frivolity train does on the other hand bring with it a cargo of encouraged overconsumption, punctuated with plausible table conversation:
"I could not possibly eat one more iota, for I am replete." 
"Another mince pie, good sir? 
"Oh yes please, fine fellow".  
This gluttony of food brings also a liquid excess, happily for me this is what makes the season genuinely jolly.

Some recipes can be ready and delicious in 15minutes, for others a little more time is needed for the complexities of the recipe as a whole. Then there are some that takes over a week to make some of the most exquisite food imaginable. Salt beef is one of those - while it is always possible to buy the beef ready cured from some butchers and supermarkets, it never has the class of producing your own brine and curing what eventually becomes a delicious piece of meat.


This was a pre-christmas test run, so I used a smaller piece of meat and a smaller amount of brine, but this is a recipe that cries out to be mass-catered.

Ingredients:
Beef brisket
For the brine:
300g Salt
200g Sugar
Orange rind
1tbsp Black pepper
1 stick Cinnamon
2 Star anise
1 tsp Cloves
2 garlic Garlic
1 tsp Cardamom pods
20 grams Prague Powder #1 (optional)

For Poaching:
1 Carrot
1 Onion
2 sticks of celery
half a head of garlic
Bunch of herbs (Thyme Rosemary, Oregano, Bay Leaves)


Bring together all of the brining ingredients in a pan with plenty of water about 1.5l. Bring to the boil in order to dissolve the salt and sugars. Add the Prague Powder now, this will help the meat to keep its colour. Allow to cool, and then pop the meat into a freezer bag and ladle the brine over the meat until completely submerged. Seal the bag, taking care to remove any air that may still be in the bag, and cover well - we used silver foil, and an extra bag for safety! When this is done place in the cellar or a cool place for 5-7 days, turning the bag over daily.

After the meat is ready, give it a light rinse to remove any excess brine. The next step is to poach the meat until it becomes tender, taking care not to boil it as the meat will toughen. Poach with a roughly chopped carrot, onions and celery, as well as a half a head of garlic and a bunch of fresh herbs.

Serve on bagels with plenty of pickles.

Ho ho ho!

Jim


======*Update*======

This recipe has been featured on the Love Salt Beef website here.

Love Salt Beef is the perfect place for those of you who are into making, buying and more importantly eating salt beef.





Saturday, 16 November 2013

The Whisky Collection pt. Islay


Islay is one of our favourite places on the planet. Situated about 70miles from Glasgow as the crow flies and 150miles as the car drives, through undulating hills to the picturesque Loch roads, towards a 2 hour crossing past the Paps of the surrogate sister island to Islay, Jura.
  
The Old Schoolroom
It is a place that breathes pleasantness in such spades that when we pointed out that the front door to the Old Schoolroom (our home for our honeymoon week) did not lock, the owners confided that they left the car keys in the ignition overnight. This revelation sat strangely with us townies, but on such a secluded yet welcoming island the only option was to embrace the situation.

With 8 active distilleries and two more opening shortly, the island is a worthy pilgrimage for any whisky fanatic. Ranging in size from the massive annual production of 3.5 million litres of Caol Ila, to the smallest distillery, Kilchoman, that struggles to produce per year what Caol Ila makes in a day.

The whiskies themselves, whilst generally peaty, are always interesting and different, and for this post i am going to focus on a few of my favourites.


Kilchoman warehouse
Kilchoman is a farm distillery that at the time of visiting made the only 100% Islay whisky, with most distilleries importing the malt from the mainland. The 5 Year 2006 tastes like a young whisky, in that it is not as refined or smooth as a longer aged whisky. That being said it is by no means bad, more I feel it the opposite, something unique and to be treasured, with a light pear smell that gives way to a gingery peat on the tongue and ends in a woody finish. 

The bay of Laphroaig
Laphroaig is arguably the most famous distillery on the Island and is often seen in pubs and supermarkets around the country. The 10 year old, which is provided as the 'Drivers Dram' from the distillery for those partaking on the tour, is the most often seen. It is a heavily peated whisky that seems to float the head in a soft smoke on the nose, with sweet hints of oak across the palate with vanilla and spice that end with an iodiney finish

I will stray slightly from the isle for the penultimate dram, to the incredible island of Jura, a land of stags and stills, described by George Orwell as 'extremely ungetatable'. The distillery itself has an great range of excellent whiskies demonstrating a spectrum of peatiness and sweetness. The 'Duirachs Own' is one of the free drams you can get from the hotel across from the distillery if you are part of the members club. This 16 year old whisky is aged for the final 2 years in sherry casks, giving it sweet vanillas on the nose and across the palate with additional layers of honey and slight apples, reminiscent of crumble and custard. 


And finally... I am leaving these whiskies till last not only because they are some of my favourites but because the distillery is one of the most interesting. Bruichladdich is run with an air of experimentation; a flair seldom seen in whisky production. It showcases the ambition to try new things, new woods, greater peat content and even a gin. They have a series of whiskies named Port Charlotte (also one of the towns on the island), one of which, entitled Peat Project, is a heady mix of spice and smoke, that engulfs the skull with the caressing warmth of pepper and a smooth creaminess that brushes the palate. It provides a taste which is well rounded and whole.


I recently had a dram of a release of a Octomore: one of the most heavily peated whiskies ever made. This limited release has steadily increased in its peat levels since the first batch, starting at 131ppm and with a level around 167ppm for its newer releases (up to version 6.2). For those who aren't aware, ppm stands for the Phenol content in Parts Per Million, in reference to peat levels in the whisky as a whole, which is added when drying malt in peat smoke. As a guide, Laphroaig 10 year is around 40ppm and Springbank being 7ppm. While this whisky is probably the most heavily peated you will ever try, it does not feel that way, being surprisingly smooth and quaffable. On the nose it smells sweet and grapey due to its ageing in Bordeaux barrels, which adds a sincere refinement throughout the mouth as a whole. The sweetness continues to tickle across the tongue as the smoke fills the back of the throat. Having had a dram in the distillery I have been on the look out for it ever since. Buying a bottle of this whisky can set you back up to £200, but as a single measure in the pub it is closer to £7 and worth every penny. 

Slainte 
Jim


Saturday, 9 November 2013

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Monday, 30 September 2013

Birthday Roast Lamb (Pt.2)

If you read the first part of this post you will know the immensity of the piece of meat I roasted and I would also guess that you could work out the amount of food we had left over (hint: a lot). And so what better way of eating sections of carcass? Yes, correct. Soup.



Most of the meat was still attached deliciously to the bones of beast, perfect for a good boil and subsequent soup.

First of all I boiled the bones with carrots, onions and garlic chopped into large chunks of veg with some woody herbs, specifically rosemary and thyme. After a few hours simmering, I strained the stock into another pan leaving the meat bones and veg. I had a wonderful 20 minutes picking the meat from the bones, because no matter what I tell my metaphorical children you should sometimes play with your food. After a good pick I kept aside the meat to add right at the end of the soup.

To start the soup we used what the Italians call suffritto and the French mirepoix, but what it lightly fries down to is softened onions, celery and carrots. Alongside this was the addition of a mixed bean soup mix, containing lentils, split peas, and rusks along with other beans. At this point you will not need much - something along the lines of a handful per person, ideally soaked over night then rinsed to get rid of the excess starch. But I spectacularly over-catered on this front, so part way through the cooking some of the pulses were separated off to freeze ready for the next set of leftovers. The strained bowl of stock was then added back to the pan, skimming off any fat that may have collected on the top, before bringing to the boil and being left to simmer.











After 45 minutes or so of filling the house with amazing smells, the lentils were tender and almost ready to eat. I only needed to add the lamb and the saved carrots from making the stock, season with salt and pepper and cook for another 5 minutes to warm everything through, before it was served and finished with Hendersons Relish... lovely. 



As Ever

Slainte 
Jim R




Saturday, 28 September 2013

Monday, 23 September 2013

Lost Distilleries

As the first whisky post for our blog, we thought it best to start with throwing lots at you at once.

Laura: To begin... a little bit of back story. We both LOVE whisky, to the extent that we went to Islay, the home of many a quality malt, on our honeymoon. So when a "Lost Distilleries" night was organised at one of our locals, three days after Jim's birthday, it seemed the perfect gift.

We began by a delicious Mexican meal out - food pairings had been advertised to go with the whiskies, but were described as "nibbles", so we thought it best to line our stomachs with something a little more substantial. The taco sharing tray we chose certainly sufficed!


Food: Amigos, London Road, Sheffield

The whisky night itself was based at the Broadfield in Sheffield. This is one of the great pubs owned by Forum Cafe Bars, an independent company that runs some excellent eat- and drinkeries around the city. The evening was hosted by Ed, the delightful in-house whisky connoisseur (follow @WhiskyCurator on twitter), and focused on Scottish distilleries that are now closed, most likely forever, so this night presented itself as the perfect opportunity to try a variety of whiskies more rare and special than anything we could afford a full bottle of.

Jim: I firmly believe that one of the best ways to try whiskies, especially great new ones, is on organised tastings. On the menu were 5 whiskies from around Scotland, each with a suggested food tasting for the separate drams.



We opened with a Caperdonich 1998, a 13 year old whisky bottled by Connoisseurs Choice. It was a florally smooth whisky with a delightful heather nose. This whisky was the weakest of the evening at a mere 46%. It was served with a chunk of shortbread, to complement similar tastes in the dram but also to highlight the warm spiced fruits through the taste.

To follow we moved on to the Imperial 16 year ,which on the nose was a lighter, more fruity whisky than the previous drink, this time bottled by Hunter Laing and Co. This whisky didn't have the burn that those used to cask-strength (50% in this case) whisky may expect, instead a warming smoothness of a vanilla, nutmeg custard, ending in a slight pepper finish. This lightness allowed this whisky to become one of Laura's favourites. We sampled this alongside oatcakes and Mull of Kintyre cheddar, which provided a great contrast.

Next to follow was one of the most notable whiskies for me - a 24 year old dram from Littlemill distillery, again bottled independently: this time by Berrys' Bros & Rudd. Littlemill is one of the most interesting distilleries, with one of the earliest stills in Scotland, and employing the first female master distiller in the UK. With regards to the equipment they were progressive, always searching for the taste of a better whisky, by trying out different shapes of copper still. This kind of experimentation is not often seen in the stills of Scotland, being more usually incorporated into the methods of the Japanese distilleries. But with all this it doesn't help or change the fact that the distillery was mothballed, leaving the occasional batch to be run just to check the machinery. However, from one of these runs came forth the evening's bottle. It was an exciting mix of gingery peach and creamy chocolate (white chocolate being the pairing) on the nose, with a taste of Caribbean fruits, and a punch of spice, almost the hint of an awesome rum but with the finish and flair of a long-lasting single malt.


Our penultimate whisky hailed from a tumultuous distillery; one that produced whisky for fewer consecutive years than the 20 year old dram we had our nose in. With one of the more interesting labels of any bottle on the market and it's turbulent past, this whisky could have gone one of two ways. The tickling heat  at the back of the throat and through to the nose politely informed you what the bottle had continued to say: that this was 57.5%. Pittyvaich certainly packed a punch.




Then came the final whisky.  I feel I should preface this next paragraph with some advice: A massive budget doesn't necessarily guarantee a great whisky. Spending money on whisky (for me) should be considered and thought out. But...

But... then I tasted Glen Mhor 28year. I have never sampled anything that has come close as far as distinction goes (save Bruichladdich Octomore, but that is for another time), with a smell almost of parkin, but with a vague rose water quality. In the mouth, all the flavours of treacle, toffee and liquorice swirled with the sense of tobacco and plums, ending in one of the longest, most pleasant and peppery finishes I have ever experienced. This whisky is divine; subtle and powerful in equal measure, livening the taste buds and awakening the mind with memories of bonfires. The only issue reigning me in from bathing in this divine spirit is none-the-less a big one... £180 a bottle...

...although, I don't need the TV...

Laura: Overall, the night was a great experience. The whiskies were delicious, the food pairings worked well, the knowledge of our host was exceptional and the atmosphere of the private tasting was cosy and made the event feel special. At £30 a head, it wasn't cheap, but this price represented excellent value. We had a fantastic time and will definitely look out for similar events in the future!


Slainte!

L and J xx

For more information about The Broadfield's upcoming events, go to http://www.thebroadfield.co.uk/