Archive for the ‘booze’ Category
Email newsletter came in (haven’t read this article) that reminded me of the many instances of Surprising Things That Ruined A Run.
Actual examples from my past (some more than once):
*Fresh mountain lion tracks spotted in a box canyon (Tucson)
*Unseen open manhole cover (Atlanta)
*Stopped by Savannah River Site security and some military helicopters (nuclear reservation, South Carolina)
*Sudden outbreak of gang turf war (Tucson)
*Arrest (Athens, GA)
*Tornado (Alabama and Southern Illinois–not the same tornado)
*Pot farm (North Georgia mountains near Cohutta…decided it might be prudent to re-plot my route through this one)
*Wildfires (California, Colorado, and Arizona)
*Flooding (Missouri, Arizona, Oxfordshire, and Wiltshire)
*War games (on the tank tracks around Ft. Stewart, GA, then again more recently in the Salisbury Plain)
*Struck by falling tree (Cook’s Trail, Athens, GA–required several stitches in forehead and caused massive changes in sense of smell and taste for about a month, as well)
*Armed robbery (Decatur, GA near Emory: guy looks through wallet while holding the gun on me and demands, “Credit cards…where are they?”; I laugh and say, “look at me, dude…do I LOOK like I have credit?” at which point he flings the wallet back at me and tells me to run which, ironically, is what I had been trying to do at the time)
*Struck by golf ball (Griffin, GA)
*Alligator in road (Brunswick and Savannah, GA) [also, venomous snakes on trail more places than I care to remember in Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas]
*Dead Family acid (surprising, everytime, just how quickly it hit and how clean it was, Atlanta and Athens, GA)
*Jumping Cholla cacti (Tucson–newby surprise)
*Lock maintenance 14km across the Afsluitdijk (had to turn around and go back)
And, most frequently: the pub at the turnaround point of a long run is closed for the afternoon or closed down completely (happens too often to keep up with).
Running up on the Anchor and Hope from the Black Horse I apologised to the guy having a smoke in the doorway: “it’s not you, but the venue.” “It’s never me, mate. I’m not that famous.” Funny, and I hope there’s a better story to that than this one I relate to you now.
I had a Black Rat Cider, always good and surprisingly orange in hue (as the birthday boy’s picture beneath the legs of Elvis ’68 attests). They had a variety of interesting ales on tap, too, and a nature programme on giant predators (an eighteen ton shark featured as we spoke about the relatively non-traditional nature of pubs closer to the town centre).
The pub dog, just a puppy, snoozed nearby and I reckoned wouldn’t be a problem if anyone wanted to sneak in and boost the collection of miniature booze (these ALWAYS make for the most delightfully miserable hangover).
My run today took me past the Lidl supermarket out on Great Western and I popped in to grab a bottle of Western Gold (reckoning it was quite cold enough out to justify non-clear booze for the weekend). I’ve been a fan since Thanksgiving 2011 when this endless winter started broken only by a couple of nice days this springtime and two weeks last September.
But, the trip was even more serendipitous as there were TWO Western Golds to choose from, the bog-standard white label and a 6-year-old black label which I snapped up along with an incredibly low-priced package of sparkling water. The truth, in the tasting, is that this is a functional bourbon good for straight sipping, on the rocks, or with the splash of soda I prefer. The charred oak comes through throwing vanilla and varnish scents in the finish without the harsh edge you get from the white label, Clarke’s, or (for a Stateside comparison) Old Crow or Evan Williams (the rough equivalents of these two).
“Kentucky’s Finest Bourbon Whiskey,” may be a tad hyperbolic. Yum, though.
The treatise before you seeks to introduce the uninformed world to Hashlam, the faith of Hashers worldwide, and to dispel the myths and innuendo that have developed due to prejudices brought on, too often, from the practice of its rites in view of the general public, insh’Gispert (G-willing). The religious aspects are regularly covered on individual hashing sites and on Wikipedia; this entry will try to deal with some of the societal implications.
Most of the misinformation comes from the ambiguity and subtlety between the various forms of practice of Hashlam. Many of you will have heard of the two major sects, the Shites and the Sotties, with the Shites adherents of the PreLay (paths to the True Trail that exist before the journey is taken) while the Sotties believe in Live trails (often a misnomer) that must be discerned from freshly given divine clues. Subtleties in belief and practice all too often result in G-Had as in the one called by a hasher known as Ibn-Love FatWa of the fundamentalist Sottie group known as the Arizona Larrikins (aka, Mr Happy’s) against a less well established Sottie sect known as Bike Hashlam (whose cultish offshoot, the Cycletologists, boasts many celebrity members) culminating in the flour fueled carpet bombing of the Bike Hash’s first Red Dress Run (this rite is described on most Hashing websites and will not be explored here).
Results of the Bike Hash G-Had
It may come as a surprise to many of you that Hashlam has its antecedents in the other two great Western religions, ie, Brewdaism and Trackstianity (which itself developed from the Brewdaic tradition via a more fundamentalist form of the Beer Run). In fact, the path to Hashlam, known as the True Trail, very often involves dabbling in one or both of the older faiths with even observant members of Orthodox Brewdaism taking up running and very sober members of Trackstian sects finding solace in a Brewish Temple.
It is written and widely believed that, having taken up the Way of the True Trail, it is impossible for one to leave. Liberal adherents believe the prescribed death of an ex-Hasher is meant to be figurative, but support groups such as Apostacy Alcoholics, or AA, have taken on many a wayward Hasher and are considered heretical organisations even by the most broad-minded believers. There may even be time to explore the Seven-ish Pillars of Hashlam, most famous of which being the Interhaaj in which every hasher of nearly the financial means is expected to go make an ass of himself in a foreign land.
In future postings, we hope to shed light on how Hashlam has integrated with Eastern religions such as the Budhists (of both the Budweiser and Budvar varieties) and the exotic Tindu pantheon of tinned (and bottled!) beverages.
The Centre for Hashlamic Studies was founded in 2013 by Slowsama-bin-Riden with the mission to examine and explain Hashlam’s place in out increasingly interdependent world. Slowsama can be contacted by the faithful via Hashspace and by the rest of you infidel dogs at firstname.lastname@example.org .
We were looking for another piece of furniture when this caught the eyes of both of us at the Chernobyl Children’s Charity Shop on Victoria Road. Since we were on a different shopping mission, we ignored our impulses and forged on, mentioning it to one another later that day. When we realised we both liked it (although a bit overpriced for thrift store wares), we made a point of going back to see if it was still there.
As you see, it was, and it was marked down (still pricy but less so). So this is our new bar.
That is, if we can keep bottles around long enough to justify that moniker.
…having a post Sunday run soak with a big glass of single malt whilst listening to the Archers. You want clichés, I got layers of them.
Special thanks to Debra B., who supplied the duck during our first tenure in Buggville circa 1990.
I’ve always thought that if you pass your driving test you should be able to demand a blood test on the spot and then they would have to endorse the license with your passing Blood Alcohol Content and levels of any of a variety of narcotics and psychedelics found therein. Thereafter, this would be your baseline.
A step toward this Better World has been boldly taken in Ireland:
The liqueur manufacturing plant trundles on, and this month we filter, bottle, and eventually drink some coffee liqueur: Tio Mario because it is a little manlier than Tia Maria.
Most of the online recipes use espresso beans slightly crushed, but I used to make this stuff in the early 80′s out of ground espresso so that’s what I will do here.
Also, a very good clearinghouse for this hobby is Boozed and Infused and they strongly suggest using bourbon as the base liquor. You should probably take their advice, but this is a walk down memory lane so I used vodka…the original batches involved USP absolute ethanol liberated from the clutches of the Auburn University School of Pharmacy and College of Engineering.
I started with a 700 mL bottle, which is about 24 US fluid ounces (approximately 4 good coffee cups). So, I spooned enough coffee in to make 8 cups (I want this to be strong) and the amount of sugar I would typically use for 5 cups (two rounded per cup, for me). Fill and store, as normal, shaking every now and then for at least 4 weeks…this batch was started 12 December.
Filtering is as I have been doing for the other liqueurs, starting with the coarse screening through my unplugged coffee maker and then through an old hashing t-shirt (although these should become scarce in the upcoming months). It is strong, having aged a full month and starting with ground coffee, but it is copacetic and sublime…White Russians for me!
So, four years now (or, rather, next week it will be…here’s the annual reports for years Three, Two, and One for historical perspective).
We just received our new visas valid until 2016 but plan to take the next step toward citizenship in a year, Indefinite Leave to Remain…sort of the British Green Card. There is an exam, first, but in general it is all downhill from here.
The view from Western Street near the new house…also all downhill
Additionally, we are in the process of moving house (which is why I rushed the annual report a week forward) from just north of the Oasis over to Old Town to a house situated close walks to either the Beehive or the Castle or the Globe (recently reopened!)—three locals instead of one and all three of high quality—and dozens of others a short walk. The new house has three bedrooms each larger than its counterpart in the old house, the two receptions are larger and made into more of an open-plan configuration, the bath is larger and has a tub (not just a shower), and there is a finished basement; on the down side, the kitchen is a little narrower and more primitive as is the small garden but everything we do and everywhere we normally go in Swindon (save for the butcher) is so close.
The only races I did this past year were the London Marathon (5 pubs plus a can of Carling on the last mile) and the Beerathon (5 miles with a pint and a hefty food item between each) and the mileage run for the year suffered from this lack of focus—1950 give or take about 25 (most estimates pretty good using gmap-pedometer), while the last several years (except for the year of the wreck) were in the 2200-2500 range.
On the runs, I visited 255 new pubs with a stunning 67 new ones (steep part of the graph) in September when I took two weeks off work and ran at least 10 miles per day in new territory each day. The 1000th wasn’t as big a thrill as I thought it would be, but I saw some really nice places and met some really fine folk. The September holiday found me visiting Gloucester, South Wales, Slough (exotic, I know) and Exeter along with some nearer-to-Swindon trips. The 100 Yellow Beer Challenge was responsible for a lot of second visits to pubs I might not otherwise have gone to after an initial stop and many of these seemed better the second time around. Oh, and my Workingman’s Club appears to have failed or at least hasn’t been open the last several times I’ve popped by (I have a grand one scoped out for the new neighbourhood, though).
Best pubs in Year Four (reverse order by First Visit write-up):
The Southgate Inn, Devizes
The Hop Inn, Swindon
Dicey Reilly’s, Teignmouth
The Brass Monkey, Teignmouth
One Eyed Jack’s, Gloucester
Ye Olde Red Lion, Tredegar
The Rose of Denmark, Woolwich
The Volunteer Rifleman’s Arms
The Green Dragon, Marlborough
The British Lion, Devizes
The Blue Boar, Alsbourne (for the Dr. Who connections)
British Citizenship Exam Prep
Assize Court, Bristol
Paul Simon in Hyde Park
The Bremen Musicians (German children’s story)
Sex Tourism in Wiltshire
Modern Algebra for Omid
Burns’ Day Lunch
There are others search for ‘made me laugh.’ The blog may or may not have made some of the over 100,000 visitors laugh, but the damn fools keep checking in (that’s you, that is).
I filtered and bottled the apple bourbon for New Year’s Day, and it turned out pretty good. The apples were still surprisingly firm and packed with bourbon goodness but once out of the liquor they softened quickly; at the end of the holidays I get out of the baking mood so if I am ever going to use these to make a bonus treat I need to plan ahead so filtration happens at the START of the hols.
I only coarse filtered this so there is a little cloudiness that bothers neither of us; I suspect this will settle if the beverage lasts that long. We poured a wee dram each into our whisky tumblers and tried a few sips. The apple front is definitely there and provided a very sweet mouth, not cloying but surprising (next batch, I will add even less brown sugar, although this appears in the finish and may help kick-start the initial infusion). The cinnamon is fairly astringent but not as pronounced as I expected/feared. The cheap bourbon (half Jim Beam and half Clarke’s, my fave over here) benefitted from the malic acid released from the apples and seemed smoother than I remember (I’ll double-check this soon), but the best thing, by far, was the finish.
Walnuts. I added a handful of walnuts hoping for a few of the woody compounds to express themselves, and they did with strong vanilla flavours and tannic acids that belie the short storage time. But, the finish was like swallowing a mouthful of walnuts. I thought this was just me projecting my ‘creator’s foreknowledge’ on my glassful, but Jackie also commented on it as surprising and the most pleasant part of the overall pleasant experience. Hooray.
Oh, right, the label. I took the apples from trees growing along the workers’ cycle path below the old railroad scrapyard that became the site of the Oasis Leisure Centre (from which the band gleaned its name). I was going to call it ‘Wonderwall,’ but then found the cd-single label for the Magic Apple Pie and, being lazy, slapped the Drunken Bunny on it and claimed it for my own.
Carling #144 for me, enjoyed with some leftover cassoulet and the woman–on our 27th Anniversary
The 100 Yellow Beers in 100 Places Challenge, organised as a lark by an acquaintance in Colorado and his buddy in Texas, took on a life of its own maturing in the summer to quite a few completions and then ending the year in the death spasms as three participants sprinted to the tape (or the bright, white light). Well done, all.
And then last week I received the announcement that the 2013 Challenge would be burgers…none from fast food megachains, and no repeats of any sort (the rules are simple so even I can understand them). However, burgers in this country are a little less appetising than a wet cardboard box so I have asked (and been granted) a dispensation allowing kebabs. [This is not universally the case...one notable exception was chronicled here.]
Kebab meat sliced from the cylinder, lettuce, tomato, cabbage, onion, chillies and chilli sauce on a pita…yummy.
The döner kebab is a marvel of technology if not of dining and in a country so steeped in alcohol it is almost a requirement–if there isn’t a stand in your village you should get some sort of tax relief. It is most effective as a prelude to a session of drinking since it both helps to absorb excess drink and the fats serve to shut the subsequent esophageal deliveries in the stomach for a period of time; however, it is most often added at the end of the bender resulting in myriad multicoloured decorations on the pavements round and about town centres the nation over.
Lamb, beef, spices, (perhaps a cigarette butt or two and some bodily fluids) go into the Elephant Leg
I love ‘em and to make it to 50 in a year I plan to pace myself with one per week. A small order of anything else could be known as the child-sized one, and child-sized is about right for a small kebab: a newborn, but the size of a healthy baby if not a healthy meal. I have never had the nerve to order a large.
So, over the course of the impending year I’ll be reporting more than the odd-monthly kebab review of the past several years. The drinking hasn’t killed me yet, so what-the-hell?
This is a collection of some of the household intake for the last two weeks (not shown: any of the 2012 Challenge Carlings, the hard liquor, obscene breakfasts, or tonight’s NYE/27th Anniversary fuels) [no particular order for the photos].
The cassoulet recipe which has generated interest in the past succeeded in being, like its predecessors, different from all others with half a roast duck, some leftover pieces of venison, roast beef, and pheasant, and some grilled lamb joining the standard root veg and bean contingents. The lot was baked with a Pinot Grigio.
The Christmas roast came out nicely, a three rib standing piece of meat…tender, juicy, and just so slightly bloody.
The sloe gin is nearly gone, the port is down to a half glass remaining, we have two bottles of Cava left, and I still haven’t made biscotti so the Vin Santo remains for a New Year treat.
As usual, we will try to tame the gluttons unleashed within us this December with a bit of dietary sanity in January (the 50 Kebabs in 50 Places in 2013 Challenge notwithstanding). As I said to one colleague over the break, if this year’s feasting doesn’t give us gout then we are probably indestructible.
christmas dinner served
bringing it to room temperature for a few hours
xmas snack because the roast was taking a while
for the xmas roast
christmas eve dinner
to go with some venison steaks
Sunday before holidays started
christmas drinking started with this one
chorizo, buffalo mozzarella, tomato sauce, artichokes, mushrooms, and olives
duck glazed with sloe gin
saucing the cassouleet before first baking
gift wine from a mass spec company
shot from the pheasants, one crushed when I bit it
Holidays mean poor nutrition and hangovers. Bloody Mary’s are a perfect remedy for both.
This is a fantastic Bloody Mary mix if you aren’t vegetarian; the original was published by Paul Woodford (aka ‘Flying Booger,’ a hashing acquaintance from Tucson who is a wealth of nifty info on a number of topics). The original is at this link.
Requiring some beef broth, I started by roasting some bones acquired from a Halal butcher in Swindon (using them for no other reason than they do a good job on this particular product, as well as goat and lamb). The bones are about 70% by weight meat and some of it very good so I roast these to barely rare and trim half (the best half) for sandwiches then put the rest, about a pound and a half, just under water, top off with a glass of wine (plus one for the chef) a sprig of rosemary, a quartered onion, an unpeeled head of garlic, and the leafy bits from a bunch of celery. This simmers (never boils) for three hours and then after straining it is reduced from about a quart to a cup and a half (this will be enough for 3 batches).
Take a third of this thick broth and add one teaspoon salt, some good (and dangerously hot) chilli sauce to taste — go light because you have to add a shot glass of Worcestershire sauce and another of lumpy horseradish sauce (do wasabi if you are a yuppie, or have tried this at a yuppie’s house, a half shot is plenty). Whisk this with about three and a half cups of a good quality passata, and stir well. Even up the spices starting with a hefty dusting of black pepper then go through the other sauces in order — the chilli sauce should call for an obvious amount up front. Refrigerate (make up to 3 quarts like this and freeze the extra amount).
To serve, split a celery stalk and put half in each of two tall glasses with an ice cube. Put two shots of vodka in the bottom and pour in some of the mix. You might get two more bloodies out of one of these small batches if you like them strong. Squeeze a quarter lime over the top and dump the lime carcass in the glass. Drink deeply.
[This was my annual note to the folks in my email lists...if you weren't included, you are now. It isn't much, and if you read the blog anyway (as most of them don't) you will either already know or should recognise this as a 'spoiler alert.' Please, feel free to skip ahead.]
BCC’ed you all because of the fear of cross-pollination (for your sake, not mine).
I hope you are all having at least as good a holiday as we are. If not, my apologies (we’re not gloating but happy and nonetheless we are doing well). If you are doing better than us, please share your bounty in a story of your own; and, congratulations, but none of us really deserve such wealth.
I’ll return to my smarmy and smart-assed comments at the New Year, but at this time I’m off to start the cooking, drinking, and otherwise debauched activities, starting in earnest in a few minutes. I’ll be relatively incoherent for weeks, and so you should accept this late Friday evening note with the friendly intentions it was composed and not with any of the sociopathic and probably creepy undertones it inevitably contains…as Popeye says.
We are both healthy and happy and unlikely to have some catastrophic and sudden illness, nor do I have any enemies nearby with the sort of blood grudges I really need to worry about (despite the limitations I have on arming myself in this country): yes, mellowed might well describe it. Or, aged catastrophically…six of one, half a dozen, etc.
So, there we have it. Jackie (or the other name we use) is sick of Christmas music what with the whole retail temp job experience she’s suffered so all we will do Holiday Music-wise is play, quite badly, some things back and forth and with one another on the uke, the guitar, and the electric keys.
We have 6 bottles of Champagne, 20 reds and 4 whites and a case of port. I strained and tweaked a bottle of homemade sloe gin, and we have some apple dessert liqueur ready to strain. I hope to hit a few new pubs to add to the 1062 so far, and we will still have the annual frozen Jaegermeister and some single malt of good repute.
Christmas dinner is a standing rib roast. New Year’s (and a few days around it) marks our 27th anniversary and we will settle in to yet another enormous batch of cassoulet
. Between, we have some pheasants, some hare, and a bit of venison. We might do a curry takeaway on the odd day we overdo the party (as you do).
Once again, I hope this finds you at least as satisfied with your lot in life as we are with our almost laughably meagre existence. It is statistically likely someone on this distribution is financially worse off or socially more isolated than us (weird refugees from a third-world empire that we are…and we recognise the irony in that description of the States); if this is you, my thoughts and best wishes are with you.
For the rest of you, come visit. We’re moving into a new house in January and should be able to walk to music venues and bars (plural…currently it is a hike to my Working Man’s Club
[which is soon to be or already has closed] and only one pub–albeit a brilliant one
–is within a stumble of the front door).
Swindon is actually a hoot, and even if you don’t fancy it we are less than an hour from London, Oxford, Bath, Bristol and Gloucester and less than 2 hours from Salisbury, Exeter, Cambridge, Cardiff and Birmingham.
Love, or if that’s too much for you, ‘best,’
I awoke Saturday with excitement and trepidation about the fast-track sloe gin project (most recent prior post including the label and other links here). This was the day of filtration followed immediately by the first taste and I was prepared for the worst. Normally, this is a long-term project and the infusion benefits from the alchemy of time and, more to the point, the slow kinetics of dissolution: the most complex and subtle flavours are leached from the pips deep in the fruit–tannins and vanillins that further react with some of the bitter fruit and skins and the added sugar. And, so, here were the steps involved in the final preparations.
Filtration is most effective if you start with a coarse step. With slow-sloe gin, this might include a sieve as the starter since the fruit will have softened significantly. With this rushed, 6 week batch I went straight to wire mesh (my metal coffee filter).
The smells filled the kitchen even though the room was a bit cool this winter morning. Dumping out the fruit, there was a distinct licorice and spice odour which reminded me that I used brown sugar in this batch. I began to worry less as I moved on to fine filtration.
“Use cheesecloth folded into several layers,” is the advice on multiple liqueur making sites (here is my favourite); I want my creations to have a personal touch, though, so I grabbed a hashing t-shirt for the job. The benefits are obvious: it has a fine weave, it is no stranger to being soaked in alcohol, and I have worn this on runs, quite literally, all over the world.
This photo doesn’t do justice to the quality of filtration achieved thus…it is actually pristine and not at all cloudy. From a 1 liter jug half filled with berries and a half cup of sugar then topped with gin, I recovered 750 mL plus a shot to taste:
It is harsh and could have gone at least another month. But, it is drinkable and sharp and has a depth of several flavours that usually disappear as the infusion progresses to full term. The anise flavour that attacks the nose is at the forefront but there are several subtler spices–a hint of ginger and cinnamon I didn’t expect but welcome. There is a grape-like finish but not like in a fine wine, more the grape MD 20/20 variety.
Overall, better than I hoped for.
The process takes time so spend an hour or so coming up with a label for the final product. This one relates to the source of the berries:
This will be a short-term (6 week) batch, but I also have another, larger jug that I will continue to shake every few days until Christmas 2013. Past steps include:
My initial work visa for the UK.
I just turned in my Visa application and documents for our last year before I become eligible for what is known as Permanent Residency in the States and Indefinite Leave to Remain here This is my first big step toward citizenship, and involves a test of my knowledge of British Culture (some of which is reproduced here).
Note: I haven’t actually started revising for the test.
Also, answer “b” is always chosen by an American, or a foreigner more suited to America. It’s “B” for Bugger Off.
Answer “a” is always correct but “c” or “d,” when they appear, are always acceptable.
a) 20 Imperial ounces (18.2 US ounces)
b) 16 US ounces
c) not enough, matey, not enough
a) verb, defend oneself OR to attack someone (generally at drinking up time)
b) noun, vitrified sand
c) smallest acceptable unit of whiskey for a man
a) adjective, drunk…badly drunk, y’know, like every weekend
b) verb, past tense, urinated
a) equivalent to shrieking, “YOU FUCKING PILE OF STEAMING SHITE HOW DARE YOU FORCE ME TO ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR EXISTENCE.” But quietly and reflexively and it really doesn’t mean ANYTHING most of the time.
b) a notification to the recipient that you are culpable and remorseful for an action you are responsible for
6. Your town is ___________.
a) “a bit shit, really.”
b) “the best town in the WORLD!”
c) “Are you looking for a slap, mate?”
d) a & c
7. As someone approaches they say, “alright?” You respond:
b) “Yes, I’m fine thanks, how are you?”
8. It’s bleak ________.
a) up North
b) down South
c) on Albert Square
[This one actually happened in front of me and, yes, the correct answers are a & c.]
9. An old man is knocked off his bike by a lorrie in Olney. You offer _______.
a) a cup of tea
c) a large brandy
[This one involves actual top two answers from a poll of Brits.]
10. Aliens land from outer space. You ________.
a) offer to put the kettle on
b) alert the authorities, or fight the things, or run for cover abandoning family, friends and colleagues
c) ask, “alright?”
11. Walking on the pavement [sidewalk], you find yourself on a trajectory that will crash into an oncoming pedestrian. He clocks this and moves to the other side of the pavement to avoid confrontation. You respond by _____________.
a) readjusting your trajectory to crash into this sad bastard…fuck ‘im. Nance.
b) smiling and acknowledging their courtesy
c) a AND only using peripheral vision to navigate, thus gaining plausible deniability that this was intentional (see VOCABULARY question on “Sorry”)
12. Do you know who Vicky Pollard is?
a) yeahr but no but, yeahr but no but, yeahr but no but, yeahr but no but….
This recipe was in Saturday’s Swindon Advertiser. Homesick for the subtropics, I memorised it and went shopping. Here’s my version:
To start, all serious cooking is done with a drink. You might like a glass of wine and, indeed, the flavours you will lick from the edge of your knife will go well with a white bordeaux. I was in a bourbon mood, as this progressed and the cleansing power of 80 proof liquor has its advantages.
Per serving use a sweet potato. Cut it in half lengthwise then make each half into three wedges. Toss them with some olive oil then salt and pepper them and bake at 200° C for twenty minutes.
You will need a balsamic vinegar reduction which often involves adding a little caster sugar to help it thicken. Really cheap balsamic fakes the aging process by incorporating some caramelised sugars anyway so you can shortcut the process by using el cheapo balsamico, 25 mL per serving.
You want to heat this very slowly and swirl the pot from time to time. The trick is to take it off the heat before it is as thick as thin syrup because it will thicken some more as it cools. If too thick, you can add a drop of water (I had just prepared a chicken pie and was making stock from the carcass, so I used a little stock to thin the reduction).
We both like hot chillies but Jackie doesn’t like the heat of hot chillies, just the flavour. So, while the recipe calls for one thinly sliced for four people, I thinly sliced one for the two of us but was diligent to neuter the poor thing first by stripping it of seeds and membrane.
Take three or four spring onions (green onions, in American) and cut in half lengthwise then into 1 inch pieces, per serving. Mix these with the peppers and a tablespoon of olive oil.
Figs are an unadulterated joy. They taste good, sure, but they also have all sorts of ancillary aesthetic values. For instance, they are the flower of their tree that, once pollinated by the wee wasp that works for it, closes up around it in a little botanical orgasm.
It’s true. And, when you cut it open to reveal the inside of the fruit in its full Judy Chicago glory you can still make out the basic structure of the flower. Fascinating. Delicious.
So, it is about a fig and a half per serving. Quarter them and toss with a scant drop or two of lemon juice to keep them from oxidising.
On medium high heat, fry the pepper/onion mix for up to 5 minutes but don’t brown the bits. You just want them softened a little.
Scatter these over the wedges then arrange the fig quarters. Looks pretty, tastes good like this but is even better once the balsamic reduction is drizzled over it.
This next bit isn’t for everyone but if you like goat cheese you probably already think it goes with nothing so well as it does with figs. I used about 60 grams to dump little pieces onto the platter before putting it away in the fridge as a surprise when Jackie gets home.
Take it out of the fridge about an hour before serving to come to room temperature. It really should be a fantastic side dish to something off the barbecue, but we’re having it with the chicken/stilton/broccoli/asparagus/filo pie which should be fine, I think.
This is a slight variation on a recipe posted at Boozed and Infused (a much better written site by some women that SEEM to have fewer psychological issues than your humble servant). I will leave this to steep until January and use it as my monthly project (I am prepping one new batch appropriate to the month throughout 2013 plus a few special bottles for particular occasions).
There is a cycle path into the town centre from near my house that was built to support the workers at the Great Western Railway works. The rail yard to the east now houses Swindon College and the Oasis Leisure Centre while much of the western side is an industrial estate. However, there are scads of fruit bearing plants along the path, including a number of trees yielding small, tart, red apples. I have used these apples to flavour roasted pork in the past, but the liqueur project prompted this current use.
Small run of Devil’s Punchbowl in back compared to the multi-liter batch-to-be of Faringdon Folly
The pickings on the Ridgeway were so meagre I have kept my eyes wide open hoping to spot another cache of berries (spell check corrected this from the Freudian-slip, ‘beeries’). Out the window of the bus as it trundled along the A420 between Oxford and Swindon I spotted the mother lode.
Dozens of bushes were hidden in the brambles behind the ones I spotted on the commute and I picked 5 pounds in less than 15 minutes. I’ll decant a taster of this batch, dubbed Faringdon Folly after an adjacent attraction, at Christmas but allow the infusion to sit until Christmas 2014. I’ll still use the much more rare batch of Devil’s Punchbowl this Christmas, though.