Saturday, July 4, 2015

Cocktails and Canapes for Women's World Cup 2015: 3rd/4th place play off

Much to my disappointment England did not make it to the finals and therefore tonight they are in the third & fourth place play offs where they meet Germany. The game is scheduled early enough that those of us on European time can watch it without having to lose all of our sleep. The World Cup final between USA and Japan is tomorrow, and it is scheduled way too late for me, so this is the last game I shall watch live, but it has been a great few weeks.
I'm breaking with the pattern today and making a cocktail for one country and a canape for the other. The theme is what does one country joke about to the other. I rarely go on beach/resort holidays so reserving a sun lounger is not something I have any experience of but the Germans have a huge reputation for parking their beach towels on the sun loungers well before anyone else gets up to beat them to it. So my cocktail is for Germany, and it is the 'Beach Towel'.
Now you might ask why none of us from England can beat them to the towel on lounger game but if common belief is right we are in a bit of a mess in the morning from sitting in the boiling hot sun all day and boozing all night. Now I really wanted to do a lobster canape for this theme as lobster red is the colour so many of us will apparently be after one day on holiday but I thought of this all too late to buy a decent lobster. Perhaps being lousy at planning might be another suitable theme! So the canape I have gone with for England is a boozy prawn cocktail. The booze in the dressing is a dash of vodka, and otherwise this is the classic prawns in pink mayo dressing and that pink mayo includes tomato ketchup. This is traditional, I'm not pretending it is the best way to serve prawns.

The Cocktail recipe is from Saveur Magazine website. It is made up of two layers, the lower strawberry layer is frozen. I did not like the idea of freezing the glass with the strawberry layer in it so I froze this mixture separately like a sorbet and placed it in a chilled glass at the last minute. The top banana layer was then carefully poured in trying not to mix the two together.

Here is the recipe with method as published:

For 2 Beach Towel Cocktails

4 oz. white rum
3 oz. simple syrup
1 oz. fresh lime juice
10 strawberries
1⁄2 oz. double cream
1 small banana, sliced

For the Frozen Strawberry Layer:
Puree half the rum, syrup, juice, berries, and 1 1⁄2 cups ice in a blender. Pour into 2 glasses; freeze.

For the Creamy Banana Layer
Puree remaining rum, syrup, juice, cream, bananas, and 1 1⁄2 cups ice. 

Pour the banana layer over the frozen strawberry layer. Decorate the glass as you wish. Spoons, straws may be useful.

Serve straight away as the layers bleed into each other as it starts to melt. This was the first time I had tried making a frozen cocktail; think of it as an adult slush puppy!
There is a really detailed discussion of how to make a perfect prawn cocktail on the Guardian website  and although I am not following the winning  recipe it is really not far from what I think of as classic prawn cocktail and I have made the dressing in the same way except for using vodka instead of brandy.
You will need:
Large prawns
Crisp green salad leaves
Marie Rose Dressing
4 parts mayonnaise
one half part tomato ketchup
one quarter part Worcestershire sauce
one quarter part lemon juice
one quarter part vodka
tabasco to taste

Mix the prepared prawns into the dressing and serve with crisp lettuce/sweet salad leaves.

You do not want too much sauce and you need to make sure the prawns are quite well drained/dry if they have been frozen. Otherwise if still thawing prawns are added to the sauce water melting off from the frozen prawns will dilute the sauce into something too watery and unattractive.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Cocktails and Canapes for Women's World Cup 2015: Semi-Finals

The two semi finals games are taking place so late on 'school' nights for us UK viewers that I shall sadly not be watching them.  I am still cooking for each one with USA being my theme for the first game on Monday of USA vs Germany and then on Tuesday back to my home team as England play Japan.

So For USA vs Germany the menu was a 'Chicago Cocktail' and a canape of  Sweet Potato Biscuits topped with cream cheese, roast turkey breast and cranberry preserve.
The Sweet Potato Biscuits came from the Martha Stewart recipe website and I made it as given except I left out all of the sugar. I may not have cooked my sweet potatoes quite enough as they did not mash to a totally smooth puree but this did not make any difference to the taste which was excellent.

Chicago Cocktail
2 ounces cognac or brandy
¼ teaspoon Grand Marnier or orange liqueur
Dash of Angostura  bitters

  • Sugar the rim of the glass.
  • Topped with Champagne (or prosecco in my case!)
  • Sugar the rim of the glass and try to not be so heavy with it as I was!
  • Stir or shake the brandy, orange liqueur and bitters. 
  • Pour into an tumbler style glass, and top up with Champagne (or Prosecco) as much or as little as you want.

For England vs Japan I am of definitely going with an English theme and we will have a Bloody Mary Cocktail and a canape of a thin slice of home made pork pie served with a spoon of The Bay Tree company Piccalilli, one of the best commercial piccalillis you can find in the UK.

My bloody Mary recipe comes from Nigella Lawson's Nigella Bites book and the recipe has been reproduced here on This makes a lot! Scale back as needed. Try to get good tomato juice, mine was a bit basic and it deadened the flavours a little.

Now you may not think of pork pies as canape material but a good home made pork pie is a thing of beauty and should not be shunned, even if you do peel off and discard some of the pastry it is worthy of any occasion. I always try to mince the pork myself as it gives you more control over the fat to lean pork ratio. Too lean a mix of pork will give a dry slightly hard texture, so you do want some fatty pork in the mix. I used a Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall recipe, very close to the one reproduced over here on the them-apples blog.  I baked mine in a rectangular tin by Alan Silverwood with drop down sides that makes it easy to release the pie from the tin at the end.

Alan Silverwood Foldaway Pie Tin
So I am keeping my fingers crossed for the England Ladies tonight and really wishing they will make it through to the final. Very proud of what they have achieved.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Cocktails and Canapes for Women's World Cup 2015: Japan

I know penalty shoot outs are exciting but I hate to see a hard fought game decided that way, and felt really quite disappointed that last night France went out to Germany that way. So I'm hoping tonight's quarter final game of Japan vs Australia does not have to be decided by penalties. I'm going with Japan as the theme for my Cocktail and Canape and another rather off piste cocktail with a green tea mojito. Last night's wheat beer cocktail hasn't put me off experimenting so here goes with a variation of the mojito from web site japan food style:
Ingredients for 1 Green Tea Mojito
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
sprig  mint leaves
2 tablespoons sugar syrup
60ml strong brewed matcha tea or other good green tea
3 tablespoons white rum (or sake if you have it)
soda water to top up
mint garnish
Make a strong infusion of matcha  or green tea to give 50 ml, stir in the sugar and then chill

Place the mint (lightly crushed), lime juice, white rum, green tea, and ice in a tall glass and stir

Top up with soda and garnish with more mint and a wedge of lime.

For the canape I am serving teriyaki salmon on a lightly cooked slice of courgette with a yuzu flavoured mayonnaise and sprinkle of Japanese pepper. 

I ued a pre-made teriyaki sauce to marinate the salmon pieces which makes this very easy to put together. The courgette was simply sliced thinly and quickly blanched and dressed with a little rice vinegar and salt. The salmon should be boneless and skinless and marinate in the sauce for about an hour. You then fry it for just a few minutes on each side to get a browned outer crust. Cover the pan and turn off the heat to finish cooking. Yuzu is a citrus juice with a quite unique flavour that is quite hard to find. Waitrose supermarket had been selling it in small bottles but alas no more. You can find bottles yuzu seasoning more easily but I would rather have the pure juice. I just added about 1 part yuzu juice to 2 parts mayonnaise. The Japanese pepper mix Shichimi tōgarashi is sold in small jars and includes sesame seeds and orange peel. I love the fresh but quite punchy flavours in this dish.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Cocktails & Canapes for Women's World Cup 2015: Germany Quarter Final

The Women's World Cup Football quarter finals start today and the first game is Germany vs France, billed on the Fifa website as a 'Titanic duel', I am hoping for an exciting game. I have picked Germany for my canape and cocktail theme and not for the first time meatballs are making an appearance and these have a hint of caraway flavouring.
The cocktail is a wheat beer/orange mix, and very much a first for me. I'm finding it a bit weird but I'm not sure wheat beer is my favourite style of beer. It is a long time since I tried some Belgian fruit beers but this reminded me a little of that slight shock of the two flavours together.
 My meatball recipe comes from but instead of all beef I used half home minced leg of pork and half home minced topside of beef. I reduced the caraway to just a pinch and left out the parsley.This gave a very lean but well flavoured meatball that was served with a little sliced gherkin and a spot of mustard. The meatballs were just pan fried and cooked up to a nice golden brown.

The Citrus Beer Cocktail is based on a recipe from Foodie Misadventures
1 500ml bottle of German wheat beer
40ml citrus flavored vodka
20ml Grand Marnier or orange liqueur
60ml freshly squeezed orange juice
Orange slice to garnish

Carefully pour the beer into a tall chilled glass leaving any sediment behind.
Add the citrus vodka, Grand Marnier and the orange juice to the glass and stir slowly to mix.
Garnish the glass with a slice/wedge of orange.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Cocktails and Canapes for Women's World Cup 2015: England pt 2

So tonight my home country England play Norway, and I'm feeling nervous but hoping the England ladies will hold their nerves and play well. So what better way to steady your nerves and push up you energy levels than with a light summery Pimms cocktail and a sweet mini strawberry cream tea scone.
I love Pimms, posh adult  squash if you like, and rather expensive for what it is, but so filled with the celebration of summer.
The classic recipe is 1 part Pimms to 3 parts lemonade, and plenty of ice with a cucumber, orange and mint garnish.  Strawberries added to the glass just before serving make it even more summery. I like to pep up the alcohol a little by adding a measure of gin per person too. There is a rather nice looking Cranberry Pimms recipe on the House & Garden website. Other variations include using ginger ale instead of lemonade and there are rather a lot of flavoured Pimms on the market now but I have not tried any of those.
Mini strawberry cream tea scones make a very good dessert canape. My favourite scone recipe comes from Paul Hollywood, and the recipe is basically as posted here on my pecan orange cardamom scones post but you would leave out the cardamom, pecans and orange zest. I always leave the cut out scones to rest in a cool place for at least 15 minutes before baking in a hot oven as I am convinced this helps to produce a lighter scone. There are some very good notes on producing perfect scones over on the like a strawberry milk blog site, written by pastry chef Fanny Zanotti. Clotted cream is traditional but thick whipped cream will work too and even mascarpone cheese makes a reasonable substitute for clotted cream. Use the best strawberry jam you can find or home made.

Sadly the game does not kick off until 10pm uk time, and on a work night too. Good luck Lionesses!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Cocktails and Canapes for Women's World Cup 2015: Brazil

Tonight Brazil played  Australia so my theme had to include beef and barbecue style cooking. Brazil crashed out of the tournament losing one nil to Australia, and I really did not expect that but Australia must be feeling on top of the world.
My barbecue beef was inspired by the traditional Brazilian use of a cut of beef near to the rump called the picanha. Different countries cut their meat very differently so I am using a thick slice of rump steak that is pretty close to the traditional picanha or rump cap. It was simply cooked with nothing more than sea salt added. There are some good notes on this Australian web site on How to cook beef rump cap - picanha. I have a bought 'Brazilian style' barbeque sauce to serve with it, that may be completely inauthentic, but I was feeling lazy and it tasted fine.
The drink has to be Caipirinha which is often referred to as Brazil's national cocktail, made with cachaça, ice, sugar, and lime.
This is so simple but so good. You muddle sugar, cracked ice and lime and add the cachaca spirit which is made from sugar cane. Here are some instructions from About Food website
Tomorrow England play off against Norway and Pimms will be on the menu!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Cocktails and Canapes For Women's World Cup 2015: China

China PR
So as the Women's World Cup tournament enters the knockout stage I am trying to scoop up a few of the countries I missed earlier, even if these games are on so late I shall not be watching them. Tonight I shall be watching Germany vs Sweden, which should be a really exciting game, but I am cooking for China who are playing much later against Cameroon.

My Chinese themed cocktail is a Lychee Martini:
The main ingredients are: sugar syrup, pureed canned lychees (drained), vodka, lemon juice and orange flavoured liqueur. I have taken the recipe from, an American site, so measures are in cups/oz. I scaled back a little on the vodka and upped the fruit side to make a slightly softer drink, but only a little. This just tastes so innocent but there is a lot of vodka in there!

The recipe calls for a sugar syrup but as I have been making a few cocktails in the last week I had already made up a batch of sugar syrup. You can buy 'cocktail sugar syrup' ready made and it is often sold as Gomme. My syrup was just sugar and water but a true Gomme includes gum arabic which is there to give a silkier texture to the cocktail . Here is a post on making your own from food blogger SeriousEats.

For my canape I am making 'sweet and sour' style glazed chicken; but not as I remember sweet and sour from so many chinese takeaways which always seemed to involve battered pieces of meat in sickly sweet sauce.
 This is just a chicken breast stir fry that has a lime and mango chutney dipping sauce. The recipe comes from Yan Kit So's Party Eats, also written with Paul Bloomfield. This lovely author of chinese cooking passed away in 2001 but I have learnt some of my favourite recipes from her books and hope she will be an inspiration for generations to come.
Glazed Chicken Breast with Sweet & Sour Dipping Sauce