world according to sam

Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first. Mark Twain

Tag: food

Cocktail Masterclass Harvey Nichols 5th Floor


So my #FortyTen celebrations entered their fifth month (spoilt, moi?)  and what with holidays etc this celebration had been scheduled as a post-holiday-blues-pick-me-up.

When I was 18, my first legal drink was a sweet, creamy Pina Colada at Peppermint Park in Covent Garden. I feverishly knocked back the delicious and intoxicating nectar without one care for sophistication nor that this had cost someone other than me a small fortune …. And so began a love of cocktails. There is something decadent about cocktails, studying the menu, choosing which creation it will be, watching the artful performance of the mixologist as they add the spirits and mixers, with the brave twirling bottles and slamming them back onto neatly lined shelves. The rattle of ice cubes as your barman flamboyantly shakes the cobbler* (not a tawdry euphemism – but the professional name for a shaker) and the final flourish as your concoction is poured into the appropriate glass, whether the retro styling of a martini glass, a tall hi-ball or a champagne flute …
Cocktails fell out of fashion for a while, seeing a brief resurgence when Carrie Bradshaw and the SATC girls drank Cosmopolitans at the Carlyle in NY but now they are back, with not only the traditional but new flavours and infusions. Mixology has become an art form and to learn about it is fascinating.  We are not talking the syrupy happy hour version of cocktails here. This is an altogether more refined drinking practice.

The choice of victual you drink from is almost as important as what goes into the mix. Teapots, teacups, copper beaker, crystal stubby, jam jars, schooners. The Harvey Nichols Cocktail Masterclass is the perfect girls day out, though boys will love it too (as did Mr H and his brother) and would be a great Hen celebration for those looking for something entertaining, educating and a little intoxicating. Be warned, I think phallic deely-boppers would not be welcomed at the über cool and sophisticated 5th Floor champagne bar at HN.

The day starts at 9.30 with a breakfast buffet of pastries, yoghurt and granola and fresh fruit with plenty of tea or coffee. 9.30 on a Saturday or Sunday morning seems an ungodly hour to even think about  imbibing alcohol but it doesn’t take long to  get into the swing of things.
There are several choices of class themes, Italy, Cuba, US, French and British each with three cocktails to be instructed on.

The class opens with a run through of all the equipment required to create the perfect cocktail. A muddler, strainer, cobbler, jigger … Each element has a crucial part to play in the making of your cocktail.
First spirits are added into the shaker (never ice first for fear of diluting your precious alcohol too soon, nevertheless essential to ‘soften’ the alcohol) and finally your mixers, bitters or essences. An elaborate shake, with the length of time and ferocity dictated by the type of cocktail and your own personal choice in ostentation, you can keep it ‘tight’ and snake hipped or go all out Carmen Miranda. For example a Martini Espresso requires a LOT of quite enthusiastic shaking to also emulsify the ingredients and create a slight froth at the top – pour into a glass shaker to check all is well and the correct texture has been achieved before pouring into a chilled Martini glass and finishing with a couple of coffee beans.
We chose the Italian influence for our masterclass so not only were we tutored in making the delicious Espresso Martini we learned to make a Breakfast Negroni; ( a traditional Negroni with a HN twist of the addition of a little marmalade to add texture and bitter-sweet finish to this Florentine classic and La Dolce Vita; an Aperol and Tequila cocktail again served in a chilled Martini glass.
Following the instruction and tastings from our Italian selection we were given the opportunity to make our own cocktail from a list of favourites … Mr H made a delicious Mojito with lashings of fresh mint, his brother made a Ginny Hendricks – gin based deliciousness, the lovely Sue made a Cosmopolitan and I made a Sky Cruiser known in less salubrious surroundings as a Pornstar Martini … Vanilla Vodka, passion fruit and champagne – heavenly!

Two and a half hours after starting the masterclass you are taken back to the restaurant with the effects of your imbibery making the path perhaps not quite as straight as your entrance,  to enjoy a two-course lunch served with red or white wine.
The masterclasses run on Saturday and Sunday throughout the year and can be booked here.

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Belmond British Pullman

I know I was utterly spoilt last year year for my FortyTen celebrations and in late October,  5 months in, those celebrations finally came to a close.
I was very generously gifted a voucher for the Orient Express group … Googling ‘book Orient Express tickets’ I was filled with images of a romantic trip  with Mr H and I channeling Agatha Christie and the diminutive Poirot, heading from Paris to Venice. Back to earth with a bump …. £500 will buy you a 2 hour journey with afternoon tea from London’s Victoria through the Kent countryside for two people.
Further exploration of itineraries and we decided to add some of our own coffers to opt for Belmond British Pullman‘s The Golden Age of Travel lunch.

Departing from Victoria Station, there is a waiting room exclusively for Belmond travellers with tea and coffee, a welcome warming drink before the off.

The excitement is tangible, the audience a mixed bunch, most celebrating the passing of milestone birthdays, engagements, marriages The average age is somewhat more than my own half century I suspect. Some have embraced the bygone era, tea dresses, the odd gentleman in black tie and one group who seemed to be wearing Lilliputian sized trilbys a in a nod to ….. Bugsy Malone?

A short wait and boarding commences, the cheery crew welcome you aboard with due reverence … A very different experience to the 7.26 Haslemere to Waterloo. Space and comfort are what greet you, high backed wingchairs set at beautifully laid tables with an overly ornate table lamp, with a shade something akin to a Victorian courtesans flouncy knickers. Beautiful crystal, fine china and flatware are far removed from the contemporary stemless glasses and heavy earthenware crockery of so many restaurants now.

Champagne is poured almost as soon as you are seated and the experience begins. It doesn’t take long to immerse yourself, talking in hushed tones and waving regally like a pageant queen to the passengers disembarking the normal service trains.

Amuse bouche followed by a soup starter served professionally by the steady footed crew, wine ordered – the journey begins out through a much graffiti’d South London and down to the Kent coast. It’s not the most interesting of vistas but Mr H and I enjoyed the food and each other’s company and shared juvenile humour at our efforts at sotto voce conversation in a bid to not disturb the library hush.

There is an opportunity to purchase souvenirs but I refrained from the branded sweater-wearing teddy and the other costlier Belmond ephemera. Our adjacent neighbours bought a rather overpriced Station Clock as their souvenir of the day … Mr H and I settled for a few photos on our iPhones and the memories!

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Two bottles of wine and an extra glass of champagne for the delay in leaving Victoria at the start of the journey coupled with the gentle tinkling of silver against chinaware leaves even the most seasoned of travellers in a soporific state. As we reached Broadstairs we were asked to disembark where we were greeted with another glass of wine and fresh local Oysters. Some of our fellow passengers were less than keen to partake of the crustaceans on offer (fools)  – all the more for us. A blazer-clad brass band was playing to add to the yesteryear ambience but it felt slightly awkward and contrived standing side by side on the platform –  needless to say there was one fellow traveller who threw inhibition to the wind and managed a sort of Charleston. We all dutifully congratulated her as we returned to our seats, homeward bound.

In essence it was a charming day out but given the cost I think we probably could have had an Air BnB weekend city break for the same price as lunch on the Belmond.  This trip is best suited to a more vintage traveller, a special older birthday or celebratory anniversary. My in-laws would have loved this trip as would any ferroequinologist* but perhaps Mr H and I should have saved this for our twilight years!

*trainspotter/anorak

Spaghetti Carbonara from Enoteca Pitti Gola e Cantina

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I received the recipe for this delicious Carbonara from Edoardo at Enoteca Pitti Gola e Cantina (see the review of this fabulous Florentine Wine club here) – this is so far removed from the creamy gloop bought from the cold section in supermarkets and it takes only a fraction longer to cook the real thing than heating the pre-made stuff! No cream, no preservatives, no added sugar or thickeners just simple store cupboard ingredients!

Ingredients – the ingredients below are per person so scale up for as many as you are cooking for

Spaghetti or Rigatoni (approx 90g dry pasta p/person)

1/2 Shallot per person diced (small dice)

Pancetta – one slice per person

1 egg per person

Salt & pepper

Freshly chopped parsley

Freshly grated Parmigiano (parmesan)

Cook pasta al dente, so about 1\2 minutes less than the instructions recommend.

While pasta is cooking, heat a little bit of butter, the shallot and pancetta, when golden, (not burned), set aside in the pan.

In a bowl put 1 egg p.p., some grated parmigiano, some salt, chopped parsley and black pepper and stir all together for 5 minutes with a fork.

1 minute before pasta is ready, put the pan on the heat again with the cooked pancetta and shallot.  When the pasta is cooked, put it in the pan and stir for 30 seconds.

Take off the heat, add the egg and about 2 tablespoons per person of pasta cooking water, some more parmesan and black pepper, and stir a lot, (approx 1 minute).

If too ‘stiff’ , add some more of the pasta cooking water, if too soggy, keep on the heat for 10\15\20 seconds more until it becomes creamy again.

And some wise words from Edoardo at Enoteca Pitti Gola e Cantina who shared his recipe with me

Now , very important are those 20 seconds from creamy raw eggs, to toocooked like frittata!  🙂 carefull and do all on slow fire and maybe non-stick pan!”

Kitchen Gadgets – Spiraliser

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Do you have a cupboard full of kitchen gadgets that you never use? And don’t you love it when you find one that really does work and you actually use on a regular basis?

I had a plethora of defunct, aged kitchen paraphernalia .. the ubiquitous orange plastic Moulinex mandolin of the late 70’s, early 80’s, my chamfered knuckles a testament to the razor-sharp blade! And an orange enamel Le Creuset fondue set …. mostly sitting redundant, looking ironically retro in dog-eared boxes at the back of a kitchen cupboard.  I am usually gadget-averse, fearing further cluttering of ever more full kitchen cupboards. I rarely fall foul of wunder-gadget demos at food or home fairs (unlike Mr H who is a groupie for an y kind of exhibition demonstration!!).   I already have THE best peeler, (Good Grips), Zester (Ikea), Parmesan Grater (Microplane) and numerous sets of tongs (Ikea, Poundland, etc) and thought my gadgetry collection complete … until I discovered the Spiraliser, a genius hourglass shaped contraption with two blades (varying sizes for thick or thin spiralising!) and the gadget-de-choix of the carb-free, gluten-free, healthy-eater brigade.  There is a larger, more fancy-pants version by Hemsley & Hemsley but until you are sure you are going to use it I would stick to the one I have from Amazon here  for £13.95

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I have only used this on courgettes, (and a carrot for experimental purposes only)  I have made oodles of Zoodles (Zucchini noodles) and miles of Courgetti and as long as you don’t over cook it, it is ‘virtually’ indistinguishable from the real thing bar the fact that I am indigestion and carb-bloat free!

So this is my gadget go-to for now …. What next?

Top Tip … Don’t spiralise your fingers – I have – it hurts!

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