Tag Archives: Gin

Apple, ginger & gin upside-down cake

Baking with SpiritI’ve moved house since my last post.  I was only moving three minutes away, but given how much crap I seem to have accumulated on top of the ridiculous amount of stuff I already had, it turned into a feat of epic proportions.  I succeeded though, and have been busy settling in and discovering the quirks of my new kitchen (as well as trying to find the best light for photos – I’m still working on that one).  The first thing that I unpacked was all my baking paraphernalia, so that I could participate in this month’s Baking with Spirit, guest-hosted by Craig over at The Usual Saucepans.  He has challenged us to “Reinvent a Classic.”

Apple, ginger & gin upside-down cake 1

Initially, I wanted to do something G&T-inspired – Craig and I first became friends after discovering a mutual love for gin, so it seemed appropriate.  I had a few ideas, but I wasn’t really feeling excited about any of them.  Then, as I was unpacking some bottles of ginger beer, it hit me.  Gin and ginger beer is a thing (well… I’m pretty sure it’s a thing.  Ok, I just looked it up and apparently it’s gin and ginger ale that’s a thing.  A thing called a Gin Gin).  A couple of years ago, I had spiced mulled gin served with apple juice and it was delicious (made by Craig actually – how fitting).  What if I made an apple and ginger upside-down cake with gin in it?

Apple, ginger & gin upside-down cake 2

So that’s exactly what I did.  There isn’t actually any ginger beer (or ginger ale) in the cake because I didn’t want to open a whole bottle just to use a little bit, but it’s represented by ginger and other spices.  I thought about making this with pears, but I happened to have plenty of apples and no pears, so that was that.  Like many upside-down cakes, this is definitely a make-the-day-before cake.  I tried some of the cake not long after baking and couldn’t taste the gin, but the flavour developed overnight and you could taste it the next day – it was subtle, but added something a little different to the flavour profile of the cake.

Apple, ginger & gin upside-down cake 3

Apple, ginger & gin upside-down cake

Serves 8-10
Adapted from A Treasury of New Zealand Baking

Firm apples that keep their shape when baking are key, as you don’t want them to disintegrate into mush.  The actual number of apples required obviously will depend on their size and the size of the cake tin.  I reckon the recipe would be equally delicious with pears rather than apples, or a mix of the two.  Whilst utterly delicious as a snack (or breakfast…), this cake would also make a wonderful dessert, served with whipped cream.  The cake is best eaten the next day so that the caramel can really soak in and the gin flavour can develop, and will keep for a couple of days in an airtight container.

Ingredients

For the cake:
225g unsalted butter, softened
275g light brown sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
250g all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
3 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves
Pinch of salt
2 tbsp gin
3 or 4 apples (I used Granny Smith)

For the caramel:
100g unsalted butter
130g light brown sugar
3 tbsp gin

Directions

To prepare the cake:
1.  Line the base of a 24 or 26cm round deep cake tin with baking paper.  Pre-heat the oven to 190°C/fan oven 170°C.

2.  In a large bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar with an electric whisk until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time.

3.  Sift the flour, baking powder, spices, salt and gin into the egg mixture and stir together with a spatula or large spoon until just combined.

4.  Peel, core and cut the apples into eighths.  Set aside.

To prepare the caramel:
5.  In a small saucepan, melt the butter and sugar together to make the caramel.  Once the sugar has completely melted and the mixture is smooth, stir in the gin and pour into the prepared cake tin.  Arrange the apples over the top of the caramel, then cover with the cake batter, smoothing the top (it doesn’t have to be perfect).

6.  Place the cake tin on a baking tray large enough to catch any caramel that might bubble over the sides (much easier than cleaning a caramel-encrusted oven…) and bake for 50-55 mins until a skewer comes out clean.  Cool in the cake tin for about 10 mins before turning out onto a serving plate to cool completely.  The cake is best eaten the next day.

Enjoy!

Apple, ginger & gin upside-down cake 4

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Grapefruit galore!

We’ve accidentally ended up with a glut of grapefruit at our house.  Somebody brought a whole bucket in to the lab the other day and one of my housemates and I got a bit carried away when we grabbed some (there were plenty left for everybody else though).  Then my other housemate turned up yesterday evening with even more grapefruit.  Don’t be surprised if there’s a bit of a grapefruit theme over the next week or so…

Mini mountain of grapefruit

Baking with SpiritThe great thing about grapefruit and other citrus is that although they’re winter fruit, they always makes me think of summer, they bring zingy little rays of sunshine to any wintery proceedings.  Spring officially starts on Sunday, so we’re nearly done with winter here and summer is definitely on its way, but I’ll still take anything with a hint of sunshine that I can get.  Except mosquitoes – I killed my first one of the season this morning.  Not cool. Anyway, I digress.  Janine over at Cake of the Week has chosen “Summer” as the theme for this month’s Baking with Spirit challenge.  Now the most summeriest of drinks is, of course, Pimm’s, but I don’t have any at the moment and none of the accompanying fruit are in season here.

Sugar cookies with grapefruit & gin glaze 2

As I was looking at our literal mini-mountain of grapefruit I decided that perhaps I should do something citrussy as my “summer” entry.  I’m going for the winter version of summer.  Did you know that grapefruit and gin go wonderfully well together?  I didn’t know that until last night (thank you Flavour Thesaurus).  I decided to make simple sugar cookies – the catharsis of rolling out cookie dough appealed to me – with a grapefruit and gin glaze.  The cookies came out a bit softer than I was expecting, but are rather delicious – the zing of the grapefruit and subtle hint of gin in the glaze really make them.

Sugar cookies with grapefruit & gin glaze 3

Sugar cookies with grapefruit & gin glaze

Makes about 50 cookies
Cookies slightly adapted from Glorious Treats
Glaze by Sharky Oven Gloves

Rolling these out can be a bit of a faff, but you want to minimise the amount of flour that you add.  These cookies keep their shape really well when baking, so feel free to use whatever fun cookie cutters you have.  I used orange grapefruit, but I’m sure red grapefruit would work wonderfully as well.  You won’t need all the juice from the grapefruit that you take the zest from, so you might as well just drink the rest.  Ideally with a slug of gin.  I definitely recommend the combination!  These cookies will keep for a couple of days in an airtight container.

Ingredients

For the cookies:
375g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
225g unsalted butter, room temperature
200g caster sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of 1 grapefruit

For the glaze:
200g icing sugar
2 tbsp gin
2 tbsp freshly squeezed grapefruit juice

Directions

To make the cookies:
1.  Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a medium-sized bowl and stir together.

2.  In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with an electric whisk until light and fluffy.

3.  Add the egg, vanilla and grapefruit zest and whisk together.

4.  Whisk in the flour a little at a time.  Once it has all been incorporated (it will be rather crumbly), knead together with your hands to form a dough.  Wrap in cling film and either refrigerate for about 2h or pop in the freezer for 20-30 mins (make sure it doesn’t harden otherwise you’ll have to wait for it to thaw).

5.  Line a couple of baking trays with baking paper.  Pre-heat the oven to 195°C/fan oven 175°C.

6.  Take half of the cookie dough (if it’s been in the freezer, transfer the remaining dough to the fridge) and either roll it out between two sheets of baking paper or roll it out on a lightly floured surface with a sheet of baking paper over the top.  (This is to minimise the amount of extra flour added.  I did it the first way, which was a bit of a faff but did work, you just have to anchor the bottom sheet.)  Roll the dough out to a thickness of 4-5 mm.  Cut out rounds of dough using your chosen cookie cutter (I used a 6cm scalloped round cutter) and place on the prepared baking trays, about 2cm apart.  Pop the baking tray in the freezer for 5 mins before baking for 8-10 mins, until just starting to turn golden.  Leave the cookies on the tray for about 1 min before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

7.  Repeat with the remaining cookie dough and leftover bits.

To make the glaze:
8.  Once the cookies are completely cooled, make the glaze.  Sift the icing sugar into a small bowl, add the gin and grapefruit juice and whisk together by hand.  Pour the glaze into a zip-lock bag, snip a tiny corner off and drizzle over the cookies (I usually set paper towels underneath the wire racks to catch and dribbles of glaze).  Allow to set before arranging on a plate or transferring to an airtight box.

Enjoy!

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A Bond-themed Cocktail in a Macaron: Leiter Fluid

Super-duper exciting news: Skyfall was finally released in New Zealand yesterday!!  I’ve been vastly unimpressed at having to wait a month after its release in the UK to see it, particularly since I’ve been hearing how good it is.  Miraculously, I’ve managed to avoid hearing about or seeing any spoilers, which, over the course of an entire month spent on facebook and Twitter, is a rather impressive feat, though I’m assuming that I’ve managed this mostly through sheer luck.  And I suspect that perhaps some of my closest friends who share my Bond love have carefully avoided posting spoilers since they knew I wouldn’t be able to watch it yet.  If so, I’m incredibly grateful.  Anyway, the suspense has been killing me.  Not helped by having to walk past a giant Skyfall billboard every day…

I was finally able to watch Skyfall yesterday evening with some of my labmates.  Wow.  Fantastic.  I can’t really say much more without giving away any spoilers, but I loved it.  Whilst Kat, Craig and I were watching our way through all the Bond films during the summer between our third and fourth years of undergrad, Craig made us a particular cocktail one evening.  I believe it’s mentioned in one of the books (possibly Casino Royale), so we didn’t really invent it, but I think he slightly adapted it and then we re-named it.  It consists of equal parts of gin, red vermouth and Campari and then topped off with tonic to fill the glass.  So basically a Negroni with tonic.

But we wanted a Bond-themed name for the cocktail, and we eventually settled on Leiter Fluid (that’s Leiter as in Felix Leiter).  By “we” I really mean Kat and Craig – I’m not particularly inventive, so I was probably more focussed on sampling the drink itself.  Anyway, in honour of Skyfall’s release and also of this month’s Baking with Spirit theme of “gin,” I decided to take the Leiter Fluid and turn it into a macaron.  Leiter Fluid macarons – oh yes.  I decided that the flavours of the drink (particularly the Campari) would pair well with a dark chocolate ganache, and indeed they did, although they ended up coming through rather more subtly than I expected.  Which is no bad thing.  And the sweet shells balance the bitter ganache perfectly.  My only gripe is that the shells didn’t come out quite as swirly as I wanted, but luckily that doesn’t affect the taste!

Leiter Fluid macarons

Makes about 60 small macarons (so about 120 shells of 1.5/2 cm diameter)
Macaron shell recipe based on Mad About Macarons!
Ganache recipe by me

I used Gordon’s gin in the ganache since I find that the Campari and red vermouth mask any real subtleties of good gins.  The ganache can be a little finnicky and is best if you can avoid cooling it in the fridge as it may cool too quickly and harden.  If you do need to cool it in the fridge, just make sure not to forget about it!  (Not that I’m speaking from experience…)  Make sure you leave these at least 24h before eating them, in order to allow the ganache to soak into the shells a bit.  They’re best stored in an airtight box in the fridge – just remember to bring them out at least 30mins before eating them, so that you can appreciate the flavour fully!

Ingredients

For the macaron shells:
Red food colouring paste or gel (optional)
100g room temperature egg whites (take them out of the fridge 2h beforehand)
66g caster sugar
120g ground almonds
180g icing sugar

For the ganache filling:
50g whipping cream (NZ: pure cream)
150g dark chocolate (at least 70%)
20g Campari
20g gin
20g red vermouth
A small glug of tonic

Directions

To make the macaron shells:
1.  Line three or four flat baking sheets with baking paper and set aside.  Prepare a piping bag with a plain round piping tip.  If you want to make the macarons swirly, brush three or four lines of food colouring up the inside of the prepared piping bag (this might be a bit messy.  I did three stripes).

2.  Blend the icing sugar and ground almonds together (don’t skip this step!).  Sift them through a medium sieve into a large bowl.  Sift them again if necessary.

3.  Make the French meringue by whisking the egg whites into glossy firm peaks, gradually adding the caster sugar.  If you want to make the shells a uniform colour, add a few drops of food colouring gel to the mixture just before the end and mix well.

4.  Incorporate the French meringue into the dry ingredients using a large spatula and mix well.  Now work on the mixture by pressing down well with the spatula, going backwards and forwards, to press out the oxygen from the egg whites (this is the macaronnage stage), until you have a smooth mixture.  Don’t do this for longer than 5 minutes.  The result should be a soft and brilliant mixture that forms a “ribbon” on the spatula.

5.  Transfer the mixture to the previously prepared piping bag and pipe out the desired size of rounds (mine were about 1.5-2cm in diameter).  Press the nozzle right down on the paper and finish off with a flourish to obtain a nice round.  Leave a good space between them so they can spread out.

6.  Sprinkle the shells with the raw sugar and leave the shells to set for about 30 mins (this helps to produce the feet).  Preheat the oven to fan-oven 160°C.  When you can feel that a skin has formed over the top, they are ready to go into the oven.

7.  Bake one tray at a time in the centre of the oven for about 8-10 mins (to see if they are done, touch the top – if there is a “wobble,” leave them in 2-3 mins longer).  Leave them to cool on the baking trays, and when they are completely cool, carefully remove them and pair them up by size.

To make the ganache filling:
8.  Whilst the macarons are setting and cooking, make the ganache filling.  Heat the cream, and as soon as it starts boiling, add the chocolate (broken into pieces), the Campari, gin, red vermouth and a glug of tonic and mix with a wooden spoon until smooth (don’t let it boil or you will boil off the alcohol and we wouldn’t want that now, would we?).  Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to thicken on the countertop (or in the fridge if necessary – if it’s taking too long or not setting).

10.  Once cool, use a teaspoon to deposit a dollop of ganache onto one shell of each pair.  Then place the partner shell on top, and use a slight twisting motion to squash the shell down onto the filling.

11.  Leave in the fridge for at least 24h before serving (I know, it’s difficult!  But so worth it!!)

Enjoy!

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Honey, wine and more wine: Auckland Food Show 2012

On Saturday I went to the Auckland edition of the NZ Food Show, held at the ASB Showgrounds.  Having never been, I wasn’t too sure what to expect so decided that I would assume it was along similar lines to the Edinburgh Foodies Festival, which is really my only other experience with a food show or festival.  And indeed it was along similar lines, although much bigger, indoors (excellent idea in winter!) and with significantly less gin, but a heck of a lot more wine – it seemed that about a third of the stands were wine stands.  There were also masterclasses (although they cost $50 to attend, so I passed) and free cooking demos organised.

There range of products on show and on sale was impressive to say the least – honey, wraps, wines and liqueurs, breads, meats, etc. etc. etc.  But there were also non-edible products such as Tupperware (since when is it all so pretty and colourful?!), knives, Skoda cars (no idea what they were doing there) and Kenwood had a huge show area that I didn’t venture into too much because everything was shiny and tempting (and expensive).  There were some very large and commercial companies there (Kenwood, Tupperware, etc.), some that I recognise from the supermarket (Hellers, Dilmah tea, Farrah Wraps, etc.) but also much smaller producers, which I was most eager to discover.  Uhm, I should probably mention at this point that I got a little distracted by all the samples and wine tastings so I have hardly any photos.  Woops.

There were plenty of chutney and jam stands, but they’ve all more or less merged into one in my memory, as have the wine stands (taking notes might have been a good idea since the number of wine stands there made things a little hazy…), and to a certain extent some of the honey stands.  The producers that really stood out for me were:

  • J Friend & Co Honey – I made a beeline (badum-tschhhh!) for all the honey stands, but this is the one that stood out for me.  All their honeys were fantastic, but I particularly enjoyed the pōhutakawa one.  They also had honeycomb available, which was wonderful.
  • Lighthouse Gin – a NZ-made gin and wonderfully smooth.  Also the only gin stand (sad times).
  • Shott fruit syrups – I love fruit-syrup based drinks, but outside of France it can be difficult to find good syrups.  These, however, were fantastic.  My favourites were the honey blackberry and the lemon, ginger and honey (have I mentioned that I love honey?)
  • Genevieve’s Cuisine pâtés – wonderfully smooth and delectable French-style chicken liver pâtés (or parfait as they call it) in a few different flavours (original, black pepper and truffle).  I hope they’ll expand their range from just chicken, because they certainly know what they’re doing.
  • Moreish butchers – a bit of an unusual butcher in that it’s entirely online, but all their meats are free range and organic.  I prefer to see what I’m buying, particularly when it comes to meat, but since I’m still looking for a good butcher here, I might give this a go, depending on their prices.  Their sausage samples were certainly excellent though.
  • Lewis Road Creamery butter – creamy and heavenly and quite possibly the best butter I’ve ever tasted.  Oh, and makes really good butter sculptures, too, in case you were wondering.  Amazing!

So there you go, that’s my little round-up of the NZ Food Show, Auckland.  If you get the chance, I’d highly recommend going along to get a taste for what’s available in terms of local products – the next edition is in Christchurch from 14-16 September, then in Wellington from 24-26 May 2013, and then back in Auckland in August I should expect (all details are on the website).  I think there might be a bit of variation in producers across the different food shows, depending on which producers are local and so on, although I’m not 100% sure about that.

Were you at the Food Show?  What were your highlights?

Wherever you are in the world, enjoy the rest of your day!

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Happy World Gin Day 2012!

Today is World Gin Day!  How exciting is that?!  (If your answer was not something along the lines of “super duper exciting!” then just a heads up that this post might not be for you…)  Now, I’m a big fan of gin, in case you weren’t aware.  I was clearly spoilt in St Andrews when it came to Gin & Tonics, because every bartender in any pub or bar knows how to make a proper G&T (and if they don’t, they’re soon corrected).  Here in NZ…not so much.  I’ve run up against bartenders that think tonic and lemonade are interchangeable (they’re really not – have you ever tried Gin & Lemonade?  It’s foul.), and almost every G&T I’ve been served has a wedge of lemon rather than lime.  That might sound petty, but it really does affect the taste.  Particularly a gin such as Hendrick’s.  I know, I know – I’m still recovering from that particular experience.  I think I’ve just been going to the wrong bars here, but it’s still a little upsetting.  If anybody happens to know of a bar in Auckland that makes good G&Ts and doesn’t charge an arm and a leg for it, then do please let me know!

Just like last year, I’m obviously not going to let World Gin Day pass by without blogging something gin-themed.  I’ve had this recipe idea planned since about April, when Craig sent me a link to a post on Total Food Geeks Edinburgh about lemonade scones, which I’d never heard of before.  The most important ingredient of the recipe is fizzy lemonade.  You know what else is fizzy?  Gin & Tonic is fizzy (though perhaps not quite as much).  You know where I’m going with this, don’t you?  That’s right.  Gin & Tonic scones.  Yes, really.  Clearly the perfect way to celebrate World Gin Day.

Whilst I had the idea back in April, it’s taken me a while to actually try it out, mostly because I was a little confused by the cream situation here in NZ and couldn’t find a double cream equivalent anywhere.  I’ll save the details for another post (bet you can’t wait), but it turns out that standard pouring cream here is somewhere between UK single cream and UK double cream.  So I made do with that.  Thankfully the recipe worked wonderfully.  The scones are light, fluffy and delicious, with a subtle G&T flavour.  I must admit that I could only just taste the gin, but that’s more a reflection on my taste buds than the actual recipe.  These scones would be perfect for an afternoon snack, served with lime curd (I told you that I had something special lined up for the batch I posted about yesterday) and accompanied, of course, by a Gin & Tonic.

Gin & Tonic scones

Makes 10-12 scones
Adapted from Total Food Geeks Edinburgh

Make sure to use a gin that goes with lime, such as Gordon’s, in this recipe.  You’re baking with it, so save your best gin for drinking.  Use freshly-opened tonic if possible to get the maximum amount of bubbles.  These are best eaten fresh, but can be made the evening before and covered with a tea e until the next day.  These are utterly delicious served with lime curd (click for the recipe – it’s very easy to make), but would probably also be tasty with lime marmalade.

Ingredients

300g all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
½ large unwaxed lime (zest before cutting it in half)
50 ml gin (I used Gordon’s)
100 ml tonic
150ml UK double cream or NZ cream

Directions

1.  Line a large baking tray with baking paper.  Pre-heat the oven to 220°C.

2.  Sift the flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl and stir together.

3.  Zest the ½ lime (zest the lime before cutting it in half), and juice it.  Add the juice and zest to a measuring jug, along with the gin and the tonic.  Add the cream and stir together (an ice-cream float type texture is normal).

4.  Gently fold the liquid ingredients into the flour using a large wooden spoon (be as gentle as possible so as not to destroy the air bubbles).  The mixture should come together into a dough – you may need to use your hands towards the end.  The dough should be light and soft.  If the dough is too sticky to handle, add a little more flour.

5.  Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface.  Gently roll the dough out to a 2 cm thickness.  Cut out the scones using a floured 6cm round cutter and place them on the baking tray.  Gently combine the scraps to make more scones (these ones might not come out quite as presentably – consider them quality control).

6.  Bake for 16 mins until the scones are golden and risen.  Cool on a wire rack, covered with a clean tea towel (apparently this keeps the tops soft).

7.  Serve with lime curd whilst still just warm.  They’re also delicious fully cooled.

Enjoy!  And happy World Gin Day!!!  (Also, drink responsibly, etc. etc.)

PS – Fun fact: this post contains the word “gin” or “G&T” 22 times (excluding those two)…  Definitely a successful blog post.

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Gin before lunch. AKA The Foodies Festival Edinburgh 2011

To put it mildly, August in Edinburgh is rather jam-packed.  Between the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the International Festival, the Art Festival, the Book Festival and the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, there is an astonishing amount going on in the town.  The number of people that descend on the town is also astounding, and I’m pretty sure that the population at least doubles.  To throw one more festival into the mix, the Foodies Festival Edinburgh was held in Holyrood Park last weekend, from Friday 12th to Sunday 14th August.

I went to the Foodies Festival two years ago, and thoroughly enjoyed it.  However, I hadn’t really seen anything about it since then, so I’d assumed that it had stopped or something.  And then, out of the blue, I saw it mentioned on Twitter last week.  Craig was just as eager as I to investigate, so we decided to go along on Saturday (I even managed to come across a voucher for 2-for-1 tickets.  Win!).  Who said Twitter and BBM were just for instigating riots?  (Bad taste?)  Anyway, thanks to a couple of days of monsoon-like rain, Holyrood Park had turned into a bit of a mud bath and they had to delay the opening of the Festival on Friday whilst they put hay down everywhere.  It was still thoroughly muddy on Saturday, but nothing that a good pair of wellies couldn’t handle.

There were rather more drinks exhibitors than I remember there being two years ago, and gin seemed to be particularly well represented.  Which is perfectly fine with me.  Within about ten seconds of our arrival we’d already managed to find ourselves at the Hendrick’s stand, which I think wins the prize for most elaborately decorated stand.  They had a bath-tub of rose petals, cucumber slices and “gin” (I assume it wasn’t actually gin – I feel that would be a bit of a waste), shelves of bottles and other curiosities and a 6 litre bottle of gin (which I’ve since been informed was empty – gutted).  However, whilst Hendrick’s is utterly delicious, it is a well-known brand, so we ambled off with our taster G&Ts to explore the rest of the Festival and in search of some new discoveries.

I was happy to see that Edinburgh Gin had a stand, although I suppose that’s hardly surprising considering that we were at a food festival in Edinburgh.  A relative newcomer to the ranks of gin (I believe it was launched a year ago), I first came across it in June, and have since noticed it in a lot of high-end bottleshops (the fact that I’m in Edinburgh probably also has something to do with that).  I love the gin itself – it’s full of botanical flavours – but I also love the packaging.

Another newcomer to the gin scene is Darnley’s View Gin, which I’d read a review of on The Gin Blog a few weeks previously but hadn’t yet had the opportunity to taste.  The first time we were at the stand they were doing straight gin tasters, which is not my usual way of consuming gin and, I’ll be quite honest was a bit too strong for me to actually taste anything except the fact that it was gin.  The second time we went to the stand, they’d added tonic to the tasters and I was able to ascertain that it had quite a floral taste and that I rather liked it.

I think that’s enough about gin (I should probably add that this post isn’t chronologically accurate – we did start off with Hendrick’s, but didn’t quite do back-to-back gin tastings before lunch.  We had wine in-between.).  There were quite a few wine sellers there as well, including The Vintner who were there in their Citroën van called Hugo.  We tried their prosecco, and two different whites, one from Southwest France and the other from Spain (if I remember correctly – this was towards the end of the afternoon) both of which were surprising in that they weren’t really what we were expecting.  They were both lovely and fresh, and very drinkable…

We also discovered that apparently we look like we can each afford to spend over £200 in one go on a case of wine.  (I can assure you that this most definitely is not the case.)  This became clear when we accidentally managed to end up having a full-on wine tasting from an importer whose name I forgot to write down (I need to be more organised!), tasting whites, reds, prosecco and champagne.  They were all very good, particularly a German red that we tasted (I’d love to give you the name, but I forgot to write it down, too.  Fail.), which was very interesting because although I’d never really tried German wine before I didn’t really have a great impression of it.  The wine that intrigued me the most was a sparkling German red, but unfortunately they didn’t have any with them at the festival.  So that still remains a mystery.

There was also a huge variety of food exhibitors – from cakes to flavoured oils to meats to chocolate, there was a bit of everything!  There were a lot of tasty samples available (and some not so tasty) which kept us going for most of the day, and the only non-taster-sized food we ended up having were crêpes as a semblance of lunch and an absolutely delicious venison burger towards the end of the afternoon.  I feel Simple Simon’s Pies deserve a special mention though, because they are absolutely delicious.  I first discovered them at the Foodies Festival two years ago and I was desperately hoping they’d be there again this year, which they were, hurrah!  I’m very picky about my pies, but these come in a huge range of flavours and are made from the freshest ingredients, always locally-sourced where possible.

There were, of course, a few exhibitors whose offerings weren’t really “my cup of tea.”  A fruit wine producer from Wales, whose wines weren’t exactly fantastic (actually, the one I tried was gross.  But he came all the way from Wales so I feel bad being overly critical).  He also had fruit liqueurs, some of which were palatable.  There was also a fudge producer offering passionfruit fudge – not a good combination, although their other flavours were yummy.  A few cake stands with unappetising cakes were also present, but then everybody has cakes they like and don’t like, so that’s just me being picky.  We only went to one of the “masterclass” events, which was a wine tasting done by the Edinburgh School of Food & Wine, but it was rather disappointing – I wasn’t really a fan of any of the wines chosen and I didn’t feel that it was all that informative either.

Overall however, I thoroughly enjoyed the Foodies Festival!  I love that it showcases local producers and food-related businesses of all sorts, and I think that can only really be a good thing.  If I’m ever in Edinburgh again whilst it’s on, I think I’ll definitely be going again…

Oh and in case you didn’t believe me about the mud, this was the state of our wellies by the end of the day (apparently I’m better at getting muddy than Craig):

Enjoy the rest of your day (mud optional, but gin recommended)!

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The many uses of a chopstick and other important things that I learnt at University

I haven’t really unpacked all my stuff yet, partially because I have no idea where to put it all, partially because I’m a bit lazy and disorganised, and mostly because once it’s all unpacked, I really have to admit that the St Andrews chapter of my life is closed and that I genuinely have no idea where my life goes from here.  So anyway, the point is that today’s post is not about food (and is also incredibly long – you’ve been warned).  Instead, since University is supposed to be all about learning, I’m going to share the random things that I learnt at University, but outwith lectures and labs.  A few are serious, but most of them are fun little tidbits:

  1. Being a TCK (Third Culture Kid) in a non-TCK environment is hard work – As a result of having lived my entire life (until University) as an expat, I am a TCK, brought up in a mix of cultures.  Although I am half British, and it is therefore one of my “home” cultures, when I first moved here for Uni, I often felt like a total outsider, particularly in first year, simply because there were loads of cultural references that I just didn’t understand.  So culturally, I was (and still am) a bit of a foreigner, but I’m British and I have a very British accent, and a lot of the people that I met found this difficult to comprehend.  Basically, I didn’t fit into a box, so people didn’t really know how to react to me, and I found this quite tough and a little lonely at times.  I realise this all sounds a bit miserable, but don’t worry, although it took a while, I found friends who accept me just as I am, or put up with me because I feed them.
  2. Being able to cook and bake is a great way to make friends – Most people enjoy being fed yummy food, and if they don’t, they probably aren’t worth making friends with anyway.  I’ve always found that, in general, people are particularly enthusiastic about baked goods – unless they contain nuts and you feed them to somebody who is allergic to them.  That might not work out so well. 
  3. Everybody loves madeleines – It might be rather big-headed of me, but I like to think that I bake pretty delicious madeleines.  I have yet to meet somebody who hasn’t enjoyed them and gone for a second, third, fourth helping/finished off the plate.
  4. The effort that goes into baking a cake sometimes goes completely unappreciated – This is a bit of an awkward point, since I am still a bit upset over this particular incident.  I went to a lot of effort to make a birthday cheesecake for somebody once.  They took a miniscule slice of it, told me they loved it (I had baked a trial run and everybody who tried that one agreed that it was lovely), and put it in the fridge “for later,” which was totally fine since we were going out for tea.  So far, so good.  The issue arises in that ten days later, when they left for a two-week break, the cheesecake remained, completely untouched.  Needless to say, it was rather past its prime.  Nobody should ever have to throw out a birthday cake that they made as a gift to somebody.  I don’t wish to name and shame this person, but if they are reading this, I hope they are aware of how insulting it is to have to do that.  Rant over and lesson learnt to only make cakes for people who appreciate it.
  5. Leather handbags are really good for ripening bananas – I accidentally found this out whilst dissertating when I bought a rather under-ripe banana on my way to the Bute one morning and then forgot about it until evening by which time it had totally ripened.  Not that I would really recommend carrying bananas around in your handbag since they might get a bit squished, but it’s good to know.  In case you need to ripen any bananas quickly…  Uhm, ya.  I’ll just stop there.
  6. Muffins can form the base of a pivotal moment in a friendship – Kat and I got to know each other over the course of third year after bonding over cookies and field-working in a knee-deep river (in wellies), but I think we really became close friends when she unexpectedly ended up living with me last summer (long story).  We spent a lot of time faffing in the kitchen, but I think one of the most pivotal moments in cementing our friendship was when we decided to make a US flag for the 4th of July… out of iced mini-muffins.  Ya, we’re that cool. 
  7. Amazon sells food – Ingredients-wise, I’ve almost always been able to find what I needed in St Andrews.  The only exception to this is corn syrup, which I have never seen stocked anywhere.  However, I found out completely by accident that you can order it off Amazon.  Amazing!  Incidentally, Amazon also sells champagne, which I find kind of random.
  8. Allowing others to use your non-stick pans may not be a good idea – All my pans and most of my bakeware are non-stick, and good quality at that (there’s a Tefal factory outlet near where I’m from in France), and since most of what came with the flat was pretty disgusting, we ended up using all of my kitchenware for cooking.  As I’m sure you’re aware, metal should NEVER be used anywhere near anything non-stick.  Apparently not everybody is aware of this (even after being specifically told), and whilst my pans luckily did not sustain any major scratch-mark damage, there were a few near misses.  Moral of the story: never let other people use your pans (further enforced by the next point).
  9. Although somebody may wax lyrical about being God’s gift to the culinary arts, this may not actually be the case – If you’ve read my crêpe post, you may remember my little rant about somebody using my crêpe pan as a frying pan, and searing burning tuna steaks in it.  In my humble opinion, that is not exactly the mark of a culinary God.  Enough said.
  10. People give you strange looks when you whip out an oven glove and take photos of it in tourist spots – This is much less bizarre than it sounds, since my oven gloves are shark-shaped and therefore completely awesome.  You can read about the adventures of Toothamanga around St Andrews here
  11. Some people “have no nose for wine” (from the genius of ‘Allo ‘Allo) – I know somebody who was given a very nice, and fairly expensive bottle of wine for their 21st birthday.  When they eventually opened the bottle with other friends also lacking a nose for wine, they left about a glass-worth in the bottom of the bottle, popped it in their fridge and only removed it (untouched) when they moved out 8 months later.  Now, I’m no wine expert, but really?!  Poor, completely unappreciated wine.  And my poor friend that gave the bottle in the first place – a bit of a smack in the face to see it every time he opened their fridge.
  12. Tesco Market Value wine can de-block a bathroom sink – Tesco Market Value wine comes in little cartons, very similar to individual drinks cartons.  Craig and I bought one once for a laugh, just to see how utterly disgusting it was.  The only reason neither of us spat the stuff out after taking the smallest sips possible is that we’re too polite to do so.  I’m pretty sure labelling it as “wine” counts as false advertising and it should really be sold as “vinegar” or “sink de-blocker.”  If you think I’m exaggerating, the bathroom sink was a little clogged so we poured the carton down the sink to see if it would de-block it.  It did.  Enough said.
  13. Pieropan: Soave Pieropan wine can be relied upon to result in some seriously awkward comments – The first time we tried this wine, I managed to accidentally come out with a spectacularly awkward comment.  Every time we’ve had this wine (which, due to it being good both with food and on its own and also very drinkable, happens fairly regularly), somebody has managed to go off on a roll of unintentional and awkward comments, with truly hilarious results.  Consequently, we’ve affectionately nicknamed it “The Awkward Italian.”
  14. Always keep a spare bottle of gin or three – For some reason, the gin always seems to be running low or gone (why is the gin always gone?).  Don’t underestimate the value of having spare gin.  And tonic, obviously.  Oh, and also make sure that you always have limes/cucumber in the fridge as well.  The freezer is a great place to store spare gin, by the way.
  15. It is possible to get tipsy (possibly even drunk) off my muffins – After much practice, I now have the baking of muffins with rum (or any other alcohol) as the principle ingredient down to a fine art. 
  16. At a party, when in doubt, grab the Cointreau and hang out by the freezer – This is a particularly great tactic if you don’t really know anybody or don’t really want to speak to people who are in the drawing room.  Why the freezer?  Because that’s where the ice cubes live.  People will realise that you’ve hit on a genius plan and also hang out with you by the freezer, or you might already find a collection of fellow alcoholics already there to make friends with.  Sharing the Cointreau is optional, obviously, though highly recommended if it belongs to somebody other than yourself.
  17. BUT when you run out of orange juice/Passoã/both to make punch, Cointreau is not a suitable alternative – This might sound like a genius idea, and it tastes fabulous at the time, but it leaves you feeling a little bit on the rough side the next day.  And also leaves you with a bit of a blank memory.  I speak from (hazy) experience.  Let’s just leave it there.
  18. An illuminated punchbowl fountain is a brilliant investment – A totally awesome addition to any party.  The end. 
  19. You can get chatted up through eBay – The eBay seller from whom I bought my James Bond DVD boxset attempted to chat me up via eBay message.  I’m sure you can imagine my surprise and amusement.  The guy’s profile name thing was something along the lines of “Hotrod69” though, so I probably should have seen that coming (please refer to the following point if you chuckled at that).
  20. Maturity is overrated – I could give plenty of examples of my immaturity, but I’m just going to stick with one.  There is a lane in St Andrews which I’ve walked past almost every day for four years, yet I still chuckle a bit to myself whenever I do, because it’s called Butts Wynd.  I’d like to think that one day I might grow up a little, but I somehow doubt that will be happening any time soon (I kind of secretly hope it never happens.  Being totally immature is really quite fun).
  21. Making friends with local shop-keepers can only ever end in win – This one is pretty self-explanatory really…  If you get to know the shop-keepers (and they like you – baked goods help with that) of shops that you frequent often then they get to know what you like.  And they might set aside that last slice of your favourite cheese for you, or give you a reduced price on that lovely bottle of wine that they know you’ll love.  How is that not a win?
  22. Over-enthusiasm for dinosaurs at the age of 22 is totally acceptable…  If you’re a biologist – I know I said that this was a list of what I’ve learnt outwith academics, but I’ll make an exception for this particular point.  When I was younger, I never went through a dinosaur phase.  I think it was in second year that we learnt about how amazing dinosaurs are and I’ve been enthusiastic ever since (totally nothing to do with the fact that our professor dressed up as a swamp monster for the lecture).  I even own dinosaur cookie cutters.  Whilst my fellow biologists totally share my enthusiasm, most of my other friends think I’m crazy.  They are clearly missing out. 
  23. There is only one way to get away with dressing up as oneself for Halloween – Dressing up as oneself for Halloween is a complete cop-out, and I have serious issues with it.  To the point where at our last Halloween party, I threatened anybody who dared turn up as themselves with multiple shots of tequila (nobody dared).  However, if one happens to have been caught on Google Maps Streetview and there is a funny (though blog-innapropriate) story behind it, dressing up as oneself as seen on Google Maps is totally acceptable.  And highly amusing, for those who are aware of the back-story.
  24. Watching rugby in the library is incredibly stressful and difficult – Due to a heavy workload during the Autumn Tests and the Six Nations, I managed to end up having to watch most of the matches whilst working in the library.  Have you ever tried to keep quiet whilst watching a rugby match?  It’s remarkably difficult and really quite stressful.  Needless to say, not a whole lot of work ended up getting done.  Woops.
  25. There are approximately 562 different uses for chopsticks – The flat that I lived in for the last three years came with several sets of chopsticks.  I think I might have used them as eating implements a grand total of once.  However, I discovered that chopsticks are, in fact, incredibly useful.  Stirring jugs of Pimm’s, loosening out curls if the hairdresser was a little too enthusiastic with the hairspray, fishing teabags out of the bottom of a Thermos flask, making mojitos, stirring paint, poking holes in the tops of muffins to fill them with rum and pushing fairy lights into empty champagne bottles are but a few alternate uses (ok, so 562 may be a slight exaggeration). 

So there we have it – 25 of the crucial life lessons that I’ve learnt at University.

Wherever in the world you are, enjoy the rest of your day!

PS – As a reward for getting to the end of this mammoth post, here’s a special bonus life lesson: If you are staying in a B&B or hotel, always close the curtains – There were B&Bs across the street from our flat.  Apparently people didn’t realise that if they could see into our flat, we could also see into their room.  A surprising number of people didn’t shut the curtains, you can imagine the rest yourself.

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Happy (belated) World Gin Day 2011!

Yes, that’s right, yesterday was World Gin Day!  In case you don’t already know, I’m quite a big gin fan, so I don’t think I don’t have to tell you quite how enthusiastic I was about a whole day dedicated to gin…  (By the way, if you don’t like gin, I wouldn’t really bother with the rest of this post.)

I obviously wasn’t going to let World Gin Day slip away without making something gin-related.  I was originally going to do something in the form of baked goods (for a change), but none of my fellow gin-lovers are currently here in St Andrews, and I feel that eating an entire batch of gin-packed baked goods of whatever description all by myself smacks somewhat of alcoholism and very much of loneliness.  So I’ve had to change my plans a little.  Never fear though, I’ve still got something exciting for you…

I needed to find something that could either be made in an individual portion or could be stored for a while.  I was drawing a blank on something that I could make an individual portion of, which left finding something that I could make and have a little bit of today and then store for a while until everybody gets back.  I decided to make a Gin & Tonic granita, which is basically a Slush Puppie (remember those?  I haven’t one in forever!) but alcoholised.  With the bonus that it can be stored in the freezer, though it might require some vigorous stirring to break up the crystals after a few days.

As I was looking up G&T granita recipes, a rather genius idea hit me: I could add some of the cucumber liqueur that I’ve not really sure what to do with.  It goes wonderfully with regular G&Ts, so there’s no particular reason why it wouldn’t work in a granita.  This turned out to be a rather inspired idea, if I do say so myself…  I thoroughly enjoyed my portion of the granita, and the rest is currently sitting quite contently in the freezer, waiting for Kat and Craig to drop by, or anybody else with a penchant for gin.  I only ran into one issue whilst making this: it took forever.  The recipe that I adapted stated that it required 2 hours of total freezing time.  However, the extra alcohol in the liqueur in addition to the increased quantity of gin that I used meant that the first ice crystals started forming in the granita about 4 hours after going into the freezer.  I totally forgot to take the higher alcohol content into account, and in total, the granita required a stint of about 9 hours in the freezer.  Nine hours.  Which is why this post is going up today rather than yesterday (I didn’t have time to sort the photos out last night).  Woops.  On the plus side, at least that means that you can just pop in the freezer and go about your daily business and just check on it from time to time when you’re home, without worrying about it.

Gin & Tonic granita

Makes about 1 litre
Adapted from delicious. online

The granita takes a while to freeze, so it would probably be a good idea to make it the day before you’re planning on serving it and then just stir it up enthusiastically just before serving up.  Although I’ve suggested serving it as a dessert in martini glasses or tumblers, the granita would also work perfectly served as an amuse-bouche in shot glasses.  It’s also quite yummy to drink when it melts.  Obviously, make sure you use a good quality gin because you’ll definitely be able to taste it – I chose Bombay Sapphire because it’s very aromatic.

Ingredients

100ml water
200g caster sugar
175ml gin (I used Bombay Sapphire)
75ml cucumber liqueur
500ml tonic water (without saccharin)
Cucumber slices, to garnish

Directions

1.  Heat the water and sugar together in a large saucepan for about 5 mins until all the sugar has dissolved.  Remove from the heat and mix in the gin, cucumber liqueur and tonic.  Allow to cool a little before pouring into a freezer-proof container and allowing to cool fully to room temperature before freezing.

2.  After about 4 hours, remove and break up any ice crystals that have formed using a fork, before returning to the freezer.  After about 1 ½ hours, remove the granita and once again break up any ice crystals up with a fork before returning to the freezer.  Repeat after 1 ½ hours, and once again after a further 1 ½ hours.  Just before serving, break the ice crystals up to Slush Puppie consistency, and serve in martini glasses or tumblers, each garnished with a slice of cucumber.

Enjoy!  (And just pretend it’s still World Gin Day!)

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Cocktail in a macaron: Gin & Tonic

Today is Craig’s birthday, so Happy Birthday Craig (when you eventually get round to reading this)!

Now Craig is a big fan of gin, so obviously his birthday present just had to be something gin-related.  I decided to attempt to make Gin & Tonic macarons because I think macarons make brilliant presents – they’re something a little different, they look lovely, and I haven’t yet come across any good ones in St Andrews.   They also involve gin, so I was pretty sure they would go down well.  Providing they were tasty, obviously.

I wasn’t sure exactly how to go about making them though.  The gin would be incorporated into the filling, along with some lime zest and juice – that was straightforward enough.  I decided that a white chocolate ganache would be the best type of filling, simply because I find that a ganache can take more liquid (read: alcohol) than a buttercream.  The tricky part was working out how to incorporate the tonic.  I realised at this point that I actually had no idea what tonic tastes like.  I drink it all the time in G&Ts, but never on its own.  So I tasted it, and I think Kat’s description of “like bitter lemon and seltzer water” is pretty apt.  I can’t say I’m much of a fan.  So how on Earth was I going to include the tonic element?  I made myself a G&T (all in the name of culinary research, of course) and realised that whenever Kat, Craig or I make a G&T, the amount of gin that goes in effectively covers any taste the tonic might have contributed to the drink.  So I decided to add a bit of lemon zest, in an attempt to faintly echo the bitter lemon element of the tonic, but I felt that would be enough, because let’s be honest here, it’s all about the gin.

So how did they turn out?  Well, they were gin-y and lime-y.  And thus I think I can say that they were yummy.  The tonic flavour may have gotten slightly lost, but well, the tonic in a G&T is really there just to dilute the gin a little, so I don’t think that matters too much.  And anyway, Craig did manage to guess that they were supposed to be G&T macarons just from smelling them, so they can’t have been that far off.

Gin & Tonic macarons

Makes about 60 small macarons (so about 120 shells of 1.5/2 cm diameter)
Macaron shell recipe based on Mad About Macarons!
Ganache recipe adapted from Pure Gourmandise

I added a speckled pattern to the shells just for a little bit of colour.  Since the only colourful thing in a G&T is the lime, I went for green, which coincidentally also matches the bottle of Gordon’s gin that I used.  Make sure you leave these at least 24h before eating them, in order to allow the ganache to soak into the shells a bit.  They can be stored in an airtight box in the fridge – just remember to bring them out at least 30mins before eating them, so that you can appreciate the flavour fully!

Ingredients

For the macaron shells:
100g aged egg whites (age them for 4-5 days in a sealed jar in the fridge)
66g caster sugar
120g ground almonds
180g icing sugar
Green food colouring (optional)

For the ganache:
40g single cream
150g white chocolate
40ml gin
Zest of 1 lime + 1 tsp of lime juice
Zest of ½ lemon

Directions

To make the macaron shells:
1. Line three or four flat baking sheets with baking paper and set aside.  Prepare a piping bag with a plain nozzle.

2.  Blend the icing sugar and ground almonds together (don’t skip this step!)  Sift them through a medium sieve into a large bowl.  Sift them again if necessary.

3.  Make the French meringue by whisking the egg whites at room temperature (take them out of the fridge 2h beforehand) to glossy firm peaks, gradually adding the caster sugar.

4.  Incorporate the French meringue into the dry ingredients using a large spatula and mix well.  Now work on the mixture by pressing down well with the spatula, going backwards and forwards, to press out the oxygen from the egg whites (this is the macaronnage stage), until you have a smooth mixture.  Don’t do this for longer than 5 minutes.  The result should be a soft and brilliant mixture that forms a “ribbon” on the spatula.

5.  Transfer the mixture to the previously prepared piping bag and pipe out the desired size of rounds (mine were about 1.5-2cm in diameter).  Press the nozzle right down on the paper and finish off with a flourish to obtain a nice round.  Leave a good space between them so they can spread out.

6.  Leave to set for about 30mins (this helps to produce the feet).  Preheat the oven to fan-oven 160°C.  Pour a little green food colouring into a small dish, dip a paintbrush in the colouring (a clean one that isn’t used for actual painting, obviously), and flick the colouring across the shells whilst they set.  When you can feel that a skin has formed over the top, they are ready to go into the oven.

7.  Bake one tray at a time in the centre of the oven for about 8-10mins (to see if they are done, touch the top – if there is a “wobble,” leave them in 2-3mins longer).  Leave them to cool on the baking trays, and when they are completely cool, carefully remove them and pair them up by size.

To make the ganache filling:
8.  Whilst the macarons are setting and cooking, make the ganache filling.  Heat the cream, and as soon as it starts boiling, add the white chocolate (broken into pieces), the gin, the lime and lemon zest and the 1 tsp of lime juice, and mix with a wooden spoon until smooth (don’t let it boil or you will boil off the alcohol and we wouldn’t want that now, would we?).  Allow the mixture to thicken in the fridge (or freezer if necessary).

9.  Once cool, use a teaspoon to deposit a good dollop of  ganache onto one shell of each pair.  Then place the partner shell on top, and use a slight twisting motion to push the shell down onto the filling.

10.  Leave in the fridge for at least 24h before serving (I know, it’s difficult!  But so worth it!!)

Enjoy!

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Blueberry, gin, gin & more gin cupcakes

We made these on the same evening that we tasted the blueberry gin, to use up the gin-soaked blueberries.  Our original intention had been to make blueberry and lime cupcakes and add a tiny drop of gin to the icing as we thought it would pair them up quite well with the Blueberry G&Ts that we were planning to eat them with.  All very reasonable-sounding so far…

Now, the blueberries had been soaking for over two weeks – hardly surprising then that they were very gin-y.  In fact, they were more like little solidified bubbles of gin than anything else.  For some obscure reason, I was put in charge of dosing the gin into the icing and, as usual, I got slightly over-enthusiastic – let’s just say that even after an hour-long stint in the freezer, the icing had not set into anything remotely resembling buttercream consistency.  No big deal though – we just spooned it all over the cupcakes, scattered the remaining blueberries over the top, and enthusiastically made a thorough mess eating our blueberry and lime gin cupcakes (I’m serious – there was gin icing all over the place: the kitchen, the coffee table, the carpet, the DVD remote, ourselves).  Proof that minor baking disasters can actually turn out to be strokes of genius…  Or should that be “ginius”?  (Oh aren’t I witty?)

Blueberry & gin cupcakes

Makes 12
Slightly adapted from Butcher, Baker

These were super easy to make (aside from the minor fail regarding the buttercream icing, which was entirely my own fault, and wasn’t such a fail in the end).  If you want to make an actual buttercream icing that you can pipe onto the cupcakes, then just use ½ tbsp of lime juice and perhaps 1 tbsp of gin instead of the quantities given here, but use the same method.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes:
100g self-raising flour
100g caster sugar
100g butter
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
85g gin-soaked blueberries (if you don’t want to make blueberry gin, soak the blueberries overnight in just enough gin to cover them)
Zest of 1 lime

For the gin “glaze”:
90g unsalted butter
180g icing sugar
1 tbsp lime juice (use the juice from the lime that you zested for the cupcakes)
5-8 tbsp gin (depends how gin-y you would like your glaze)
Some blueberries to decorate (optional)

Directions

1.  Pre-heat the oven to 180°C and line a muffin tin with 12 paper cases, or set out 12 silicone muffin moulds.

2.  Beat the softened butter and caster sugar together in a bowl until light and fluffy.  Mix in the eggs one at time, followed by the vanilla extract.  Carefully fold in the flour, then the lime zest and the (drained) blueberries.

3.  Spoon the batter into the prepared liners, filling each about ⅔.  Bake for 15-20 mins until golden and risen.  Allow to cool on a wire rack (if using silicone moulds, leave them in for a couple of minutes so they can set before removing them from the moulds).

4.  Prepare the “glaze” whilst the cupcakes are cooling.  Beat the softened butter, icing sugar (it’s easier if you sift it first), lime juice and gin in a bowl until well blended.  Once the cupcakes have cooled completely, arrange them on a plate, spoon (or pipe) the icing over the top, and scatter with blueberries to decorate.

Enjoy!

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