Summer cocktails

Hot on the tail of two royal weddings, many drinks companies snapped up the chance to create new cocktails in celebration. But why save them just for the occasion of someone’s big day being projected onto a big screen? Here are some cracking cocktails to take you through the summer months:

  • Hertfordshire-based entrepreneur William Chase has teamed up with the Purl London bar to create Royal Jam: a mixture of apple gin, English strawberry conserve, lemon juice, lavender bitters and a splash of English sparkling wine. Serve in a bone china tea cup for the full ‘afternoon tea’ effect.
  • NUVO’s Sparkling Sunset runs as follows: 3oz NUVO Sparkling Liqueur, 3oz pineapple juice, a splash of fresh lime juice, and a finish of sliced fruit of your choice.
  • The Mobile Cocktail Company has come back with the Wedded Blisco cocktail, which despite the name is described as ‘characterised by elegance and simplicity’, and which is also based on strawberries, but instead adds to them Prosecco and Peruvian spirit Pisco, a dash each of lemon juice, sugar syrup and elderflower liqueur, and of course plenty of ice.
  • And finally, Pusser’s Rum have created the Royal Salute: a blend of 50ml Pusser’s Blue Label, 25ml ginger wine, 2-3 lime wedges, bitter lemon to taste, and a truckload of ice.

This is all without mentioning, of course, that France has recently overturned its 100-year-old absinthe ban. PRAISE BE. Drink up!

Coming down

After all of that you will almost certainly be wanting something a little more wholesome to help you recover from your hangover, and naturally the healthy food mafia are always on hand to help out with suggestions. A Texas researcher, for instance, suggests that blueberries, as well as being refreshing, may also help to fight obesity. “I wanted to see if using blueberry polyphenols could inhibit obesity at a molecular stage,” Shiwani Moghe says in a statement. “The lipid (fat) content in the control group was significantly higher than the content of the tissue given three doses of blueberry polyphenols.” Still a burgeoning area of research – but one perhaps hanging on for nonetheless.

Barbecue gathering dust and rust at the end of the garden?

Now that the sun is out again, it may be time to upgrade – and the latest facility is apparently not a standard BBQ but a stone bake oven for the garden. As much for the casual cook as the hardcore foodie, it allows the creation of delicious and adventurous outdoor meals. See for more 🙂

Always thought those baby food jars look like something you just threw up?

Yeah, me too. So why not just feed your little one what you would eat (minus the salt, of course)? There are plenty of books out there with recipes and advice to help, such as nutritionist Amanda Ursell’s Baby & Toddler Food Bible. It also provides a guide to your child’s nutrition until the age of four, and tips on how to handle picky eaters.

Sweets – the sweet, and not so sweet

Indian-inspired confectionery brand Devnaa could be the source of the perfect present or treat this year with its modern twist on traditional Indian sweets. The innovation is upped by the addition of artisan chocolate, and the contents of the gift sets range from chai masala milk chooclate and luxury barfi to pistachio, cardamom and saffron white chocolate. See for more.

Not so sweet is when you’re trying to diet and you’re confronted by a shelf of chocolate at the supermarket checkout. Alison Wetton, the CEO of All About Weight, is so concerned that she plans to call for legislation to have confectionery moved away from checkouts. And it isn’t all her imagination, either: even a recent EU-funded report, “A Junk-Free Childhood“, found that advertisers were still putting children’s health at risk despite promises to curb their activities.

The land of food and wine

Attempting to lure away Brits this summer to the land of food and wine (aka France) is former BBC Masterchef finalist Jim Fisher, who has set up his Famous Last Suppers cookery course at his cookery school in the Dordogne. Learning to cook dishes from the Titanic’s Final Banquet and Edward VIII & Wallis Simpson’s Abdication Dinner, to name but a few, is a surefire way to impress family and friends, while holidaying in France at the same time. The courses will begin in October 2011 and range from €220 for one day to nearly €1000 for an all-inclusive course lasting five days. Now that’s good eating!

Should you wish your stay in France to focus more on the oenological side of things, you could always try the various Portes Ouvertes (Open House) activities available in Bordeaux this summer. Riding Cars In Cadillac (August 19-21), for instance, involves a farmers’ market at La Closière, tasting workshops, and the chance to drive through the vineyards in vintage American cars. The MĂ©doc Marathon on September 10th cheers on 10,000 runners as they race between MĂ©doc and Pauillac, and the night before the race, the Château CastĂ©ra will host the Repas des Milles Pâtes dinner. The morning after, there is a 10km walk (the Balade de RĂ©cupĂ©ration), which could be more like a stagger by the end, as it involves tasting more of the region’s wines along the way. The Open House for Graves takes place on October 15-16, while the Open House for Sauternes takes place November 11-13.  Round off the year with the Portes Ouvertes for Loupiac (November 26-27) and Pessac-LĂ©ognan (December 4-5).

Closer to home, you could also try the Llanerch Vineyard Cookery School in Wales, which offers CookStart lessons for teenagers as well as wine tastings for the grownups.

Cordon Vert Chef of the Future 2011

The Vegetarian Society’s chef of the year (sponsored by Cauldron Foods) has recently been named as Jay Pindolia, who battled his way to the prize in a Masterchef-style cook-off. His Asian menu showed imagination and culinary knowledge in a winning combination of flavours, textures and presentation, and he has been rewarded with a Cordon Vert Diploma Scholarship worth over ÂŁ1500. If you think you can, try his winning menu for yourself at home:

  •  Toong Tong, Som Tum and Sushi  – a light spicy Thai salad with filo money bag and sushi
  •  Stuffed Spiced Tofu in Beer Batter on a bed of Stir Fried  Vegetables with Glazed Miso Aubergine
  • Lemongrass, Ginger and Kaffir Lime Leaf Baked Chocolate Cheesecake with Passion Fruit Sauce and White Chocolate Lychee

D’OH! I mean, woohoo!

Lamentably (or perhaps that should be ‘thankfully’), it is not Bart and Homer guiding us through the kitchen, but Michelin-starred restaurant Simpsons, whose recent Cook Book will be giving us an insight into Michelin-style dining with 60 original recipes. Aimed at amateur chefs and passionate foodies alike, it’s affordable at ÂŁ19.95 (available from Amazon and the Simpsons website) and will allow all to dazzle. The unstoppable Levi Roots has also recently released his new book, Spice It Up.

For an even more unusual book…

Combine business strategies with tasty cooking analogies by reading Business Cookery, by Hannah McNamara and Patrick Cook, which takes a quirky look at the world of business and its parallels with the world of food. It’s not as far-fetched as it sounds – after all, not knowing how to mix the right ingredients together can seriously hold back the growth of a business. If you’re still not sure, you can even download the first two chapters for free.