Ferret Food Monthly: October 2016 Wednesday, Oct 12 2016 

Reviving Ferret Food Monthly after a loooooooooooong hiatus…

Connected cup brings drinks

A little alcohol-based news for you now! Malibu has invented a cup that will enable you to order more drinks without ever leaving the dancefloor. Say bye-bye to the bar queue and twist the base of the cup to have your drink brought straight to you. An industry first, the Malibu Coco-nect cup (shaped, predictably, like a coconut) uses wifi and RFID technology to send drinks orders to the bar and pinpoint your location. Once the order has been accepted, a light at the bottom of the vessel changes colour, and when your drink is ready, the base of the cup flashes to let the server know where you are once they are in the vicinity. Ten prototype cups were trialled this summer with the system set to be rolled out further in 2017 – meaning that you’ll never have to miss a moment of the fun. To watch a video of the cup in action, click here.

cacao-picSweet like chocolate

In other news, chocolate actually burns fat now. Yes, really. We’ve known for a while now that high-cacao chocolate is good for you (at least 70% cocoa solids) and this just adds one more benefit to the list. According to Callum Melly of BodyIn8.com, cacao is rich in flavanols and polyphenols, which can prevent cardiovascular disease, reduce the risk of stroke, improve circulation, reduce ‘bad’ cholesterol and prevent hardening of the arteries. Drinking hot cacao before a meal helps us to consume fewer calories during the day and leads to a natural calorie deficit and weight loss. Furthermore, cacao contains MAO inhibitors which can suppress your appetite. To get the maximum benefits, try cacao nibs or even 100% cacao chocolate. If nothing else, cacao is rich in anandamide (for a sense of euphoria), phenethylamine (endorphin trigger and aphrodisiac), and magnesium (to protect against osteoporosis and diabetes as well as lowering blood pressure), and can even boost serotonin levels (for stress relief). So by all accounts – come, fill the cup!

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Gin o’clock Tuesday, Aug 20 2013 

It’s like Pimm’s o’clock, but with gin.

Keeper is not a big gin and tonic fan. However, I’ve always had a soft spot for a sneaky G&T, particularly on slightly stressful budget airline journeys – or, like today, right after being forced to spend an hour with a speeding metal box on wheels and a bunch of homicidal maniacs (yep, you’ve guessed it – learning to drive in France is no picnic!).

So naturally I was looking forward to trying this:

A little bit more expensive than normal gin at something approaching £18 a bottle, I was swayed by the potentially seductive flavourings of Earl Grey tea and lemon in my G & T. Surely that bergamot twist would provide something different in my drink – plus, I’m a sucker for exclusivity, and the fact that this is only available at Waitrose and formulated specially by one of Britain’s top chefs…well, who could resist?

Sadly, I should have done. It’s not that it doesn’t taste nice. It does. BUT IT JUST TASTES LIKE NORMAL GIN.

Yesterday I tried it as a simple one-shot, one-unit measure (that’s 25ml) mixed with 100ml-125ml of tonic, and was underwhelmed. So today I upped the measure of gin slightly to 30ml (just under what you get in the pub apparently), thinking maybe I just hadn’t been cavalier enough with the alcohol. However, this too was to no avail – and frankly, if it is any different, I don’t really want to have to keep upping the measure just to find this out, or (worse maybe) to have to drink it straight up. Firstly, as mentioned, this gin doesn’t come cheap, and secondly, a 25ml shot is already one unit of alcohol. Women are only supposed to drink 12 units a week, and while I’m confident that I rarely (if ever) exceed this, I don’t want to start upping my tolerance again (at uni I built up quite a high tolerance and it got me nowhere good). Plus, I’m trying to lose weight again, and while this may happen naturally a bit when I return to work in 2 weeks’ time, I somehow don’t think you’re supposed to cancel out the 300 calories you just burnt off at the gym with repeated G&T tastings. (For what it’s worth, 35ml of gin contains about 70 calories.)

So all in all a disappointment. I’ll just have to set my sights on my next alcoholic adventures – a bottle of port with the family at Christmas…!

Pimm’s o’clock Tuesday, Jul 9 2013 

For many from the UK, the signal of a British summer is something like this:

pimms

While perhaps nothing can replace the original Pimm’s N°1, they have come out with another blend that could be approaching genius status this summer:

At £16 for a 75cl bottle, it’s only marginally more expensive than the normal Pimm’s (perhaps thanks to its ‘special edition’ status). Sadly, they haven’t sent me a free bottle (yet…Pimm’s PR, are you reading this?! :-p ). Premixed cans (Pimms Blackberry and Elderflower with lemonade) in a 250ml size are also reportedly available, although I haven’t spotted any yet. I tried some of my bottle as a pre-lunch apéritif with some ice-cold lemonade and fresh blackberries, and can happily confirm its deliciousness. I just fear that my supplies of it may go down even more quickly than my supplies of normal Pimm’s, as it’s even easier to prepare: rather than messing around with all that chopping, you just throw in a few blackberries and some ice cubes and you’re away.

Pimm’s o’clock may have just made itself an even more frequent occurrence in my life this summer. Oh dear…

Student days Wednesday, Nov 7 2012 

Either that’s a really tiny bottle of Bacardi, or a reeeeeeeally big glass of Coke…

Whenever I pass through the duty-free area at the airport, a number of things catch my eye…usually including the giant Toblerones. However, on this occasion I also picked up a couple of miniatures for my mixing pleasure, and tonight the Bacardi is the star of the show.

Ahh, Bacardi and Coke, how I’ve missed you. You remind me of my student days.

I first went out on a proper “student” night out aged 17 when I went to visit my friend Katie for the weekend. She was a year older and had just started at Middlesex. Having sneaked into the club with no issue, I was then asked what I wanted to drink. Suspecting that a glass of Sauvignon Blanc might not go down amongst a load of lairy students in the Walkabout club, I seem to recall that I shrugged and said “I dunno”. Katie then took the liberty of ordering me something along the lines of a Bacardi and Coke, and so my voyage into the world of student mixers began.

I’ve moved on since then, but my sister and I usually indulge in a Malibu and Coke whenever we’re back home at my parents’, for old times’ sake (not that this was something we ever ritually drank with them, but they don’t like Malibu and were never that bothered about underage drinking). Jack Daniels and Coke, and Southern Comfort and Coke, are also old favourites of mine, acting as a debased form of Proust’s madeleine, transporting me back to student nights out in a trice, whether it’s drunken times on a sticky floor singing Hey Jude with strangers, or sitting with friends in a karaoke bar.

But this is not my only figurative return to my student world tonight, as I also threw together a shepherdess pie for my dinner (resulting in one portion for tonight and three lunches for next week – RESULT). This was one of the many recipes I amassed before heading off to university, having decided that when I got there I would turn vegetarian. Some of the recipes I tried during that time were frankly horrible. But some I have kept, and they still form part of my diet today (which is still a majority vegetarian diet, even here in the land of meat and entrails).

I share the recipe with you here today, as it is dead cheap to make, will make you several meals, keep you going for a long time after you’ve had a portion, and will give you at least 2 or 3 of your five a day in a single serving. Oh, and it tastes nice. I can’t remember where it came from, or I would credit it. But if you recognise it, rest assured that I remain indebted to its creator.

SHEPHERDESS PIE
(serves 6-8)

Put 800g of chopped peeled potato (can be sweet or normal, or a mix), onto the boil. Chop the pieces quite small so that they will cook more quickly. Meanwhile, sauté one chopped onion in 2tbsp olive oil for about 5 minutes. Stir in 2 chopped carrots and 1 chopped courgette and cook for a further 5 minutes. Add 1 tin of tomatoes, 1tbsp of tomato purée, a pinch of mixed herbs, 200g of sweetcorn and 400g pulses (your choice). Bring to the boil, and simmer for 10 minutes. Check the potatoes, and when they are done, drain and mash them. Place the vegetable mixture into a casserole dish, and spread the mashed potato carefully over. Sprinkle over grated cheese to taste, and bake for 30 minutes at 180°C. Eat and enjoy! The extra portions freeze and defrost well for handy microwaveable work lunches.

More of my (semi-)healthy student staples:

  • pasta with lentil and red pepper sauce
  • cheese on toast
  • baked potato with baked beans
  • chickpea curry
  • stir fry

Sherry Saturday, Jul 9 2011 

Intrigued by recent articles on Jancis Robinson’s excellent website, I decided to try Spanish sherries. I also thought they would be a good match for summery food, especially a pork pie recipe I had my eye on.

Here is the pork pie, which was rather time-consuming but fun to make, and also very good to eat.

Below the pie is a Piedra Luenga organic fino from Bodegas Robles (about 10 euros for 50cl at Lavinia). Although not technically a Sherry (it is made in a similar fashion and also in Andalucia), it provided an excellent match for the pie, as well as for paella and Ossau-Iraty cheese.

More recently, we also had the pleasure to sample this excellent dry amontillado sherry from Waitrose (about £9), smuggled by Ferret. It was really similar in taste to the Piedra Luenga (nutty aromas, savoury finish) and provided a good match for mushroom risotto and even sardines. We also tried it with cheddar, but the pairing was not as successful as others we have tried.

Maybe a Rivesaltes would have been a better match, like this 21 year old Rivesaltes from Domaine de Rancy, shown here in excellent company.

On the whole, I often find these little-known “fortified” wines provide excellent value for money, offering lingering, complex flavours.