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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Mullvember Sunday, Nov 17 2013 

We’ve all heard of Movember by now, with many people sponsoring several friends who are growing a moustache in support of prostate research.

But as winter truly beds down, it’s also the season of spices – as discussed on this blog at length already – with many looking forward to Christmas and the rounds of mulled wine (usually red wine heated with several spices, such as cinnamon, cloves, mace and star anise, and citrus fruits such as oranges or lemons) that will surely follow. The tradition is older than we might think, having originated in ancient Rome, and today there are several variants, including Smoking Bishop (which uses both port and red wine as well as spices and citrus fruits), German and Austrian Glühwein (which is made according to the traditional method, but sometimes has vanilla or even a shot of rum added), and Caribou (the Canadian version, which adds maple syrup).

Naturally, people can buy the whole spices individually and make their own mulled wine from scratch, but enough prefer to buy from packets to make this a big business. Schwartz’s version, for example, uses allspice, cassia, dried orange peel, nutmeg and cloves. However you choose to make your mulled wine, though, Prezzybox’s 1.8-litre mulled wine pot with warmer is an appealing way of serving it. Made in Sweden, it keeps the mulled wine warm on the table in a white stoneware pot with a red snowflake design, thanks to the tea-light heating area underneath.

But what if you’re not drinking this winter? Happily, there are plenty of non-alcoholic options. As well as my recent discovery of chai tea lattes, I’ll never stop extolling the virtues of my favourite spiced berry cordial. Plus, if you’re trying to stay off the sugar and caffeine, there are plenty of other choices, such as Twinings’ Winter Spice infusion (which contains cinnamon, liquorice, rosehip, blackberry and hibiscus) or Teapigs’ spiced winter red tea (using rooibos tea as a base, it builds up the spices with ginko, cinnamon, ginseng and cloves). Other popular alternatives include mulled apple (or cranberry, or grape) juice, mulled cider (or mead), mulled rum punch, and mulled ginger wine.

How far you sweeten all of these is up to you, but it can also depend on the country where it’s being served: in France, for example, it’s unlikely to ever be very sweet, while in Turkey, sweet red wine is used to begin with before even more sugar is added.

But whatever you’re drinking, I wish you a super spicy festive season – and not too many hangovers.

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