Hot buttered rum batter

For years, I thought I didn’t like hot buttered rum very much. An oily smear of butter floating on a thin pool of rum-flavoured hot water – nobody’s idea of fun. And then last winter, I saw someone in a restaurant at Lake Tahoe (Ciera at the Montbleu hotel – pricey but pleasant) drinking a creamy, hot, cinnamon-smelling glass of something wonderful. I asked the waiter what it was – hot buttered rum. I ordered a glass: rich and buttery, spicy, full of heat and kick from the rum, and silky smooth. How did they get it to emulsify in the glass like that? The waiter said he wasn’t allowed to give me a recipe, but did say that the chef made it with a sort of batter he prepared using butter and ice cream, and kept it in the freezer. It’s the ice cream which makes the mixture, butter and all, emulsify so pleasingly and creamily in the glass (or mug, if you’re at home); and a tub you’ve made for yourself will keep for months in the freezer, so it’s an excellent thing to have on hand for surprise guests. As far as Christmas/winter drinks go, this one’s approximately 100% bad for you (do not do what I did last night and have four of them in a row if you don’t want to feel a bit unwell), which unfortunately means it’s also about 100% delicious.

I made up a few different sets of batter from recipes I found on the Internet. None of them really hit the spot; in common with a lot of American recipes, I found most of them very, very sweet and a bit bland, relying on the vanilla ice cream for much of their flavour. The recipe below is my take on things, rather less sugary than most of the US recipes. I’ve also used maple syrup along with soft brown sugar for its flavour; and I’ve spiced quite aggressively, especially when it comes to the nutmeg, which has a wonderful affinity with rum. Allspice, like the rum, is Jamaican in origin, and works incredibly well here. And don’t save this mixture just for dolloping in your hot rum and water: as I write this, I’m drinking a lump of the stuff dissolved in a strong mug of coffee, and it’s heavenly.

Things like this make winter a bit less grim.

To make just over a litre of batter to keep in the freezer, you’ll need:

500ml vanilla ice cream
500g salted butter, softened
200g soft brown sugar
200ml maple syrup
1½ tablespoons allspice
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 whole nutmeg, grated

Let the ice cream sit at room temperature until it’s the texture of whipped cream. (You can also make this once the ice cream is completely melted, but I prefer the lighter texture you can achieve using a half-melted tub.) In a large bowl, use an electric whisk to cream together the butter, brown sugar and maple syrup until you have a thick, fluffy mixture. Dump the spices on top with the ice cream and continue to whisk for about five minutes, until the batter is smooth and light. Transfer to containers for freezing.

When you come to make up your drink, just put a dollop of the mixture at the bottom of a mug or glass (I like about three heaped teaspoons in a small mug – your mileage may vary) and add a measure of rum with a small pinch of salt. The salt won’t make the drink salty, but it will act to lift the buttery flavour. Pour over water straight from the kettle to fill the mug, stir until the batter is dissolved, sit down in front of the fire and get drinking.

Roast duck with prune and pancetta stuffing

If you ever find yourself doing a Christmas dinner for just two people, you’ll find you could do a lot worse than to roast a duck. It must be the weather and the dark evenings, but I’ve got a lot of time for some of the more Christmas-tending ingredients at the moment, which is how I came to stuff this bird with prunes, pancetta and allspice, alongside some Savoy cabbage lightly sautéed in bacon fat with chestnuts fried to a crisp on the outside (very easy – use vacuum sealed chestnuts or roast your own, fry them in bacon fat until gold and starting to crisp on the outside, then throw in the cabbage, stirring for a few minutes until it’s all wilted and coated with fat), a great mound of mashed potatoes spiked with nutmeg, and a cherry and port gravy. Apologies for the picture quality. I’d been at the port.

If you are feasting, one medium-sized duck split between two people makes a spectacular and plump-making meal. The bird might look big when you buy it, but it’ll lose a lot of mass when you roast it and its layers of fat render off. A duck’s breasts are also much less muscular than a chicken’s, so there will be less meat than you might expect – but you will end up with a nice big jar of duck fat that you can put in the fridge when you’ve finished, so it’s not all bad.

I’ve stuffed the bird’s cavity with a sweet and spicy breadcrumb mixture. It looks a bit dry when you pack it into the duck, but the bird will baste the stuffing with fat and juices as it roasts, and you’ll find you have a savoury and tender stuffing at the end of the cooking time. We ate the lot in one go. This is a special meal for a special occasion – but I found that it’s also perfect for an ordinary winter’s Wednesday night when you’re feeling all loved-up.

To serve two, you’ll need:

Duck and stuffing
1 medium duck with giblets
100g soft white breadcrumbs
10 soft prunes
10 spring onions
150g pancetta cubes
1½ teaspoons ground allspice
A generous amount of salt

Duck giblets
500ml water or good chicken stock
200ml port
200ml cherry juice
1 tablespoon plain flour
1 tablespoon soft butter
A grating of nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 220°C. Remove the giblets from the inside of the duck along with any poultry fat in the cavity – you can just pull the fat away from the body using your fingers. Use it to make gratons for a cook’s treat if you fancy.

Saute the pancetta cubes (use lardons of bacon if you can’t find any pancetta) in a dry pan until they have given up their fat and are turning crispy. In a mixing bowl, stir the cooked pancetta, with any fat, into the dry breadcrumbs, and add the raw spring onions, chopped small, with the prunes, quartered, and the allspice. You won’t need any salt; there is plenty in the pancetta.

Stuff the mixture into the cavity of the duck, packing it in firmly, and seal the open end. Some sew their ducks up; I like to use a few toothpicks to keep the cavity closed, which is quicker and less messy.

Prick the duck’s skin all over with a fork, rub the whole bird with about a tablespoon of salt and put on a rack in a roasting tin. (The rack is there to stop the duck from sitting and cooking in its own fat. If your rack is a very shallow one, be prepared to drain the fat from the bird a couple of times as it cooks.) Put in the hot oven, turning the temperature down to 180°C after 20 minutes. Continue to roast for an additional 35 minutes per kilo (15 minutes per pound). Rest for 15 minutes in a warm place, uncovered, before carving.

While the duck roasts, prepare the gravy. Begin by making a giblet stock (I used a home-made chicken stock as the base for the giblet stock, which might be overkill, but it did taste fantastic) by simmering the giblets very gently in 500ml water or good chicken stock for 1 hour in an open, medium-sized saucepan, skimming off any scum that rises to the top. Strain the resulting stock – it should have reduced by about a quarter.

Add the cherry juice and port to the saucepan, and bring the heat up a bit – it should be chuckling rather than giggling. Reduce the mixture in the pan by about half. When the duck comes out of the oven to rest, mix the flour and butter together until you have a smooth paste, and whisk it into the gravy in the pan over a medium flame. Keep whisking until the gravy becomes thicker and glossy. Grate over some nutmeg and taste for salt and pepper.

The duck will have a crisp skin and a light, savoury spiced stuffing. Slosh the gravy all over your plate and get tucked in.

Bombay new potatoes

Here’s the recipe I promised last week to use up the other half of that curry paste. I particularly like new potatoes in this sort of dry curry; their waxy texture and delicate flavour works very well against the aromatic spicing, and leaving the skins on helps them finish with a nice crisp.

600g new potatoes
Half of Friday’s curry paste
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
Flavourless oil or ghee to fry
Fresh coriander to garnish

If you didn’t cook the peas keema, Friday’s curry paste was made with 1 peeled bulb of garlic, 10 spring onions, 1 fat piece of ginger, about 5cm long and 4 green chillies. I used half of it for the peas keema and the other half for this recipe, which makes a fantastic accompaniment for the lamb and peas. If you’re only cooking one of the recipes, either make up a whole batch of curry paste and freeze half, or just halve the amounts.

A few hours before you cook the meal, steam the new potatoes for 25 minutes, drain and leave in the saucepan to cool completely. When cold, chop them in half (or quarters, if yours are large).

When you are ready to start cooking, stir the turmeric into the curry paste. Bring a couple of tablespoons of oil or ghee to temperature in a large, non-stick saucepan over a medium flame, and sauté the whole fennel seeds in the hot oil for a few seconds. Add the curry paste (now bright yellow) and fry, stirring all the time, for a couple of minutes. Tip in the potatoes with a large pinch of salt and keep frying, stirring every now and then, for about 10 minutes until the potatoes are crusty and golden. Serve immediately. These potatoes are also extremely good cold.

Peas keema – keema mattar

Since I made that rice pudding, Indian food, and especially the Indian food I used to eat at friends’ houses when I was a kid, has been much on my mind. Here in the UK, the cuisine of India has embedded itself into the national consciousness – the Victorians were currying things from their new empire with glee, thrilled to discover a way to disguise the flavour of last week’s mutton; surveys done nowadays have demonstrated that the nation’s favourite dish is a Chicken Tikka Masala (something you’d never find in India – it’s a dish that’s evolved over here all on its own); my parents’ fridge was never innocent of at least one jar of Sharwood’s or Patak’s chutney in the 80s. I remember with great pleasure visits to my schoolfriend Gayatri’s house, where her Mum, an outstandingly good home cook, would make us saucepans full of sweet, milky masala tea, sneak us sticky, sugary halva while we played in the garden, and serve up about five different curries with rice when it came to mealtime, all different and all wonderful.

Peas keema was a regular feature on the lunch table. It’s delicious – make plenty, because it freezes very successfully. I’ve made a curry paste which serves (with the addition of different spices) as the base for both this and the Bombay potato recipe I’ll post on Monday, so hold out until then before you make this, or reduce the ingredients of the wet paste by half if you plan on cooking it over the weekend.

To serve four, you’ll need:

1 bulb garlic, peeled
10 spring onions
1 fat piece of ginger, about 5cm long
4 green chillies (I used Thai bird’s eye chillies – adjust amount and variety according to your taste – this amount is pretty spicy)
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
750g minced lamb
300g frozen petits pois
300ml stock
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 large handful fresh coriander (about 20g, if you’re measuring)
Juice of 1-2 lemons
Flavourless oil or ghee to fry

Begin by reducing the white parts of the spring onions (reserving the green), the ginger, the chillies and the garlic to a paste in the food processor. Reserve half of this mixture to form the base for the Bombay potatoes, which go very well with this dish.

Crush the cumin and coriander finely with a mortar and pestle, and stir them into the half of the paste you are using for this recipe with a generous pinch (use all the fingers of one hand for this) of salt.

Heat some oil over a medium flame and fry the paste for a couple of minutes until it is giving up its fragrance. I like to use a wok with a lid or a large Le Creuset casserole dish for this dish, which allows you plenty of room to work in. Add the minced lamb and fry, stirring continuously, until it is browned evenly (about 5 minutes). Add the stock, turn the heat down to a very low simmer, and put a lid on. Leave to simmer for 30 minutes while you chop the green parts of the onions into pea-sized pieces and mince the coriander.

At the end of the 30 minutes, taste for salt and add more if you need it (you probably will – this dish can take quite a lot of salt). Stir in the garam masala, the peas and the chopped green parts of the spring onion. Continue to simmer for a moment until the peas are no longer frozen, and add the juice of one lemon. Taste again – you may prefer more lemon juice (I like mine very sharp and usually use the juice of two lemons). Cover and cook for another 10 minutes until the peas are soft. They turn a slightly unfortunate colour with all this cooking, but they taste fabulous.

Take the pan off the heat skim off any fat. Stir in the chopped coriander and serve immediately.

Blogger’s lunch at Roast with Chapel Down Wines

If you were on Twitter yesterday at lunchtime…and for much of the afternoon…you’ll have noticed that four food and wine bloggers and I were furiously live-tweeting a lunch from Roast in London’s Borough Market, where wi-fi had been laid on to encourage us to look like total nerds as we ate. It’s a restaurant perfectly placed to make the most of the fresh produce from the market – the emphasis here is on seasonality and wonderfully British things like haggis, pork belly and black pudding. Matching wines were provided, at a rate of two with each of the five courses along with a beer and a welcoming glass of fizz, by Chapel Down Winery. I’ll recap my tweets and pictures from the meal below for those not on Twitter – as noted on the day, I’m afraid the quality of prose and photography drops as I work my way through the wine. And read down to the bottom, because the restaurant is offering blog readers a special menu with wines if you can make it to Roast on November 24, and Chapel Down have very generously provided a special offer on a case of wine for you as well.

Something of an experimental post, this – it’s the first meal I’ve live-tweeted. Let me know what you think. (It’s likely to remain a rare event: eating with a laptop on my knee is something I’d only do at a restaurant’s request or suggestion, ‘cos it made me feel geek-tacular.) You can read more of my daily ramblings on food if you follow me @liz_upton.

  • Ensconced at Roast, gargling Chapel Down fizz. Expect quality of tweets to worsten as the lunch progresses – 2 pairings/course. 1:14pm, Nov 10
  • See @wine_scribbler, @foodguardian, @thewinesleuth, @eatlikeagirl and @msgourmetchick for more on this lunch 1:16pm, Nov 10
  • Smoked, dry-cured Loch Etive trout w crab cakes at Roast – trout outstanding. @wine_scribbler says shallots overpowering the wine – I like ’em! 1:33pm, Nov 10

  • @wine_scribbler I’m actually preferring the Pinot Reserve – and I’m not sure why I’m tweeting this, given we’re sitting next to each other. 1.36pm, Nov 10
  • The smoked trout *was* a tricky thing to match wines with – next up, some haggis. 1:41pm, Nov 10
  • A bottle of Chapel Down porter has just appeared in front of me – currently 5 glasses on table…getting confused. 1:42pm, Nov 10
  • Bloody hell, this porter is good. Oak chips in barrel apparently – a winemaking tech and very splendidly spicy and tannic. 1:44pm, Nov 10
  • We’re all making Black Velvets with the Chapel Down Vint Res Brut and the CD Porter. Delicious and also slightly shaming. 1:53pm, Nov 10
  • Haggis and oxtail on celeriac/spud mash. Heaven, especially w a Black Velvet!

  • Just been given an obscenely good slice of grilled black pud to sample. Ramsey of Carluke in Lanarkshire – superb. 1:58pm, Nov 10
  • Leaving the red undrunk. This is *highly* unusual for me. 1:59pm, Nov 10
  • …and we pause briefly while we collect ourselves. Jealously guarding my glass of Black Velvet from the v attentive wine waiters. 2:02pm, Nov 10
  • @foodguardian is having trouble liveblogging because of his “Fisher Price phone”. I have no sympathy. 2:04pm, Nov 10
  • A wine made with the Bacchus grape (English) has just arrived. Rather excited. 2:09pm, Nov 10
  • I’m getting tuberose and rubber off this wine – Bacchus not a grape I know well, but v intriguing. 2:10pm, Nov 10
  • I lie – that was an 06 Pinot Blanc in an ident. glass. The Bacchus is actually weirdly sweet and unacidic – and v nice. 2:12pm, Nov 10
  • BTW, I think we should open a book on precisely when we are all going to be too pissed to continue tweeting. I say by course 4. 2:13pm, Nov 10
  • Roast’s signature dish – pork belly w mash spuds and apple sauce. Hubba – look at that crackling. 2:23pm, Nov 10
  • Pork belly outstanding – soft, tender meat, killer crackling. And there’s almost as much butter in this mash as at Robuchon. 2:25pm, Nov 10
  • Chatting to restaurant owner about these spuds, which I could happily *live* in. King Eds at the mo, but only because seasonal. 2:33pm, Nov 10 (On speaking to the chef later, I discovered that actually they’re Maris Piper year round. Damn good, anyway.)
  • Christ almighty. Apparently, portions usually x2 this size – that pic was just the *tasting* portion (of which I ate ½). 2:36pm, Nov 10
  • Winemaker a bit unconfident about what’s up next – UK dessert wines a bit difficult. This is pretty good, but more aperitif-y. 2:45pm, Nov 10
  • Spiced clementine custard w anise biscuits – pud like Grandma used to make. Chapel D Nectar gorgeous, but questionable match! 2:51pm, Nov 10

  • So I *really* like this Chapel Down Nectar, but not necessarily with food. The pannacotta underneath is fabboo. 2:54pm, Nov 10
  • You might notice that at this point in proceedings the quality of writing and photography is descending *fast*. Sorry. 🙂 3:01pm, Nov 10
  • And an 08 varietal English Pinot Noir. Chocolatey, dry, unoaked. Prolly my favourite of the Chapel Down wines so far. 3:07pm, Nov 10
  • Warm chestnut & pear cake w hot choc sauce. Melting, so excuse me while I eat. 3:18pm, Nov 10
  • Chef has emerged, with a light coating of sauce. 3:25pm, Nov 10
  • Chef’s belly tips – Stanley knife, rub salt & lemon, C230 for 30 mins, then down to 165 for 3 hours. 3:31pm, Nov 10
  • …And I’m shutting the computer down now. Feedback’s very welcome – how do you lot feel about live-tweeted lunches?

Roast and Chapel Down are offering a special menu with wine pairings for blog readers on November 24. They asked for our help in selecting three of these courses to point you at, and we ended up going for the menu below (with pairings selected by the folks at Chapel Down).

  • On arrival, a glass of Chapel Down Brut Rose
  • Ramsey of Carluke haggis with celeriac and oxtail sauce, with a glass of Chapel Down Rondo Regent Pinot Noir NV
  • Slow-roast Wicks Manor pork belly with mashed potatoes and Bramley apple sauce, served with a glass of Roast Bacchus Reserve 2007 (NB this will be the full sized portion, not the tasting portion from the pics above)
  • Spiced clementine custard with anise biscuits, served with a glass of Chapel Down Nectar 2007
  • Tea or coffee

With the wines, the menu will cost £44.50. If you want to book, call the restaurant on 0845 034 7300 and mention that you are booking for the Chapel Down Roast Bloggers’ Dinner on November 24.

Chapel Down are also offering readers a case of their Pinot Reserve 2004 for £99 for a case of six, including delivery to any UK mainland adddress. (A case usually retails at £150 plus delivery.) All you need to do is call the vineyard on 01580 763033, ask for Lizzie or Wendy and quote Blogger Offer.