This year has been so bloody awful, that August & September saw me making tons of flavoured booze. It gives me something to look forward to as in two or three months time, the liqueurs will be ready and I can sit down on a Friday evening and have a nice home made cocktail and drawn my sorrows in it. This is my third liqueur so far and I'm delighted with the results.
There is one thing I would probably change in this recipe and that is that I decided to sliced the chillies instead of using them whole. While slicing them made the liqueur more evenly spicy, when it came to fishing the chillies out so the liqueur didn't get overly hot, I had to strain the whole thing through a cheese cloth, take out a gazillion of chilli slices and then put everything back into the jar, a little cumbersome. Next time, I'll probably use the whole chillies, just stem out and deseeded, that way, fishing them out will be easier.
If I was to give you a good piece of advise, is to invest in a few 1.5 litre Kilner glass Jars to keep making booze through the summer so you may have a happy winter! Berries and tropical fruits are plentiful during the summer months and it's a great way to use any excess at the time when they are at their best without making jam... although, once I strained the fruit from the liqueur, I'm planning to make some boozy jam too!
I had it on my instagram stories and loads of people have been asking for the recipe, so here it goes. Hope you enjoy it!
Most people have a story about lockdown: a friend learned basic Italian, another one learnt to play guitar, most of my social media friends made sour dough bread and got good at it; my coworker Liz and her partner did couple's yoga. Having so much time in our hands and no where to go and nothing to do, we turned to learning. The one commonality among us all, we all wanted to do something new.
For us, it was growing food. We have been trying to learn to grow our own food, we've tried it before but never seriously, always too many other things to do, not enough time, places to go, rushing around... lockdown gave us the motivation to tidy up two large raise beds we had gotten installed the year before that were a wonderful collection of weeds that kept the local bees happy. We went to task on it and by the end of March, we had the first few things planted: radishes, potatoes, onions... it took only a few weeks to get the first crop of radishes, we learned loads and 6 months into it, we have harvested potatoes, radishes, onions, squashes, French beans, beetroot, strawberries, chillies and tomatoes... now like most amateur growers, the concept of escalated planting never entered our minds. We planted everything at the same time and loads of it. As a result, I've been left with a gazillion of beetroot and this recipe is a result of having too much beetroot and loads of imagination, I hope you like it! Don't worry to much about the type of beetroot you're using, whatever you planted or can find, it's ok.
As August comes to a close and autumn descended on us all like a ton of bricks (I don't know you, but I had the heat on since Friday!) I came to the realisation that 2020 will be a write off in so many ways: environmental disasters of apocalyptic proportions, financial stress on the business side of things, health worries, mental strain, the societal descent into anarchy, the polarisation of masses, the end of democracies as we knew them, the loss of so many precious lives... it is all too much some days... but rather than getting bogged down on the horrid details, I've decided to officially declared 2020 void and start preparing for the celebrations I'll have kissing this bastard of a year good bye from the comfort of my own home with the other half and the nephew who lives with us.
I've recently become obsessed by infusing things: sugars, salts, ice-cream custards and of course, spirits, particularly Tequila & Mezcal. In April, our friends, Catherine & Fionnula gifted us a bag of freshly foraged elderflowers and I came running back home and made a litre of Elderflower Tequila Liqueur... It's just about ready now and I'm telling you, it's da bomb! - This got me thinking what else I could be doing with my blanco tequilas, which I often get gifts of and I don't drink, as I much prefer anejos or reposados, which are aged properly and have smoother taste. A batch of fresh raspberries was gotten and off I went into a world of joy and anticipation making this gorgeous Raspberry and Mexican Vanilla Tequila Liqueur. It takes no time and very little preparation to make it, but it must age in a dark, cool place for at least two months, but it's much better if you age it for three or four.
It's a perfect homemade gift for a special friend, it keeps for zonkers, there is no waste as when the liqueur is ready, you strain the fruit and the vanilla pod can be both used in other stuff, like a boozy raspberry jam, or a raspberry coulli, you can freeze the boozy berries and make an adult sorbet for a fancy occasion and the vanilla pod is perfectly usable as it is preserved in alcohol.
Since the liqueur is already sweeten, it's great to make instant cocktails: a good splash of this on a glass, top with some good quality tonic water, like Poacher's, which is not only delicious but also Irish, and a few ice cubes and off you go! It is also great to add over ice-cream, or to flavour home-made ice-cream, or to make sorbets... the downside, you must be patient and allow it to age and matured well before you drink it, but hey, it's something to look forward to in this awful, awful times!
Finally, the corona virus is real, please don't be using this recipe to host a house party, it's bollox of the highest order and plain irresponsible. Also, don't be an ass and wear a mask, you might be ok if you catch it, but others aren't as lucky as you. Some of us have underlined conditions and won't do well if we catch it. Stay home, take personal responsibility and save the world while watching Netflix and sipping on homemade cocktail, it is the simplest of things to do.
This recipe combines two of my favourite ingredients: Tamarind and De Arbol Chillies. Tamarind is very prevalent in Mexican sweets and in the cooking of the pacific regions in Mexico; it arrived during Colonial times and soon established itself as an easy crop that required little or no work. The bittersweet and tangy taste is a favourite of most Mexicans. You can buy the fresh pods, or buy the pulp with or without seeds; mixed with sugar or with sugar and chilli. It makes delicious 'aguas frescas' (a cold drink), sweets and snacks. My mother loves making this with a whole leg of pork, but I much prefer shoulder of pork.
I personally love tamarind in any shape or form, but this sauce is truly out of this world. I always cook it with pork, there's some amazing chemistry between the sweet fattiness of the meat and the spicy tanginess of the sauce that just sends ripples of joy through the mouth. I like the sauce pretty hot (life's for living, right?!), but if you are of a more tender disposition, maybe reduce the amount of chillies by half. Taste the sauce and decide if you want more heat, it only takes a few minutes to roast extra chillies if you want more, just remember there's no way back with heat, once you add it, you can't take it away. I have used this sauce on chicken and pork ribs too. I totally see if working on a rack of lamb too. I hope you like this as much as we do.
I love making this on a Sunday morning, just in time for Sunday lunch, I carve the shoulder in bite size chunks, baste them with leftover sauce, which is thick and delicious and serve this in the middle of the table with warm tortillas and a few toppings to make tacos. Any leftovers are amazing for tortas too! So, delicious!
During early lockdown, my timeline on social media was loaded with sourdough starters and banana bread loaves. It was everywhere! People were stuck at home, unable to go anywhere, so they turned to the kitchen to find comfort and reassurance. Ireland ran out of flour and yeast was like gold dust! Seriously, the first thing I cooked were chocolate, chilli, booze laced cookies! I called them dooms day cookies! I think I cooked more comfort food those first few weeks than I did in my entire time in Ireland!
After about 3 weeks, I sort of went back to normal, but I remember seeing the prominent Irish food critic Lucinda O'Sullivan posting on twitter two almost rotten bananas and asking for anything other than banana bread. My answer was simple: ice-cream! Ever since I was a little kid, I have been fascinated by ice-cream. When you think about it, it is magic, flavoursome, evocative, sentimental, daring, adventurous, but most of all, it is bloody delicious!
I can basically make ice-cream out of almost anything and contrary to what many people think, it is relatively easy to make. When it comes to flavours, the world is your oyster. A couple of days after, I myself found a bottle of double cream and three overly ripped bananas in my kitchen, and naturally, I went for it. Here are the results, hope you like this recipe as much as I do!
I make my ice-cream with an ice-cream machine, but you don't have to, I'll give you instructions in the steps to make it without one; however, let me play the devil's advocate for one second and tell you it is totally worth it to get one. The first ice-cream machine I bought was the Kenwood Ice-Cream maker from Argos for 30 quid, and believe you me, it is the best ice-cream maker I've ever had, compact and powerful and it lasted for years; the only drawback is that you have to pre-freeze the bowl, but I always kept the bowl in the freezer so when I fancy ice-cream, the bowl was ready. Eventually, I bought a more professional machine that had a condenser so no need to pre-freeze the bowl, but believe you me, until last week, I still had my Kenwood ice-cream maker as backup; during lockdown, I decided to send it to a home with two little boys who love making ice-cream and now, they get to discover the joys of watching it churn a couple of simple wholesome ingredients into summer bliss.