Mrs. Jackson Cooks

Life through food

Show-off brunch: Aubergine and potato middle eastern inspired brunch

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This is a faffy brunch.  It takes a while, there’s lots of different bits to the recipe that are done separately and brought together at the end, and it involves poached eggs, which are the ultimate in egg faffiness.

However, I have made it time and again because it is utterly delicious and a fantastic way to impress people (even if that person is just you).  And also brilliant for hangovers (not so great to make it if you’re feeling really ill though…possibly one for that moment when you feel ok, and you realise you’re still drunk!).  Even thinking about it now is making my mouth water.  It’s that tasty.  So it’s worth the faffiness.  But not one for when you’re in a hurry.  I like to make it when I have an aubergine or two lurking in the fridge.

It’s by Yotam Ottolenghi – the king of faffy cooking, and to be fair, I think I have made this as he says, at least once, but mostly, I adapt it, and it’s still just as good.  I do still follow the recipe because it’s so faffy, it’s hard to remember it all, but I think have now mostly remembered it.  You can find it here:

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/jan/31/brunch-recipes-eggs-yotam-ottolenghiI

I have to say, I have never been able to find tahini in the shops, so just make my own with sesame seeds.  Which adds to the faffiness.  But a great job to give someone that’s hanging about annoying you in the kitchen.  If you want to make tahini, here’s a recipe:  http://homecooking.about.com/od/condimentrecipes/r/blcon110.htm

And here’s my adapted version:

Middle-eastern inspired Aubergine and potato brunch

Serves 2

  • 1 aubergine cut into 2cm ish cubes (if that’s possible with something round)
  • 2 medium potato, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2-3 tomatoes (depending on size), diced
  • 1 spring onion, finely sliced
  • 1 tbsp siracha sauce (or use any tomato chilli sauce, not sweet chilli though)
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
  • 2 tsp white wine vinegar
  • A lot of oil
  • 40g tahini paste (I make 1/2 the recipe above, which usually works out well)
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1/2 a lemon, juiced
  • 4 eggs (I also do a couple of slices of bacon and 1 egg per person at times)
  • 1 tsp sumac (optional)
  1. Place the aubergine in a colander, sprinkle with salt and leave to drain in the sink for about 30 minutes
  2. Whilst the aubergine is draining, boil the sliced potatoes for about 5-7 minutes, or until half cooked.  Then drain and refresh under cold water so they stay crunchy
  3. Next mix together the tomato, spring onion, and half the coriander in a small bowl.  Combine with the siracha sauce and white wine vinegar.  Season with salt and pepper and set aside
  4. Mix the tahini paste with the garlic, lemon juice and 2 tbsp of water with some salt and pepper.  Set aside.
  5. Tip the aubergine onto a plate with kitchen towel and dry off.
  6. Pour enough oil (should be sunflower, vegetable, groundnut etc) into a high sided pan to come up about an inch.  Heat on a high flame until bubbles form around a spoon end in the middle of the pan.
  7. Tip in the aubergine and fry until golden brown on all sides.  Then tip out onto fresh kitchen towel using a slotted spoon.
  8. Pour most of the oil, away (I normally save in a jar for later), leaving about 2 tsp in the pan.
  9. Fry the potatoes in the pan until browned and blistered on both sides, takes about 10 minutes.
  10. Meanwhile, boil the water and make the poached eggs (and grill bacon if using)
  11. Split the potatoes between two plates.  Sprinkle over 1/4 of the tahini mix on the potatoes on each plate.  Next take the aubergine and place on top of the potatoes and sprinkle over the remaining tahini mix.
  12. Next take the tomato mix and place on top of the aubergines and potatoes.  Sprinkle over the reserved coriander
  13. Finally top with the eggs and bacon if using.
  14. And enjoy the fruits of your labour and faffing about.  Feel the hangover recede.
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Totally delicious low calorie flapjacks

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Having put on quite a bit of weight over the past few months due to my life being a bit chaotic and unpredictable, I’ve decided to try and be healthier and lose a few pounds.

But I need to wean myself off the sugar and carbs slowly as I’m not up for shock tactics. So I thought if I could make flapjacks that are low in refined things and sugar and high in energy boosting things then it would be a good start to cutting down.

I found this recipe here http://cakeincardiff.wordpress.com/2012/10/29/low-calorie-flapjacks/ I’ve heard lots about the hairy bikers diet book – think I’m going to have to get sometime. I do like the Hairy Bikers, their recipes are very doable.

I made 16 flapjacks and adapted the recipe slightly. I worked out that each square has 88 calories so it’s a great diet snack as it’s under the 100 calorie mark, high in fibre and energy boosting oats, low in sugar, got a bit of fruit in it and even some nuts for protein.

And I’ve tried them – they’re delicious, so easy to make – I put it all together in about 5 mins and then shoved it in the oven until cooked. Requires virtually no equipment and you can adapt it anyway you like – use honey instead of maple syrup, substitute some oats for rice crispies, put in any dried fruit and nuts that you like, use any juice you want…and the bonus is – no sweetener in sight – this doesn’t feel like a diet snack. On top of that – these are really purse friendly. Even if you don’t have the ingredients in stock, they’re not expensive to buy – all these ingredients are in most supermarkets’ value ranges – just adapt to whatever you can find.

Cranberry & hazelnut flapjacks

16 squares

  • 200g rolled (porridge) oats
  • 300ml orange or apple juice
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup, honey or golden syrup
  • 60g dried cranberries (or apricots, dates, mixed peel – any dried fruit)
  • 60g raisins (sultanas, currants, whatever)
  • 30g hazelnuts, toasted and chopped (or any nuts)
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius
  2. Put the juice and syrup in a pan and heat until it starts to simmer.
  3. Add in the oats and mix well until completely combined (there shouldn’t be juice left it should be absorbed)
  4. Take off the heat and add in the fruit and nuts.
  5. Mix well to combine then turn into a greased baking tray. Push it all out until it fills the corners of the tray and then push down hard so its very compacted (fingers are good for this).
  6. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes or until golden and crispy on top.
  7. Remove from the oven, cut into squares whilst still warm (I used a pizza roller thingy but I knife will do). Leave to cool in the tin.
  8. Turn out and enjoy the fruity chewiness without feeling guilty 🙂
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The cake and bake show: chocolate & banana tarte tatin

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Last weekend I went to the cake and bake show with a good friend of mine. I wasn’t really sure what to expect but had so much fun, and bought loads of edible goodies.

I also watched a demonstration by Eric Lanlard, Patissier living in London. He’d just brought out a new book all about chocolate and I was really impressed by how simple his recipes were despite looking like something much more complex. So I bought his new book and to my delight, he had tarte tatin in his book.

You know how much I love tarte tatin, plus I had old bananas that Mr J had brought home from work (I am the banana dustbin for his work it seems), so it seemed like the perfect inspiration.

The book isn’t available to buy yet, although it will be in a week or two. Called Chocolat by Eric Lanlard – pic below.

Here is my version of his tarte tatin from the book, and very yummy it was too. If you’re craving chocolate, need a hangover cure, need some comforting or even a fantastic dinner party dessert – this is the one for you. It’s not for diets though! But you can’t diet forever.

Chocolate & Banana Tarte Tatin

Serves 4-6

  • 100g light brown sugar (you can use other sugar, it’ll just taste a bit different – this is quite treacle-fudgy)
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 75g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 2 cinnamon sticks (or use 1 tsp ground cinnamon but it’s less decorative)
  • 4-5 bananas, sliced on the diagonal
  • 350g ready made puff pastry (I used ready rolled too to make it even easier)
  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius
  2. Roll out and cut the pastry to about 1 inch larger than a heavy flat bottomed frying pan
  3. Put the sugar in the frying pan with about 4 tbsp of water and gently heat, stirring constantly, until you have a dark orangey colour. Remove from the heat and keep stirring until it stops changing colour.
  4. Add the butter and chocolate and stir until melted. Then drop in the cinnamon.
  5. Arrange the bananas in the caramel sauce in circular patterns (this will be the top of your dessert)
  6. Cover with the pastry so that the pastry hangs over the sides of the pan and then tuck in all the edges.
  7. Pierce the top of the pastry to allow steam to escape and place in the oven for about 20-25 minutes or until the pastry is puffed and golden.
  8. Remove from the oven, leave to cool for a few minutes. Then place a plate on top of the pastry and invert the pudding onto it.
  9. Serve immediately with custard, whipped cream or icecream.
  10. Enjoy 🙂

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92 calorie individual apple pies

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Since getting back from Ibiza I’ve really been trying to be good and get back into being healthy. The problem is, I’ve been depressed and craving sugar, and so I’ve ended up in front of the vending machine far too many times. In an attempt to rectify that, whilst not going totally cold turkey I found these fantastic pies.

They fill the craving hole whilst not ruining your good intentions and they are delicious, and super simple to make. You literally need an oven and that’s about it.

Our neighbour has an apple tree and many of his apples have ended up in our garden, some a bit worse for wear but still edible. So I thought it better to cook them down with a bit of sugar (I actually used sweetener, you can’t taste the difference). Then I added some strawberries that were very cheap in the supermarket but also a bit worse for wear and needed cooking. Both the apples and strawberries were very sweet so didn’t need much sweetener, just a bit to bring out the juices. I added a squeeze of lemon too.

And filo pastry is the best for pastry if you’re watching your weight, it’s a lot lighter than other pastries. I used olive oil spray instead of melted butter between the sheets. I honestly couldn’t tell any difference.

I made about 15 triangles. They’ll easily keep in a box for a few days and are great for taking to work for lunch or a snack.

Apple and strawberry pies

Makes about 15

  • 5-6 eating apples or 2 baking apples, cored and chopped
  • 125g strawberries, hulled and halved (or use strawberry jam)
  • 2 tbsp splenda or other sweetener
  • 4 sheets filo pastry
  • oil spray
  • 1 egg beaten
  1. Heat the oven to 200 degrees celsius
  2. Place the apple and strawberries with the sweetener in a saucepan on a medium heat, stiring occassionally until they break down and release their juices. Add a bit of water if its too dry. This takes about 10-15 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  3. Carefully remove the filo pastry sheets from the package onto a clean, dry surface, one at a time. Spray the top of each one with 3-4 sprays of oil spray before placing the next sheet on top of it. Spray the top of the 4th sheet.
  4. Cut into thirds, lengthwise.
  5. Place a tablespoon of the apple and strawberry mix in the middle of the top third of pastry, towards the left end. Fold the corner of the pastry diagonally across to make a triangle and cover the mix. Cut along the edge which meets the pastry and press along the edges to seal. Place on a baking tray sprayed with oil spray. Brush with the beaten egg, pressing down the edges as you go. Repeat until all the pastry and mixture is used up.
  6. Bake for about 20 minutes until cooked through and golden on top.
  7. Remove from the oven, allow to cool, and then eat with a nice cup of tea, feeling your cravings subside.
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Simple summer salad: Courgette and chickpea salad

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I got a vege box from one of the farm delivery places – they were doing an offer – and they sent it with a load of recipes, some of which look quite good. This particular company is called Riverford and are local to Manchester, in case you’re interested. So I thought I’d give one of the recipes a go. This salad is so simple and very tasty and can be put together in about 15 minutes. It’s about 400 calories too, so it’s great for a low fat, low carb lunch to keep you going til dinner.

The salad is just lovely, summer on a plate, and even better if you can enjoy in the garden – which we did. But even if you can’t the simple zesty flavours just conjure up summer.

The original recipe uses beans – haricot or borlotti – but I didn’t have any so I used chickpeas instead. It worked very well with chickpeas and I’m sure is tasty either way.

Courgette and chickpea salad

Serves 2 (as a main)

  • 2 courgettes, peeled into ribbons
  • 1 tin chickpeas, drained
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 100g lettuce, cut into ribbons
  • zest & juice of 1/2 lemon
  • small handful of basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
  • 50ml olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  1. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a griddle pan, or head the grill and griddle the courgettes until softened and browned in spots
  2. Put the chickpeas, lettuce and tomatoes into a bowl together.
  3. Blitz the lemon juice & zest, oil, basil and garlic in a blender or mash it in a pestle and mortar into a dressing. Season to taste.
  4. Add the courgettes to the chickpeas and tomatoes and pour over the dressing. Toss to combine and serve immediately
  5. Enjoy the lovely summer flavours 🙂
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Easy peasy banana cake

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Hubby brought home a load of over ripe bananas from work last week, and so I made banana cake. I have such a simple and quick recipe that I use and the end result is always delicious. It’s moist and sticky and very bananary!

The main thing to this recipe is a food processor or blender or smoothie maker – basic an electric thing that wizzes. Even a hand blender would work. This is what makes it simple. Otherwise you’re back to the old fashioned way of creaming butter and adding eggs and hoping they don’t curdle. Basically, weigh everything out (I did this in one bowl, putting everything on top of each other), bung it in a blender or processor, wizz til smooth. Then put in a cake tin and cook til risen, golden and fluffy. And ta da- you are a wonderful cake god(dess)! The prep stage takes about 10 minutes tops. And then you can set the timer on your oven and leave it until it beeps.

With this recipe, the more overripe the bananas are, the better, and the less sugar you need to add.

I’ve no idea where the recipe came from – I’ve had it written in the back of a recipe book for years! And had previously been on a post-it note. It might have even come from my mum or a friend’s mum.

Banana cake

makes 2 loaf cakes (about 10 – 12 slices)

  • 250g self-raising flour (or use plain flour with 1.5 tsp baking powder and a pinch of salt)
  • 340g caster sugar
  • 4 bananas, mashed
  • 340g butter or margerine, softened
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 tbsp vanilla essence
  • To ice:
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1-2 tbsp granulated sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. Grease 2 loaf tins.
  2. Place ingredients in a food processes or and blend til smooth.
  3. Pour half the mixture into each tin and bake for 45-50 minutes in the middle of the oven, or until a knife comes out the middle of it clean.
  4. Allow to cool slightly in the tins for about 10 minutes, then turn onto wire racks to cool.
  5. Meanwhile, making the sugar glaze icing by dissolving the sugar in the lemon juice. Prick the top of the cake all over with little holes (I use bbq skewers) and pour the glaze over it. It will run everywhere (make sure you do on a plate or cover the surface) but don’t worry, it’ll set and look quite pretty.
  6. Cool and serve with a nice cup of tea. And enjoy 🙂
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Pie attempts: Cheese and onion pie

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I decided to brave it and try a pie again. Not making pastry from scratch – that came out the freezer – baby steps! But actually making a pie and trying to not either have it come out burnt or soggy, or even both.

Turns out one of Mr J’s favourite foods is cheese and onion pie. You think you know someone, and then they go and tell you a thing like that after 11 years – you wonder why they’ve been hanging onto that piece of information for so long! And here I was thinking profiteroles or steak or a cheeseboard were his favourite things!

I found a recipe for cheese and onion pie that didn’t seem too difficult. And thought I’d try it. Then I spoke to my mother in law who told me to blind bake it first and wash it in egg glaze. And to use a metallic cake tin (as I don’t have a pie dish). This proved good advice but did turn the recipe from something that seemed simple to something that wasn’t.

This is not for those of you who are allergic to cooking or not confident about what you’re doing. It’s also not good for small kitchens (I managed to get pastry all over mine, and cover every surface in things, and it’s a good size these days!) Buy it in Greggs instead. It is, however, perfect for the confident vegetarian. Or those adept at pies. Or the foolish (like me).

The original recipe is here http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/9650/deepdish-cheese-onion-and-potato-pie

And here is my version including my mother in law’s advice (which I definitely recommend if you’re avoiding burning and sogginess).

Cheese and onion pie

Serves 6-8

  • 1 packet ready made shortcrust pastry (defrost if frozen first)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 4-5 medium potatoes, peeled and finely sliced
  • 2 onions, finely sliced
  • bunch of spring onions, roughly chopped
  • 200g strong cheddar, grated
  • 200g creme fraiche
  • grated nutmeg
  • paprika
  • salt & pepper
  1. Pre heat the oven to 200 degrees celsius
  2. Grease and flour a large cake sponge tin or pie dish (about 20-23cm)
  3. Flour a dry clean surface. Roll out your pastry until quite thin (but not so it’s breaking).
  4. Place 2/3 of it in the tin, so that there’s enough overhang (but not too much) and gently push into the edges of the tin. Blind bake (I scrunch up greaseproof paper and then smooth out and place on top of the pastry (including overhang) and then fill with rice – you can still cook toasted rice) for 15 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven. Remove the rice and paper and egg wash the pastry. Cover the overhang pastry with greaseproof paper again (but not the rest) and bake for a further 5 minutes. It should be pale but firm and crispy.
  6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minute.
  7. Add a layer of sliced potatoes to the bottom of the pie, followed by a sprinkling of onions & spring onions and cheese. Shake over a bit of nutmeg and paprika and some salt & pepper. Repeat with another layer, this time putting half the creme fraiche on the top. Then another layer of potatoes, onions, cheese until it’s used up (it will come above the pastry). Gently push the layers down a bit. Then dollop on the remaining creme fraiche.
  8. Roll out the remaining pastry a bit thinner than the bottom pastry until it will cover the pie. Brush the underneath pastry overhang with egg then place the pastry on top, washing all over with egg and pressing it hard to the bottom overhang pastry.
  9. Make 2 small slits in the top of the pastry to allow air to come out.
  10. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, then turn down the oven to 170 degrees celsius and cook for a further 30 minutes.
  11. Remove. Allow to cool for 1o minutes then serve with a nice green salad.
  12. Enjoy!

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Vege dinner party option: mushroom and blue cheese tart

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This is a super simple, very delicious and fancy looking dinner party main for the vegetarians in your life, or perhaps if you just fancy doing something vege. It’s delicious. I actually did it for dinner one Wednesday! If you have pastry in your freezer it couldn’t be simpler. But it’s great if you have veges coming for dinner and aren’t sure what to do. If you left out the cheese you could even satisfy vegans (I think! Just make sure the pastry isn’t made with butter).

The original is from the BBC Good food website (where else?!) http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/333631/onion-walnut-and-mushroom-tarte-tatin and I didn’t change it that much really. Perfect way to use up the bit of blue stilton left over from Christmas slowly getting more and more ‘fragrant’!

Mushroom and blue cheese tart

Serves 4-6 (depending on if its starter or main)

  • 4 onions, cut into wedges
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 200g mushrooms , halved (chestnut ones are good if you have them)
  • 2 tsp light brown sugar
  • 50g walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 100g blue cheese (eg Stilton)
  • 1 pack puff pastry, defrost if frozen
  1. Heat the oven to 200 degrees celsius.
  2. Select a medium sized low sided frying pan. Roll out the pastry and cut a circle just wider than the pan (easiest done if you put the pastry on a floured surface and place the pan upside down on the pastry – then just cut around it leaving a 5cm lip)
  3. Heat the oil in the pan and add the onion wedges. Cook over a low heat until lightly coloured.
  4. Add mushrooms, sugar and salt & pepper to taste. Cook for 5 minutes or until the mushrooms are softened, stirring well.
  5. Stir through the walnuts and cook for a couple of minutes. Then remove from the heat and crumble over the cheese.
  6. Place the pastry over the top of the pan, tucking in the overhanging bit.
  7. Place in the oven for 20-30 minutes, or until the pastry is puffed and golden.
  8. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
  9. Then place a large plate on top of the pastry and invert the tart, tipping it onto the plate, pastry side underneath.
  10. Serve with a green salad and enjoy immediately!

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Italian style rice & egg salad

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It was sunny yesterday, and a pleasant return to the UK after a great holiday in Cape Verde where we just chilled out, ate too much and I didn’t cook once. Just what I needed. So I returned 1/2 a stone heavier and in need of a diet. I wanted to do something healthy and light and salad seemed like a good thing. But we didn’t have much in the fridge, so I was being inventive.

I got the recipe from my new Italian Comfort Foods cook book, which you can find here http://www.amazon.co.uk/Italian-Comfort-Food-Soul-Satisfying-Recipes/dp/1856269361/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1333377952&sr=8-1 and it uses pickled vegetables. But I didn’t have any of them, except for onions, so I just used marinated roasted peppers and artichokes and some olives instead. And some sweetcorn that was lurking in the fridge. I also didn’t have any mozzarella, so I used goats cheese and it was delicious.

So basically – just substitute whatever you’ve got into the salad and I’m sure it’ll be fine.

I also used Thai Jasmine rice for the rice, as that’s what I had, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It was ok but it’s quite a sticky rice. I think a long grain rice would be better for a salad.

Italian style rice & egg salad

Serves 3

  • 130g rice
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1.2l water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 90g pickled onions (the little ones you use for cheese crackers – I had leftover ones from Christmas!)
  • 100g (ish) roasted peppers from a jar – drain and rinse off the oil and slice into strips.
  • 100g (ish) artichoke hearts from a jar – again drain and rinse off the oil
  • 100g (ish) green olives – rinse off the oil or brine
  • 100g tinned sweetcorn, drained
  • 6 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3 eggs, hard boiled, peeled and sliced
  • 100g mozzarella cheese (real stuff, not the pizza stuff), diced or use goats cheese instead
  • handful of mint leaves, chopped
  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1tsp English mustard
  • salt & pepper to taste
  1. Heat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. Spread the rice out on a baking tray and place in the oven to toast for a few minutes.
  2. Bring the water to boil, place the lemon in the water and the salt and then add the rice. Re-bring to the boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer until the rice is just cooked (you don’t want to over cook it and have all the starch come out) – about 10 minutes.
  3. Then drain and rinse under cold water until the rice is cooled and the water runs clear. Set aside until needed.
  4. Meanwhile, combine the mayonnaise, mustard, salt & pepper to form a dressing.
  5. Put all the salad ingredients in a large salad bowl (the larger the better for mixing) and toss. Add the rice and toss again.
  6. Add the dressing and toss once more to combine then serve immediately.
  7. Enjoy! 🙂
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Something for the weekend: cherry sours gin fizz

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This is a bit random to be honest. But we were given some cherries in brandy for Christmas and I thought I’d make a cocktail out of them. And it turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself. It’s a sort of version of a martini or a margarita, except with gin. And cherries of course. But very tasty, not too sweet, and very morish.

I’ve no idea about the calories, but really, if you’re going to make cocktails, neither should you. The good thing about this is it doesn’t involve any extra sugar.

You will need some alcohol infused cherries – of your own making or bought. Doesn’t really matter. You could even use fresh and just add extra gin. And a cocktail shaker – or in my case – as thermos flask! A small one – not a large one that you’d keep hot water in! And some martini glasses – or again, in my case, champagne glasses! Or anything really. Smallish glass in any case.

Cherry sours gin fizz

Serves 3-4

  • 2 shots gin (Not sure how big my shot glass was – I’d go with 35 mls)
  • 1 shot cointreau
  • 1 shot lime juice
  • 10 cherries plus juice from the cherries (about 1 shot of juice)
  • ice (about 5 cubes)
  • tonic water to top up
  1. Put the gin, cointreau, lime juice, cherries and cherry juice in a cocktail shaker with some ice. Shake well.
  2. Strain into glasses (this is where the thermos flask really comes into its own!) and top up with chilled tonic water.
  3. Add a couple of cherries to each glass (or a fresh one on a stalk on the top) and serve!
  4. Enjoy the fruity morishness!
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