Ah, gin. I’ve never been much of a gin-lover. In fact, I always hated gin. The first time I tried it was in a club in Liverpool (Planet X, to be specific) and I thought it smelt like paraffin. I’m not sure if I thought it also tasted like paraffin as I don’t remember getting as far as tasting it. Anyway, apart from it smelling like paraffin and therefore probably tasting like it too, I always thought gin was solely for drinking in scalding-hot baths in an effort to bring on a miscarriage to get rid of an unwanted pregnancy and not actually for, you know, drinking.
I never knew fresh apricots were extinct. I wanted to make the apricot appetiser mocktail from The Virgin Cocktail Garden as it looked simple, with just a few ingredients easily found in the shops. Or so I thought. Could I find fresh apricots? Could I bollocks. I looked online at Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Asda and Morrisons but I could only find dried and I’d been sure fresh apricots were as easy to find as apples. Google suggested I use peaches or nectarines in place of apricots and so, because I dislike the fuzziness of peaches, I bought nectarines instead. (I have since investigated and found out apricots are in season in the UK from May to September so I’m going to look for them then, even if I don’t want any. It’s become a matter of principle.)
Back in my alcohol-free beer review last April, I said I thought spinach would be better for a broken foot than alcohol (I know, I obviously have untapped potential as a doctor and should have gone to medical school) and so I was currently living an alcohol-free life. Well, guess what? I still am – almost six months later – and, according to my drinking app, that’s 120 bottles of wine I haven’t had, £755 saved and 73,100 calories not consumed in alcohol. Although a broken foot, coupled with being fed up with drinking anyway was the catalyst for my new-found sobriety, it’s also been massively helped by drinking alcohol-free or low-alcohol (up to 0.5% ABV) wine, beer and cider. As evidenced by mutterings on Facebook groups, a lot of people don’t agree with those who want to cut down on their alcohol intake by drinking alcohol-free beers, ciders and spirits instead but, frankly, they can piss off.
I took part in a big cycling event over the weekend (although I should probably confess the lure of the train station just half a mile away was too strong and I wimped out of the second day) and, as I was away from home, my diet consisted of carbs, carbs and more carbs in the form of pizza, pasta and flapjacks. I have absolutely no problem with any of these essential food items but after three days of it, man, was I craving some good old fruit and veg.
There’s a local cafe/bistro I go to regularly and although I always order the same meal (portobello mushroom in a bun with blue cheese, wedges and salad), my drink order is always different. Sometimes I fancy a hot chocolate, sometimes I’ll have a glass of wine or a bottle of Peroni and sometimes I have their homemade lemonade. Their homemade lemonade is lovely but because it’s so lovely, it doesn’t last long as you can’t help but drink it quickly. As I was drinking some the other day, I pondered how much it cost them to make (they sell it for £1.95 a glass) and decided it probably didn’t cost much and I’d make some myself. Now, before you get all narky and but-you’re-not-just-paying-for-the-ingredients-you’re-paying-for-someone-to-make-it-and-someone-to- bring-it-to-you-and-then-there’s-rent-and-rates-and-wages-and-stuff-to-pay-for; yes, I agree with you and I don’t begrudge them their £1.95; I just wanted to make some for myself. Which is what I did, and very nice it was too.
And in case you are wondering how much it cost to make over a litre of homemade lemonade – a pack of four unwaxed lemons in Tesco is £1.50 (I used 3 so that’s £1.12 [I think]) and a 500g bag of caster sugar is 99p and the water came out of the tap. I tried to work out how much the sugar cost per gram but my maths is so shit, I couldn’t even work it out on a calculator – so, if you can work out how much 140g cost if 500g is 99p, please let me know.
Although my blender (the Froothie G2.1 Optimum) did its thing and whizzed up the lemons, sugar and water beautifully, there was a bit of pulp leftover, which I threw away, despite a voice in the back of my head telling me I could probably use it in a cake or something. You could also, I suppose, leave it in, if you like your lemonade with ‘bits’ in.
Honestly, this lemonade is so simple – you really should give it a go.
- 3 unwaxed lemons, unpeeled and roughly chopped
- 140g caster sugar
- 1 litre cold water
- Add the lemons, sugar and half of the water into a blender and process thoroughly
- Strain the mixture into a bowl and top up with the rest of the water
I thought I was making a citrus smoothie. But then I found out that a kiwi fruit isn’t a citrus fruit, but a berry, and then I found out a pineapple isn’t a citrus fruit either because citrus fruit belong to the Rutaceae family and a pineapple belongs to the Bromeliarceae family. So there you go. And no, I hadn’t heard of the Rutaceae or Bromeliaceae family either. The only family name I usually hear about is ‘Mitchell’, and I now I’m imagining Phil sitting at the kitchen table at breakfast time, picking up an orange and telling Ben how citrus fruit are from the ‘rutter-see-er faaaaaaaaaaaaaamily, innit’.
Still, despite the clementine being the only citrus in this citrus smoothie (which isn’t even a smoothie, as it’s more like a juice). it only took a few seconds in my Nutribullet to blend it all together with some Buko organic coconut water.
- 1 clementine, peeled
- 1 kiwi fruit (I don't bother peeling them)
- ¼ pineapple, peeled and cut into chunks
- 330ml coconut water
- Put everything in the tall cup of your Nutribullet and blast for a few seconds
Thank you to Buko for sending me some of their organic coconut water to try.
A few years ago, I made chilli vodka with the chillies harvested in the summer. It was as simple as simply bunging some chillies into a bottle of vodka, then waiting six weeks for it to do its chilli-infusing thing.
Had I’d known about 31dover.com back then, I could have saved myself the six week wait, put the chillies on a pizza instead and ordered a bottle of 31Dover’s Naga Chilli Vodka, which would have arrived with me the next day.
However, I didn’t know about 31Dover back then and, after reading the blurb about their Naga Chilli Vodka (‘… a ridiculously hot vodka straight from the bowels of hell’), I’m not sure I’d have been brave enough to try it anyway.
What I did fancy trying though was their Two Birds Christmas Spiced Vodka, which is what I chose after 31Dover got in touch to ask me if I’d like to review something from their website. Well, I wasn’t going to say no to free alcohol, was I?
A matte-black gift box turned up the next day, where nestled inside lay a beautiful bottle. I’ve never seen such a pretty bottle of vodka.
Apparently, Two Birds Christmas Spiced Vodka is like a ‘mince pie in a glass’. I say ‘apparently’ because, unfortunately, I’ve had the lurgy since receiving it and haven’t tried any yet. Part of me did think ‘alcohol kills germs, get it down ya’, but the sensible part of me thought ‘you have no stop button and you will drink the whole bottle in one go and die’ and I don’t fancy dying, even for the good of this blog. Not before my birthday, anyway (which is on Tuesday 22 December, by the way).
So, although I can’t tell you if the Two Birds Christmas Spiced Vodka really is like a mince pie in a glass, I can tell you a bit more about 31Dover.
The business was created by the founders of Vanquish Wine – central London’s leading drinks distributor to the trade, who supply London’s top restaurants, bars, hotels and nightclubs with Champagne, wine and spirits. In 2010, Vanquish won the Drinks Business of the Year Award, which set them apart from their competition, enabling 31Dover.com to offer next-day delivery and online pricing backed by a price match guarantee.
You won’t find thousands of wines, beers and spirits on their website, as each bottle is personally recommended by their wine experts and personally tested by everyone on the 31Dover.com team (yes, I want a job there too).
However, you’re sure to find something you want – whether that’s chilli vodka or a case of craft beer – and you can order as little as one bottle or enough for a whole party. Next day delivery is standard and free for orders over £100.
Discount code for Planet Veggie readers
If you’d like to avoid the alcohol aisle in your local supermarket this Christmas and have your drinks delivered to your door instead (yes, I know supermarkets deliver alcohol but do they sell such things as vodka that tastes like mince pies, huh?), you can use the code 31DCATHY (this is not my bra size by the way) at the checkout until 20 December to get 10% off your order.
I bought The Meat Eater a copy of Booze for Free a few years ago. Not because he’s a big drinker but because I thought he’d like to make wine and stuff from things in the garden, and then I’d have a load of booze for free. So far he’s made elderberry wine (disgusting and got poured down the sink). cider (a disaster and got thrown away before it had finished fermenting or whatever it is it does), plum wine (lovely) and blackberry wine (even lovelier).
Although I’ve drunk everything he’s made (and I mean everything – he doesn’t like wine), I haven’t made anything myself because it involves buckets and demijohns and funnels and tablets and a whole bunch of other things that look complicated. So, when Emily Han’s publishers asked me if I’d like a copy of Emily’s book – Wild Drinks and Cocktails – my first thought was, ‘god no, I can’t be doing with all that faff’.
However, the drinks and cocktails in this book are faff-free and use only a few ingredients which you’ll either find in your garden, on a foraging expedition, local market or supermarket. For example, the only ingredients you need for the Rosemary Wine recipe are rosemary and wine and you can’t get much more simple than that.
The book isn’t just about alcohol though – there are plenty of syrups and cordials too. I had planned to make Cranberry Mors (cranberries, water, honey, lemon juice) but I don’t have a cranberry bush in the garden, and then I found out Tesco don’t sell fresh cranberries, so I scrapped that idea and made Strawberry Squash instead.
Rather inconveniently, strawberries don’t generally grow in UK gardens in November, so I bought some from Tesco (and although I said strawberries don’t generally grow in UK gardens in November, they grow somewhere in the UK in November as the strawberries I bought were British).
Strawberry Squash recipe (makes about 470ml)
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup (235ml) water
1 cup (200g) sugar
3/4 pound (340g) strawberries, hulled and quartered
Combine the lemon juice, water, and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to the boil over a medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Stir in the strawberries. Reduce the heat and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer, gently pressing on the strawberries to extract the liquid without forcing the pulp through the strainer. Discard the solids. Store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
The squash was delicious and, with it being Saturday evening, I made a Cava cocktail with it.
The next day, I diluted the squash with water, which made a light, refreshing drink. I imagine it would be great with lemonade, too.
I love this book. There are so many drinks I want to try, such as Dandelion and Chicory Chai (water, ginger, dandelion root, chicory root, black peppercorns, cardamom pods, clove, cinnamon, milk and honey), Apple and Mint syrup (mint, apples, sugar, water), Figs and Vanilla Rum (figs, vanilla bean, rum) and Apple and Sage Wine (apple, sage, honey, vodka, wine).
As you can see, there’s a wide variety of drinks here and Wild Drinks and Cocktails will definitely appeal to foragers, but if foraging’s not your thing, you should be able to find the ingredients easily enough in the shops.
Giveaway: Win a copy of Wild Drinks and Cocktails by Emily Han
If you’d like a copy of Emily’s book, just enter below via Rafflecopter. Good luck!
Wild Drinks and Cocktails by Emily Han is published by Fair Winds Press with a cover price of £14.99.
Thanks go to Fair Winds Press for my copy of the book and also for providing one to give away.
I generally don’t plan what goes into my smoothies – as I mentioned in my Nutribullet review the other day, it doesn’t seem to matter what combination of fruit you add, it always turns out delicious.
These two smoothies were no exception – I randomly chucked in whatever fruit I could find in the fridge and freezer and out of the Nutribullet came fresh, creamy smoothies. You can see what they were made with in the captions.
I’d had rather an unhealthy lunch of a toasted tofu, Violife cheese, onion, sundried tomato, cucumber, srirarcha and salad cream sandwich which, thinking about it, probably isn’t that unhealthy but it was so gooey and delicious, at the time it seemed like the junkiest junk food ever. So junky I put a photo of it on the What Fat Vegans Eat Facebook page.
So, because of my unhealthy lunch and because my energy levels over the last few days have been zero, I thought I’d give my body a boost and put something healthy into it and that something healthy was this banana, blueberry, cacao, cashew and coconut smoothie.
Although I use cacao quite often, such as in these recipes you can find elsewhere on my blog:
- Jelly Tots chocolate cake
- vegan chocolate silken tofu pudding
- vegan choco ringo nutto bars
- raw chilli coconut chocolate
- raw vegan brownies
- raw vegan chocolate peanut butter fudge
I’ve never used it in a smoothie before. I reckon this is because, subconsciously, I equate chocolate to sweets and therefore to junk and, as far as I’m concerned, although junk has its place, its place is not in a smoothie. But, as we’re always being told, cacao (or raw chocolate) is healthy and, not only is it healthy, it’s frequently given the status of being a superfood.
This smoothie was not only delicious but I could feel the goodness streaming through my bloodstream as I was drinking it, I kid you not. I used Alpro Coconut Drink (which I found in the Free From section in Tesco) but it would work just as well with any other soya/rice/almond/oat milk of your choice.
- 1 banana
- 1 handful of blueberries (fresh or frozen)
- 1 handful of cashews
- 1 tbsp cacao
- Alpro Coconut Drink
- Put the banana, blueberries, cashews and cacao in a blending jug (or Nutribullet or whatever you use to blend things) and top up with the Alpro Coconut Drink.
- Blend and serve.