Christmas Gift Ideas: Limoncello and Spiced Arancello

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It’s two weeks to Christmas! I’m trying my hardest to get into the festive spirit, but it’s taking time this year – I wish I had time to make more presents and sing carols and eat mince pies, but it’s all being crammed into evenings at the moment, when I actually just want to flop on the sofa… This weekend we are buying a real Christmas tree which I think will help me get into the festive mood – I’ve always had an artificial tree, and been fine with it, but this year I want the scent of pine to lift my mood and make me feel Christmassy!

One Christmas gift I’ve squeezed into an evening or two this year, is some Liqueurs – Limoncello and Arancello. Limoncello is an Italian sweet lemon liqueur, and Arancello is the orange version. The Arancello has the added flavours of cinnamon, vanilla and cardamom to give it a spicy, almost mulled, flavour. I’ve made the Limoncello before and it was a success, but the Arancello is  new to me so I’ll be interested to see how it tastes.

They’re both made with vodka (again), as it’s the spirit with the least flavour, lemon or orange peel, and sugar syrup.

They take two weeks to make, so you’ve just got time to whip up a batch for Christmas day! (If you want to give them as presents before Christmas day, remember to put a ‘best after’ label on them…)

I bought one litre bottle of vodka and made half-and-half of these, but I will put the amounts for each recipe down as though you’re just making one or the other, then you can choose what you do!

Recipes taken from BBC Good Food here and here.

Both make approx. 2 litres of liqueur.

Limoncello

1l bottle vodka

5 unwaxed lemons

750g caster sugar

700ml boiling water

Spiced Arancello

1l bottle vodka

5 large oranges

1 cinnamon stick

2-3 cardamom pods

1 vanilla pod

600g caster sugar

500ml boiling water

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Remove the zest from the oranges or lemons using a peeler, try to make sure none of the white pith is left on the peel as it will make the drink taste bitter. You might need to scrape this off with a sharp knife.

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Put the zest into one big jar, or several smaller ones if giving to multiple people. If making Arancello, add the cinnamon, cardamom and vanilla pod also. Add the vodka to the jars/bottles and leave for a week, shaking the jar each day.

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After a week, you can add the sugar syrup. Put the sugar in a heatproof jug, then pour over the required amount of boiling water, and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Pour the syrup into the vodka mixture and leave for another week, shaking the jar regularly.

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When the two weeks is up, strain the liqueur into your bottles, and throw away the peel (and spices). These drinks will keep bottled for 6 months, but I doubt they’ll last that long!

Limoncello is delicious ice-cold from the freezer, but I suspect the Arancello would be nice warmed up… I’m looking forward to trying them 🙂

Hola Girona

Hola! Sorry for the recent lack of posts, I was conducting important food research in Spain. The short answer to my findings is: Yum. The longer answer will be found below…

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I took the OH to Girona, a medieval city in North-eastern Spain for a special birthday. The main reason for this was that it is the location of the second best restaurant in the world – El Celler de Can Roca, which i’d managed to get us a reservation at (only 11 months in advance, no biggie!!). The upside to the location of the restaurant is that Girona is a lovely little city, perfect for wandering round and finding lots to see, eat and drink – all of which we did.

I will be doing a dedicated post on the crazy restaurant experience soon, but for now – here are some other things we ate and drank over the course of four days:

Saturday

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Cub was a bar/cafe just down the road from our apartment – so we went straight there for lunch when we arrived, and tried some of their tapas – interesting flavour combinations but all tasty! From top: Dates wrapped in bacon, Patatas ali oli (potatoes with garlic mayo basically), Chorizo tostas with melted cheese & green peppers, Cured duck with poached pear & hazelnuts, and Black pudding & Pistachio croquettes. The dates particularly were heaven!

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Next door to cub was a gelateria that also sold Orxata (Horchata). I first had this in Valencia years ago and love it – it’s a drink made of tiger nuts, water and sugar, and served ice cold. Delicious…

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That evening we went to a Pintxos bar called Txalaka (pronounced Chalaka).

Pintxos is similar to Tapas, but is mainly served on bread, with a skewer/toothpick. This bar was like a buffet, you grab a big plate, fill it up with goodies, eat it and keep the sticks to show how much you need to pay. I was like a kid in a sweet shop! We also had a basque sparkling white wine called txakoli (the wine is so cheap out there!). You can go up as many times as you like, just don’t forget you’ve got to pay at the end…

On my plate (clockwise from top left): manchego cheese & quince, olives stuffed with cream cheese, figs & cured ham, prawn wrapped in crispy potato strips, cream cheese, pistachio, cured duck & balsamic on bread, marinated broad beans & cured duck, and a cheese croquette. There was also a selection of sweet pintxos, but i only had room for one – little orange jellies.

It was all tasty, i’m only disappointed i didn’t have room for more, as they kept bringing out new dishes every ten minutes or so!

Sunday

Sunday we went to Barcelona to meet up with an old friend who lives there. There are some amazing bars/restaurants in Barcelona but we just stopped at a little cafe and had snacks, so I didn’t take any food photos apart from this one…

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Dulche de Leche Ice cream from a shop in Barceloneta (by the sea) – it was fabulous but i’m sure about half of it dripped down my hand as it was so hot! And I can’t remember the name of the place – terrible blogger sorry…

Monday

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Monday we did some more exploring around the old town, and found quite a few places serving crepes, probably because it’s so close to the border with France. We chose to eat at Creperie Bretonne because it had a really good value menu del dia (menu of the day – like a set menu), €8.50 for two courses and a drink, and also because they had a big bus in the restaurant – amazing!

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There was a choice of soup, salad or quiche to start, then a choice of three galettes. We both chose the ham and cheese quiche to start, which was rich and delicious, and i had some cidre (french cider) which came in a tea cup! We then both had the same galette too – chicken, onion, cheese and chives, which was deceptively filling but very flavourful. Unfortunately I didn’t leave enough room for one of their salted butter caramel crepes, which pains me to this day, as it sounded amazing. Never mind… I did have room for a cortado though – similar to an italian macchiato – an espresso with a little bit of warm milk.

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Monday evening we ate at a restaurant called Occi, which lonely planet and our airbnb host had recommended. The menu was a bit fusion-y, mixing Spanish with French, Italian, and some Asian ideas. I had the cheese plate to start – the waiter recommended having half of the portion size which was a good idea as there was still plenty to eat! I liked all the cheeses, a mixture of goat and sheep’s cheese mainly, but felt it could have done with more than the two apricots as accompaniments – some quince or other fruit maybe?

For mains we both went for duck options, the OH had Duck cannelloni with port and apples, which was more like a duck pancake as it was made with pastry. I went for the duck breast with blue cheese ravioli and a coffee sauce – mainly because it sounded odd. The flavours actually all went fine together, but it was all quite stodgy and could’ve done with some vegetables or salad to lift it a bit.

We didn’t have room for dessert but they brought us out some sugared almonds which was a nice touch. There was also a pre-starter of pumpkin soup with crunchy lardons which was probably the nicest thing I ate there! The food generally felt like it was missing something for me, but our waiter was great, and very good at choosing wine for each of us!

Tuesday

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Breakfast! A trip to Xocolateria L’antiga, an old-fashioned cafe, was in order for some crazy thick hot chocolate and a pastry. I was desperate for churros but nowhere seemed to have them, so we settled for an ‘Ensaimada’ each – a majorcan cake that tasted a lot like Pannetone. This, dipped into the chocolate was almost enough to make me forget about churros.

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I said ‘almost’! When we finally found some an hour or so later I couldn’t resist. We didn’t have them with chocolate, just dusted in sugar and hot and delicious.

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Lunch ( I know, we still stopped for lunch after all that): Le Bistrot. We’d walked past this restaurant every day on our way into the old town, and liked how all the tables were set up on the steps – it looked pretty romantic in the evenings. We had their menu of the day – €13 for two courses and a drink. We both chose their house speciality for main – Pork cheeks, which came with chickpeas, carrots and onions. We then had pineapple for dessert, which was literally two massive chunks of fresh pineapple on a plate. The food here was pretty rustic, but the pork cheeks were blinking’ gorgeous and falling off the bone. The service wasn’t amazing but the cheeks made up for it!

That evening we went to El Celler de Can Roca, but I will leave you in suspense about that for now because i have more than enough photo’s to do a dedicated post on that one restaurant!

I’d thoroughly recommend Girona for a mini-break – it was really nice having a few days just to wander around the medieval part of the city, popping into churches and gardens, and restaurants and bars. There are enough places to eat and drink that you could probably eat somewhere different every day for a couple of months!

Some of the things we recommend seeing:

The Cathedral

The Arab Baths

The Archeology Museum (for it’s amazing setting in an old monastery)

Walking the old city walls

More info on Girona can be found on the lonely planet website or the Girona tourist office website.

Let me know if you’ve been!

Gluttonous Goings-On

Confession: In the past week, I have eaten out five times. Five times! That’s greedy, I apologise…

It was a special week though; 30th birthday celebrations for the OH, seeing an old friend, trying a new restaurant… it was a good week 😉

Here’s some of the places I went and ate:

Saturday 9th Aug

DSCN0083DSCN0073The Walled Garden at Mells

We went on a little excursion last Saturday to Mells – a pretty village not too far from us in Somerset. It has a 17th walled garden with lots of pretty flowers (they do wedding flowers too), and a cafe. In the summer there is also a wood-fired Pizza oven. We sampled a couple of their pizza’s (after a 45 minute wait – it’s a popular place), and they didn’t disappoint 🙂 Mine was a fairly traditional ham and mushroom, but the ham was local, and the mushrooms were porcini. There was also black olives on it. It was a really thin, crispy base – very authentic!

The OH went for a more eclectic mix of ingredients – capers, black olives, raisins and red onion on a cheese and tomato base – strange but delicious (we swapped two slices!) The pizza’s were about £8.50 each which we thought was pretty good. They also serve sandwiches, cakes, tea, coffee etc in the cafe, and I had a Fentiman’s Victorian Lemonade.

The garden is really pretty (as is the village in general), definitely worth a visit …

The Walled Garden at Mells

Rectory Garden

Selwood Street

Mells

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Sunday 10th Aug

IMG_20140816_121719 IMG_20140816_121851Bath Artisan Market

We have a couple of friends with pitches at the Bath Artisan Market so popped down to see them- Pitch Twenty Six, Ruth Thorp and (occasionally) StudioQi – all of whom sell great artwork/illustrations/photography so check them out!

Whilst there we got distracted by the smell of food and found Eat Like a Greek – a food stall serving greek food (funnily enough). I had the Halloumi pita wrap which came with salad, balsamic and olive oil, and was delicious. The OH had the pork pita, which came with tzatziki and red onions, and was possibly a bit more delicious than mine – I had to have a few bites to make sure…

The Artisan market always has interesting stalls, and this month didn’t disappoint. I had heard of Henny & Joe’s Chai syrup but hadn’t tried anyway, so when i saw them giving out free samples i pounced. It was predictably tasty, and i had already been seduced by the beauteous bottle it comes in, so I didn’t need much convincing to buy a little bottle. The fact that it is handmade in Bath is a nice thought too!

Bath Artisan Market

Green Park (2nd Sunday of the month)

Bath

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Monday 11th Aug

IMG_20140816_121618Hall & Woodhouse Bath

On Monday I met up with a friend I hadn’t seen in ages 🙂 I took her to hall & Woodhouse in Bath because they do good drinks, pretty good food, and the building is an old auctioneers which is beautiful! I had their special summer cocktail ‘English Country Garden’ (Tanqueray Gin, St Germain elderflower liqueur, cloudy apple juice and fresh mint) which was very refreshing, and did look a bit like a garden in a glass 😉

Food-wise I was greedy and had ‘Whole roasted poussin with roast garlic, fries and anchovy mayo’ for £13.50 which was good (if a teeny bit dry in parts) – and pretty sizeable – but I managed to finish it which i’m not sure I should admit!

Hall & Woodhouse Bath

1 Old King St

Bath

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Tuesday 12th Aug

IMG_20140816_121349#1 IMG_20140816_121528#1Grillstock Bath

I had been meaning to visit Grillstock in Bristol for about a year but somehow never got round to it. Luckily they very kindly opened a branch up in Bath especially for me (pretty sure that was the reason anyway)… So I finally lost my Grillstock virginity hoorah!

For those that don’t know, Grilstock is a southern-style american bbq restaurant (and takeaway). They smoke everything over hickory wood and the menu features pulled pork, burgers, ribs, beef brisket, chicken, hot dogs, and no veg whatsoever – except fries and slaw – this is not a place for vegetarians!

I went for half a rack of ribs (£11) which came with fries, slaw, smoked sausage, and pickles – again i somehow managed to finish it, and it was blinking tasty, the ribs were smoky, sticky and chewy, and i had an alcoholic iced tea to wash it all down with. Good, dirty fun…

The OH and a friend went for the burger (£8) which came in a bun with pulled pork, cheese, pickles and ‘fry sauce’, and also had fries and slaw on the side. I tried this (for research purposes) and it is definitely worth the bargainous £8.

Two guys next to us went for the ‘Grand Champion Challenge’  (‘All Four Meats – Pulled Pork, Brisket, Ribs & Chicken, Burnt Ends, Hot-dog, Bbq Beans, Brisket Chilli & Cornbread’). If you can eat it all in one hour (just one person), you win a bottle of BBQ sauce and Grillstock ‘Grand Champion’ t-shirt. We left before they finished so may never know if either of them were crowned ‘Grand Champion’, but the food was absolutely ridiculous! Made me feel sick just looking at it all – good luck to anyone trying that out in the future…

Grillstock Smokehouse

The Vaults, Southgate

Unit 4

12 Brunel Square

Bath

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Wednesday 13th Aug

IMG_20140816_121109 IMG_20140816_121212 IMG_20140816_120820Menu Gordon Jones

Now for something a little more refined…

Menu Gordon Jones is a little restaurant in the Wellsway area of Bath, and it is the best restaurant i’ve eaten in, in my 30 years of being. The building itself is an unprepossessing former cafe, it is quite casual inside but with quirky touches – animal skulls on the walls, old chemist’s bottles on the bar. It only has 14 covers a night, so you have to get in quick if you want a table – especially on the weekend!

The menu is non-existent, you state any dietary requirements when booking, and that is all the say you get in what you eat 😉 Gordon Jones conjures up amazing dishes out of whatever food he has from his suppliers that day, and if there in the evening, you get six courses for £50. (For lunch it is five courses for £40).

We have been five times now, and every time I have had a new ingredient, or a new combination of food that i would never have thought of putting together… it’s an experience as well as a delicious meal.

This time it was the OH’s 30th Birthday so we had the wine flight as well (a glass of wine chosen to suit each course) – great experience, but not so great on a school night!

A selection of the dishes we had:

Top photo – Sea Trout, Cauliflower Beetroot Cous Cous, Sour Cherries, Popcorn, and Tomato water.

Middle photo – Tandooi Monkfish, Sea Fennel, Quinoa, Marmalade, Broad Beans, Crispy pastry, and i think Gooseberris!

Bottom photo – Almond Tart with a Creme Brûlée top, Mirabelle (a type of yellow plum) sorbet and soufflé, chocolate orange drops, mini meringues, and slices of Mirabelle plums.

The only thing i don’t love about this restaurant is they serve flavoured water which i’m not a fan of (although i’m sure i could’ve just asked for plain if i was that bothered) – but that’s mega-picky. If Gordon Jones doesn’t get a Michelin Star in the near future I will be v surprised!

 Menu Gordon Jones

2 Wellsway

Bath

BA2 3AQ

Let me know if you’ve eaten anywhere good recently!

Happy Weekending…

Street Food (and Coffee): Italy

When I think of places to get great street food, Italy doesn’t immediately spring to mind for some reason – i automatically think of Asia. After our recent trip however, Italy will be a close second to Vietnam in my top street food countries!

Here’s some of the Street Food (and coffee) we sampled…

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Arancini

Balls of Risotto rice, traditionally stuffed with mozzarella, meat ragu, & peas, rolled in breadcrumbs and deep-fried – these are a meal in themselves! For about 1 euro you can’t go wrong… Arancini at the top is from Naples, on the bottom from Sicily – both tasted awesome, it was only really the shape that differentiated them.

An Arancini recipe that i really want to try is this one – Arancini stuffed with Truffles and Dolcelatte Gorgonzola – not as rustic as the original arancini’s but still sounding delicious!

There’s a neapolitan street food restaurant in Bath that i haven’t been to for a while called Yammo! Will have to go back to sample their arancini’s…

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Italian Fish & Chips

When in Amalfi, we spotted a street vendor selling lots of things in cones to the locals and were intrigued… We found out it was all variations on Fish & Chips! Little whole fried fishes, calamari, mixed seafood, or wedges of lightly battered cod and mini potatoes. We both went for the latter to see how it compares with the english version. You get a huge cone filled with lots of little potatoes, two hunks of white fish in batter, a big wedge of lemon, and a stick to skewer the food on. Apart from the potatoes not being particularly hot, it was pretty tasty – the fish was great and tasted really fresh, and it felt a little healthier than the english version (although i love me some proper F&C!)

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Panelle and Crocche

Palermo is known for its street food and has lots of different scary sounding options, such as Pani ca Meusa (bread rolls stuffed with beef spleen) or Stigghiola (goat intestine filled with onions, cheese and parsley)! Unfortunately for us, when wandering the food market we didn’t come across those two options 😉

We did instead find some street food we had wanted to try – Panelle (Chickpea fritters) and Crocche (mashed potato croquettes flavoured with mint and a hint of cheese). These were filling and quite more-ish, despite being very simple ingredients.

A recipe for Panelle that i’ve had on my pinterest for a while is this one – which turns the fritters into fries and serves them with a dipping sauce. Must try!

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Cannoli and Gelati

Sweet stuff! Sicily is known for its pastries, and the Cannoli is one of the most popular. Made from Pastry dough shaped into a tube and fried, it is then filled with a sweetened ricotta mixture, and studded with pistachio’s at either end. There were other variations of this available, but this one was tasty – couldn’t eat more than one though as they’re pretty sweet.

Gelati needs no introduction, the fabulous italian ice cream is everywhere and in any flavour you can think of. The one in the photo above is Tiramisu flavour, but my favourite was probably cherries & ‘fior di latte’ which literally translates as milk’s flower, and is a very creamy milky vanilla flavour – delicious with the cherries and some kirsch 🙂

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Coffee

I’m not sure you can really go to Italy and not drink coffee (although my dad will protest at this statement!), it’s just so readily available, in many different forms, and makes me feel a bit italian – apart from when drinking the crazy iced cappuccino with whipped cream in the last photo!

Apparently italians tend to only drink cappuccino’s as a breakfast drink, and it is then replaced with the espresso until the next day. We tried to stick to the italian way as much as possible… the top two photos are of Caffe Freddo (Iced coffee) – a bit different to the iced coffees of Starbucks and co, these are just espressos shaken with ice, in a champagne glass – very sophisticated 😉

The next two photos are of an espresso on the beach (they really are everywhere) and a ‘espresso to go’ a travel pack of tiny cartons of espresso and chocolate with a little straw – in case you can’t get your coffee fix any other way…

And finally the aforementioned Cappuccino – it was before lunch so i think we got away with it! This was more like an iced coffee you’d get in the UK, but that’s not a criticism  – it was blinking tasty – just needed to do an awful lot of walking to work off that and the complimentary biscuits…

20140726_112539We purchased a little stove-top espresso maker as a souvenir as we’d enjoyed using them in our airbnb places – we can now make coffee in many different ways, including vietnamese, but never instant – i’m a coffee snob…

Rhubarb Syrup for Summer Days

I’m a bit obsessed with Rhubarb at the moment, particularly in drink-form. Cawston Press do a very nice Rhubarb and Apple drink (pictured) and Chase (the vodka people) do a Rhubarb Liqueur which i keep admiring in cocktails but can’t bring myself to spend £20 on a bottle just yet!

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Instead, a couple of weeks ago i decided to make some Rhubarb Syrup to put in drinks, hoping this would satisfy my Rhubarb-y cravings… I’m happy to say it did! The recipe below is from http://www.notwithoutsalt.com (modified slightly) and it makes about 200ml of syrup which doesn’t sound like a lot, but as it’s concentrated rhubarb (and lots of sugar), you don’t need that much to make a glass of soda water taste delicious – and it would liven up a Gin and Tonic or some Prosecco if you just happen to have some lying around too…

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Rhubarb Syrup Recipe

(Makes enough for approx. 8 drinks)

450 g chopped rhubarb (approx. 4 stalks)

230 g sugar

 450 ml water

1 vanilla pod 

Put all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat slightly so the mixture continues to boil gently. Boil for 15 minutes or until the mixture is reduced by nearly half. The rhubarb will break down into a mush, and the liquid will get syrupy. Remove the pan from the heat and let the syrup cool.

When cool, strain out the rhubarb. Save the rhubarb-y mush to eat with yogurt, on top of ice cream or make a deconstructed rhubarb crumble?!

Rhubarb syrup will keep covered in the fridge for two weeks (but it won’t last that long).

The colour is amazing and the taste reminds me a bit of Raspberry Ripple (maybe because of the vanilla pod?) It’s good in an ice cream float too… Quick make some before the sun comes back out! 😉