Archive | October, 2014

Modernist Macaroni & Cheese

27 Oct

Macaroni cheese with sausages is a strong memory from my childhood of one of those meals my mum (an amazing cook) would cook on a friday evening when she was tired from the week and wanted something easier and that we’d all love.

Since then I always think of it as a comfort food and though I’ve tried many variations sometimes the simplest is the best.

I first came across this recipe a while ago but it’s taken me this long to get hold of Sodium Citrate and then manage to remember to buy all the other ingredients needed. But needing a good vodka-soaking-up food for my tasting this weekend I wanted to try the recipe before making a huge batch and unleashing it on guests. I especially loved that the sauce apparently keeps for a week in the fridge and a month frozed.


The recipe for the sauce is simple:

  • 265ml of milk or water
  • 11g Sodium Citrate
  • 285g cheese- finely grated
  1. Add the Sodium Citrate to the liquid and whisk to disolve.
  2. Heat over  a low heat until simmering.
  3. Slowly add the cheese mixing with an immersion blender and fully melting (the mixture can get foamy but this soon disappears)
  4. Pour over cooked pasta, cauliflower etc and enjoy!


I did as instructed and tasted- amazing!

It was a very rich cheese sauce with none of the uncooked or overcooked flour taste normally associated with making the sauce from a roux. The cheese shone through and wasn’t diluted by the flour.

But, it was very rich.

As I made it I remember that previously I always added some mustard (preferably English) and I felt it did need something like this to cut through the richness. Lacking mustard I searched the cupboards and came up with two alternatives- vinegar and beer.

Experimenting I added a bit of each to a sample of the sauce and wow- it truly stepped it up a notch. The additions didn’t detract from the sauce but instead added to it making sure the richness wasn’t too overpowering or sickly.

So I added some of each (maybe 1/2 tbs vinegar and 4tbs beer) to the sauce and began with the accompaniments.

As my pasta boiled I fried up some leeks (another thing I thought might help cut through the richness without being too overpowering like onions could be) and some good old basic sausages. A meal like this doesn’t call for herbs and fancy flavours- plain pork sausages with some  filler was just perfect.

Fried leeks added flavour and something to cut through the richness of the sauce

Fried leeks added flavour and something to cut through the richness of the sauce




To serve I mixed the leeks with the sauce and poured over the pasta.

The sauce was thick and delicious

The sauce was thick and delicious

Sadly I messed up at the end by making the rookie mistake of forgetting that without stirring each piece of past would have a little bit of water in it which when combined would water down the sauce- this extra water plus the liquid addtions I’d made meant the sauce was looser than I’d hoped- but no less delicous. (Since then I’ve read that because the sauce is so smooth it doesn’t coat so well so maybe it was this also that made it seem thinner when added to the pasta).

p.s. heated up in the microwave the next day the left-overs were just as good with no deterioration in the sauce.









Tuscan Shandy

25 Oct

Another great thing about Incanto is that they introduced us to a great non-alcoholic drink- the Tuscan Shandy.

The Tuscan Shandy

The Tuscan Shandy

It may be known by other names but a Google search is getting me so where so as well as stealing their drink recipe (or my guess at it) I’m stealing their name.

The ingredients are simple: equal parts lemonade, ginger beer & orange juice. Add a dash (or a big glug if you’re me) of Angostura Bitters and serve over ice- refreshing and tasty heaven in a glass.

I’ve learnt over time that orange juice with no ‘bits’ or long-life from concentrate is best to stop it ‘separating’ and all the ‘bits’ floating to the top.

Over this summer we seemed to have a large jug of it permanently in the fridge and it’s a great standby for when friends are round and you want to serve more than regular soft drinks to anyone who wants some non-alcoholic hydration.

All the ingredients can be kept in the cupboard and just stirred with ice at a moments notice making it a great go to.

Flavoured Vodka Part Two

24 Oct

Searching for flavoured vodka on the internet brings up many ready-made concoction (birthday cake flavour anyone?) and lots of recipes that involves simply adding skittles to bottles of vodka but the main points of praise for these seems to be you end up with coloured sugar water- not what I’m looking for.

But in the interests of research – and those with a sweeter tooth than mine- I’m going to make one of the popular variations on the internet- Werther’s Original Vodka.

The recipe is simple enough- crush up 1/2 small pack of the sweets (this turned out to be 13 of them) and add to 350ml of vodka.

A lot of the recipes involve putting the whole bottled concoction into a dishwasher to speed up the process but I have 8 days until we’ll be drinking this so I’ve got time to let them naturally dissolve. If after 5 or so days it’s not happening I may rethink and use heat to speed it all up.


The crushed sweets added to the vodka

The crushed sweets added to the vodka


Flavoured Vodka Part One

23 Oct

I’m planning a vodka tasting evening soon (it’ll be a blind tasting ) and though I’ve gathered a few different ones for us to try I thought it’d be good to make done of my own.

A lot of Googling has brought me a varied list I thought I’d attempt and today I began the process of making  them.

Today’s varieties are carrot, tomato and liquorice.

I’m just using 350 ml of vodka for each one as in total there will be at least 14 different ones and I doubt we’ll get through 750ml of each!

The basic recipes I’ve gone for are:

1 1/2 large carrots peeled (this us optional) and then finely ribboned. This was placed in a large glass jar and 350ml of vodka poured over.

1/2 pound of tomatoes each one cut into 8 pieces and placed in large glass jar. 350ml of vodka poured over.

I bought some delicious bars of liquorice and cut up 2 1/2 bars into z jar and poured 350 ml of vodka over.

I’m going test each over every day (shaking to mix) and see how the flavours develop. I’m expecting the carrot and tomato ones to be mixing for a week or so but the liquorice I may just leave for a day or do.

I’ll post back with the results as they develop.


Todays potions

Todays potions



18 hours in-
Carrot and tomato are developing taste of their ingredients. Liquorice has full taste and colour so I’ve strained it through a coffee filter and bottled it to prevent the taste getting too overpowering if I left it any longer.


Straining the liquorice

Straining the liquorice

The liquorice all bottled

The liquorice all bottled

Paul A Young Chocolate

15 Oct

I love chocolate. My go to are dark and strong (preferably 90% upwards) but some days I crave the sugar fix of Dairy Milk and nothing else will do.

One sadness to me is that more companies don’t do filled or flavoured high cocoa choocolates but one that does is Paul A Young.

I don’t often get a chance to visit them but today I did and had a hard time making my choices.

Their range of fresh chocolates varies from week to week so you never know what they’ll have (though the Marmite seems to be a perennial) and over the years I have fallen in love with some (a memorable marzipan covered kirsch cherry springs to mind) only to never see them again.

But today I picked just 3 different flavours (at £7 for 4 making a wider choice soon becomes expensive. Not that they’re not worth it, just a more considered purchase that other chocolate).

I went with 2 x Marmite (I adore this and have never tasted Marmite used in a better way), slow-roasted garlic and cigar-smoke.


All were delicious and a tantalising mix of sweet and savoury with an amazing depth of flavour.

They have 4 branches in London but also have some of their range available on Craved making it easier for everyone to get to enjoy them.


Back To Incanto

14 Oct

I’m always looking for an excuse to visit Incanto and a friend coming to visit was just perfect.

As always the service and atmosphere was fantastic and we were keen to try out the new menu and the new chef.

Of course we weren’t disappointed.

Two of us chose the set menu and one the a la carte- both are amazing value and offer so much choice we struggled to make any decisions.

Once we’d finally ordered we were treated to some wonderful bread (I really can’t rave about the bread this restaurant serves nearly enough) an amouse bouche of a soup plus an incredible concoction of (I’m guessing now as I can’t remember all the ingredients) cracked rice and egg yolk. It was savoury, salty and delicious- imagine a more flavourful, textured and nuanced cracking and you’d be on the right track.

A dirty martini accompanied by the delicious bread and amazing concoction

A dirty martini accompanied by the delicious bread and amazing concoction

I began with Roasted leek and gruyere cheese soup served with garlic croutons (this soup was outstanding. I expected it to be ‘chunky’ but it was as smooth and textured as milk but the amount of flavour packed into the misleadingly thin liquid was incredible).

My main course was Guinea fowl breast, salted baked celeriac, smoked potato purée, caramelised onions. This was cooked to perfection and the different textures and flavours worked really well together.

Guinea fowl breast, salted baked celeriac, smoked potato purée, caramelised onions

Guinea fowl breast, salted baked celeriac, smoked potato purée, caramelised onions

Lastly we all shared Conference pear, pistachio granola, salted caramel ice cream and Textures of mandarin, burnt honey cream, honeycomb. Both were exquisite and we were sad to be so full we couldn’t finish them between us.



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