Making Damson Gin

damson gin (6 of 7)I discovered that it’s not hard to make a fantastic spirit to summon up the vestiges of summer when you’re in the cold depths of winter.

Damsons + sugar + cheap gin = heaven. Here’s how…

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Going for goat

After all the rich roasts and traditional tastes of Christmas and with snow and ice on the ground outside, it was no wonder the curry goat recipe in Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Meat book caught our eye over the New Year weekend…a bit of fire and spice seemed the perfect antidote to festive indulgence!

Luckily there was goat in the freezer awaiting its moment of glory and the rest of the ingredients seemed fairly easy to find. Fenugreek was easily obtained from the fabulous spice and herb selection at The Bear, but we had slightly more difficulty finding fresh chillies of any sort elsewhere. We decided to use a mixture of dried chillies and hot sauce instead and headed home to get warm, either in front of the fire or by chillies…

I have never cooked curry goat before, so I have no idea how this recipe measures up to any other, but preparing the meat was fairly straightforward. I dry roasted the first five spices on the list in a frying pan and then ground them in a pestle and mortar. The inclusion of the cinnamon stick made this a slightly more time consuming process than anticipated and I felt it might have been better to use a blender or spice mill to get it even enough not to have to pick bits out when eating the curry, but this seemed like a minor issue, especially compared to how good it all smelt!

I added the ground spices (omitting the turmeric as I can’t stand the stuff), a chopped onion and the wet ingredients to make the marinade. Since it is deepest winter, I used a can of good quality plum tomatoes rather than the feeble specimens available at this time of year. To add some extra summer flavour I added 2 tablespoons of hot sauce and several soaked several chipotle chillies to the mix, reserving the liquor, and mixed everything well with my hands before leaving to marinade for several hours.

Once the meat had had time to infuse and relax (around 5 hours), I scraped as much of the tomato and onion mix of the pieces of goat as possible and browned the meat in batches in the ghee in a large Le Creuset on the hob and setting aside, before softening the remaining tomato and onion mix for 5 or 10 minutes. Making sure the goat was clean of the tomato and onion mix was fiddly and it was essential to keep a close eye on the browning pieces to make sure the remaining onion didn’t burn. After softening the vegetables, I deglazed the pan with water and added the meat back in, leaving it all to cook slowly on the hob for the next 3 or so hours, heading out to the pub to escape the oh-so tempting smells in the kitchen!

Returning home, we found the goat well cooked, but with quite a layer of grease from both the goat and the ghee. While the rice was cooking, I skimmed as much of the oil off the top of the curry as I could and added in the chopped fresh coriander to cook off the soapy flavour it can have, before serving the curry goat with freshly boiled long grain rice.

The curry was delicious with rich warming flavours and a good proportion of sauce to meat. However the goat was a little bit tough which might have been because we didn’t marinade it long enough (we forgot to do it overnight as recommended) or just because goat can be that way inclined, but after gnawing on the bones and enjoying an extra treat of the sweet succulent marrow inside them, it didn’t really matter as it was so delicious. I will definitely be making this again, but I would omit some of the black peppercorns and definitely use the Scotch Bonnet chillies to add more nuance to the heat of the curry. It would also be fantastic with some spinach type leaves cooked in, but I have a feeling it will become a favourite no matter what!

Really, eely good…

eel1

Oh missus, what a chopper…

Mister North and Miss South enjoy the deliciously delicate delights of smoked eel fillet, provided by the marvellous Port of Lancaster Smokehouse in Glasson Dock.

I first tried this in Rotterdam a few years ago, after a recommendation from a local friend, who urged me to taste a morsel of lightly smoked eel. I’d had eel by then, but was overwhelmed by the experience of such a wonderfully firm flesh, infused with a delicate smokey flavour. As a result I was, if you pardon the pun, hooked.