Making Hot Cross Buns at home – an Easter tradition

Hot Cross Buns

If you ever had to learn to play the recorder in elementary school, you probably learned the song “Hot Cross Buns”. “One ha’ penny, two ha’ penny.” You know the one. If you’ve never actually eaten a hot cross bun, they are a delicious, sweet yeast roll, made with currants, cinnamon, allspice and cloves, then marked with a cross of icing to celebrate Easter. Making and eating hot cross buns for Good Friday is an English tradition going back to the Tudors, after the small spiced cakes were outlawed for most of the year, excepting Easter week.  We carry on this tradition at my house and you can too. Here is a step-by-step guide on making hot cross buns at home. At the end of this post, I've also included instructions on how to make hot cross buns ahead of time, in case you are pressed for time during the holidays.

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Pegu Club Cocktail

Pegu Club Cocktail

Like many classic gin cocktails, the Pegu Club Cocktail has its origins in the British Colonial Empire. The cocktail was named after the original Pegu Club in Rangoon, Burma - part of the British Empire during Victorian times and now, independent present-day Myanmar. The Pegu Club was a gentleman's club that catered to the senior British military officers stationed there. The Prince of Wales and George Orwell both dined there. The British writer Rudyard Kipling stopped in on his brief visit to Rangoon and observed that…

“The Pegu Club seemed to be full of men on their way up or down, and the conversation was but an echo of the murmur of conquest far away to the north.”1

To me, this makes it sound like some backwater of the Empire, with officers biding their time before moving on to greater colonial glories in India.

During World War II, the Japanese took control of Rangoon and the Pegu Club, ending the British Empire's presence there. Its legend lives on today through its signature drink – the Pegu Club cocktail, a refreshing combination of gin, Orange Curaçao, fresh lime juice and bitters. 

Pegu Club postcard Pegu Club Cocktail

The Pegu Club in Rangoon, Burma – home of the Pegu Club Cocktail

The Pegu Club Cocktail

Pegu Club Cocktail calls for a London Dry-style gin, such as Gordon's, Tanqueray or Bombay.  The London Dry is the style most familiar to American gin drinkers. It has the classic juniper and citrus taste that we associate with gin. As the name implies, it is very dry and light. Curaçao is a liqueur made from the fragrant peel of the laraha fruit, which was cultivated from the Valencia orange on the Southern Caribbean island of Curaçao. It is naturally clear, but color is added – blue for Blue Curaçao or orange for Orange Curaçao. You'll see it often in tiki drinks, such as the Kamikaze or the Mai Tai.

PeguClubCocktailIngredients Pegu Club Cocktail

Pegu Club Cocktailgin, bitters and Orange Curaçao

Pegu Club Cocktail

2 oz London Dry Gin
3/4 oz Orange Curaçao (you can substitute with Cointreau)
1/2 oz lime juice
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash orange bitters

Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled. Pour into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange or grapefruit twist.

1 Rudyard Kipling, From Sea to Sea, and Other Travel Sketches, Letters of Travel (1899)

Eating Dandelion greens – the bitter, delicious truth

Dandelion Greens

The fact that I can forage for dandelion greens in my urban backyard is a testament to both the tenacity of the plant and my laziness as a landscape gardener. As soon as the weather starts to warm up here in Georgia, I can see that distinctive yellow flower popping up all over my backyard. I'm not one to seek perfection in a lawn, so I rather like the little addition of color back there. Dandelions also provide something that most people choose to ignore – edible dandelion greens. Dandelions are loaded with calcium, iron, vitamins A, B1, B2, B6 and lots of other micronutrients. So…here are the basics on eating dandelion greens.

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The Mr. 404 cocktail

Mr. 404 Cocktail

We're in the middle of March Madness fever, and this year, I'm particularly excited because my team, the Tennessee Volunteers, has made it to the Sweet 16 round!. They play tonight, and because the Vols are known as the Big Orange, I need an appropriately  orange-colored cocktail to celebrate. A quick look at my bar and the bottle of bright orange Aperol popped out at me. I wanted to find an Aperol cocktail that wasn't an Aperol Spritz, so looking online, I found one that was originally from the Mr. Boston Official Bartender's Guide. It combined Aperel, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, vodka and fresh lemon juice to make a bright, refreshing mix – The Mr. 404 Cocktail.  

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Chocolate Truffle recipe – simple to make at home

Chocolate Truffles, ready to give

Oh my. Valentine's Day is tomorrow and we are snowed in. No chance to run out for cards or flowers or chocolates. I'm going to have to improvise with what I have in the pantry. I do have some good chocolate, so I'll make chocolate truffles. Here is a simple, step-by-step chocolate truffle recipe that you can easily make in a couple of hours.

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Baja-Style Fried Catfish Tacos with Slaw

Baja-Style Fried Catfish Tacos

Baja-style fish tacos have become increasingly popular over the last 10-15 years. The grilled fish wrapped in tortillas make a great summer dinner. When it's cold out and the hubby isn't too keen on getting outside to grill, we make a Southern version – Baja-Style Fried Catfish Tacos with slaw.

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The Blood and Sand cocktail, made with blood orange

The Blood and Sand Cocktail

The Blood and Sand cocktail is a throwback to the Prohibition-era days when Rudolph Valentino was one of the greatest stars of the Silver Screen. Named after “the Sheik”‘s 1922 movie, this classic cocktail is one of the few that uses scotch as it's base. Like many cocktails from that era, the recipe could be found in Harry Cradock's “The Savoy Cocktail Book”

Blood and Sand 1922 poster2 The Blood and Sand cocktail, made with blood orange

Rudolph Valentino's “Blood and Sand” movie poster

Using Scotch in a cocktail

There are not too many scotch cocktails around. Scotch has such a distinctive smoky taste, that it is very difficult to combine with other flavors and not have it overwhelm the whole drink. And, let's be honest.  If you're going to drink a good scotch, you're probably going to drink it neat or with a little ice and water. The Blood and Sand cocktail is a scotch cocktail worth breaking out the good stuff to try. It's a satisfying combination of the smokiness of the scotch and the sweetness of the blood orange, cherry heering and vermouth. For this cocktail recipe, I did use a very nice, single-malt scotch, Ardbeg. Some people actually prefer to use a milder, scotch blend, such as Dewar's or Johnnie Walker. 

BloodSandIngredients The Blood and Sand cocktail, made with blood orange

Blood and Sand Cocktail ingredients – cherry heering, sweet vermouth, scotch and blood orange

 

BloodOrangeSlices The Blood and Sand cocktail, made with blood orange

Blood Orange Slices

Blood Oranges

Blood orange is a sweet orange with a dark red pulp. On the outside, if looks very similar to any other orange, but when you slice one open, it looks almost like a dark ruby red grapefruit, but a lot sweeter. Like many oranges, the blood orange is native to the Mediterranean, but has been cultivated in the U.S. for quite a while. It is a seasonal market find, with the best blood oranges to be found from November to February.

BloodOrangeSlice The Blood and Sand cocktail, made with blood orange

Blood Orange Slice

The Blood and Sand Cocktail

1 oz scotch (blended or single-malt is fine)
1 oz. fresh blood orange juice
3/4 oz. cherry heering
3/4 oz. sweet vermouth
orange peel or maraschino cherry to garnish

Place ice in a cocktail shaker. Pour in the scotch, fresh blood orange juice, cherry herring and sweet vermouth. Shake until chilled. Pour into an old-fashioned cocktail glass, then garnish with a wedge of orange peel or a maraschino cherry.

If you want to get fancy, you can do the trick that I showed you a couple of weeks ago… flaming the orange peel. I've got pictures posted on how to do this over at my Tangerine Drop Martini blog post.

Cheers!

FlamingtheOrangePeel The Blood and Sand cocktail, made with blood orange

Flaming the Orange Peel over a Tangerine Drop Martini

Tangerine Drop Martini

Tangerine Drop Martini

Mid-winter brings a more monotonous selection in the produce aisle but a bounteous variety in the citrus section. While the fresh berries and melons of summer have faded into memory, the market is piled high with oranges, grapefruits, lemons and limes. Even though varieties of the fruit can be found throughout the year, some citrus is only available in the winter – blood orange, pommelos, Meyer lemons and tangerines. It's the perfect time of year to add these bright flavors to a cocktail. This week, I'm making a Tangerine Drop Martini. 

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Making Beef Stock from bones

Finished homemade beef stock from bones

I recently bought a share of a beef cow with some friends. We split a half a steer between the five of us. My friend Casie had tracked down a farmer who could sell us meat that was organic, grass-fed and humanely-slaughtered. After dividing the share between five families, I took home a freezer full of meat. Given the option to pick whatever odd cuts of meat that we wanted, I asked for the large leg bones for soup and marrow and ended up with three 9-pound bags of assorted soup bones. I was the only one that wanted them, for some reason. What to do with this treasure? The only thing to do was to try making beef stock from bones at home.

Beef stock made from bones is so nutrient-rich and satisfying, that it has been used as medicine for centuries. Filled with bio-available protein, calcium, amino acids and niacin, there is a reason why doctors (and your mother) prescribe a bowl of broth when you are sick. When it is made at home, it is naturally low-sodium and low-calorie. The bones give the stock lots of collagen, which is essential to our bone and joint health. Because it is made from bones, it is relatively inexpensive (and frugal) to make. Making beef stock from bones is certainly easy and the result is a basic building-block for sauces, soups, rices and stews. 

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Porcini Mushroom Barley Soup

Porcini Mushroom Barley Soup

Soup has magical qualities. It warms you and comforts you. If you are on a diet, soup gives you an easy way to bring more vegetables into your diet in that is completely satisfying. When it gets cold, one soup that I love to make is Porcini Mushroom Barley Soup. It is full of “umami”, the savory taste that makes you go “mmmm”.

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