Fresh peaches are bang in season right now so use them to make these summery cocktails that I think are quite perfect for next week's Independence Day celebrations - or this weekend's if you're celebrating it earlier
In case it's escaped your notice today is World Gin Day - a rather bizarre notion but then every food and drink seems to have its own day these days. However it does provide an excuse to re-run this article on how to make the perfect gin and tonic, under the guidance of the great Salvatore Calabrese:
With the blazing weather over the last couple of days it's hard to remember it's still spring rather than summer but here's a light lunch to enjoy with a couple of friends before we move on to full al fresco eating.
Heston Blumenthal’s Jubilee picnic hamper was unveiled yesterday - to be served at Buckingham Palace before an open-air concert on June 4th. The picnic is being funded by Waitrose who must be pleased as punch to have the Palace’s endorsement in this video. The guests will also apparently be given vouchers for a glass of Moët or a bottle of Cobra beer (the other sponsors of the event).
Men, it seems, are real softies at heart and you will woo them either with their favourite wine or an experience so romantically spontaneous it won’t matter if you drink plonk. “I've always considered gluggability to be a much undervalued virtue in wine, for sometimes, when you are with the right person, that is all that you ever really need.” wrote one friend, wine writer Marc Millon, whose full response you can read below.
To celebrate our unseasonal Indian summer here's a barbecue with a difference from my book Food, Wine and Friends. The centrepiece is a spiced, butterflied leg of lamb served with a delicious Turkish-style bulghur wheat salad called Kisir. Finish with grilled nectarines or, if you prefer to have your dessert prepared ahead, some refreshing wine jellies.
The Chinese New Year, which starts on Sunday, is one of those annual events that really captures the imagination. It is celebrated in such a colourful and joyous way and Chinese food is so delicious, quick and simple to make that I hope you won't be able to resist having a go at it. Buy in the dim sum and make the ice cream ahead and all you need make on the night is the stir-fry.
If you haven’t already made your plans for New Year’s Eve why not invite over a few friends and treat them to a beer dinner instead of one based on wine? It’s a great way to open their eyes to the great range of artisanal beers that are now available.
After the tradition-bound cooking of the Christmas period (from which the family will never let you deviate . . .) it’s good to branch out a bit with your New Year’s Eve meal and also pick some dishes that will allow you to drink some serious wines. Note you need to start the beef two days in advance.
Before we finally plunge into winter here's a late autumn supper menu from my book Food, Wine and Friends that combines the best of autumn’s produce with a couple of convenience products. Ready rolled pastry has made it wonderfully easy to knock up a quick, impressive tart while a simple dessert of grilled fruit dresses up a bought carton of ice cream. The soup can even be made ahead and frozen if you like.
As I mentioned in my last post our last lunch of the Oregon trip was at Cristom where sales director (no less!) John D'Anna cooked us a great meal. Here's how he did it and - where I have a link to them - the recipes he used. Try it!
The problem with this time of year is that it leaves little scope for creativity. The mistress (or possibly master) of the house is in charge of the kitchen. The family want the same recipes they always have. You, the humble male have little else to do but choose the wine, pull the cork and make sure it’s served at the right temperature.
The question I’ve been asked most often this year - presumably because I’ve just written a book on cheese - is what makes the perfect Christmas cheeseboard. It’s as difficult a question as what makes the perfect Christmas lunch. If you like - or your family expect - roast turkey and Christmas pudding that’s the perfect lunch for you. If you don’t it may be something quite different.
You may well have given a fair amount of thought by now to what you’ll be drinking with your turkey or goose and have set treasured bottles of Bordeaux or Burgundy aside for the main Christmas meal. But what about all the other occasions over the festive period which these days tends to stretch a good 10 days into the early New Year?
Signe Johansen recently competed in - and won - a food bloggers challenge to come up with the perfect dish for a Casillero del Diablo Chilean Cabernet. Here’s how she went about it. (You can find the recipe for the winning dish, Pigeon breast and chocolate mole with redcurrants and parmesan mash here.)
From this side of the pond we've been watching the lavish preparations for the inauguration next week with amazement. We greet our new Prime Minister the morning after the election with nothing more exciting than a strong cup of tea and toast, most political activists feeling more than a little fragile having stayed up half the night to watch the election results come through.
With drink as with food there’s always a temptation to overspend at Christmas time but if you indulge in a little bit of forward planning there are ways of keeping the cost down without short-changing your guests.
Open any French food magazine and you’ll find pages devoted to them. There are whole books on the subject. And no surprise, really - they’re easy, they’re pretty and they make you look like a great cook!
There are already some useful tips for Hallowe'en on the site but as the word Hallowe'en fails to come up with anything in the search engine for some unfathomable reason I thought I would draw your attention to them plus some fun ideas for a Hallowe'en cheeseboard I've posted on my blog The Cheeselover today.
The last 24 hours' headlines have made gloomy reading. The most obvious casualties are those who have lost their jobs but the economic uncertainty affects us all.