Fast Food: Courgette & Tomato

It’s Thursday. You’re hungry, you’re tired, you’ve just got off a train filled with wankers, and you need fodder. This is what you cook.

So, what I’m doing here is frying courgettes. They just turned up, today, in the vegetable box and they’re perfect for the quickest of quick suppers.

I mean, I was on the way home and part of me was tempted to pick up a pizza from Waitrose. But this is barely more trouble, and fantastically nicer.

Those courgettes, then. They’re cut into fat fingers and they are lobbed into a pan with lots (I mean lots, you stingy bugger) of olive oil, on a good medium/high heat. The fingers are frying and acquiring golden-brown outlining where the flesh is starting to catch on the pan and caramelise. Perfect.

A couple of minutes back I chucked in some roughly sliced garlic (it happened to be wet garlic, since that too turned up in aforementioned box, but dry garlic would be fine), and this too is benefiting from the pan’s Midas touch.

Next, tomatoes. Don’t faff around skinning them. Hell, don’t even bother de-seeding them. Just quarter them and chuck them in. Four or five? However many you want. Turn the heat down to a simmer. I didn’t, but if you’re feeling fancy, you could dosh in a bit of vermouth or sherry or white wine at this point. DESPAIR NOT if you have none open, or (indeed) if you’d rather save it for your parched Thursday evening gob.

Speaking of parched — you have a drink, right? I mean, I just assumed… Mine’s a Negroni Manzanilla, since you asked.

Our courgettes and tomatoes are simmering nicely and we have our negroni. At this point, we see what herbs present themselves for duty. Since I’m a smug wanker who recently planted a bloody herb garden, I’m spoilt for choice, so I’ve picked out some oregano (not too much) and quite a lot of mint. You, though, might prefer basil or parsley or chives or thyme…

Grab a good old bunch of whatever herb(s) you favour and get them washed and ready.

Now, what you’re waiting for is for your tomatoes to start to collapse and release their juices and to commingle milkily with the oil. You don’t want this to go to pulp; you still want those tomato quarters to retain some structure. Have a taste and if it seems a bit sweet, squeeze over some lemon.

Season the crap out of it (don’t hold back with the salt). Scatter on your herbs. And you’re done.

Scoop this out of a bowl with some good bread. Or just eat it with a spoon, you animal.

Tomato, courgette, garlic and herbs in a bowl, ready to be EATEN.

A Squid Supper + Portsmouth Fish Market

‘How about this one?’ he says, at length, with the barest modicum of enthusiasm.

We look at the fish. Potato looks at the fish. The fish looks glassily at the ceiling. Portsmouth Fish Market falls silent once more.

It is a beautiful (if somewhat blustery) Spring morning, and we are outside Portsmouth Fish Market. For the past year or so, Amy and I have repeatedly vowed to make this peregrination — this piscine pilgrimage — but despite living half an hour or so down the road, we’ve failed to enact our vows.

Until now.

Amy’s famously large and expressive eyes are sparkling with excitement (or perhaps they’re just watering; it’s hard to be sure. As I say, it’s somewhat blustery). She’s been murmuring and crooning excitedly to herself, these past weeks, about the anticipated joys of the fish market. The hubbub of the bartering crowds! The riot of colour and excitement as today’s catch is roughly thrown down upon the stalls! The thrill of the jostle for a place in the unruly throng of punters!

Well, the wait is over at last. In we go, Amy! Into Portsmouth Fish Market!

(We go in.)

Portsmouth Fish Market is … smaller than anticipated. To be precise, Portsmouth Fish Market is Amy, myself, Potato the Labrador, and one impatient man behind a table of fish.

To be fair, it’s a fairly large table. But I can tell without looking that Amy is very disappointed.

The fish market vendor casts an appraising eye at Potato. Potato casts an appraising eye at the fish table.

We stand a while, the four of us, in silence.

‘So what you want?’

We have no idea what we want, it emerges. I think we’d expected to, y’know, browse a little. To take in the atmosphere.

We take in the atmosphere.

‘Um… What do you recommend?’ Amy asks, bravely.

Fish Man fixes Amy with a look that implies his recommendation is that she piss off. Then he looks down at his table.

‘How about this one?’ he says, at length, with the barest modicum of enthusiasm.

We look at the fish. Potato looks at the fish. The fish looks glassily at the ceiling. Portsmouth Fish Market falls silent once more.

Amy steps forward.

Potato steps forward.

‘Hey, will you get the dog away?’

***

Ah! Portsmouth Fish Market!

I came away with a bag stuffed with fish and seafood, including (yes!) some squid. Amy came away with a small bundle of shattered dreams. Potato came away with nothing.

Anyhow. Let’s talk about the squid, shall we? Specifically, how to cook the buggers.

The Spanish squid stew I concocted is the kind of thing my dear father is excellent at throwing together, and I’ve loved squid from an early age as a result of meals like this. As with the Irish stew I burbled on about a few weeks back, this is a pretty thrifty supper: squid are very cheap, you know. So long as you’ve half a bottle of leftover wine kicking about (or a full bottle you don’t mind sharing with the pot) the rest of the ingredients are mostly storecupboard stuff. Assuming you’re the kind of wanker who has two different types of paprika in his storecupboard.

When you’re cooking it, there’s really only one thing you need to know about squid: cook it incredibly slowly or bloody quickly. This recipe opts for the former. Your end result is meltingly soft rings, purpled by the long dark simmer in wine which, by the end, has simmered down to a rich, glossy mahogany.

Squid simmering in a dark red wine sauce
About half way through cooking. It will get darker. Be patient!

Spanish Squid Stew Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 good-sized squid, or 3 babies (yes, I am still talking about squid), cut into moderately thick rings.
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 2 chubby cloves of garlic
  • 2 largeish tomatoes, quartered and de-seeded
  • ½ tsp hot smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
  • Olive oil
  • Half a bottle or so of red wine (bonus points if it’s Spanish like mine: the almost implausibly cheap 3C Carinena from The Wine Society, £5.95)
  • Generous handful of parsley
  • Salt and pepper
  • Half a lemon

What to do

Start with the onions. Using a large pan with highish sides (make sure you have a lid for it; you’ll need that later), fry them over a medium heat with a proper few glugs of olive oil (be generous). While the onion is softening, slice the garlic and chuck that in too.

Onions frying with garlic in a pan

Now the tomatoes. Some people might tell you to faff around skinning them. I honestly don’t think it makes much difference in this context, so advise you not to bother. They should be quartered and de-seeded. Dice each quarter into pieces around a cm or so square. No need to fuss too much, they’ll cook down. Lob them in.

Chopped tomato with a Sabatier knife

Now add the two types of paprika and give the lot a good stir. Turn up the heat, slosh in the wine, and add the squid rings. If you have tentacles too (or, rather, if your squid did), by all means chuck those in as well.

Bottle of 3C Carinena wine being poured into a stew for cooking

Bring it all to the boil, then turn the heat down really low, so it’s at as gentle a simmer as you can manage, and cover — leaving the lid slightly ajar.

Leave that pan to simmer gently for a good long while. A couple of hours, I’d say. Stir it every so often to check it’s not sticking or drying out.

While that’s bubbling away, you’re getting a bit peckish, aren’t you? Time for anchovies! Waitrose sells these delightful critters marinated in garlic (yeah, four quid, I know — but worth it).

An anchovy on a fork. Glass of sherry in the background.

I suggest you also crack open the bottle of Manzanilla Sherry you bought at the same time (Waitrose Manzanilla Fina, £7.69). This is squarely a Parn Essential, and I should write about it separately at some stage, I suppose, with its full-on gob-punch of lemon and sea and sunshine.

Waitrose Manzanilla Sanlucar Dry Sherry alongside some paprika

When you’re ready to eat your stew, season with plenty of salt and pepper and lemon juice to taste. You can serve it with bread or rice, and perhaps a green salad of some kind. And it’s pretty much guaranteed to cheer up anyone who’s been to Portsmouth Fish Market.

Unless they’re a labrador who didn’t get any.

Potato the yellow labrador gazes pleadingly at camera

Review: Moselle Les Hautes-Bassières Pinot Noir, Château de Vaux 2016

This is an extremely nice, supple, elegant pinot noir from Alsace. I gulped it down alongside some Burgundian escalopes a la Keith Floyd.

Ah, Floyd, lovely Floyd.

I wrote about the lovely Keith Floyd (who, I’m aware, was perhaps not consistently lovely as a man to live with in real life — but, by god, was lovely on camera in his heyday) as an inspiration for restarting this blog. Today’s wine, a fabulous Pinot Noir from Alsace with a ludicrously long name, was an excellent accompaniment to a recipe cribbed from one of the low-fi Floyd clips that the BBC hasn’t yet snatched away from those of us without TV licenses:

I made something akin to the above, but with pork rather than veal. Floyd’s culinary reference point is Burgundy, and the closest I could muster (without straying too far into the costly zone of my wine rack) to Burgundy was a Pinot Noir (same grape, you realise) from elsewhere in France: Moselle Les Hautes-Bassières Pinot Noir, Château de Vaux 2016 (The Wine Society, £13.50 — link is to the 2017, as they’re out of stock of 2016 now).

And, Christ, it’s good.

Snatch it to your nose and you’re enveloped in a heady musk of solvents, fruit and sand. To me it smells oh so magenta. Your own pretentious synaesthesiac mileage may vary.

Straight out of the bottle, it still had a certain stalkiness and petulance, but we hoofed it into the decanter and coaxed away its sulkiness. If you’re drinking the 2016 as well, I suggest you do likewise (or else hold onto it for a few more years, you patient, sensible, tedious old fart). It has that blooming, fruited warmth of a bloody good cherry brandy (dry, rich, complex; not some hideous confected crap) but absolutely no sentimentality or flab. There’s a wonderful steely edge of acidity that stirs your tastebuds into action like a riding crop to the arse of a shambling pony.

Then your pony effortlessly breaks into this sinuous, viscous canter of fruit and spice and warm, long, lovely, friendly alcohol.

I love this (amongst other things — so many other things) about Pinot noir: its ability to be both dancingly light and ridiculously powerful. It’s so goddamn honed. A featherweight boxer of a wine.

And it went delightfully with my pork escalopes — thank you for asking: that acid cutting elegantly through the cream and butter. I’m sure Floyd would have approved. And opened a second bottle.

Peasant Life: countryside, gin and stew. But no bloody giblets.

The other day I felt peasanty. I often feel peasanty. So I went to Waitrose (very much in the manner of a typical peasant) looking for thrifty cuts of meat.

Why is it so bloody difficult to find non-prime cuts of meat? Waitrose is better than most supermarkets, but still, try finding breast of lamb, or beef shin, or oxtail, or ANYTHING WITH SODDING GIBLETS WHATSOEVER. (Except the customers and staff, I guess. They must have giblets. But I doubt they’re for sale.)

I realise the lack of supermarket giblets reflects the realities of supply and demand. I shouldn’t be irritated at Waitrose, you’ll tell me in that patronising manner you sometimes adopt; I should be irritated that nobody buys giblets. I should be irritated at people in general.

Well, joke’s on you. I am already irritated at people in general. For so, so many reasons.

(Joke may actually be on me.)

Christ, get on with it, Parn.

So. Grubbing around in the refrigerator cabinets of Petersfield Waitrose I chanced upon some lamb ribs. Not a common find in Peef Waitrose, let me tell you. So I elbowed a few dithering OAPs squarely in the giblets and shouldered them roughly aside — and lobbed those ribs straight into my basket.

We’ve loads of carrots, potatoes and onions, thanks to our excellent (if occasionally chaotically administered) vegetable box. So while ribs aren’t the classic cut of lamb for an Irish stew, they’re bony and fatty. Which is good enough for me.

Now, what you need after the giblet-free geriatric scrimmage of a weekend visit to Petersfield Waitrose is either (a) an immediate escape to the quiet of the countryside or (b) a strong gin and tonic. I opted for (a) then (b).

A misty South Downs landscape, taken in the countryside near Petersfield in Hampshire

That gin and tonic is worth talking about, actually. Hampshire Navy Strength gin (£36.99 from General Wine) and Fever Tree Light tonic water, with big boulders of ice and a sprig of rosemary. This is a very good gin, let me tell you. A true silken-gloved thump of a gin, thanks to its hoofing 57% ABV. It’s made just up the road in Winchester, and it’s damn fine stuff. A bit of smoke from the tea they use as one of the botanicals, and the buttery smoothness imparted by the high alcohol content. Grab some if you chance upon it, dear reader. I’ll probably review this beast before long, as I like it rather a lot.

Bottle of Hampshire Navy Strength Gunpowder Gin

Anyhow, back to the lamb ribs. My preferred Irish Stew recipe is simple: lob a few sliced onions, some chunks of carrot, some peeled potatoes, loads of black pepper and a tablespoon or two of pearl barley into a big pot along with the lamb pieces. Cover with water and bring it to the boil, then simmer (gently, gently!) for a good long time… Several hours, please. The potato gradually melts and thickens the cooking liquid, while the onion turns ghostly and diaphanous and the lamb disintegrates. Outstanding.

If you have the self-control, make the stew a day ahead and then reheat when you’re ready to eat it, as (like most stews) its flavours improve that way.

When you can wait no longer, season to taste and add loads of rough-chopped parsley. I had mine with a bottle of the blindingly cheap Chapelle de Pena 2015 from The Wine Society, but the buggers seem to have stopped listing it. Probably because someone bulk-bought the lot. But something cheap and rustic feels, y’know, appropriately peasanty.

Bottle of Chapelle de Pena in front of a pot of Irish Stew

Anyway, I love eating like this because it’s incredibly simple, it generates virtually no washing up, and it’s bloody cheap. A pack of lamb ribs costs well under a fiver, and lamb breast or neck, if you can find it, is similarly thrifty. My single glass of gin & tonic probably cost me more than the whole portion of Irish stew I ate. Now, you may retort that you don’t need to save money by scrimping like a peasant — and that’s fine; good for you, your lordship. But I think there’s something conceptually satisfying about making a sodding delicious dinner for extremely little money — and, if you set aside the challenge of finding the meat in the first place, plus the effort required to clear your path of bumbling geriatrics, similarly minimal effort.

I still want some giblets, mind.

The Perfect Gin Martini Recipe

Right, listen. This is important. You either make a perfect martini or you don’t make one at all. Read on for Old Parn’s rhapsody on the innumerable savage charms of this noble drink — and, natch, the recipe for the aforementioned perfect martini…

Your first gobful of martini should brace you even as it slams you. You should gasp. Your mouth should thrill, your blood should pump, your heart should sing.

Not an ounce of this liquid should be in any goddamn way a compromise. It must be utterly intense. It should not quench your thirst; it should quench your desire.

The disinterested, thuggish punch of the gin. Wrapped in the shimmering gossamer of the botanicals, mitigated (but so slightly, so slightly) by the sweet yield of the vermouth. The lingering scent on the boxer’s glove.

And — just when you think you’ve got your tastebrain around it all — the savage perfume of the lemon or the oily, dirty smear of the olive.

That. That, my friends, is a martini.

Let it never be less.

Essential rules for making the Perfect Gin Martini

Right. In many respects, I am open-minded. But open-mindedness stops here. Because there are three rules — no, scratch that, there are three commandments. Disobey them and you will not have a perfect martini; you’ll have a shit drink unworthy of the name. With them, you’re well on your way to the promised land.

  1. Everything must be as cold as you can humanly get it. I mean everything. Possibly including your soul.
  2. Your gin and your vermouth should be of good quality — because they are literally all you are tasting, here.
  3. You do not make the perfect martini in a hurry.

So, first up, let’s talk temperature. You’re making martinis? You’d better have lots of ice. Big solid chunks of ice, please; none of your crushed rubbish. And every single ingredient of the drink should, at bare minimum, be fresh from the fridge. I keep my gin in the freezer. I also keep my martini glasses in there, so long as Amy hasn’t filled it up with goddamn peas (three bags, people, three bags.). Were it not for discomfort and physical impossibility, I’d keep the hands that are ultimately going to hold the martini in there. You understand?

Now, ingredients. Our perfect martini is not the place for your bargain basement, paint-stripper gin. Because gin is the sodding main ingredient, here. It is front and centre. If you only have mediocre gin, wise up and make a different drink. And much the same goes for vermouth. It’s relatively inexpensive, in the scheme of things, and you can keep a bottle of it in the fridge for a few weeks (usefully, it doubles up as an excellent cooking wine).

I’m not going to tell you which gins and vermouths to use. There are bloody hundreds of ’em out there, and trying new combinations is pretty interesting. But if you’re looking for a starting point, I suggest you could do a lot worse than a classic unpretentious and juniper-led gin like Plymouth (which is the house choice at the marvellous Dukes Hotel bar) or Tanqueray. For vermouth I typically use Noilly Prat (£12, Ocado), which is splendid stuff, but the Wine Society’s Chambery (£8.95, The Wine Society) is a fine alternative.

And, finally, speed. This is where I used to go wrong, making martinis. I went at it like a madman. But, no. Making a perfect martini requires patience. You actually want (you see) a very little of that ice to melt — a little water to bind together your gin and vermouth. Just enough to smoodge them together a bit. And you get this by taking your time.

How to Make the Perfect Martini

Gin Martini shot from below. Frosted from the cold, with a lemon twist

Get your cocktail mixer (or a jug/large mixing glass, if you don’t have one) and fill it full of ice. A lot of ice, in big cubes.

Pour your vermouth over the ice and stir gently. I’d suggest a ratio of 1 part vermouth to 4-5 parts gin — which is dry but not show-offy (my own view is that the vermouth is there for a reason, and once you get to 1:15 ratios and the like, you’re really not getting the benefit of it). However, this is for you to toy around with.

Take your gin from the freezer (don’t hurry, don’t hurry) and pour that in, too. Stir once again, gently but firmly — you want to move the ice and liquid around thoroughly, but you don’t want to smash up the ice cubes and add shards of ice to the liquid. When you’ve given it a decent long stir, leave it to settle.

Put away your gin. Put away your vermouth. Refill the ice tray(s) you emptied and put them in the freezer for tomorrow evening. Take out your (refrigerated) olives, and thread a couple of them onto a cocktail stick. Or (if you’re of a citric persuasion) take a slice of rind from your lemon, trying — if you can manage it with your hands shaking like that, old boy — not to cut off too much pith. And this all should be conducted at the leisurely pace befitting a suave martini-drinker such as yourself.

Thirsty yet? Too bad. Stir again. Go for a little walk to the sitting room and back, why don’t you? Entertain your guests with an offhand fragment of your debonair wit (or just mutter to yourself, you massive, booze-dependent loner). Then come back.

Take your martini glasses out of the freezer. If you’ve taken the lemon route, you should give the rind a good squeeze-twist, holding it over the glass for which it is destined, before you add it to the glass. The objective is to release those delicious citric oils. Or if you’re having olives instead of lemon, chuck ’em in.

Stir the gin & vermouth one last time, then strain the precious liquid into the glass. You are now in possession of the perfect martini.

Serve. Immediately. This is the only time at which you actually should hurry.

Bask in the admiration of your peers. Get working on the second one.

Wine & Shrooms & Cheese

What do you do when you find wanky shrooms? You buy wanky shrooms, stoopid. And you buy a bloody nice wine to go with them. Also: cheese.

Well — the other weekend, I opened a bottle of Ferraton Lieu Dit Saint-Joseph 2011 (£24 from The Wine Society) and it was bloody excellent. Beyond that, I’m not going to write much more about it. Why?

  1. It came after a brace of negronis (with Sacred Rosehip Cup, natch)
  2. It also came after a bottle of Alsace white
  3. Our splendid friends were having dinner with us, so why the hell would I have been making notes on the wine?

So I can’t tell you with any degree of objectivity or accuracy what it tasted of. But I can tell you how it tasted, which was, like I said, bloody excellent. Fruit, but serious fruit, not jammy nonsense, backed up by heft and spice and the rest.

We had it with mushrooms on toast. Not normal mushrooms on toast (though those are also a majestic thing). No, these were wanky mushrooms on toast. Specifically, girolles (I spotted these in a chichi deli near where I work and cleaned ‘em right out). Wanky shrooms are bloody hard to find if you don’t live in a metropolis replete with upmarket delis. When you do find them, you obey certain iron laws. Since I’m in the mood for ordered lists, let’s crack out another, shall we:

What to do when you find wanky shrooms

  1. Buy them, you idiot
  2. Cradle the resulting shroom-filled brown paper bag in your arms like a stinky, shroomy baby. Occasionally steal surreptitious sniffs as you carry them home, heedless of the disapproving glances of passers-by
  3. When you cook them, don’t fuck about with your poncy cheffy nonsense. They are the star of this show, not you.
  4. You are never the star of this show. When will you learn?
  5. Don’t fucking soak them. If they are absolutely filthy and too difficult to wipe off with a damp cloth, run them extremely quickly under cold water. But don’t let those greedy shrooms gulp up any more water than you can help, because it spoils their splendid texture and makes them squelchy.
  6. Butter is your friend. Garlic is your friend (not too much, please). Parsley is your friend. Thyme is your friend. Lemon is your friend. Salt and pepper are your friends.
  7. My, my. How many friends you suddenly have. Remember point 4, above, before you start congratulating yourself.
  8. Cook the shrooms just enough and absolutely no more. Don’t you dare make a sludgy mess of them, you animal.
  9. It goes without saying that you want wanky bread for your wanky shrooms. Sourdough is ideal.
  10. Mushrooms on toast can be the food of kings. So it’s certainly good enough for you.

I hope this helps.

So. We boshed our way through girolles on toast. All the while gulping away at bloody excellent wine. Then we had cheese.

Cheese was from aforementioned deli also. It was all great, but I want to talk about just one cheese — which happens to be another thing I will pretty much always buy whenever I see it. Waterloo cheese. Christ, it’s outstanding: ridiculously creamy, fabulous stuff. That, I guess, may be down to its provenance: a fine herd of Guernsey cows, who are notoriously creamy buggers. And look how yellow it is.

Waterloo cheese closeup

Come on, if you’re don’t have a string of drool hanging from your lip by now, I don’t want you reading this blog any more.

So, it seems that Waterloo is made in Berkshire by a couple called Anne and Andy Wigmore (yeah, they also make Wigmore cheese, which is superb too), trading as Village Maid Cheese. They’ve won a bevy of golds in the WORLD CHEESE AWARDS, which is admittedly a lesser accolade than being raved about by Old Parn, but impressive nonetheless.

So. In summary, one final ordered list to play us out: consider it homework, if you wish.

  1. Buy Ferraton Lieu Dit Saint-Joseph
  2. Buy good shrooms
  3. Buy Waterloo (the cheese, not — god forbid — the station)

Well? What are you waiting for?

The Negroni Manzanilla with Sacred Rosehip Cup – Recipe

As if a normal negroni weren’t good enough… Thanks to Poco Tapas, Old Parn discovers the majesty of the Negroni Manzanilla and Sacred’s Rosehip Cup.

I love a negroni. And before I went to Poco Tapas Bar during a visit to Bristol last summer, I believed I made a pretty damn good one.

Poco Tapas Bar’s Negroni Manzanilla took that belief of mine to one side and gave it a bloody good shoeing.

Because Poco’s Negroni Manzanilla is a work of exquisite dipsomaniacal genius.

The classic Negroni (come on, you know this) consists of gin, Campari and red vermouth in a 1:1:1 ratio, stirred over plenty of (chunky) ice cubes and lifted by a twist or wedge of orange.

Poco’s version changes this in two main ways. The first you’ll have guessed (unless your deductive reasoning is extraordinarily weak): the addition of Manzanilla sherry. The second is subtler but equally revolutionary: Campari is replaced with a fabulous liquid called Rosehip Cup, made by Sacred, and I guess this is the one Poco uses. It’s a good deal more expensive than Campari and a bit of a pain to get hold of offline (I ordered mine from the Whisky Exchange for £27.95), but — trust me, dear reader — absolutely worth your while and your dosh.

Why is this take on the negroni is so bloody good? It addresses the most significant drawback (in my view) of the classic: the fact that Campari’s bitterness is (to my taste — and it’s perhaps worth mentioning I am somewhat intolerant of bitter flavours…) slightly harsh and one-dimensional. The Rosehip Cup is smoother, fruitier, gentler. The crucial bitterness remains, but rather than the melodramatic bitterness of a romantically spurned adolescent, it’s the nuanced bitterness of a twice-divorced deputy headteacher who needs to keep things civil for the kids’ sake.

You can quote that in your marketing if you like, Sacred.

Bottle of Sacred Rosehip Cup and a lily in a glass

The better balance of a negroni with Rosehip Cup transforms it from a drink of which one is generally enough (before moving onto other fare, natch) into one of which the prospect of a second is spectacularly enticing.

And the Manzanilla. Let’s talk about the Manzanilla.

Now, you could comfortably change up your negroni game simply by swapping out the Campari for Rosehip Cup and leaving it at that. Indeed, if you’re anything like me, once you’ve tasted the Rosehip version, you’ll struggle to return to Campari. The addition of a splash of bone-dry sherry, by contrast, remains an optional flourish (the Negroni equivalent of a Dirty priligy la Martini, perhaps). The Manzanilla variant has a fabulous aromatic openness. While a classic negroni is a tightly coiled fist of a drink, the addition of Manzanilla loosens it a little, relaxes that tight grip. It hardly makes it into a long drink, but it’s definitely less short. I don’t think it replaces the classic, but it’s a bloody lovely alternative. I now buy EVEN MORE sherry (buy more sherry!) so that I can make these critters whenever the fancy takes me. Which is frequently. Try it and you’ll thank me.

Except you won’t thank me, you rude bugger. You’ll be too busy drinking negronis.

Recipe for Manzanilla Negroni

  1. Fill a glass (I use these elegant blighters from Ferm Living because I believe drinks should look handsome) with chunky icecubes
  2. Pour over 1 part gin (Tanqueray is a classic choice but there are hundreds of other possibilities)
  3. Add 1 part Sacred Rosehip Cup
  4. Then add 1 part red vermouth (Martini Rosso is the widely available one, but try others as and when you find them: Cocchi is currently stocked in my local Waitrose and works superbly. The choice of vermouth makes a massive difference to the drink, y’know… But that’s a topic for another post, methinks)
  5. Finally, add 1 part Manzanilla sherry
  6. Finish with a twist of orange (use a paring knife or peeler to slice off a strip of orange peel, fashion it into a twist in your big clammy hands, making sure to give it a good squeeze to release the oils)
  7. Neck the bastard

And four more bonus tips…

  1. You can buy half-bottles of Manzanilla from The Wine Society for £5.95 a pop, so you don’t have to crack open a whole 75cl bottle for the sake of a single negroni (though far be it from me to dissuade you…)
  2. Because the Rosehip Cup is less bitter than Campari, you might want to experiment with a heftier vermouth. I recently tried Asterley Brothers’ fabulous English Estate Vermouth (£23.25), which deepened the drink (and also the colour) considerably. This offset the breeziness of the Manzanilla/Rosehip combo in a way that felt appropriate for winter.
  3. You might want to experiment with the ratios of ingredients. For instance, a half-measure of Manzanilla still imparts some aromatic openness, but preserves more of the negroni’s punch. Depends what you fancy.
  4. Poco Tapas Bar is well worth a visit for more than just its negronis.

What To Do With Half A Cabbage

In which Old Parn tells you what to do with the aforementioned article of vegetation

Okay. Here’s what you do.

(This has nothing to do with wine, but everything to do with things that taste fucking excellent. What you need is a cabbage and some storecupboard stuff. And a ravening hunger.)

You shred half a cabbage and whack the blighter into loads of bubbling, well-salted walter. It only needs 2 or 3 minutes in there, then drain it — but save the water it was cooking in.

While the cabbage is boiling, mash up a few anchovies from a jar and crush a couple of cloves of garlic. Set those bad boys frying — along with a sprinkling of dried chilli flakes, if you like the kick — in a hefty dose of olive oil (about 2-3 tbsps, I guess).

Stick that water you saved from the cabbage right back into the cabbage pan and get it boiling again. Add a bit more salt, why don’t you? Then put in some pasta. Tagliatelli, spaghetti or linguine. 200g of it, if you’re a greedy fucker like me.

You’ll end up with pasta boiling away while your garlic and anchovy is frying. Good work, soldier. Reward yourself with a swig of gin and tonic.

After a while, your garlic mixture will go all nice and golden, and the anchovies will hve pretty much dissolved into the oil. When you’re happy with all that, stick the drained cabbage into the pan, too, and fry it around.

Once your pasta’s done, drain it (saving a bit of the pasta water). Toss with the cabbage/garlic/anchovy and add a little of the pasta water to make it all bind together. I never used to do this pasta-water shebang, but — believe me — it makes a difference. So do it.

Then cram the whole bunch into your ravenous maw.

Good, eh?

And, no, I don’t have a photo. Because by the time it’d occurred to me to take one, I’D ALREADY FUCKING EATEN IT, HADN’T I?