Rock it

Last night, we definitely had "the Friday feeling", as my husband likes to call it. You know the feeling. It's been a long week. If we all worked on Mad Men, we'd still be in the office smoking cigarettes, pouring ourselves a single malt scotch from the corner mini-bar, and getting up to mischief.

Instead, most of us innocently rock through the front door after a hard-worked week and collapse on the sofa. Martin and I had grand plans of making a home-made pizza, cracking open a bottle of 2007 El Nido Clio and unwinding. (If you can get your hands on a silky bottle of Clio, don't hesitate.)

I knew we had to start the unwinding right, so I quickly produced all of the ingredients for my new favorite cocktail, The Roquette. Before you read any further and start to ask, "salad....in a cocktail??", let me stop you.

For those of you who know me, you'll know I'm partial to a little gin from time to time. Straight up Tanqueray, shaken until cold as the north pole with plenty of olives is a favorite tipple of mine. It only takes one. That said, it took me no time at all to be a Hendricks gin convert, and this cocktail has been known to tempt even those who don't like gin. I call these people crazy. Hendricks is infused with cucumber and rose petals and this is a twist on a classic cocktail, the Gimlet.

I imagine this to be a cocktail drunk by gentlemen in stripey socks, such as these below.

Unfortunately, these are my husband's socks, worn specially for his sister's recent wedding. Englishmen love outrageous socks for some reason, and although you can take the English lad out of England, you can never take away his love of stripey socks. The one thing a move to America will do to an English boy, is give him a new found appreciation for ice.

No longer will one cube suffice in his whiskey and ginger cocktail. I witnessed first hand as Martin received a cocktail with one ice cube floating lonely at the top of warm whiskey and ginger ale. He simply grabbed the barman's tub of ice and began filling the glass with a disgusted look upon his face. America has spoiled him.

The salad leaf element in "The Roquette" comes from peppery arugula, also known as rocket in England and roquette in France. When combined with lime juice, Hendricks, and a little dark agave nectar for sweetness, this cocktail is the perfect prescription any American, Brit or Frenchman with "that friday feeling."

The Roquette
Makes 1 cocktail

1 cup of loosely packed baby arugula (or rocket if you're in London or roquette if you're in Paris) plus a little extra for garnish
4 1/2 tsp fresh lime juice
1/2 cup Hendricks Gin
plenty of ice
a rocks glass for serving

Muddle the arugula, agave nectar and lime juice in a cocktail shaker. Use a pestle or bash the leaves down with a wooden spoon. Add the gin and ice and shake. Pour over ice in a rocks glass ( a short tumbler) and serve with a few arugula leaves as garnish.


English road trip

Two weeks ago, we returned from a trip to England where we drove 1000 miles across the length and breadth of the country visiting friends and family. The ultimate reason for our journey was to attend my sister in-law's wedding in Devon, our last and southern most destination.

England's weather initially answered our worst fears as we donned coats and scarves and reminded ourselves it was August. Happily, the sun shone on Helen and Anthony's special day. We sipped champagne in the stone courtyard of Loyton Lodge, toasting their love and lack of umbrellas.

There were several food and drink highlights along the winding English roads, many from our hospitable hosts:
I chose to share the recipe for the parmesan egg custards for several reasons. We had it for a starter over lunch with our friends, Toby and Rachel, and we ended up making it again that night with fresh eggs from their neighbor's chickens.

Twice in one day. That's how good it was. You can see that eggs laid in a nest that morning are a spectacular golden yellow. They tasted so rich and creamy and gave the custard a glorious color.

I also include it because we gleaned the recipe from the chef, Richard Stokes, who quickly handed it over in scratched writing with no trepidation. I am quite sure that I would have guarded this simple recipe selfishly. When we tasted it, I was sure I sensed some truffle oil, but the chef's recipe did not mention it. Maybe he was more clever than I thought.

We tried the recipe without the truffle oil, but it sadly fell flat. We added a little powdered English mustard which gave it a kick, but truffle oil wins hands down. You can serve it with soldiers (sliced toast) or asparagus for an elegant starter. Remember that the custard will require regular tasting towards the end to make sure you have enough seasoning and truffle oil. As always, I like a recipe with a chef's sweet treat, and this one is definitely at the top of my list.

Parmesan Egg Custards
Adapted from Richard Stokes at The Three Horseshoes

1 pint of fresh cream
100 g parmesan cheese, grated
4 egg yolks
truffle oil
salt and freshly ground pepper to season
small funnel (if you're serving them in the empty egg shells)

In a pan, heat the cream on a medium-low flame until hot but not boiling. Remove it from the heat and let it sit for a minute or two.

Meanwhile crack four eggs with a metal spoon so that just the top comes off. You don't have to serve this in the empty egg shells, but I like the effect. If you're going to go for it, just practice on a few eggs before you get started, but they don't have to be perfect.

After you've cracked the top off of the eggs, pour the egg into your hand over the sink and let the whites slip through your fingers, leaving just the yolks. Be careful not to crack the yolk in your hands and drop them into a mixing bowl.

Reserve your egg shells, and rinse with hot water. Carefully leave them to dry upside down on a paper towel.

Mix the yolks together with the parmesan cheese and season lightly with salt and pepper. Using your whisk, pour the cream into the egg mixture, just stirring with your whisk to combine. Add the entire mixture back into the pan over a medium-low heat.

At this point, you'll need to continually stir the mix until it starts thickening, becoming like a normal custard and covering the back of a wooden spoon. Add several drops of truffle oil and taste. I added about 8-10 drops of truffle oil, just enough for it to be a back ground taste, but enough so that I knew you'd be able to taste it. Season with salt and pepper to your taste and remove from heat when it's thick and creamy.

Use a small funnel to serve in the reserved egg shells. Grate some extra parmesan over the top. Dip sliced toast or blanched asparagus and enjoy!