Tart Tuesday: Egg Custard Tarts

Hmm….. bit of an epic fail this one really! Some combination of warm filling, raw and very thin pastry and loose bottomed tart tins resulted in all of our carefully crafted custard being spread over the baking tray (thank GOODNESS we put them on a baking tray!) within approximately 3 seconds of the tarts going in the oven. We didn’t even manage to close the oven door before they sprung a leak – probably a very good thing in hindsight! Wish we’d taken a photo, it was so comically tragic but we were too busy having a strop (Bird) and rescuing what was left of the precious custard (Fats).

However our evening was not lost, in what can only be described as fate (not a word we use lightly) Tesco had our favourite biscuit/cookie type affair (these bad boys) on offer for £1 and there was only 1 packet left. See? Fate.

When Bird returned triumphantly clutching the cookies Fats had rescued and cooked a good amount of the custard which was cooling in the fridge. So, during The Great British Bake Off although we missed our tarts, an Extremely Chocolatey Cookie dunked in cold custard wasn’t the worst thing in the world…..

You may turn your nose up but try it.... it's like milk and cookies amplified!
You may turn your nose up but try it…. it’s like milk and cookies amplified!

Chorizo, Kale and Bean Stew

After yesterdays slightly faffy (although totally worth it) post we’ve got a really simple chuck-it-all-in-the-pot-and-ignore it recipe now! This is also one that works with whatever you have in – we used chorizo, butter beans, courgettes, potatoes and kale but it would be lovely with different beans, spinach or cabbage instead of kale, sweet potatoes instead of new potatoes, peppers or aubergine instead of courgette… anything goes really. After a bit of chopping and about an hour of leaving it to do it’s own thing you’re rewarded with a rich, tasty stew to warm you up.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 white onion, roughly chopped
  • 50-100g chorizo, chopped into chunks
  • 2 bay leaves
  • a large handful of new potatoes, chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 courgettes, chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tins of beans (we used butter beans and black eyed beans)
  • chicken stock
  • 200g shredded kale
  • crusty bread to serve

Put a large casserole dish on a medium heat on the hob and put the olive oil in to heat up. Once it’s hot add the chopped onion and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring gently. Once the onion is starting to soften add the chorizo and bay leaves and cook for a further 5 minutes, the smoky oil from the chorizo should come out and smell amazing.

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Add the potatoes and courgettes and cook for another few minutes until coated in the oil and the courgette is starting to soften. Then add the chopped tomatoes, the drained tins of beans and enough chicken stock to cover.

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Put a lid on it, turn the heat right down and let it simmer away for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 45 minutes whack the kale in, put the lid back on to help it wilt, then stir it in and cook for a further 10 minutes and that’s it, you’re done! Serve with some crusty wholemeal bread, the one pictured is a spelt and wholemeal loaf that we made using our basic bread recipe but using 200g of spelt flour, 200g of seeded wholemeal flour and 100g of strong white flour which produces a really nutty loaf, perfect with these strong autumnal flavours.

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Butternut Squash, Brown Butter and Sage Risotto

Carrying on with our autumnal meals, this really does taste like autumn on a plate to us! Squash obviously is an autumn treat, and paired with the nutty brown butter and the earthy bittersweet sage leaves it is exactly what you want after digging out your scarves and hats and kicking some autumn leaves around (or the less romantic but more accurate long-day-at-the-office that we were recovering from!). Risotto does take time and love but it’s so worth it for a plate of that oozy, sticky, delicious rice.

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small white onion, finely chopped
  • 5-6 fresh sage leaves
  • 1 butternut squash, mostly diced into roughly 1cm cubes, but with some of the round end reserved and cut into slices
  • 200g arborio rice (or other risotto rice)
  • 1 glass of white wine
  • About 1.5l of chicken stock
  • Parmesan cheese, finely grated

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Take half the butter and add it to a wide pan over a medium heat. Let this cook until it turns a brown colour and smells nutty, then add half of the oil to stop it burning any more and the finely chopped onion. Turn the heat down to low and gently sweat the onion for around 5 minutes until it is softened and turning translucent. Shred all except 2 of the sage leaves, add to the onions and cook for another minute.

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Then tip in the chopped butternut squash and let it cook for around 10 minutes stirring regularly. Once the butternut squash has had around 10 minutes in the pan, throw in the arborio rice and stir around to coat in the oil, cook for 1 minute.

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Then chuck in the wine, let it all bubble up and absorb into the rice and then you can start adding the chicken stock. This has got to be done slowly, don’t add more than a glug/ladleful at a time and make sure that it has all absorbed before adding more. Keep stirring it as much as possible, beating up the rice encourages all of the gluten to come out which is what makes it gorgeous and oozy. Keep adding and stirring, and also sipping at your glass of white wine (you only used a glass in the dinner… it would be rude to waste it!).

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Meanwhile take the remaining sliced butternut squash, coat in the remaining oil and then place in a roasting tin in the hot oven. After the slices of butternut squash have had 10-15 minutes in the oven flip them over so they get golden on both sides, if they’re done long before the risotto they’ll keep warm in the oven, just turn it off and leave them in there. Our risotto normally takes at least 45 minutes of slowly adding stock and stirring, most recipes seem to suggest more like 20 minutes but we’re evidently very chilled out (it could be the wine). Anyway, keep testing it once it’s looking puffed up and close to cooked, you want the rice to still have a bit of texture and bite but no crunch! At this point take the remaining butter and brown it in a little saucepan and then add to the risotto – this may seem unnecessary seeing as you started off with brown butter but it’s such a great flavour which can get lost otherwise. Throw in as much or as little parmesan as you fancy and stir it over a low heat to melt in.

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The final step is to heat the remaining oil in the same pan you used for browning the butter, and once it’s shimmering throw in the 2 sage leaves you kept, letting them cook for about 10 seconds per side. Take them out and drain on a piece of kitchen paper – once they’ve drained and cooled slightly they will be very fragile sage “crisps”! So whack the risotto on a plate, top with the golden, roasted slices of butternut squash and delicately plonk the fried sage on top, and enjoy!  This dinner is like a big fluffy-jumper-cuddle on a plate, and can easily be made vegetarian by replacing the chicken stock with vegetable stock and the parmesan with a veggie-friendly cheese!

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Tart Tuesday: Tarte au Citron

Just a mini post tonight, it was of course Great British Bake Off night (how amazing was Christine’s Bavarian clock??) so it was time for another Tart Tuesday! Because we had some simple grilled plaice for dinner we plumped for a lemon tart for dessert. Bird has made a tarte au citron before but it was with a shop bought pastry case and it was a large one – miniature ones made from scratch were untrodden ground!

We used one of the portions of sweet shortcrust pastry that we made last week and froze, you can find the recipe on our Nectarine Frangipane post. Take it out of the freezer 24 hours before you want to use it and put it in the fridge to defrost, then just take it out of the fridge 10-15 minutes before you want to use it – easy! So the same as before, roll out the pastry, place it in mini loose-bottomed tart cases (we greased with butter and then coated in a little flour) and chill it in the fridge for 10 minutes. Preheat the oven to 170°C. Prick the pastry with a fork, fill the tart cases with baking beans after lining with foil or greaseproof paper and bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes or so until firm, then remove the baking beans and bake for 3-5 minutes more until dry and pale gold in colour.

So here’s where this one differs a little from last weeks – the pastry has to be cool before you add the filling. We blind baked our cases before dinner, ate dinner and then filled them afterwards so there wasn’t any unnecessary hanging around. Once they’ve cooled make up the filling.

Ingredients (for 2 mini tarts plus some extra)

  • 2 eggs
  • 50ml double cream
  • 90g caster sugar
  • zest and juice of 1 and a half lemons

Heat the oven to 150°C. Simply whisk the eggs for a few minutes and then stir in the other ingredients, it’s as easy as that! Pour the mixture into your cooled pastry, the easiest way to do this is to place the tart cases on a tray, fill them most of the way up, carry the tray carefully to the oven and slide it in and then fill them up the rest of the way while they’re in the oven. These need to bake for around 15 minutes but keep an eye on them, we turned the oven down to 100°C as they had coloured on top and were still very wobbly! They’re cooked when they have a very, very slight wobble.

Now what you should do is leave them to cool for at least half an hour, release them from the tins, then chill them down more (partly in the fridge) for another couple of hours so they are set firm with a lovely soft texture. We did not do this. There was Bake Off to be watched, Bird had a blood test earlier, Fats had a hard bike ride home – we were in need of a treat and sharp! So ours were a little… gooeyer (it’s a word!) than they were intended to be but they tasted ah-may-zing. What will we make next week? Dare we attempt a custard tart?

Lemon tart

Honey and Mustard Pork with Garlic Mash

This one is a little bit special (if we do say so ourselves…). It’s meaty and indulgent, and we think you’re going to love it. Pork is something that we really don’t eat enough of – it often loses out to beef, lamb or chicken, and is usually eaten in sausage format. Here, we absolutely drown a bunch of pork medallions in honey and mustard, char it on a griddle pan and serve it with some delicious roasted veg and creamy garlic mash. Perfect for the onset of autumn!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2-4 cloves garlic (depending on size and taste)
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 pepper
  • 1 aubergine
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 large potatoes
  • 1 pork loin
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tbsp each of wholegrain and dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp milk (or cream, if you’re really feeling indulgent!)
  • 1 tbsp butter

The first thing to do is to chop up the onion, pepper, and aubergine and put it in an oven (preheated to 180°C) in a nice big roasting dish, along with the garlic cloves (these can stay whole, but remove the papery bits), 2 tbsp of the oil and a bit of seasoning. We like to do fairly large chunks, especially with the pepper, and big wedges of onion – this will ensure it gets charred around the edges while the middle stays nice and sweet. It should take about 45 minutes to roast. Take out the garlic after 20-30 minutes otherwise it will burn, just pop it to one side until you come to mash the potatoes.

The Dream Team...
The Dream Team…
The veg will drink up oil, be generous!
The veg will drink up oil, be generous!

To cook the potatoes, put a large pan of water on to a high heat, and dice the potatoes and add to the water while it is still cold – you want the potatoes to heat up along with the water so that they cook evenly all the way through. They’ll take about 30 minutes to cook (about 20 minutes after they’ve come up to the boil).

Once the potatoes are on to cook, make the sauce for the pork by mixing together the honey, mustards and olive oil. Slice the pork loin into medallions about 2cm (a bit less than an inch) thick, and slather over the sauce, making sure that all of the medallions are coated.  About 10 minutes before the potatoes are due to be cooked, whack them into a griddle pan or a frying pan. They should take about 4 minutes each side.

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When the potatoes are cooked, drain the water and leave to steam for a minute or so – you don’t want the mash to be too watery. Add the milk, butter, and the roasted garlic (squeeze the soft white garlic out of its skin) and mash it up proper. Good mash is made with patience – not a blender!

If you want some great char grilling, don't move them around in the pan - trust the griddle!
If you want some great char grilling, don’t move them around in the pan – trust the griddle!

By now your veg should all be looking (and smelling) fit, so plate it up with the mash and the pork medallions and enjoy this autumnal dish!

Honey Mustard Pork Done

Italian Bacon-Wrapped Chicken Traybake

It’s been a while since we blogged any Italian food which feels like a bit of a cheat because we love it and usually cook something Italian inspired at least once a week. This is another of our “bung it in the oven” specials (we seem to have a lot of those!), leaving you free to relax after work (or do something dangerously productive). It’s a little similar to our Salmon Traybake, but with a few Italian twists.

Ingredients

  • New potatoes, halved/quartered depending on size
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 2 large springs of rosemary
  • 6 rashers of smoked streaky bacon
  • Vine tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Asparagus
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Parboil the new potatoes for a few minutes until slightly tender. Once the potatoes are boiling place a large roasting dish in the oven with 1 tbsp of the olive oil in it and some salt and pepper. Drain the potatoes, let as much of the water evaporate as possible and then tip them into the hot oil. Give them a good stir/shake around to get them coated and then put in the oven.

Take the chicken breasts, lay a sprig of rosemary on each of them and then wrap each one in 3 rashers of bacon. After the potatoes have been in the oven for 10-15 minutes and are starting to colour, move them to one side of the dish and lay the chicken breasts on the other side. Coat the vine tomatoes in half the remaining oil, the balsamic vinegar and seasoning and place these in the dish too.

Sometimes it's hard to make raw meat look appetising - not on this occasion!
Sometimes it’s hard to make raw meat look appetising – not on this occasion!

After all of this has had another 15-20 minutes mix the asparagus with the lemon juice, remaining olive oil and seasoning. Tip these over the potatoes in the roasting tin and then, using a vegetable peeler, take shavings of parmesan and place liberally over the whole dish. Use as much or as little parmesan as you like (as you’ll probably know by now, we are cheese obsessed so use plenty!). Leave this to roast for 10 more minutes then take out, throw over a few more parmesan shavings and serve!

That parmesan is gonna melt and be sooo gooood...
That parmesan is gonna melt and be sooo gooood…

We’re big fans of one-pan wonders, and this is definitely one of the best. So easy, really tasty and minimal washing up, so you can put your feet up for the rest of the evening!

Chicken and Bacon

Chorizo and White Wine Haddock

While white fish has a delicate flavour which is perfect just with a slice of lemon, sometimes you want to spice it up with some big, hearty flavours and this recipe is perfect for those occasions! A smoky, slightly spicy, white wine-infused sauce, slices of potato, flaky white fish fillets and then the fresh, lightly peppery parsley. This dish is also great because it’s ready in about half an hour but seems so much more impressive than that, so if you have friends round, or you want to fancy up your week night give this a try.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 50-100g chorizo (picante or regular), thinly sliced
  • 400-500g salad or new potatoes, thinly sliced
  • 4 tbsp white wine
  • 2 skinless fillets of white fish (we used haddock but any firm white fish will work)
  • a large handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • half a small bunch of parsley, chopped
  • green vegetables and a slice of crusty bread to serve
Make sure your chorizo is thinly slice - the crispy bits are awesome!
Make sure your chorizo is thinly sliced – the crispy bits are awesome!

Heat a large frying pan with a lid that fits (we used a small wok and the lid from a completely different pan… maybe Father Christmas will bring us a shiny new pan set this year?), and add the oil. Throw in the chorizo and fry for a few minutes until it releases it’s oils. Then tip in the sliced potatoes and a little black pepper. Splash over 3 of the 4 tbsp of wine (or just chuck a good glug in like we did – who wants to measure wine?!), stick the lid on and leave to cook for 10-15 minutes, giving it a little stir every now and then.

Tomato and Parsley

Season the fish with pepper, then after stirring the potato mixture again add the cherry tomatoes and most of the chopped parsley to the pan, stir again and place the fish on top. Splash in a bit more wine (or 1 tbsp if you like measuring things), put the lid on and ignore it for 5 minutes or until the fish is white and flaky. Scatter the remaining parsley over and serve with some green veg and a slice of bread. Now the bread might seem like carb overkill but believe us, you will want something to soak up the amazing sauce!

Serve with a cold glass of wine - perfect!
Serve with a cold glass of wine – perfect!

Bird had had this before, or something similar, cooked by her mum but had mostly forgotten what it was like and we were so impressed – the wine, chorizo oil, tomatoes and starchyness from the potatoes combine to form the most delicious smoky, spicy sauce which manages not to overwhelm the delicate fish because of the acidity and freshness from the wine, tomatoes and parsley. This definitely took us back to Spain – simple, bold flavours and great ingredients.

Tart Tuesday: Nectarine and Frangipane

In light of the new-found pastry confidence we’re going to attempt to bring you a mini tart recipe every Tuesday because, if you’re anything like us, you’ll understand the need for a tasty treat while watching Great British Bake Off. So after work tonight Bird knocked up a batch of sweet shortcrust pastry using the recipe below which is taken from a Jamie Oliver recipe. This will make far too much for two little tart cases so we will be freezing it in mini tart case sized portions and then defrosting it on a Monday every week ready to fill and bake on a Tuesday! For tonight’s Tart Tuesday the filling is frangipane and fresh nectarine. We have some nectarines which are on the turn (ooh-err!) and thought they would be perfect nestled in a bed of almond-y goodness.

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry

  • 250g plain flour
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 125g cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • a splash of milk

Sift the flour and the icing sugar together into a large bowl, and then rub the butter in until the mixture is pale gold with a fine breadcrumb texture. Throw in the beaten egg and 1-2 tsp of milk and start to bring together, adding more milk if needed until it just comes together. Make sure not to add too much milk at the beginning because it barely needs any and you can always add but you can’t take away. Bring it together with the minimal work required so it doesn’t become tough and then wrap the ball of dough in cling film and put it in the fridge for at least half an hour before you want to use it.

From this point on you can do what you like, this is the point you would freeze it, you could use it to make a large tart, a medium pie, or as we’re going to  – mini tarts. We divided the pastry into 4 and froze 3 of these. Just remember to blind bake it first to avoid the dreaded soggy bottom!

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Frangipane Filling (this makes a bit too much for 2 mini tarts, but who can be bothered splitting eggs? I’m sure you’ll find some other clever use for it)

  • 65g unsalted butter
  • 65g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 65g ground almonds
  • 1/2 tbsp plain flour

Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Add the egg and beat well until it becomes smooth and pale. Using a metal spoon fold in the ground almonds and flour, mix well and it’s ready to use, or you can refrigerate it until you need it.

So, to put these beauties together, roll out the pastry to around 0.5 cm thick and place in a greased tart case. Place this in the fridge for at least 10 minutes before baking. Prick the base with a fork and then blind bake them in an oven preheated to 190°C for 10 minutes, remove the baking beans and allow to colour in the oven for a further two minutes. Scoop in lots of the gorgeous frangipane mixture, try and spread it out but don’t worry – it will even as it bakes. Top with some slices of fruit. We used nectarines as we had them in, but some other lovely options would be peach, apricot, fig (very seasonal), pear – basically any soft fruit you can think of! Drizzle with a little honey, these tarts are very sweet but they’re dinky so it doesn’t get too sickly. If you were serving them at a dinner party rather than sat in front of the tv like us then a dollop of crème fraîche would be perfect.

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Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until fluffed up and golden on top. Leave to cool in their cases for as long as you can bear and then release them and tuck in, preferably when they’re still slightly warm!

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We absolutely loved these, they were sweet and soft inside with a really crisp pastry shell and then a burst of fresh flavour from the nectarines. We’ll get thinking about next week’s flavour… maybe lemon tarts? Or pear and chocolate? Any suggestions will be gratefully received!

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Broccoli, Leek and Gruyere Quiche

This is not a health food post. If you’re looking for healthy, look away now (although there is some salad porn at the bottom so you’d really better keep reading…). This quiche has flaky, buttery pastry, a rich cheesy filling with caramelised leeks and then the bite and freshness of the broccoli. We apologise now for the lack of photos, Fats was painting a wall and evidently Bird doesn’t multitask well.

First things first – pastry. Pastry is one of those things we’ve always been a bit nervous of, the fear of a soggy bottom is nearly too much to handle. But this was really easy, so give it a go!

Pastry Ingredients (makes enough pastry for a 25cm tart case)

  • 280g plain flour
  • 140g cold butter, cubed
  • 6-8 tbsp cold water

Rub the butter into the flour until you have a fine breadcrumb texture. Then add the water, being careful not to chuck the whole lot in as ours needed less than suggested, until you have a smooth dough that holds together but isn’t sticky. Give it a brief knead so it comes together nicely and then put it in the fridge, wrapped in cling film, for 20-40 minutes before you want to use it. That’s pretty much it! Told you it was easy. The things that seem to help most here are keeping your hands cool, keeping all your ingredients cool and not working it too much at all.

After it has chilled place it on a floured work surface and roll out so it is more than big enough to fit in your tart case, ours was about 5mm thick. Place it in the tart case and use a ball of excess dough to work it into the fluting of the case so you don’t thin it or break it with your fingers. Then place back in the fridge for another 20 minutes while you preheat your oven to 200°C. Once the oven has come to temperature take the tart case out of the fridge, prick the base of it with a fork, line with greaseproof paper and fill with baking beans. Place in the oven to blind bake for 20 minutes, meanwhile you can get on with the filling.

Filling Ingredients

  • Broccoli (around 200g, just the florets)
  • 1 small leek, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 280ml double cream
  • Gruyere cheese, grated – as much as you like!

Bring a pan of water to the boil and then chuck the broccoli in to blanch – it only needs to be cooked for about 2 minutes so after this time take it out, drain it and put in a bowl/pan of cold water to refresh it and stop it cooking. This means it retains it’s lovely green colour when baked. Sweat the leeks in the butter until soft and lightly caramelised. Whisk the two eggs, slowly add the cream and then mix in the leeks and half the cheese.

By this point the 20 minutes on your pastry should be up so remove the baking beans and allow it to colour slightly for 5-10 minutes more in the oven until it is a pale biscuit colour. Once done take it out and arrange the broccoli evenly across it, we made sure not to put a piece bang in the middle because although it would look lovely it would make it a right faff when it came to serving it!

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Pour over the filling and then sprinkle over the other half of the cheese. Put it back in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until lovely and golden on top. Leave it to cool in the case and then remove and serve!

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Use your rolling pin to gently press down on the top of the tart case fluting, this will naturally break the pastry rather than faffing around with a knife before baking!

We had ours with a delicious salad of sultanas which were briefly soaked in the juice of half a lemon giving them a burst of sweet and sour all at once, slivers of carrot, thinly sliced radishes and cucumber and spinach leaves, dressed with olive oil, red wine vinegar and salt and pepper, a perfect sharp contrast to the rich quiche.

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As you can see, this leaves plenty when there are only two of you, you could make it when you have a lot of people round but then you’d be missing out on all those gorgeous leftovers!

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The Perfect Gin and Tonic

Now we’re not too fussy with our G&T’s – gin = good, tonic = good, so it’s hard to go far wrong but this in our minds is the perfect G&T.  The mint and cucumber help it become extra refreshing and something a little bit fancier.

First grab about 3 leaves of mint and around 6-8 pieces of sliced cucumber, put them into the bottom of a tumbler and muddle using a muddler, a spoon, or (as we used) the pestle from a pestle and mortar. Give them a good bash around to release all the lovely flavours. Next put your ice in, we like to use plenty!

G&T1

Then pile on a whole load more of the mint and cucumber before squeezing a quarter of a lime over and dropping it in. Then comes the gin – this one is Bombay Sapphire and is a favourite of ours along with Hendricks, but Tanqueray is fantastic too, or if you prefer a slightly less aromatic, crisper gin then Gordon’s is a classic. Pour however much you like in, this was about 35ml (a European measure). Top up with tonic water (Schweppes or Fever Tree are the best, own brand ones are often far too sweet with not enough bite) and place a slice of cucumber on the rim of the glass. Although this is largely for show and to feel fancy, it does add a little something to the drink as you get the aroma of it each time you take a sip.

G&T2

So… How do you like yours?

G&T3