Food & cocktail matching

Words by Simon Difford

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Wine has traditionally been the beverage most commonly chosen to accompany a meal but cocktails can be tailored to better compliment and accentuate flavours in the food.

Food and cocktail matching is something of a trend and presents new opportunities for restaurants which have traditionally offed carefully selected wines to accompany chef's tasting menus. Food and cocktail matching is increasingly one of the challenges in the most prestigious bartender competitions. At its simplest this is just a case of matching appropriate existing cocktails with dishes to add an interesting dimension to a dinner party.

It was with the above in mind that I recently accepted a challenge from the folk at the EBLEX 'Quality Standard Mark Scheme' for English beef and lamb to make cocktails to accompany canapés at a press evening for food critics. Follows the recipes for each dish and a link to the matching cocktail I created or borrowed for the occasion.

Roast Beef Appetisers

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Makes 24 Appetisers
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 2-3 minutes
• 100g/4oz cooked roast beef, cut into thin slices (topside roast)
• 8 crumpets
• 30ml/2tbsp prepared hummus or aubergine dip
• Fresh dill leaves, to garnish

1. Stack the crumpets in groups of two and using a small 3.5cm/1.5inch plain round cutter cut three circles out from each crumpet.
2. Transfer to a preheated, moderate grill and lightly toast on each side. Arrange on a large serving platter.
3. Spread each mini crumpet with a portion of the dip, then the beef slices.
4. Garnish with fresh dill leaves or the pomegranate relish.

Replace the crumpets with mini/party size bruschettas or cheese biscuits instead.
This recipe is perfect for using mini roasts too.

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Chef's recommended key flavours: Lemons, oranges, tomatoes, basil, celery
Cocktail to match: Bloody Mary

Spiced Beef and Chilli Blinis

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Makes 32 blinis
Preparation time: 15 minutes plus 1 hour marinating
Cooking time: Rare: 2½ minutes on each side / Medium: 4 minutes on each side / Well done: 6 minutes on each side

• 675g/1½lb lean picanha steak
• 30ml/2tbsp paprika powder
• 10ml/2tsp mild chilli powder
• 15ml/1tbsp ground cumin powder
• Salt and freshly milled black pepper
• 45ml/3tbsp olive oil
• 2 x 162g packs prepared mini blinis (available at all good supermarkets in the chiller section)
• 30ml/2tbsp prepared tomato chutney
• 30ml/2tbsp prepared guacamole
• To garnish:
• Extra paprika powder

1. In a small bowl, combine the spice ingredients and the olive oil together.
2. Place the steaks on a chopping board and brush the spice mixture over both sides. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for up to 1 hour.
3. Transfer the steaks to a grill pan and cook under a moderate preheated grill according to your preference. Alternatively, cook the steaks in a hot griddle pan.
4. Meanwhile warm the blinis in an oven according to the packet instructions then spread evenly with the tomato chutney.
5. Cut the steak into small strips, arrange evenly over the blinis and top with a little guacamole then garnish with the extra paprika powder.
6. Serve as canapés.

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Chef's recommended key flavours: Tomatoes, oranges, apricots, lime, coriander, basil, coconut milk, lemon grass, mint
Cocktail to match: Thai Green Cocktail

Beef, Juniper and Pistachio Canapés

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Serves 10-12 as a light lunch or starter and best prepared 24 hours in advance
Preparation time: 30-35 minutes, plus marinating, cooling and resting time
Cooking time: 1½-2 hours

• 450g/1lb lean beef mince
• 225g/8oz calves liver, trimmed and finely chopped
• 225g/8oz streaky bacon, roughly chopped
• 150ml/¼pint Madeira or Port
• Grated zest of ½ lemon
• 20-25 juniper berries, crushed
• 1 x 100g pack dried cranberries
• Salt and freshly milled black pepper
• 25g/1oz butter
• 1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
• 3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
• 30ml/2tbsp freshly chopped sage
• 30ml/2tbsp freshly chopped thyme leaves
• 1.25ml/¼tsp ground mace or cloves
• 1 egg, beaten
• 45ml/3tbsp extra thick double cream
• 100g/4oz raw, shelled pistachio nuts, roughly chopped
• 200g/7oz thin pancetta slices
• 10 fresh bay leaves
• Pomegranate Relish (recipe below)

1. In a large bowl mix together the beef mince, liver, bacon, Madeira or Port, lemon zest, juniper berries, cranberries and seasoning. Cover and leave to marinate in the fridge for 2 hours, or overnight.
2. Preheat the oven to Gas mark 2, 150°C, 300°F.
3. Heat the butter in a large non-stick frying pan and cook the onion and garlic for 3-4 minutes until soft, but not coloured. Stir in the herbs and spices. Set aside to cool for 5-10 minutes.
4. Remove the terrine mixture from the fridge and add the onion and herb mix, egg, cream and pistachio nuts. Mix gently.
5. Line a 900g/2lb loaf tin with the pancetta slices and randomly tuck in half the bay leaves between the pancetta. Spoon the mixture into the tin and fold over the pancetta slices. Tuck in the remaining bay leaves. Cover the terrine with a piece of double-thickness foil and pleat the corners to allow the steam to escape.
6. Put the loaf tin in a large roasting tin and place on the middle shelf of the oven. Carefully pour in enough hot water to reach halfway up the tin and cook for 1½-2 hours.
7. Remove the terrine from the oven and leave to cool with the foil in place for 20-30 minutes. Next, weigh the terrine down with two full 450g/1lb cans. When completely cold place the terrine in the fridge overnight to firm up.
8. One hour before serving remove the terrine from the fridge, cut into slices and serve with crusty bread or Melba toast, topped with a pomegranate relish. Great canapés!

Pomegranate Relish-For Canapés
Serves 8
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: No cooking required

• 100g/4oz prepared fresh pomegranate seeds
• 1 large shallot, peeled and finely chopped
• 30ml/2tbsp freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley or mint
• 15ml/1tbsp prepared pomegranate molasses
• From the Store Cupboard:
• 30ml/2tbsp rapeseed or olive oil

1.Put the pomegranate, shallot and parsley or mint into a large bowl. Add the molasses and oil. Gently mix.
2.Use the relish as a topping for canapés or as an accompaniment for roast beef or lamb.

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Cocktail to match: Gin Colheita

Curried Lamb Skewers with Yogurt and Mint Dip

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Makes 10-12
Preparation time: 10-15 minutes plus marinating time
Cooking time: 12-18 minutes

• 450g/1lb lean lamb mince
• 10ml/2tsp ground cumin
• 10ml/2tsp ground turmeric
• Pinch caster sugar
• 15ml/1tbsp sunflower oil
• 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
• 5ml/1tsp ground allspice powder
• Salt and freshly milled black pepper
• 20 woody rosemary stalks, leaves removed or 20 small wooden skewers, soaked
• Mint Jelly and Yogurt Dip:
• 1 x 200g tub thick Greek yogurt
• 60ml/4tbsp mint jelly

1. Place the mince in a large bowl, add the remaining ingredients except the rosemary and mix well. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 2 hours or overnight. Soak the wooden skewers in cold water.
2. Wearing disposable gloves mould the mince into ten to twelve 10cm (4 inch) cylindrical sausage shapes around each wooden skewer
3. Cook the skewers under a preheated moderate grill for 12-18 minutes, turning occasionally or until cooked and any meat juices run clear.
4. Meanwhile prepare the dip; mix the yogurt and mint jelly together, transfer to a small bowl and serve with the skewers.

Tip: This recipe works well with beef mince too.

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Chef's recommended key flavours: Peaches, apricots, mangoes, limes, other tropical fruits, apples, coriander, coconut milk, tomatoes
Cocktail to match: Apricot Mango Cocktail

Miniature Beef Tarts with White Bean Puree

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Makes: 20 canapés
Preparation time: 15-20 minutes
Cooking time: 2-4 minutes

• 2 lean thin cut sirloin or minute steaks
• Salt and freshly milled black pepper
• 15ml/1tbsp olive oil
• For the White Bean Purée:
• 1 x 400g can white beans, e.g. cannellini, drained
• 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
• 45ml/3tbsp olive oil
• 10ml/2tsp freshly chopped chives

20 prepared mini toasts
15ml/1tbsp creamed horseradish, optional
Fresh chives, to garnish

1. To prepare the white bean purée; place the beans, garlic and oil in a food processor or blender and whizz together until smooth. Spoon into a small bowl and stir through the chives. Adjust the seasoning, if required, cover and set aside.
2. Heat a non-stick griddle or frying pan. Season the beef on both sides and brush with the oil. Cook for 1-2 minutes on each side. Remove from the heat to rest for 1-2 minutes then thinly slice on the diagonal.
3. Spoon a small amount of the purée evenly on each toast. Top with a slice of beef, a pea-sized amount of the horseradish sauce (if used) and garnish with a few fresh chives. Serve immediately.

Tip: If preferred, warm the purée slightly before assembling. If time allows why not make the pastry cases with prepared short crust pastry and use to line mini muffin tins, cooking according to the packet instructions. Prepared mini vol-au-vent pastry cases are good too.

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Chef's recommended key flavours: Lemons, Oranges, Tomatoes, Basil
Cocktail to match: Gin Basil Smash

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