- Food & Drink
It’s the festive party season. A time of sequins, paper hats and nibbly things on sticks. A time to gather your friends together to make merry in the lambent glow of the Christmas tree. A time to risk your soft palate by playing microwaved mince pie roulette. And a time to rinse out the expensive looking empty bottles of gin and decant something much more cost-effective into them. Because, given the rate at which British people drink, who can afford to dole out the fancy stuff?
This year I have been blessed by the gin fairies at Aldi, the Teutonic purveyor of lookey-likey bargain groceries. They sent me a bottle of their Oliver Cromwell London Dry Gin to try. It has won awards and costs less than a tenner – a promising prospect in the Christmas party plonk dash. So I put on my Christmas jumper, cranked the Bing Crosby all the way up to 11 and gave it a try.
Day or night gin? This is 37.5% abv, so it’s a daytime gin. Perfect for serving after an Advent service with a Mr Kipling Christmas Cake Slice, or maybe at the school carol concert.
What does it smell of? Cool and crisp, like a winter’s morning. If you put on a snood that’s lightly misted with hairspray and then went for a walk by the duckpond on a blue sky day, you’d catch the same whiff.
What does it taste of? It’s like someone machine-gunned Narnia with lemons. It opens with a soft, sweet sluice of citrus and ends with a peppery bite of juniper and bark. It’s not a shy gin and it mixes happily with tonic, but it’s too sweet to make a good martini. I wouldn’t use it for cocktails unless I was just looking for alcoholic ballast.
Buy it? At £9.70 for 70cl, this is a bargain. By comparison, at Asda, Gordon’s is £14 for 70cl, Beefeater is £15 for 70cl and Asda London Dry Gin is £11 for 70cl. When it comes to stocking up the drinks cabinet for December’s liver-ruining round of parties, it’s a no-brainer. I’d buy this.
Munchkin is a really satisfying word to say. The bite down of ‘munch’ followed by the chew of ‘kin’ makes enunciating it an almost physical pleasure. Try it, and if you don’t spend the next couple of minutes repeating munchkin over and over again while giggling to yourself then you’re saner than me.
My local greengrocers has shelves of pumpkins and squashes stacked up like harvest bowling balls and, thanks to the farmers at Stepney City Farm, I can even recognise a few of them this year. There are smooth, ponytail-stalked onion squashes; dappled, green and yellow harlequin squashes; plump, grey-skinned crown princes; and little munchkin pumpkins – the cutest of all the mini gourds.
Being a sucker for tiny versions of things, I bought a couple of munchkin pumpkins, carried them home and only then wondered what a person does with a miniature squash. Happily, I live in the Age of the Internet, which means all questions are answered within 0.14 seconds or consigned to the bin of the philosophically impossible.
Stuffed munchkin pumpkins in the manner of Eat Like a Girl
Munchkin pumpkins, 1–2 per person
Cavolo nero, shredded
1 Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/180°C/fan oven 200°C. Slice the tops of the munchkins off. Scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon, leaving you with little pumpkin bowls. Place the pumpkins on a baking tray.
2 Chop the bacon and fry for a few minutes until the fat is golden. You’ll need about a rasher per pumpkin. Drop the bacon into the pumpkin and add a small handful of shredded cavolo nero. Season well and pour in enough cream to fill the pumpkins. Rest the lids back on top and bake for 40–45 minutes or until the pumpkins are lightly browned and soft.
You can eat the whole thing, skin and all. It’s nice with mix of soft and bitter leaves on the side, like lamb’s lettuce and puntarelle, if you must have a side with your plate’s centrepiece.
On October 2, 2013 By ginandcrumpets
My name is Jassy Davis and I'm a freelance food writer, recipe developer and food stylist. I write for magazines, websites and I'm the co-author of The Contented Calf Cookbook.
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