In my time as a cookery writer I really enjoyed the whole process of making up recipes: the thinking, the shopping, the testing and tasting, and finally the writing, editing, perfecting and publishing.
Once or twice I thought I had created something new (or nearly new – all food writers and chefs steal from other cooks, or build on their ideas, all the time). Once I went to Denmark on a press trip and was served a delicious soup, made out of Samsoe cheese. When I got home I had a go at a cheese soup, using a celery base and Stilton cheese. It was delicious and I used it everywhere. In my Guardian column and in the cookbook I was writing at the time, I served it in my restaurant, dished it up for banquets and events, and taught it to students in my cookery school.
All in all, it was a huge success and many a seventies restaurant in London nicked the idea. Stilton soup was everywhere and I was proud as any inventor could be. Until I found a soup, in a Victorian cookbook I’d bought from an antiquarian bookseller. It was almost identical: a celery soup with a heap of Stilton melted into it.
But I’d still had the fun of believing I was inventing something, mixing ingredients like an alchemist to produce magic. But when, twenty years ago, I decided to succumb to the nagging desire to write novels, I realized the only way I’d create the time for fictional writing was to get away from food. I made a vow never to write another recipe, a promise I have just about stuck to, with the odd exception of a recipe for a charity or some such. But I did miss it. Inventing characters and story lines is exciting, but you don’t get a near-instant opportunity to see if you have produced anything good, as you do with recipes.
But last month Glyndebourne Opera asked me to invent a love potion to compliment their production by the touring company of Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore. www.glyndebourne.com Well, I quickly decided my self-inflicted prohibitions as regards recipes was never meant to include drinks.
I tell you what: testing alcoholic beverage recipes is even jollier than testing food combos. We had a great time.
We decided at the kick-off that there would be two potions, one for girls to give to boys and one for boys to give to girls. Pink for a girl, blue (“the colour of Viagra” said one friend) for a boy.
The pink one was easy. We could have made twenty combinations to get a pretty pink drink: raspberries, strawberries, watermelon, pink grapefruit, pomegranate, tomato, even beetroot, whizzed with something mild like red wine, rose, pink champagne or grenadine, and spiked with serious booze like white brandy, gin, or vodka, or a white liqueur such as Cointreau. No problem.
So, to make it harder and ensure it was an Elixir of Love we decided to stick to aphrodisiac ingredients. (Warning: don’t put “aphrodisiac” into your search engine unless you want an un-ending stream of pornographic ads).
We ended up with a pink recipe every ingredient of which is thought by someone, somewhere, at some time to be aphrodisiac.
Then we got even more ambitious and decided to freeze the basic mix (without the spirits or liqueur) and then chop it into a granité in a liquidizer , spoon it into frozen glasses and freeze until serving. Then top up with the hooch and add the pretty bits. Yum.
The blue one had less options. Most “blue” fruits whizz to a dirty purple. I could not find any blue long drinks. And how many blue spirits or liqueurs are there? I’m sure someone will tell me otherwise but I think the options are Blue Curaçoa, Blue Curaçoa or Blue Curaçoa. If you are serious about the love potion side of things, then don’t use lemonade. Citrus fruit was once thought to make men sterile.
But the good news is that the Blue Dream we ended up with was the winner. Delicious and stunning to look at, it includes that aphrodisiac of all time, chocolate.
Knickerdropper Glory, for Boys to give to Girls
(Makes 2 – 3 cocktails)
- Large teacupful of liquidised watermelon
- Same amount of pomegranate juice
- Two tablespoons coconut cream from a can or box
- Half a cup Grenadine
- 2 large slugs white plum, peach or apricot brandy
- Fruit sticks of fig, cherry or raspberry, watermelon and mint
Whizz together the fruit juices and the coconut cream. Pour into a shallow container and freeze.
Mix the grenadine and brandy together
Put cocktail glasses into fridge or freezer too.
Just before serving, chop the frozen mixture into chunks and liquidise to gravelly/sandy texture.
Spoon into the glasses.
Top up with the grenadine/brandy mix and garnish with fruit stick
Blue Dreamer, for Girls to give to Boys
(makes 2 – 3 cocktails)
- Chilled blue curacao
- Chilled Barak Palinka (Hungarian Apricot or Peach Brandy)
- Chilled Tonic water or Lemonade
- Fresh blueberries and white chocolate buttons for garnish
Chill the glasses.
Mix one part curacao, one part brandy and two parts tonic water or lemonade in a shaker or jug with ice.
Pour into the glasses.
Garnish with fresh blueberries and white chocolate chips.