I have long been a fan of adding a dash or two of something alcoholic to a stew or a sauce, but having read Aaron and Susannah Rickard’s excellent book ‘Cooking with Alcohol’, I realise that I am a mere beginner compared to them. They have mastered the skill of adding alcohol to food to a fine and delicious art.
An alcoholic souvenir
Often when travelling abroad I have brought back a souvenir of a small bottle of something like a liqueur – maybe limoncello, or even a local gin, beer or cider. Most times they get consumed quickly when back home, but not always and I eventually find them tucked away at the back of a cupboard waiting to be put to good use.
From now on they will no longer be used to merely enliven a sauce or stew, but will be brought forward to play a central role in dishes.
Starters and Mains
Years back a favourite dinner party starter of mine was to make a pâté of chicken livers cooked with brandy. How lovely to see it has made something of a come-back thanks to the skilled palates of the Rickards – their recipe is included as one of the Starters and Light Meals in ‘Cooking with Alcohol’, alongside a Bloody Mary Prawn Cocktail and an exotic sounding dish of Jamaican Rum Chicken with Mango Hot Sauce. Soup recipes are also included – the Irish Onion Soup sounds especially warming.
As to the Mains! I fully plan on working my way steadily through all the recipes – be they slow cooked, roasted and grilled, pan fried or pasta and rice, and let’s not forget pies and pastry. Apart from the more usual beer, cider and brandy Aaron and Susannah suggest recipes using Jägermeister, cava, tequila, amaretto, gin and ouzo – think Sweet and Spicy Tequila Lime Pork, Bourbon Brined Beef Short Ribs, Port Pesto with Rigatoni, and the delicious sounding recipe for Salmon with Cava Sauce and Crushed Lemon Potatoes on page 80.
And whilst most of the recipes include fish or meat there are actually plenty of vegetarian recipes too.
Sides and Desserts
Following on from Mains, ‘Cooking with Alcohol’ takes us into recipes for Side Dishes and Condiments – Cider Braised Leeks, Spiced Rum Barbecue Pineapple, Gin Slaw and an interesting Red Wine Salt.
Hot Desserts are always popular in this household and straight at the top of my ‘must do’ list is the Sloe Gin and Blackberry Cobbler and in close second place the Whisky Sticky Toffee Pudding or maybe the Red Wine Chocolate Fudge Pudding? Yum.
The Cold Desserts look equally luscious and delicious – an Alcoholic Chocolate Mousse, an Amaretto and Ginger Cheesecake or maybe its variation that uses Gin, Lime and Elderflower. And I could be easily tempted into the world of sorbets with a bowl of Orange and Tequila Sorbet.
Savouries and Baking
If like me you are a serious savoury lover then head for the Savoury Baking section and discover the likes of Three Cheese and Onion Vodka Tarts, the oh so impressive Cider Crust Pork Pie or the Red Wine Focaccia.
Whilst one of us in this household is not a great cake fan, the other is, and ‘Cooking with Alcohol’ contains an excellent section of Sweet Baking recipes including an Alcoholic Bakewell Tart, Whisky Shortbread and a prettily glazed White Wine Pound Cake, recipe p 234.
With the Seville Orange season in the New Year we will for sure be making the Orange and Spiced Rum Marmalade; and long ago we became addicted to apple butter but Aaron and Suzannah have given it a new dimension with the addition of bourbon.
Eminently readable text and great photography
All the recipes have been meticulously tested in the couple’s home kitchen; the great illustrations are thanks to Aaron’s skill with a camera; whilst Susannah is responsible for the eminently readable recipes. The layout of the recipes is clear and easy to follow with some much-appreciated hints included, and also much appreciated is the list of the Equipment needed for each recipe.
Aaron and Susannah tell us they are not professional cooks – but are, as they say, experimental cooks – and very good ones too we suspect from reading the 100 or so recipes in their book. Incidentally all the recipes are rated from 1 to 3 according to how easy or difficult they are.
‘Cooking with Alcohol’ has certainly inspired me to be more adventurous from now on. And I for one await with interest the next book to come from the very talented Aaron and Susannah Rickard.
Cooking with Alcohol. Aaron and Susannah Rickard. ISBN: 978-1-912436-95-8. Lendal Press. Hardback: RRP £25.
NB. Be aware that cooking may not completely eliminate alcohol from a dish, so might take a car driver over the legal limit. A.H.