Thursday, 2 September 2010

C is for...

... Cosmopolitan cocktails with canapes: chilli cashews, ceviche, crab cakes, chorizo crostini and chilli con carne cups, followed by a starter of crocodile skewers with cashew and coconut satay sauce served with a chicory and chard garnish. For main, we had chermoula chicken with chickpea and courgette couscous, fragrant carrot and cumin salad and cherry tomato salsa. Pudding was chocolate and cherry clafoutis and cream followed by cheese with charcoal crackers, celery, carrot jam, chilli jam and cinammon chutney. Lastly, we had coffee or camomile with home-made cinammon, cardamom and cumin chocolate truffles.

C night had a soundtrack made especially by the lovely Richard. The play list included The Cramps, The Clash, The Carpenters, The Cure, The Creatures, Nick Cave and Johnny Cash to name a few.  As well as providing musical entertainment, Richard also doubled as my helper for the event: hoovering, stoning cherries and mixing up an excellent batch of cosmo's were just some of his much appreciated contributions. Guests were coming at 7:30pm and, after a late-morning food shopping trip, lunch out at The Fat Deli seemed like a good idea at the time. Cooking and flat-cleaning didn't commence until 3pm, but I think I managed to pull it off in the end.  Guests turned up with a selection of wines beginning with C. We had chablis, chenin blanc, cava, Chilean cabernet sauvignon, chianti classico and cotes du rhone. It was a good night.

To kick proceedings off, we had cosmopolitan cocktails and chilli cashews. In my early twenties I worked in a cocktail bar for a few months while I was in between other things. The bar seemed to double up as a coke den, but I was so green in those days, I just thought the bosses were moody and erratic and wondered why they always seemed to have colds. While I was there, I was trained in the art of cocktail mixing and, on learning to make my first cosmopolitan, I pressed the wrong "C" on the soda gun and made it with cola instead of cranberry juice. I wouldn't recommend it, though was forced to drink the crapmopolitan and, I must admit, it seemed to get a lot better towards the end of the glass. It was a free-pouring bar, so every now and then they would test us to see how accurate we were. The answer, in my case, was not very. I must be a slow counter and frequently doubled the measurements - I was popular with the regulars. I made an excellent and pokey cosmopolitan by the end of my time there and this is how I did it.

Pre-dinner drinks and nibbles


1 1/2 parts vodka
1 part triple sec (or any orange flavoured liqueur such as cointreau or grand marnier)
1 part cranberry juice
A generous dash of lime juice
Lime wedges or twists of lime rind to serve

If you want to do it properly, you should fill each martini glass with ice while you're mixing up the cocktail to cool down the glasses and then discard the ice before pouring. Simply place all the ingredients except the lime wedge/ rind into a cocktail shaker with some ice, shake and strain into the chilled glasses. If you haven't got a cocktail shaker just stir it all up in a jug. Rub a wedge of lime around the rim of each glass, give it a light squeeze over the drink and drop it (or a twist of rind) in.

Chilli Cashews

8 oz/ 200 g cashew nuts, unsalted and raw
1 tbsp sunflower/ vegetable oil
1 tsp finely ground sea salt
1 tsp of ground black pepper
1/4 - 1 tsp cayenne pepper (depending on how fiery you like your nuts)
coarse sea salt for sprinkling

Roast the cashews on a baking tray in a preheated oven at 180 C (160 C Fan) for 6 - 8 minutes. Give them a shake halfway through roasting. In the meantime, make a spice paste with the oil, fine salt, black pepper and cayenne in a large bowl. Toss the roasted cashews in the spice paste until they are all thoroughly coated and pop them back on the baking tray to roast for a further couple of minutes. Allow the nuts to cool completely before sprinkling over some coarse sea salt and serving.

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