Two weeks ago I was lucky enough to secure tickets for Radio 4s “The Kitchen Cabinet”. I love this programme. The panel are always good value and I am a definite fan of Jay Rayner’s wit and wisdom. Plus, and it’s a big plus, I always learn something I didn’t already know about food.
I have never been to a live recording before – of radio or television – so I was intrigued to see how it all works.
We arrived (unfashionably early to be sure of a seat) and were surprised and delighted to be offered complementary wine and canapés courtesy of the Truro College catering team. The canapés were all really tasty but the mini crab tarts and tiny chocolate brownies were stunningly good and I got my first taste of asparagus of the year.
Whilst waiting we were all given slips of paper and were encouraged to write out questions for the panel and to give an example of a time when we over-indulged on a holiday. My bizarre and somewhat garbled story involved drinking beer at altitude, a Peruvian restaurant and some Diddy Men but, as it wasn’t picked, that remains a story for another day…
Finally we entered the lecture theatre and settled down. There before us was the set – a table for the panel (laden with food and water and mysterious packets of unidentifiable stuff) and a separate table for our compere and out front was a table with a bottle of gin, a cocktail shaker and what looked like a mini still! That was about it; relaxed and simple – this was radio after all.
Being in Cornwall the themes were Pasties, Pilchards and Gin. I couldn’t have been happier!
The people whose questions had been selected (not me!) were invited to sit at the front, we were all briefed on what would happen and off we went. I wasn’t disappointed.
The panel consisted of food historian Annie Gray, Masterchef Winner and food writer Tim Anderson, Rachel Mcormack the Scottish founder of Catalan Cooking (who is described on twitter as being “Like a crack ridden, Glaswegian, Sister Wendy Beckett”) and columnist and restaurateur Tim Hayward. They were all every bit as cheerful, funny and knowledgeable as you could want them to be.
Besides the panel there were three local guests (plus children in one case).
Rob and John from Trevethan Gin talked about how they perfected a family recipe for handcrafted gin and made cocktails for the panel (I want to be a panellist!). Those mysterious packages on the panel’s table turned out to be bags of juniper, cassia, coriander and angelica; botanicals used in the distilling process to flavour their gin. I haven’t tried it yet but it’s definitely on my shopping list!
Nick Howell from The Pilchard Works talked about the history of pilchard fishing in Cornwall and how he transformed the market through rebranding the humble pilchard as the altogether more exciting sardine. I strongly recommend that you follow the link and watch the short video on The Pilchard Work’s website – I found it fascinating.
The final guests were Louisa Eade and her two sons who all won prizes at The World Pasty Championships this year. Louisa may have been the best guest ever as she brought samples of pasties to hand out to the audience.
To complement the pasties Tim Anderson had made pasty inspired gyoza. You have to imagine little japanese steamed dumplings filled with minced up pasty filling. These were passed around the audience so I got to taste one and, I have to be honest, I don’t think he would have won Masterchef with them!
Throughout the programme specific members of the audience were invited to ask their questions. One woman asked for ideas for desserts made using gin – clearly a lady after my own heart. The first suggestion was a lemon drizzle cake with gin in the drizzle. I recently made a gin and tonic cake for a friend which went down well (Victoria sponge using tonic instead of milk and lemon instead of vanilla, sandwiched with gin laden buttercream and topped with a gin syrup drizzle) but I will definitely be trying the drizzle cake idea too.
Another suggestion was lime sorbet with a shot of chilled gin to pour over it. I made a gin, lemon and lime sorbet (because I like gin with lemon or lime) and it could be the perfect summer dessert. Check out the recipe below (I actually used Elemental Cornish Gin (which I love) because we had some in the cupboard.
All too soon the show was over bar a couple of little “re-takes” and we headed home. If you get an opportunity to go to a live recording I suggest that you grab it! You can register with the BBC who will notify you of upcoming shows in your area and tickets are free.
The show was first broadcast on Radio 4 (92 – 95 FM) on Saturday 7th May 2016 at 10.30 but, if you missed it, you can listen on-line here.
Gin, Lemon and Lime Sorbet
There’s a bit of science involved in making a sorbet: Too much sugar will make your sorbet taste too sweet but sugar lowers the freezing point so too little sugar will give you a harder freeze – more ice cube than sorbet. Don’t forget that the fruit you add contains sugar too so this will affect the freeze. There is always a tension between flavour and texture. You could buy a refractometer or saccharometer if you want to be really precise (and if you make lots of sorbet it might be worth it). If you just make it occasionally you might have to wing it a bit. Start off with a 1:1 ratio of sugar to water (1g:1ml) and adjust accordingly depending on the fruit you use. Lemons and limes are much lower in sugar than many other fruits so I have added a little extra sugar in this recipe.
Too much alcohol can stop a sorbet from freezing at all but a little bit can help to give a softer freeze. Alternatively, adding a whisked egg white towards the end of the freezing process will also give you a softer freeze.
If the ice crystals are a little too big in your finished sorbet you can tip it into a big bowl, break it up a little and use an electric hand mixer to whisk it until it is smooth again then return it to the freezer as before. Alternatively, you can serve it as it is and call it a granita!!!
450g Caster Sugar
4 Unwaxed Lemons (Juice of all 4 and zest of 2 limes)
4 Unwaxed Limes (Juice of all 4 and zest of 2 limes)
Craft Gin (2 tbsp plus a shot of Gin for each serving)
First make the sugar syrup. Place the sugar and water in a pan and bring to the boil, remove from the heat and stir until all the sugar is dissolved. Set aside to cool.
Zest two of the lemons and two of the limes and juice all of them. Sieve the juice to remove any pulp and add the strained juice and zest to the cooled sugar syrup. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the gin.
You can now make the sorbet in an ice cream maker by following the manufacturer’s instructions.
If, like me, you don’t have an ice cream maker, pour the lime syrup into a shallow container, put the lid on and place it in the freezer. Remove it every half hour and stir it with a fork to break up the ice crystals as they form. Keep doing this until you have a light, smooth sorbet.
You can now keep the sorbet in the freezer until you want to use it (or up to three months).
To serve. Place a shot glass per person in the freezer to frost for a couple of hours before you want to serve. Spoon the sorbet into a serving bowl and serve with a shot of chilled gin on the side. You can either eat the sorbet and sip the gin alongside it or (in my mind much more preferable) tip the gin over the sorbet and eat them together.