Voices from Russia

Saturday, 22 December 2012

22 December 2012. For Your Holiday Delectation: Charles Dickens’ Hot Gin Punch

00 Charles Dickens Hot Rum Punch. 22.12.12


One of the Cabinet kindly sent this on (it has my hearty endorsement, as it’s full of Holiday Spirits and Good Cheer):

This one is from Mr Christmas Himself, and it’s really good! I use the adapted version, but I’ve listed the original here if someone wants to be authentic!

The Authentic Hot Gin Punch


Into a warm tumbler put the juice of half a lemon, the cinnamon and clove, and the sugar and honey. Fill the glass three-quarters full with boiling water, stir it up with the cinnamon stick, add the Madeira and gin, and stir it with the cinnamon stick again. Grate nutmeg thereon and drink quickly.


Adapted Modern Version

Adjust quantities up or down for the number of cups being made. Makes enough for 10 to 15 large glasses depending on the measure served… use the same serving glasses to measure out the gin, water, and wine.

  • 4 large glasses of London Gin
  • 6 large glasses of Madeira wine
  • 1 large glass of water
  • 4 whole cloves (put the cloves and star anise below in a cheesecloth pouch for easy removal)
  • 1 star anise
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of grated nutmeg, plus a dusting of grated nutmeg on each cup to serve
  • 1 generous teaspoon of cinnamon powder
  • 1 generous teaspoon of ginger
  • 2 generous tablespoons (30 ml) brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons (90 ml) honey
  • 6 oranges and 6 lemons. Zest 3 lemons and 3 oranges, keep zest in largish pieces to drop in to the mixture (take care not to cut off too much of the bitter white pith). Juice 3 lemons and 3 oranges (use the fruits that you zested). Cut 3 oranges and 3 lemons (unzested), in slices about 4 millimetres (1/6 inch) thick.


Mix all ingredients in a saucepan and place it on very low heat. Let the concoction warm through without boiling for 20 minutes (don’t let it come near boiling; the alcohol will boil out). Taste and rebalance the sweet/sour flavours with more honey or lemon, if needed. Increase the heat somewhat, but make sure that it doesn’t boil, for another ten minutes. Be careful of the cloves and star anise, you should remove them soon after you take the punch off the heat, to stop the drink becoming like medicine… that‘s why you put them in a cheesecloth pouch (it saves you the bother of fishing for them). Then, pour the punch into heatproof glasses with a handle (or into a punch bowl at a party). When serving either pop into the glasses a few orange and lemon zest pieces with a little grated nutmeg on top, or decide to keep the drink clear, this depends on your presentation. It can remain warmed in a pan on a low heat for repeat servings. Do take Mr Dickens’ advice… “Grate nutmeg thereon and drink quickly”. Repeat if necessary, but I’m not responsible for the condition of your head the next morning if you go beyond two of these… do keep the pickle juice at hand if you overindulge… we Russians do know a thing or two about “mornings after”, don’t we?




Sunday, 13 May 2012

Anniversary of the Sandwich


Exactly 250 years ago, John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, playing cards, put meat between two slices of bread. That was the birth of the true English sandwich. According to legend, the Earl of Sandwich became very hungry during a card game. As he was an avid player, he sat at the card table for hours, without even taking a break for dinner. That day, the cook prepared meat sauced with brown gravy. To ensure that the gravy wouldn’t drip on the cards, Sandwich asked his servants to place the meat between two slices of bread. Upon seeing this appetising concoction, the other card players shouted, “We want the same as Sandwich!”

That’s how the sandwich first saw the light of day; it was a relative of the German butterbrot {in Russian, we call it a buterbrodik: editor}, but with an extra slice of bread on top of the butter and meat. This story first appeared in French historian, writer, and traveller Pierre-Jean Grosley‘s book A Tour to London; it was contemporary with the Earl of Sandwich. However, since then, there’s been much discussion whether this story is true or if it’s just a pleasant myth. There’s another, more prosaic version. Allegedly, the Earl wasn’t an avid gambler, but he was an amateur strategist who pored over military maps for hours, snacking on meat between slices of bread. No matter what its real origin is, in Britain, nobody calls the butterbrot anything other than a sandwich. In the UK, the sandwich is probably the most popular food. Traditionally, its luncheon fare, as the British eat a light meal at midday. Sandwiches not only have meat fillings, but they can also contain cheese, seafood, and vegetables instead. For example, some of the most popular sandwiches in London cafés and snack bars are shrimp with avocado and turkey with cranberry sauce.

British supermarkets decided to mark the 250th anniversary of a truly British culinary invention. Next week, they’ll stock sandwiches wrapped in the colours of the British flag under the trademark “Best of British” on their shelves. Amongst them will be a sandwich called the “British Beef and Yorkshire Pudding Wrap”, stuffed with topside beef, roast potatoes, and horseradish sauce, and a Scotch Egg-style sandwich with haslet pork, an egg, and pickle. All throughout the anniversary year, vendors promise to offer buyers some interesting sandwich fillings symbolic of traditional British cuisine. Yet, at the same time, they’ll also have on offer some innovative taste treats, as the British do like to try out new things. For example, last summer, sandwiches with strawberries and cream were a special hit with Tesco supermarket customers at the time of the Wimbledon championships, and a year earlier, they test-marketed a sandwich with an Italian lasagne filling.

12 May 2012

Yelena Balayeva

Voice of Russia World Service


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