Alcohol Free Drinks & Mocktails

Share this story:

Here’s a selection of a few alcohol-free options for Christmas and other occasions, designed to take the sting out of being a Designated Driver

Alcohol free drinks§ FOR CHRISTMAS
Try Botonique. As the name suggests, it’s botanicals and tonic, with a high level of nutrients. Created by a wine merchant, it’s much drier than soft drinks and has the complexity, length of finish, dryness and freshness of a crisp dry white wine – but without grapes or alcohol. The makers describe it as “reminiscent of dry white wine or Prosecco, with hints of gin, Pimms and vermouth”

Serve on its own
Well chilled or over ice
In a Champagne flute for maximum bubbles
In a wine glass for fewer bubbles
Give it a stir if you don’t want the bubbles

Lemon & ginger
Cucumber, lime & mint
Strawberry & black pepper
Pineapple & sage
Top tip: instead of ice cubes, cool down your mocktails by dropping frozen fruits such as strawbs or raspberries into them

 Try 50/50 with a cheap dry white: Botonique turns it into something much more interesting, nutritious and half the ABV
 Add a splash of dessert wine such as Muscat for a Gewurtztraminer effect
 Try one part red, such as Malbec, to two parts Botonique for a refreshing light red, about 4% ABV
  For Christmas: try one third port to two parts Botonique for a sensuous, refreshing Christmas tipple of just 6% ABV

Alcohol free drinks§ FOR BARBECUES
We’ve tried these and they’re pretty good: soft drinks, with a cayenne chilli kick which lets them stand up really well to the strong flavours of barbecue, with a little fire of their own. The spicier the food, the better —  try the cucumber & mint with cumin lamb burgers, or the mango & ginger with exotic fruit salad




cornish waterYou can personalise or brand your own bottles of this Cornish Natural Spring Water, which comes from an underground lake where pure moorland rainfall filters naturally through rocks deep within a hillside. Clear, crisp, mineral taste; comes in still or sparkling.




We hope the above ideas might provide some inspiration. We do update entries, so check back any time. Click HERE for seasonal ingredients.

Share this story:

Alcohol Free Drinks & Mocktails

Brussel Sprout Recipe

Share this story:

Brussel Sprout Recipes

Brussel Sprout RecipeCHOOSE
Look for dark green, firm shiny specimens. Get an Entire Stalk of sprouts; pick off the teeny tiny baby sprouts at the top to entice Those Who Fear The Sprout (see pic; on this one Stalk we got baby sprouts at the top, normal sprouts at the bottom, and a great big thing like a cabbage at the top. Something for everyone, we think)

Watson, the cognitive-cookery supercomputer, says the closest friends of sprouts are lemon, Cheddar and potato. Well, it could be worth a try . . . What The Taster is sure of is: never boil sprouts — that’s just asking for hideous boiled cabbage aromas — always roast or fry them, and always in lashings of butter and, ideally, bacon fat. Nothing could be better for you. (This is also true for all other brassicas: cabbage, cauliflower, greens etc.) See further options below:

Brussel Sprout Recipe§ Chestnuts & Bacon
Slather raw sprouts in butter, oil & herbs and roast them whole with shelled chestnuts. Then, fry briefly in a pan of pancetta or bacon and a glug of Marsala

§ Cranberries, Redcurrant Jelly & Herbs
Roast the sprouts in butter and oil. Then, deglaze the pan or tray with red wine, add chicken stock, and simmer the sprouts for 2 mins with redcurrant jelly, dried cranberries, chives & tarragon

§ Au Gratin
Having roasted your sprouts, cover them with melted butter & grated Cheddar, and bake 240ºC, 10 mins

§ Advanced Au Gratin
Sauté boiled sprouts with pancetta; pour on Béchamel sauce & grated Gruyère; add more Gruyère and bake 180ºC, 20 mins.

(To make Béchamel: put 420ml milk in a pan with a little fresh parsley, bay leaf, 10 peppercorns and one slice of onion. Simmer 5 mins, sieve out the solids. Melt 40g butter over a low heat, then mix with 20g plain flour into a paste. Mix in the milk a little at a time, stirring or whisking continuously. Turn the heat right down and simmer, 5 mins, stirring occasionally)

§ Go Nuts
Clearly, chestnuts are the big one, but other nuts also go with sprouts. The Italians like almonds, along with lemon & breadcrumbs — mmm, we can see that working, all sautéd roughly together — or, for a daring 1970s vibe, try brazil nuts

We can thank the Victorians, with their exquisite knack for destroying pleasant dining experiences, for Christmas sprouts. They first appeared in cookbooks around the 1850s, served with butter and veal gravy, and have successfully turned Christmas into an ordeal for brassica-haters ever since.

If you would like to play a strangely addictive game featuring sprouts and farting, click on the below. (The Taster has an embarrassingly high score.) WARNING: not for the fainthearted

Brussel Sprout Recipe

We hope the above ideas might provide some inspiration. We do update entries, so check back any time. See more seasonal ingredients by The Taster here

Share this story:

Suvlaki Moussaka

Share this story:

Suvlaki Moussaka

 Suvlaki, a Greek restaurant in Soho that is working with Michelin-starred chef Alfred Prasad, has created a bestselling moussaka using courgette, black quinoa, Mastelo cheese and slices of aubergine, served with rich tomato & garlic moussaka sauce
Easy Aubergine Recipes

§ Ingredients
(serves four)
4 large aubergines
200g Mastelo cheese
1 courgette
50g black quinoa
2 tbsp olive oil
Few sprigs of parsley

(for the sauce:)
2 tbsp olive oil
3-4 bay leaves
6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp capers
400 g chopped tomato (tins)
1 tbsp chilli flakes
1 tbsp paprika powder
1 tbsp tomato paste
1⁄2 tsp caster sugar
1 tbsp wild oregano (reserve some as garnish)

§ Method
For the easy Moussaka sauce: In a saucepan, heat olive oil and sauté the chopped garlic and bay leaves, saute over low heat for a couple of minutes; add the chilli flakes and paprika, sauté for 30 seconds. Throw in the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar and wild oregano and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes, add the capers and salt. Check seasoning and set aside.

For the aubergine rolls: Pre-heat a BBQ/ grill. In a saucepan; add the quinoa and 2 parts of water, bring to a boil and simmer over low heat for 15-20 mins (until most of the water has evaporated). Transfer to a shallow bowl and leave aside.

Trim the top and bottom of the aubergines and cut lengthwise into 5mm thick slabs; trim the ends of the courgette and cut into 5mm thick slices (again discarding the skin on both ends). Grill the slices without oil, for a couple of minutes on each side and set aside.

To prepare the rolls: trim the cheese into 5mm thick slices and then again into 5mm thick batons. Drizzle olive oil on a sheet of baking paper over a flat surface, place the slices of aubergine on it and spread a thin layer of the moussaka sauce on the slices (discard any bay leaves). Sprinkle the cooked quinoa over the sauce and place a slice of courgette topped with a baton of mastelo cheese at one end of the aubergine slices, sprinkle with salt and roll. Stack the rolls with the loose end underneath to hold in shape.

Double over sheets of kitchen foil into approximately 8”x10” rectangles. Place a spoonful of moussaka sauce on the foil sheets and arrange 4-5 rolls per portion. Fold over and seal the ends into individual parcels and re-heat on the BBQ/Grill for about 8 minutes or until heated through.

§ To serve
Pierce the parcels away from you to release any steam, carefully open the parcels and lift the rolls onto a serving plate. Top-up with any remaining moussaka sauce and serve garnished with wild oregano and a few sprigs of parsley.

Click HERE for more cookery ideas

Swede chicken broth

Swede chicken brothWe’ve called this deliciously savoury dish ‘Swede chicken broth’ because the humble swede is the key, not the poultry. A few dishes (mostly chicken and beef stews and similar) rely on this underrated root. If, like The Taster, you suffer from horrible flashbacks to mashed swede skule dinners, banish them now – Fear the Swede No More!

This is not precision cooking. Fresh grated ginger, growing parsley and garlic cloves are always good; but powdered ginger, dried parsley and garlic purée out of a tube are fine. The exact combination of veg is up to you. By all means add, say, celery or celeriac or more fresh herbs or whatever. Just one thing — do not omit the sherry. It’s quite important, and it’s not the same dish without it.

Serve without cream as a toothsome starter; or with cream, warm crusty bread and your best butter for a main course


♦ Roughly equal quantities of swede & carrot, half as much onion, other winter roots – Jerusalem artichokes, parsnip – but not a lot of potatoes, or it will start to be a different, more soupy sort of broth. At least one whole swede and two carrots per medium-sized potato

♦ Chicken stock. Good strong stuff and plenty of it – enough to submerge all the veg

♦ Flavourings – garlic, ginger, herbs (parsley and thyme are good), salt & pepper

♦ Medium (amontillado) sherry. Or Madeira or Marsala wine

♦ Butter and oil for frying

♦ OPTIONS: streaky bacon, mushrooms, cream to finish


♦ Chop, slice and brown all the veg, garlic, ginger, herbs, mushrooms and bacon in the oil and butter, in a big flat frying pan, stockpot or saucepan. If you use a saucepan, stir the contents about to ensure they brown evenly

♦ While the veg is browning, heat or make up the chicken stock to boiling point

♦ Turn the heat under the veg down as low as possible. Pour the stock over, submerging the veg. Give it a few minutes, then season carefully, tasting spoonfuls between shakes of salt & pepper, until it tastes right (you need less salt if you add bacon)

♦ Simmer veeeeeeery gently – the surface should quiver, rather than bubble – for an hour. Add more stock or water if the veg breaks the surface. Towards the end, pour in a generous slug of sherry

♦ Ladle into bowls and *maybe* drizzle with cream – opinion is divided on whether it’s better with or without; we can see arguments on both sides. Bang the dinner gong and congratulate yourself on a job well done

See more seasonal recipes and ideas here

Gooseberry and Mackerel Ideas and Recipes

Gooseberry and Mackerel Ideas and Recipes

Gooseberry and Mackerel Ideas and RecipesWe write this post almost immediately after a preliminary foray to the Pick-Your-Own place, where the strawberries are a little pale but the gooseberries are in full and triumphant swing. Gooseberries are a traditional accompaniment to mackerel, cutting through the fish’s oiliness to create all sorts of superfood wonderfulness. Coupled with the fact that, as of now (Summer 2015), fishonline gave some four out of six mackerel stocks a rating of 2, making it a reasonably good sustainable choice, it seems like mackerel with fresh gooseberries is the only way to go on a meat-free Monday.

The best vid we’ve found is this, from 2011, by Jeremy Lee, currently head chef at Quo Vadis. He enlists words such as strew and stour in a marvellously domineering Dundee accent, exhorting the listener to render their cream ‘the beautiful, pale, colour of a full moon;’ really, it’s a joy to hear even if you’ve no intention of going anywhere near an oven. Give it a listen:

(Find more vids, both amusing and informative, on our YouTube channel.)

And on to the notes. Regarding MACKEREL, as mentioned, quite a few stocks scored a 2 (on a scale where 1 = eat all you like, and 5 = avoid buying). Fish from elsewhere aren’t so sustainable though so, as ever, download the App from FishOnline for a handy check when shopping or eating out.
As an oily fish, mackerel has all the usual health benefits – good for the brains and nerves.
It goes with sharp flavours such as horseradish, tartare sauce or vinegary capers
Other friends include citrus, shallots, parsley, all Asian flavours and, as an accompaniment, any kind of potato — from oniony mash to boiled new potatoes or chips
Cool down the heat of summer with mackerel ceviche: dice the raw fish flesh and let it marinade in lemon and lime juice, seasoning and a little olive oil. The citrus juices ‘cook’ the flesh. Serve with pickled cucumber or a mint, yoghurt & cucumber dip
To grill a mackerel, halve and flatten it, brush with olive oil and grill for six or seven minutes
For a really great look, try cutting five or seven slits on one side of the fish, then stuff each slit with a slice of lemon or lime, and some fresh herbs, letting them poke out. Grill, roast or barbecue
Bake a mackerel wrapped in prosciutto for a meatier taste and serve with tomato and pineapple salsa
As with all fish, quick hot frying crisps up the skin and makes it look tasty. Do this while keeping the fish whole, or remove the skin and fry it separately, serving it as a ‘crisp’ if you’re in a MasterChef mood

To make the simplest accompaniment to mackerel: just stew them gently for half an hour, in a lidded pot, with some butter and a little sugar to taste. Alternatively:
The classic gooseberry dish is a creamy fool: mashed gooseberries with yoghurt, cream and icing sugar
Despite being very sharp if eaten raw, stewed gooseberries are an excellent filling for tarts, crumbles, cobblers and pies. Choose small, slightly unripe berries for cooking
Elderflower blossoms (which are still in season through June) give an extra layer of perfume to gooseberry dishes and drinks
Gooseberry crumble – try this, by Titli (crazy name, crazy gal). You couldn’t get more of a contrast with Jeremy, but she’s just as compelling viewing:

This is a short entry since The Taster has yet to create full articles on gooseberries or mackerel, where possible — but we hope the above ideas might provide some inspiration. We do update entries, so check back any time. Click HERE for more ingredients.