Masters of Malt

Masters of Malt Whiskey

It's funny that just pontificating about food and doing a bit of bacon-curing opens doors to doing things that you'd never have thought of. The occasional product review has appeared before but I've never been asked to review whisky until now; more particularly the Drinks by the Dram service from online spirits suppliers Masters of Malt.

What's that? Well, It's exactly what it says it is, you can order drinks by the dram, tot, measure, nip, slug, snifter, or whatever you care to call a 30ml measure!

"But why", I hear you ask, and to be honest those were my thoughts initially, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. "Come-on, Phil", I hear you say, "You're only saying that 'cos they've sent you a freeby!". OK you cynical lot, I'll admit that I was sceptical at first, but given that in the past someone kindly gave me a bottle of Laphroaig, about £30 quids worth, that to me tasted like TCP - the idea's grown on me.

The drams arrived well packaged and I really like the 'sort of' retro style of the bottle labels:

Masters of Malt Whisky

They'd make a great present, either singly as a stocking filler, or as a tasting selection - Masters of Malt have a number of pre-chosen sampling sets just in case you have difficulty in choosing your own and also do sampling sets for rum and cognac. Drinks by the Dram also gives the whisky aficionado the chance to try something like a Glenfarclas 1952 Family Cask, that costs over £1500 a bottle, without ending up in the divorce courts!

With a unbelievable selection of whiskies of all types from all around the world, including Japan, Sweden, India and even England - there's over two thousand Scottish whiskies alone - it's well worth a look. They also stock a wide range of other spirits, champagne, and the widest range of bitters I've ever seen!

Many thanks Masters of Malt

The drinks tasted were:

Master of Malt 12 Year Old Lowland Whisky
Master of Malt 12 Year Old Lowland Whisky
JW Dant Special Reserve 3cl Sample Bourbon Whisky
JW Dant Special Reserve 3cl Sample Bourbon Whisky
Jefferson's Bourbon
Jefferson's Bourbon

PS - drink safely or the whisky may look like this:

Masters of Malt Whisky

Making Hot-Dogs

Hot Dogs

It's a while since I've done any sausage-making, what with trying to convert a bedroom into a work-space and not feeling too good. We really need to make a trip to buy meat but in the meantime I raided the freezer to make some hot-dogs.

"Hot-dogs", you ask, "Why would you want to make horrible fast food?". Well, my dear reader, there's a vast difference between what you buy on a Friday night when the clubs close and a good home-made hot-dog in a quality bun; ask any American! They virtually have wars over there as to which style is the best!

Now, I'll not make any bones about this, the process isn't easy; there are certain rules that have to be obeyed to get a good product (and the one pictured isn't a good product - but more of that in my next post). That said, it isn't too difficult if you obey the rules. Yes, it's more time consuming than you'd think, but the result is worth it.

A word about equipment: as well as the normal sausage-making equipment that I've talked about before, you'll need a food processor - the more powerful the better. Emulsifying sausage-meat to a paste will soon take its toll on an under-powered machine.

Click here, there's more to read...

Rain Stopped Play

I need to make more hot-dogs, but they'll need smoking/cooking in the smoker for 2-3 hours and the smoker temperature is critical if they're not to spoil. It's been raining here since our neighbouring Water Authority declared a drought and I'm not that much of a 'hard-core' sausage-maker to want to get soaked! Instead, you'll have to make do with this picture; it's a sort of blog equivalent of the TV test card!


Raspberry Ice cream

The soft fruit season's started early this year and most PYO farms are already open for strawberry picking.

As always there is a massive variation of prices depending on where you buy - some are over £1 a kilo cheaper than others. Obviously, the distance you need to travel will be a consideration, but if you're in the north of the County, check out Wymeswold Fruit Farm on the A6006 between Wymeswold and the A46. Their prices for strawberries are incredibly good value at £2.40 per kilo - that's only about £1.10 a pound! If you're buying them elsewhere, make sure that they're British (and preferably local). If not, demand to know why not!

Anyway, daughter Emma appeared the other day with a couple of punnets of raspberries demanding that they be turned into ice cream!

Grr, the photo gremlins have done it again. I made the ice cream and put it into the freezer to harden a little before taking a picture of it. When I return, it's to find the family scoffin' bowls full of the stuff! To say that they like it would be an understatement. This picture is a 'snap' of what was left in Emma's bowl! As you can see, she's one for sloshing it around the bowl to soften it before she eats it!

Raspberry Ice Cream

This ice cream is not made using the traditional custard method; it uses a mousse base which is better if you don't have an ice-cream machine as it doesn't form large ice crystals readily.

This is not one of my own recipes but is taken from Leith's Cookery Bible. The ingredient amounts have been adjusted so that it fits my machine.

Raspberry Ice Cream


300g Raspberries
50g Icing sugar
45g Granulated sugar
75ml Water
2 Egg yolks
200ml Double cream
A squeeze of lemon juice


Liquidise or mash the raspberries and sieve them. Add the icing sugar and mix. Heat the sugar and water in a saucepan and boil it to the 'thread' stage (about 108°C). Let it cool for about a minute and then pour it onto the egg yolks and whisk them together until the mix is thick, pale and mousse like. Let it cool down and add the cream, fruit and lemon juice before churning in an ice cream maker.

This method is also good for those who don't have an ice-cream maker: just shove the lot into a freezer and give it a whisk every hour or so until it's set.

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Hot Smoked Mackerel

Hot Smoked Mackerel

Smoking fish is a great introduction to this hobby. It doesn't necessarily need expensive equipment, and unlike curing meat, good results can be had in hours rather than days. Many people will make their own versions of this 'table-top' smoker using roasting tins, bread bins, cake tins, woks etc. A quick 5 minute brine of fish fillets (and even that's optional), a quick drying out of the fillets, pop them in the smoker and Bob's your uncle, 15 - 20 minutes later: smoked fish.

Others will choose to use a more elaborate method that heats the fish more gradually to a temperature where it is fully cooked. It may take a couple of hours, or more.

Whilst there are a wide variety of options available to do this in the US, in the UK people will probably use something like these, or use a barbecue, something like this.

As commercial smokers like this one aren't available in the UK, the only other option is to make your own:

My smoker

Anyway, enough of that, back to the mackerel. This is how I did mine; it's a compromise between the two methods above:

Firstly make up a brine using 1.2kg of salt to 1 gallon (4.546 litres) of water, or pro-rata - boil the water, dissolve the salt in it and then cool it.

When cold immerse the mackerel fillets in it for 5 minutes, then dry them off and leave them until the surface is dry. I left mine on a rack in the fridge.

Pre-heat the smoker to 45-50°C and smoke the fish over your chosen wood (I used oak) for 30 minutes. Then, over the next 45 minutes to an hour, increase the heat gradually to 130°C - but keep it below 100°C for the majority of this period. Check the temperature of the fillets at their thickest part - the internal temperature needs to be at 72°C throughout to be safe: higher if you like it that way. I took mine to 80°C.

Hot Smoked Mackerel Fillets

Blimey, it's harder to describe than do!

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