I had an impromptu dinner gathering the other night. After a thoroughly unproductive Saturday, I was determined to salvage something of the day, and my way of usually doing that is to cook and see friends. So I got on the phone, put out the invites and hit Waitrose.
I’d already decided on roast lamb for the main course before I’d set off – it had been one of those grey, grim days that needs warming up with a pink piece of meat and some steaming rich gravy. But I was stumped for a starter – or rather, I was in two minds about whether to do a starter or just some nibbles. In the end I came to a nifty compromise – I’d do blinis.
Not the slap-a-greasy-bit-of-smoked-salmon-on-as-a-canape kind mind you – something a bit more traditional, with lumpfish roe, chopped up hard-boiled eggs, finely chopped onion and sour cream. It’s a dish my mum used to do – and my earliest memory of it comes from one fateful time when dad had managed to get hold of some caviar from Russia, which was delivered (highly suspiciously given my father was a foreign editor at the time) in jam jars wrapped in newspaper and bubble wrap to our door – from some journalist contact or other.
We sat around the kitchen table with shots of vodka – though in my case I think it may have been lemonade: I was about ten – and feasted on the sublime little black eggs. I remember the almost rudely-delicious sensation of them popping on my tongue in bursts of sea saltiness.
With this as my inspiration – and without a foreign correspondent to send me contraband caviar – I grabbed a jar of lumpfish roe, some blinis, sour cream, eggs and a red onion. I whipped them up moments before my guests arrived, having pre hard-boiled and chopped the eggs and finely chopped the onion, placing the blinis (I got shop-bought ones for ease) in the oven for about 6-8 minutes, turning them over half way through. Then it’s just a case of a dollop of sour cream, smattering of egg and onion, and a dash of the black eggs on top. Yum.
But what to drink with it? I thought the lumpfish roe wouldn’t be good enough to merit shots of pure vodka, so I thought about my favourite cocktail (and we know how much I love those) made with vodka and decided I’d make lychee martinis.
This may sound ambitious, but for someone who doesn’t have a cocktail mixer, I can assure you they were wonderfully simple and utterly delicious – with the juicy, bulbous little fruits placed in the bottom of the martini glass in place of the usual olive.
Recipes vary, but this is how I did it:
One can of lychees
One carton of lychee juice (you can get this at most Asian newsagents)
One lemon, juiced
One bottle of vodka
Place ice in your martini glasses to cool them down. Drain the lychees from the can, keeping the syrup to use as a gomme for the cocktail. Ideally you need a cocktail mixer for the next bit – but I don’t have one, so I used one of those portable coffee cups. Pour a dash of syrup (not too much as it’s very sweet and so is the juice), and some of the lychee juice into the mixer with some ice. Add vodka – I’d say you want to make it about two-parts juice and syrup, one part vodka, plus a good squeeze of lemon to cut through the sweetness. Shake it all up, remove ice from your glasses and pour in the liquid, straining the ice out. Plop a lychee in the bottom of the glass and there you have it – a cocktail fit for an episode of Mad Men.
The drink and the blini went together very nicely indeed – though it is important to make sure the vodka and lemon are strongly present in the drink to counteract its sweetness. Do you have any foods you like to match with certain cocktails? Do share…