senses

Bitter Sweet

In my exploration of the five flavours through drinks, I’ve saved bitter for last. Not just because it is my favourite emotion – I mean flavour! – but because it was the most difficult. Like sweet, bitter has so many of my favourite flavours such as beer, wine, tea and coffee. How could I narrow down a drink with so many offerings? With great difficulty.

After contemplating a citrus sangria, a root beer float with real beer and numerous tea infusions I finally settled on a tried and true bitter combination – mocha. Chocolate and coffee are great companions and both can be bitter. I chose to celebrate their union in stages. A marriage of fresh brewed coffee blended with melted chocolate is topped with a dollop of cream infused with instant coffee and sprinkled with cocoa nibs. The result – a luscious, messy indulgence 🙂

Hot Mocha

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A bitter-sweet symphony of coffee and chocolate.

Ingredients
1/2 cup double cream
1/2 teaspoon instant coffee powder
1 cup freshly made coffee
50g dark chocolate, finely chopped
cocoa nibs for serving (optional)

Method
Whisk the cream and coffee together by hand until thick.
Place the fresh coffee and chopped chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir constantly for 5 minutes or until the chocolate has melted and combined with the coffee.
Divide evenly between two heat-proof glasses or mugs.
Top with coffee whipped cream.
Sprinkle with cocoa nibs if desired.

Note:
The cream can sometimes separate when dropped into the hot mocha. You can allow the mocha to cool slightly before dolloping the cream or you can enjoy it as a buttery, creamy mocha.

Saline Solution

Next in my exploration of the five taste sensations through drinks is the realm of salt. When we think of salty drinks we think of soups and broths. Cocktails that may come to mind are ones that have salt encrusted rims such as salty dogs and margaritas. A favourite of mine growing up was the tequila shot – lick your hand between your thumb and forefinger, sprinkle with salt, knock back your tequila shot then bite on a slice of lemon or lime – we always used lemon. This classic shot has been the subject of much debate. One theory suggests that you salt a slice of lemon or lime, pop it in your mouth and chew on it, then drink down a shot of tequila. I haven’t tried this version  – yet 🙂

Synchronistically, my local bar Hopheads has tapped a couple of salted beers recently. I tried one and was really surprised. Even though beer is not usually sweet, the overt taste of salt takes you back at first. After a few sips I began to enjoy it but it’s definitely not a favourite. They also had a cucumber and mint soft drink seasoned with salt and black pepper. With salty drinks on my mind I knew I had to try it. My first sip sent waves of disappointment through me as I thought “it’s horrible!” but a few sips in and I began to really appreciate its flavours. It actually reminded me of the doogh I made for the sour drinks blog. I began to wonder what it would be like with a spoonful of yoghurt or a few shots of gin.

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For the recipe below I explored the world of salted teas. I have always wanted to make Tibetan butter tea as it combines some of my favourite flavours – tea, butter and salt. Sadly, the one I made was awful. I don’t know if it was me or the recipe but I really didn’t like it. Neither did my partner. Unperturbed I experimented with a different salty tea called Noon Chai – I just loved the name and happily the flavour! Noon Chai, also called Pink Tea, is a salted and spiced Kashmir tea with a surprise ingredient – bicarbonate of soda (baking soda). You can garnish it with chopped nuts like pistachios or almonds if you like.

Noon Chai

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Ingredients
1 teaspoon green tea leaves
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup milk

Method
Place the tea leaves and half the water into a saucepan on medium heat. Bring to a simmer. Add the bicarbonate of soda and whisk until combined. Add the remaining water, cinnamon, cardamom and salt. Whisk until combined. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add the milk and bring to a simmer.
Strain and serve.

A Bloody Birthday Drink

October 20th is Bela Lugosi’s birthday. He would be 133 years old if he lived. Considering he is one of the most famous actors who played Dracula, he may still be living – or undead!

As I continue to explore the five taste sensations through drinks, I couldn’t resist creating a Bloody Virgin Mary. Not only is it a drink most appropriate for a vampire, it is also a celebration of umami flavours. Umami is a Japanese word and is used to describe the unique flavour of savoury. Best examples of umami flavours can be found in aged foods such as cheese, cured foods, fermented foods, meats, sauces, seaweed and stocks.

Bloody Virgin Mary
A heady combination of savoury and salty flavours.

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Ingredients
1 + 1/2 cup tomato juice
1/2 cup beef stock
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 spring onions, finely chopped

Method
Place the tomato juice, beef stock, lemon juice, Tabasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce and spring onions in a blender. Blend until combined. Pour into a jug. The mixture will be frothy so chill in the refrigerator until settled before serving.

A Tasty Sour Note

I hope this won’t leave a sour taste in your mouth! Actually I do – but hopefully you’ll like it. The next flavour on my list is not sweet but sour 🙂

Sour is a bit of a pleasure and pain taste, but in the right proportions it really brings a recipe to life. Interestingly I love sour foods from the dairy range such as cheese – especially cream cheese and goat cheese – buttermilk, creme fraiche, sour cream and yoghurt. I’m not partial to sourness from fruits or vegetables although I do love sour cherries and occasionally really lemony tarts. So when exploring sour drinks I steered away from citrus based ones like the Whisky Sour and went for dairy based ones.

Fermented dairy products are popular drinks around the world and are thought to be helpful for digestion. They have been around for thousands of years and have been made from a variety of different dairy products such as camel milk or mare milk! While researching these drinks I was reminded of a drink that I used to make for myself, which I called Moon Milk because it was so white. My Moon Milk was simply yoghurt mixed with milk and seasoned with a pinch of salt. This led me to choose a yoghurt based drink to celebrate sourness. Indian lassis and Turkish ayran are probably the more well-known yoghurt drinks, but I chose Persian doogh, mainly because I have newly acquired and much loved Persian relatives. I also love how the sourness of yoghurt is tempered by the refreshing mint.

Doogh

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Ingredients
1 cup yogurt
1/2 teaspoon dried mint
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup sparkling water
Ice cubes for serving.

Method
Place the yoghurt, mint and salt in a jug. Mix until the yoghurt is smooth. Add the soda water and mix until combined.
Serve chilled over ice.

A Very Sweet Equinox

It’s Equinox time – a time of balance and renewal when day and night are as equal as can be. In the Northern Hemisphere, the nights will now be longer than the days. In the Southern Hemisphere, the days will now be longer than the nights.

As I think of the long hot days ahead I think of drinks. So I thought it would be fun to play with the concept of balance through drinks and our sense of taste. Taste has five sensations – sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami. Over the coming weeks I will explore each sensation through a drink. I’m starting with sweet.

Sweet is one of the easiest to work with as it is a pleasurable flavour and there are so many delicious sweet drinks around. But that is also a problem – with so much choice how do you choose?

One of my favourite sweet flavours is rose water. I thought a rose water cordial would be lovely. I was chatting to my friend who runs a bar about my thoughts for a sweet rose water cordial. He was brought up in Malaysia and told me about a drink from his youth – bandung. It’s a rose water syrup drink sweetened with condensed milk! Can you get anything sweeter than condensed milk? Possibly, but the thought of a rose water and condensed milk drink had me running from the bar to my kitchen. Here is my version of the very sweet, very delicious and very pink bandung.

Let me know what your favourite sweet drinks are 🙂

Bandung

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Ingredients
for the syrup
2 tablespoons sugar
2/3 cup water
1 teaspoon rose water
pink or red food colouring

for mixing
1 cup condensed milk
1 cup water

Method
Boil the sugar and water until the sugar dissolves.
Add the rose water and enough food colouring to achieve the desired pink colour.
Add the condensed milk and water and mix until combined.
Chill in refrigerator before serving.