Just another selection of recent martinis…
A dirty one.
Both dirty and clean – photograph courtesy of Dr. Kirsty.
Just another selection of recent martinis…
A dirty one.
Both dirty and clean – photograph courtesy of Dr. Kirsty.
An Izakaya is essentially a type of Japanese pub that specialises in food to accompany drinks. It’s basically my favourite type of drinks setting. I love the post-work, instantly friendly and relaxed atmosphere, completely free of pretension.
Comparable to Spanish tapas or Turkish meze, the Izakaya-way is healthier than simply guzzling down a bucket of booze before staggering off for some fish and chips or a kebab (yes I’m British, that’s what we do).
Izakaya dining tends to leave out carbohydrates (rice, noodles etc) until the end of the meal for when the customer wants something very filling to soak up the booze before they leave. Otherwise most of the carbohydrates in the meal are obtained from the alcoholic beverages.
I normally like some sort of carbohydrate with my martinis (crisps or nuts as a particular culprit, including the above Japanese peanut snacks) but there are loads of low-carb alternatives out there and the Izakaya is the master of them. Here are some examples:
It’s fairly standard to start an Izakaya meal with edamame, here boiled in salted water for 4 minutes from frozen, drained, cooled and sprinkled with salt (or some of Laura Santtini’s Umami salt if you fancy it). There are loads of other sauces, dips and condiments you can serve them with. Try experimenting.
It’s deep-fried tofu cubes in simmered dashi stock. I made some here with fried peppers, grated daikon, sliced cucumber, sliced spring onions and sesame seeds. For a recipe I recommend my favourite online cookery show: Cooking With Dog.
Grilled meat and vegetables are also extremely popular. Here are some Yakitori skewers.
Korean-style spinach – Sigeumchi-namul is an easy accompaniment you can make in advance of serving martinis.
Here is some tamago-yaki (fried omelette) with a sweet balsamic vinegar glaze. This is also nice at breakfast by the way.
Izakayas are usually more relaxed than formal sushi restaurants and many serve Japanese interpretations of Western cuisine. The above Korokke for example is the commonly served Japanese version of French croquette potatoes, here served on a bed of noodles. Sacré bleu!
I produced these asparagus skewers with the Izakaya style in mind, even though they are not traditionally Japanese.
Behold! I think I have managed to insult the culinary traditions of at least three different countries with this one. Nigiri (fingers of sushi rice pressed individually with toppings) here with English mustard (instead of wasabi) Spanish chorizo, Italian prosciutto and salami, with a mayo-mustard-vinegar-honey-and-juniper dip and some Tsukemono on the side.
I won’t stop there. Here is some meat and cheese gyoza, a veritable abomination of traditional Japanese cooking, but it’s very easy to make and appeals to meat and cheese lovers. Similar to a normal gyoza (dumpling) in terms of appearance and preparation, the only difference is the ingredients. Place a spoonful of cheese into the middle of some thinly sliced chorizo or salami, fold the meat over to encapsulate the cheese and crimp it shut. You can serve it like that, or grill it for a minute or so until the meat crisps and the cheese melts.
Speaking of bellies, here are some evilly good deep-fried pickled gherkins. A salt ‘n’ vinegar snack I first enjoyed courtesy of the Meat Liquor / Meat Mission guys in London. They’re easy to make. Just dip them in a simple batter and fry them for about 3-4 minutes in about an inch of hot, lightly smoking oil. They go well if you serve them with a soy sauce and balsamic vinegar 50:50 mixture for dipping.
That soy-vinegar mixture works well with quite a lot of things. Here I used it as a dipping sauce for wood ear mushrooms. Buy these dried, bring a pan of water to the boil, throw them in, take the pan off the heat, give them a stir, leave them to soak in the water for 30 minutes, drain then serve.
Okay, okay, I know, it’s just crisps. Carbs and not fancy, right? Well Izakayas aren’t pretentious. So all sorts of comfort foods can be served. Crisps will forever be welcome as a tasty martini snack.
This is more authentically Izakaya. Sliced aubergine (egg plant, if you must) stir fried then combined with a light miso sauce, with chopped spring onions sprinkled on top. It can be served hot or cold.
This is some fried spring onion with a soy glaze. Simple, easy and slightly unusual in the West, the recipe is here.
This is probably cheating but I served some deep fried squid I bought from a Chinese takeaway restaurant. No one complained. It actually worked very well. I’ve said it before, seafood goes very well with a martini. And if you’re going to dip that seafood in batter and fry it until it’s crunchy then that can only be a good thing.
This wasn’t cheating but it was a lot more time consuming. It’s some thinly sliced rare beef with spring onions. I rubbed the beef with salt and pepper, cooked it lightly in a pan, chilled it in iced water, patted it dry, sat it in a sweet soy and onion marinade overnight then sliced it thinly and served it with spring onion.
You can also serve konbu with that same soy-vinegar mixture shown above.
Here is some Shime Saba or lightly pickled Japanese mackerel. It’s one of my favourite things to make and eat and it’s very healthy.
One of my friends complains about prawn sandwiches having a “high death-to-bite ratio” but this mussel martini has a “high death to sip ratio”… Much like those of James Bond’s… It’s not the most appetising garnish I ever made but life without experimentation is dull. I simply threaded some pre-cooked mussels on a toothpick and served it on the side of the glass.
And who could forget this experimental extravaganza? It’s more seafood, this time in the form of a squid-ink martini with octopus tentacles. Tentacle martini porn is now officially a thing!
And finally, as I said before, an Izakaya experience is often finished off with soup and/or noodles. I also think that a martini needs to be finished off with a good meal. You want to fill your stomach with something substantial after all that alcohol and you need something to look forward to. Otherwise you’ll end up just wanting another martini – which can get very dangerous indeed!
Above I served noodles in miso soup with dumplings, prawns, seaweed, courgettes and avocado topped with katsuobushi (dried tuna shavings). It’s very easy to throw together – even if you’re two martinis down. In fact, if you’ve got the miso soup, add the boiled noodles then you could just about throw anything in there. Don’t be afraid to experiment.
I’ve mentioned previously that Fragata kindly sent me a box of goodies to try out.
I usually eat their olives stuffed with anchovies but now I’m trying out their olives stuffed with lemon.
While I still prefer to eat their anchovy olives on their own, these lemon ones really enhance a martini.
If you can’t decide if you would prefer your martini with an olive or a twist of lemon then this olive combo is for you.
Take a chilled martini glass and squeeze a freshly peeled strip of lemon rind into it. Rub the peel around the inside of the glass to transfer as much of the lemon oil into it as possible. Keep the strip when finished.
Take a bamboo skewer and thread on some olives. I think convention dictates that it should be an odd number of olives but it doesn’t make that much of a difference. If you only have toothpicks to hand just thread on one or two olives.
Add vermouth to taste (1tsp – 25ml) then top up with gin or vodka (100-120ml). Stir with the strip of lemon (then suck the lemon, just for the joy of it) before discarding it.
Garnish with the olives.
Here are some I made earlier…
A frosty classic.
A lemon drop martini with foam.
I recently posted about getting myself larger than normal toothpicks.
I thought I would use them to make a larger than normal dirty martini, using this recipe.
1 measure vermouth (I use sweet vermouth)
1 measure olive brine
4-5 measures gin or vodka
Lots of olives
My brother commented that normal toothpicks were too short for my martini glasses. He is a very practical former Royal Marine and a keen perfectionist so I took his comments onboard and spent some time trying to think of an alternative.
The other day I found some slightly longer mini bamboo skewers in an Asian supermarket and thought they would do the trick.
The longer skewer gives you lots more room to get creative with your garnishes. I strongly recommend them, especially if you’re feeling a bit inventive.
Get yourself some sea legs by drinking one or two of them. You will need:
I bought whelks and cockles as an unusual accompanying snack.
When I got home I took some cooked octopus tentacles out of the freezer and soaked them in balsamic vinegar for several hours. There’s all sorts of weird and wonderful stuff in my freezer – here’s why.
You only need to soak the octopus for enough time for it to defrost but after 4 hours it will have absorbed a lot of flavour which is good. You could also soak it in a slightly japanese marinade combining balsamic vinegar and sweet mirin, of around 4 parts vinegar to 1 part mirin.
And there you go, it looks like some frightful creature crawling out from the deep of the black lagoon but I promise you it tastes nice. The brine and seafood will hopefully set off your appetite before a meal.
Given its appearance it might be a good drink to serve during Halloween, or if you’re having a James Bond theme party.
If you prefer your martini ‘clean’ you can simply make a classic martini and serve the octopus as a garnish.
If you have any other potential name suggestions for this one let me know in the comments below.
For mid-summer I like to gather friends in the evening for seafood and drinks as the sun slowly sets. Akvavit normally features strongly in the blueprints for the night but before I served the food I wanted at least one martini as an aperitif.
For a seafood theme I made a slight alteration to a classic gin martini, adding a dash of olive brine for a sea salty hint. Real salty sea dogs might want to make it a full blown dirty martini for that briny flavour. I also garnished the glass with some octopus tentacles I boiled and chilled earlier.
Once that was consumed it was on to the food: seared scallops, grilled langoustine, prawn cocktail, baby crayfish tails, salad and brown bread.
And then there was akvavit. Lots of akvavit. And Icelandic Brennivin. I found some of that in the freezer too.
While I waited for dinner to cook I was craving something salty so I whipped up a quick dirty martini (as you do).
-Vermouth to taste
-Olive brine to taste (I use roughly the same amount of brine as vermouth, but my brother likes 3 teaspoons of brine)
-Gin/vodka for the rest
I squeezed in some lemon oil from a piece of peel but then discarded the peel rather than using it as a garnish. I poured in the brine, then the vermouth, then the gin, and served with three pitted olives skewered on a tooth pick which you can use to stir the drink.
The brine means that it’s not quite as strong as a standard martini.
I drank it while the sun went down with the smell of herbs and grilled meat wafting over from the oven.
Play around with this until you get the right combination for you.