Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Holidays are coming

I guess I have to admit that another summer has bitten the dust. I have just a few weeks to put together a few treats for friends and family. I know a lot of people feel like a cheapskate if they give a home made item as a gift but, trust me, I find that people just love a home made preserve or liqueur.

A few weeks ago, I dragged my sous vide up to a local restaurant at the request of the owner to demonstrate it's abilities. That afternoon I knocked up a batch of quick limoncello for them. I took some tuna and some sea bass and wowed them with three simple recipes that I will share with you at some point.
     While I cocked the tuna (in a fennel seed, coriander and white pepper rub) in the sous vide, we sampled the limoncello and I explained the ease with which this great after dinner drink could be made. A new chef had joined the team fresh from Italy and seemed suitably impressed with both the taste and the speed that this could be produced. He mused over other potential treats and suggested an orange version. That stuck away in a little dark corner of my mind until last weekend when I found oranges on offer at my local supermarket.

    The oranges lodged in my basket, I set off to find some white caster sugar and a bottle of the stores own vodka. There is little point in using the best vodka for this (far better to buy a bottle of the good stuff along with the cheap stuff and store it in the freezer with a couple of thick shot glasses to warm you up on a cold night)

    Ingredients obtained, I headed off home. Next, I kick started the sous vide and loaded it with water from the hot tap to speed up the heating process. In case you are not familiar with sous vide cooking then take a look here . In essence a hot water bath with a thermostat accurate to 0.5C. These used to be stupidly expensive but in the last few years companies like hve started to knock them out at sub £300 prices. To make best use you will also need a vaccum sealing machine but it can save you a fortune.
    Back to the recipe. I set the sous vide to 60C and left it to warm through. I used a good potato peeler to remove the orange skin, taking care to avoid the pith (if you to peel to deep then you can use a sharp knife to remove it from the peel).

I placed all the peel in a 1 Litre cooking quality ziploc bag and added a litre of vodka. Unless you want to spend at least £800 on a chamber vacuum sealer then this is the best solution for cooking liquids in a sous vide. You can use the Archimedes method ( to remove the air from the bag or zip around 90% of the seal and gently squeeze until the liquid is just above the seal (and there is no visible air at the seal) and then close the bag. I then popped this into the sous vide for about 4 hours (2 will do but the longer the better until the peel is pale)

While this cooked out I mad a simple stock syrup. I measured 1 litre of water into a pan and added 1Kg of white caster sugar. I placed this on the stove and heated it until it started to bubble and the liquid was clear. This disolves all of the sugar into the water creating the syrup. this can now be cooled and stored.

Once the orange and vodka had cooked out I removed the bag from the sous vide and left it to cool while still sealed. The beauty of the sealed bag is that non of the alcohol vapour escapes.

As you can see, the vodka has taken on the colour, and trust me, the flavour of the orange peel. Once the vodka was cool I strained it into a large jug and added 600ml of the stock syrup to the vodka (if you try this then alter the amount according to your own taste but remember it will not taste as sweet the warmer it is). I then bottled this ready for Christmas gifts (and the chefs perks too :) )

No, I did not waste the oranges. They were juiced and ready for breakfast. An alternative would be to replace some of the water in the stock syrup with filtered juice add a sweet orange taste.

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