Elise’s Summer Picnic – how to make your own

[Our August Whisky Squad session was a summer picnic. Here, Elise breaks down what we had and how to make it at home]

One of my favourite “genres” of food is the picnic. Whether it’s a last-minute Tesco supplies grab or a properly planned epic day out – I love a picnic. And I love whisky. See where I’m going with this?

What better way to draw the summer to a close than to pair some great whiskies with some classic picnic foods.

Pairing 1 – Watermelon, peach and feta salad with a Bulleit Rye Watermelon Smash

The pairing here is pretty obvious – watermelon all around!

Watermelon, peach and feta salad

Watermelon and feta make for a perfect summer salad – the sweet, light watermelon and the salty, crumbly feta lightly combined with a tiny bit of mint is a classic. Then I read this recipe adding fresh peaches. It’s easy, tasty and refreshing – and it travels pretty well if you fill a container quite full.

Find the recipe here.

When you’re picnicking you don’t want to lug around loads of kit, a really simple cocktail is the way to go. This one is dead simple, and incredibly refreshing.

Whisky Squad Watermelon Smash

  • 1.5oz Bulleit Rye
  • 3oz Watermelon mix (watermelon juice and blended watermelon)
  • Ice
  • Wedge of lime
  • Raspberries to garnish (if you feel fancy)

To make the watermelon mix – when making the salad, keep back at least a third of your watermelon. Carve out all of the pink part, and blend it into a mush (I use my Nutribullet). Use that to boost the watermelon-ness of the watermelon juice you buy.

Pairing 2 – Summer shredded chicken tacos and Longrow

This easy chicken taco recipe gives you a succulent pile of sweet, juicy and richly flavourful meat. This is a recipe that works better on it’s own, so to help it pair well with whisky, reduce the garlic way down  – I used just one clove. The sweetness in this dish comes from a balance of butter, orange juice and a little cilantro [coriander for all our non-colonial readers – Ed], with a few cheats including Worcestershire and, of all things, American yellow mustard. Cut small circles out of your favourite kind of tortilla rounds to serve.

Find the recipe here.

For a pairing, I wanted a sweet whisky that wouldn’t be at all cloying and would add an additional dimension to the chicken: I chose Longrow Peated. It’s really beautifully balanced with a sweet smokiness. On it’s own it also has something a bit minerally or medicinal about it – I think this is what gives it the structure to hold its own against the chicken.

Pairing 3 – Bodean’s Burnt Ends with Dalmore 15

Bodean’s. If you don’t know this excellent BBQ chain, do yourself a favour and go get acquainted. One of the first of London’s many BBQ joints, their burnt ends are  both famed and very tasty. There’s always room at a picnic for some kind of beefy barbecue, wet or dry, sweet or tangy. I prefer a slightly more robust BBQ and these burnt ends are just the thing. We had this rich, smokey, tender and luscious beef with its slightly sweet and tangy sauce with a little bit of classic potato salad on the side.

Try this recipe if you want to give it a go at home.

Bourbon and rye can pair really well with BBQ: bourbon’s sweetness can amplify the character of the BBQ sauce and a rye that’s not overly spiced can bring out the meatiness of a dish. But I’ve recently been loving the Dalmore 15 and expected that it would be incredible with a bit of beef, and it is. Dalmore 15 is an exceptional dram – balanced and sophisticated, its rich hints of ginger syrup and winter spices work in harmony with the BBQ sauce and the meat. It’s also got a dark, coffee-ish finish that is a classic math for beef.

I’ll be pairing it this winter with venison wellington, and coffee-crusted beef fillet.

Pairing 4 – Cheeses with Aberlour 16

Aberlour 16 is awesome. It’s fruity, spicy, sweet and rich all at once: a complex but balanced whisky. It’s also a creamy dram on the nose, with fruitiness immediately apparent and a nice nutty undertone. On the palate it offers a soft sweetness, fruit (plums and raisins) and a warming spice. Its finish is long – rich and honeyed to the end.

This balance of tastes makes Aberlour 16 a great pairing for cheeses – lots and lots of cheeses. We got ours from Neal’s Yard Dairy, which may be my absolutely favourite shop in London. It’s a cornucopia of dairy goodness, with some of the most stunning cheese I’ve ever had.

We tried three with this dram:

  • Innes Log is an ash-coated slightly firm goats cheese with grassy, savoury flavor that was an interesting balance with the brightness of the whisky.
  • Bermondsey Hard Pressed is a local cheese in a gruyere style: a hard, nutty and sweet round made in London. It’s got a fizziness to it that I adore, and the whisky brings out its alpine nature.
  • Montgomery Cheddar was the third and my favourite pairing. A very fruity Cheddar – perfect.

Pairing 5 – Peach and Bourbon hand pies (aka pasties) with Smooth Ambler Old Scout Rye

There are no words to describe how lovely a rye and peach pairing can taste. Just trust me: go make this one for yourself.

I used Blanton’s Bourbon in the pies because I had it to hand, but almost any bourbon will do. Also, while you can make the pastry by hand, it’s so much easier to hit your local Tesco and buy two boxes of ready-made sweet crust pastry.

You can get the recipe here.

For extra decadence I used smoked sugar from Smoky Brae to dust the tops of the hand pies and it was delicious.

Pairing 6 – Wild Turkey Russell’s Reserve with a deconstructed Bounty Bar
(AKA brown-sugar-and-coconut-glazed hot milk cake with dark chocolate)

Russell’s Reserve is a proper bourbon – a big ol’ southern mouthful of swagger and sass. With notes of oak, toffee, cocoa and dark vanilla, it pulls no punches.

I’d been thinking for a while about bourbon and coconut, and what kinds of chocolate bars would make the best pairings. One thing led to another and ‘tah dah’ – the deconstructed Bounty Bar bourbon pairing.

The cake is very rich and supports the dark vanilla and toffee notes of the bourbon without becoming too sweet together. Instead, I think they balance each other out. The dark chocolate grounds the bourbon and reveals the influence of the oak and deep char on the barrels.

This recipe is an old family favourite, with a few extras:

For the cake:

  • 2 eggs well beaten
  • 1 cup white sugar (granulated for you folks over here)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 tsp butter
  • ½ cup milk

Beat the eggs and add the sugar to them. In a bowl sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, and then add it slowly to the egg and sugar mixture. In a small pan, heat the butter and milk together until really hot, but not boiling – just starting to be a little bit bubbly is okay – add it to the cake batter and mix.
Bake in a 325ºF/160ºC oven for 20-25 minutes or until done (that’s when a toothpick stuck into the centre comes out clean).

For the topping:

  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 1 cup shredded or desiccated coconut

Melt 3 tablespoons of butter, add 3 tablespoons of milk and 1 cup of shredded or dessicated coconut (long shredded is better but anything works), and stir together.

Spread the topping on the cake when it’s cooked but while still in the pan, leaving about a cm or so around the edges. Put back into the hot oven and watch carefully as the topping spreads a bit and melts all together – it should take about 5 minutes or so.

Serve with a healthy dollop of clotted cream and a shard of the best dark chocolate you’ve got. Fortunately, I had some excellent and appropriate chocolate from a recent US trip: Raaka Bourbon Cask Aged Virgin Cocoa.

Bon appetit!

Recipe corner (by wildly popular request)

At our recent Indian whisky tasting & food experience – “The Subcontinental Flavour Onslaught” – one of the treats we were presented with was a delightful customised cocktail, created especially by Carl at Dishoom, to showcase the flavour of the award-winning Indian whisky: Amrut Fusion.

After weeks of experimentation Carl came up with a concoction based on one of the most traditional of whisky cocktails, which complimented the spice, vanilla, honey and malt flavours of this innovative whisky – and yet the hibiscus and honey draw out the gentle smoke flavours as well.

Honeycomb Amrut Fusion Sour

10mL fresh lemon juice
10mL fresh lime juice
25mL hibiscus & peach liqueur
35mL Amrut Fusion
5mL honey
20mL egg white
10mL soda

Build ingredients and shake with cubed ice.  Fine strain over rocks.

Thanks Carl!  Awesome stuff.

(photo by kind courtesy of Alan Perryman)