This year, choose a summery starter, an elegant main and a refreshing dessert – all cooked with South Africa’s most intriguing local gins. Just add a Christmassy drink for a celebration to remember. Best of all, they can all be made a day or two before.
Glyn French, Flowstone’s Master Distiller, has put together the perfect southern-hemisphere make-in-advance Christmas menu for eight gin lovers: a light, cold gin-cured salmon starter is followed by the rich sweetness of The Festive Duck and to finish, a sunny gin-and-tonic lemon tart!
Wild Cucumber Gin-Cured Salmon
Start 3 to 5 days before
The middle cuts of salmon work best. Try to get two fillets about the same size.
(Serves eight, with some leftovers, maybe)
- 2 Tbsp white peppercorns, crushed
- 2 tsp juniper berries, crushed
- 1 tsp grated lime zest (keep the lime for garnishing)
- 4 Tbsp coarse sea salt
- 2 tsp light brown sugar
- 2 Tbsp caster sugar
- 4 Tbsp roughly chopped dill (with stalks)
- 3 Tbsp Flowstone Wild Cucumber Gin
- 2 boned sushi-quality salmon fillets in 2 pieces (about 600g each)
- Combine spices, zest, salt and sugars. Line a container big for both fillets with enough clingfilm to wrap the fillets later. Sprinkle a little dill and the curing spice onto the cling wrap. Place salmon fillets, skin side down, on top. Saving one tbsp of spices, rub the rest over the salmon, pour the gin over, and top each fillet with the rest of the dill.
- “Sandwich” the two fillets together with the skin outside and wrap tightly in the clingfilm. Place in a ziplock bag, removing as much air as possible, then put the bag on a plate. Place another plate on top and weigh it down. Leave to cure for 2 days, turning every 12 hours.
- Unwrap the salmon and rinse under cold water. Pat dry, put it in a fresh ziplock bag and pop it back in the fridge for another 24 hours.
- With a very sharp knife, thinly slice the salmon on the diagonal, discarding the skin.
- Garnish with the tbsp of spices you kept and slices of lime. Sprinkle a few drops of gin over, and serve with pickled cucumber, roast-beetroot-and-honey puree and creme fraiche.
- For the pickled cucumber: using a mandolin, thinly slice two cucumbers. Marinate overnight, covered, with a teaspoon each of white vinegar, sugar and freshly chopped dill).
The Festive Duck
Start 1 Day Before
- 2 ducks
- 1 cup duck stock (use good chicken stock as an alternative)
- Salt and pepper
- 2 onions, 4 celery stalks, 2 carrots, chopped into large pieces
For the stuffing:
If this feels like too much effort, or your family doesn’t like stuffing, you can put a halved orange, 4 garlic cloves and a sprig of rosemary into each duck)
- 4 cups bread cubes
- 1½ cup fresh cranberries (or 1 cup dried)
- ½ cup maple syrup
- 4 Tbsp Flowstone Bushwillow Gin
- ½ cup chopped shallots (about 2 shallots, depending on the size)
- 1 Tbsp chopped garlic
- 1 Tbsp freshly chopped parsley
- 1 Tbsp freshly chopped thyme leaves (remove from stalks)
- 1 tsp freshly chopped rosemary
- 8 to 10 clementine’s, peeled and quartered (or 3x 312g tins of Mandarin orange segments, drained)
- 1 egg
- Salt and pepper
For the sauce:
- 3 Tbsp butter
- 2 shallots, chopped (you want about two-thirds of cup)
- ¾ cup chopped shallots (about 3 shallots, depending on the size)
- 2 tsp chopped garlic
- 3 Tbsp flour
- ⅔ cup Flowstone Bushwillow Gin
- 4 Tbsp maple syrup
- 2 tsp freshly chopped rosemary
- Preheat the oven to 200°C. Rinse duck, pat dry, salt. Combine stuffing ingredients and stuff the ducks. Any leftover stuffing can be roasted separately. Put large pieces of chopped veg into a baking tray big enough for both ducks, or divide between two baking trays. Put ducks on top of the veg, and roast for 45 mins. Pour the stock around the ducks, and cover with foil. Lower oven temp to 160°C and roast for 2½ hours. Cool in pan, then refrigerate overnight.
- On Christmas day, preheat the oven to 200°C. Spoon the layer of white fat from the roasting pans and use for roasting par-boiled potatoes. Reserve the rest of the drippings. Roast the duck (and potatoes if you’re doing them) for 30-40 mins. Leave ducks, covered with foil, to rest for 15-20 mins before carving.
- For the sauce, melt the butter and sauté the shallots and garlic. Sprinkle with the flour and sauté for a minute. Add the gin and simmer until reduced by half. Stir in the syrup, rosemary and reserved drippings. Bring to a boil, then simmer until syrupy. Season to taste. Strain and serve.
Gin & Tonic Lemon Tart
Make 1 Day Before
For the pastry:
- 1½ cups plain flour
- 5 Tbsp icing sugar
- ½ cup (125g) salted butter
- Pinch of salt
- grated zest of a lemon (reserve juice)
- 3½ Tbsp tonic water
- 1 Tablespoon freshly crushed fennel seeds
For the filling:
- Grated zest and juice of 4 lemons (grate the zest for garnishing)
- 2 Tbsp Flowstone Marula Gin
- 1¼ cups caster sugar
- 4 eggs and 2 more yolks
- 2 Tbsp juniper berries
- 1 cup (225g) butter
- 2 gelatine leaves
- Preheat oven to 160°C. Combine pastry ingredients to form a dough (don’t over knead it). Line a well-greased 30cm tart tin/dish – about 3mm thick. Pop into the fridge for half an hour then bake blind for 15-20 mins. Allow to cool completely.
- Bloom the gelatine in cold water. Whisk the first four filling ingredients together and add the juniper berries and butter. Cook in a bain-marie, stirring until thickened. Squeeze the water from the gelatine and stir into the filling. Strain out the juniper berries and cover the filling with clingfilm, pushing it down onto the surface to prevent a skin forming.
- Allow to cool, then spread over the pastry, and chill overnight.
- Serve garnished with lemon zest, and, if you like, a gin syrup.
- For the gin syrup: Stir ¾ cup caster sugar, 1 cup tonic water and the juice of 2 lemons over low heat. Once the sugar’s dissolved (about 30 mins), add 4 tbsp gin and lemon zest and simmer for 5-10 mins.
The perfect Christmas serves
Christmas Gin Fizz:
- Mix up a jug of 1 part Flowstone gin to 2 parts cranberry juice. Half-fill champagne glasses with this and top with bubbly. Garnish with raspberries.
Christmas Pudding Liqueur: Make up to a week before.
- Into a mason jar, pop 1 cup dried fruit mix, 3 tbsp sugar, 1 cinnamon stick, 3 cloves, 3 pimento/allspice berries, thinly peeled orange zest (avoid the pith), and 1½ cups (or more!) of Flowstone Marula Gin. Give it a stir and seal.
- After a day, check the taste and add sugar or fruit as needed (be wary of the spices, they can overwhelm it). Leave for at least two more days. Strain and pour into a decanter or pretty bottle. (Save the fruit for homemade mince pies.)