Category Archives: Food

Top Tips for Caves Ouvertes, Geneva

This year will be my 4th Caves Ouvertes in the canton of Geneva. Here are some tips to help newbies get the most out of what is arguably the best day of the year to be in Geneva.

The vinyards of Satigny

For the complete beginner, Caves Ouvertes is the annual opening of (almost) all wineries in the Geneva canton of Switzerland. This gives you the chance to try an enormous variety of local wines for free. Most places open between 9-10am and close around 5pm. My top tips for getting the most out of your day are:

  1. Glass (for drinking) – The small size wine glass, normally branded with the logo of Caves Ouvertes for the year will set you back about 5 CHF. I have almost enough of them to use at dinner parties. Provided you can get it home in one piece it’s a great souvenir.
  2. Transportation (for yourself) – Most of the caves (at least in the Satigny/Dardagny region) aren’t far apart. You can get out to the vineyards from Geneva on the local train from Cornavin. When you’ve arrived you can walk between a few of the caves, or alternatively TPG runs a fairly comprehensive shuttle bus service, which might even be free. However since it’s an immensely popular event the shuttle busses often get full to capacity (especially with people heading in to Dardagny at the end of the day), so you might have to wait a very long time. Like many veterans of caves ouvertes, my prefered means of transport is cycling. Obviously you should take care not to cycle dangerously if under the influence of a large quantity of wine.
  3. Transportation (for your purchases) – I normally take a large rucksack with me to accommodate my purchases throughout the day. If you’re a real big spender and happen to live in Switzerland most places will deliver a case or more to your door for free after the event. If you’re only interested in buying the odd bottle you will have to be prepared to carry it around. Also make sure that your chosen luggage has a safe compartment where you can store your glass for those rare moment when you’re not drinking out of it.
  4. Things to bring – In addition to a large rucksack to store your wine, I can recommend bringing a couple of bottles of water (to stave off dehydration, especially if you’re cycling), some sun cream (on the off-chance it isn’t raining), a waterproof (on the off-chance it isn’t sunny) and a fleece for the dual purpose of insulating the bottles against each other and insulating you if it gets cold in the evening. The fleece will also come in handy for drying off your glass in between caves.
  5. What to buy? I’m a big fan of using Caves Ouvertes to stock up on local produce. I’ve had difficulty locating the Cave de Geneve Bacarat Grand Cru in the supermarket (NB this is the top of the range Bacarat, I definitely recommend it), only the regular stuff seems to be on the shelf in the Coop. Chasselas is the entry-level white wine for the region, which can be extremely refreshing when served chilled on a hot summer afternoon. A few caves (such Domaine de la Clé de Sol in Chouilly) specialise in rare varieties of grapes that are no longer mainstream in neighbouring France following the great wine blight of the 19th century. There are also some interesting sweet white wines to be tasted, including the Schreube which is a very distinct sweet white. In the red wine selection most caves offer Gamay as the entry-level bottle, which I find to be slightly watery for my tastes. My recommendation for red wine is the Gamaret, which has a much stronger taste, higher tannin content and goes very well  indeed with beef. Another recommendation if you’re planning to buy wine is to bring cash (Swiss Francs of course), since paying buy card can take a while when the caves are busy. Another note for buying wine is that normally you’ll have to go to the desk to pay, where they will then give you a receipt which you take to the depot (normally next door or across the courtyard) to get your wine.
  6. Where to go? I normally start off from around CERN and head towards Dardagny, via Chouilly, Peissy and Satigny. One day I’d like to go to the other side of the lake, I’ve heard rumours that it’s also very good, especially if you have a bike since the caves are farther apart. Dardagny becomes something of a party town with live music and food stands in the main street. Domaine des trois etoiles in Satigny normally has a good live band as well as great views over the city from the vineyards. Here is a link to an excellent google map with the positions of all the caves in the Geneva region.
  7. What to eat? A hard day of wine tasting calls for some serious nourishment. Most places will provide something for you to eat as you taste, ranging from literally a few crumbs of bread in some places to a gourmet selection of cheese and charcuterie in others. Prices for food also vary from free all the way to expensive. A lot of caves also have food stalls with home-made fayre, or if you’re in one of the larger towns there will probably be plenty of food market stalls to choose from.
  8. And finally, if you’re had a superb day wine tasting don’t forget to drink plenty of water before going to bed!

A gateway to the chateau in Chouilly

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Bread Machine Stollen Recipe

It’s that time of year again, Stollen time! I made my first one for this winter yesterday and annoyingly I hadn’t previously blogged my recipe so I had to go and look up a new one.

A stollen I made last year.

Here is a modification of the one I found that suits my tastes. The following go straight in the bucket of the bread machine:

  • 175ml warm milk
  • 1 egg
  • 40g sugar
  • salt (pinch)
  • 27g olive oil
  • 370g white flour (I mixed it 50/50 with regular and super fluid flour)
  • some cinnamon
  • a dash of nutmeg
  • 50g of chopped nuts, almond and brazil
  • 50g of melted butter
  • 8g dried yeast
  • 40g of finely sliced almonds

Set the bread maker to the dough programme and relax for 90 minutes. During the 90 minutes soak some fruit in alcohol, I used about 100g of raisins since I didn’t have anything else, in rum or another spirit.

When the dough is finished, tip it out onto a well floured chopping board and roll it into a baguette shape, before adding 250g of marzipan, also rolled out into a long thin strip and the fruit which has been soaking. I decided to fold mine three times, with one stripe of marzipan and raisins inside each time, which worked rather well. Be careful that the soggy raisins don’t poke a hole in the side of the dough and escape! You also to make sure that the marzipan is well contained within the dough otherwise it will burn.

When you are happy with the composure of your stollen, bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes at 200 degrees. I left mine in the oven to cool overnight and it turned out fine, I didn’t want to put it in the fridge in case it dried out. When you want to serve it don’t forget to dust with icing sugar using a sieve.  I might try making a chocolate one next.

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I had some fun with cocktails the other day using liquid nitrogen frozen ingredients, and making some regular cocktails too, here is the full write-up so anyone can repeat it. The use of liquid nitrogen is at your own risk, of course!

The blue lagoon, my personal favourite from the list!

The blue lagoon, my personal favourite from the list!

Hardware requirements:

1 Jigger (44ml measuring cup)

1 Cocktail shaker

Ice (lots)

A 1 litre jug

Plus a selection of these:

Guinea Pigs

People, glasses and cocktail umbrellas to taste! (Here the measures are for about 1l of cocktail, each time shared in ‘moderate’ servings between about 8 people)

Preparation of ingredients

To prepare the special ingredients in these cocktails I bought some 100ml bottles from IKEA, not strictly food grade plastic but I kept them in the fridge and didn’t store my shower gel in them prior to use. I prepared the following special ice drops, in the style of dippin’ dots by freezing droplets of liquid one (or several) at a time in liquid nitrogen.

Mint: 1 packet of fresh mint leaves, finely chopped and gently boiled for about 10 minutes in a water with two tablespoons of added sugar. The resulting green liquid was allowed to cool, poured into the 100ml bottle and refrigerated until it was used with the nitrogen.

Lemon: 100ml of freshly squeezed lemon juice, poured into the bottle and refrigerated.

Lime: 100ml of freshly squeezed lime juice, poured into the bottle and refrigerated.

Cassis: 100ml of cassis poured from the glass bottle in to the plastic one and refrigerated.

The freezing

My awesome friend in the cryo lab prepared me a small bucket of liquid nitrogen and also a mug (metal, to avoid it exploding with the change in temperatures). The dots were made by dropping small amounts of liquid out of each bottle (one flavour at a time) into a ladle in the liquid nitrogen and the mug which was half full. Once each dropplet had stopped boiling the surrounding nitrogen they sank to the bottom and were collected into tupperwares (one tupperware for each flavour to avoid confusion). The process was repeated until all the tupperware was full, when the full batch was rushed to the freezer in my house. Despite the effort the cassis drops still turned back into a liquid when chilled to -25C in my domestic freezer. Fortunately everything else remained frozen!

Liquid nitrogen ice drops

The result of the liquid nitrogen drop freezing process

Awesome drinks

Kir Breton – 4.5% brut breton cider (chilled) poured into a fluted glass, with a teaspoons worth of cassis carefully poured in so that it settles at the bottom to look cool. You could use super cooled pearls of cassis, however experience shows that these have an annoying tendancy to melt in the freezer. Unless you have liquid nitrogen freely available best stick to the regular version.

Molecular Mojito – Dark rum and sugar with spherical mint and lime ice cubes. Pour 4 jiggers of dark rum, a cup of ice and 2 table spoons of sugar into the cocktail shaker. Shake. Half fill the jug with ice and strain the contents of the shaker into it. Add pearls of liquid nitrogen frozen mint and lime, about 50ml equivalent volume and top up with lemonade. Stir and garnish with a sprig of fresh lime.

Dr. Pepper Freeze Ray – Amaretto and Coca-Cola instantly frozen, topped off with beer. For this one you need to start early, by putting a 0.5l bottle of Coca-Cola in the freezer about 3 hours before you intend to serve it. For best results put in a few bottles and let them all chill down to just above freezing point. When you’re ready to serve the cocktail pull out the one which is hopefully still liquid, but not frozen. Release the gas by twisting the cap gently, then re-tighten and turn upside down. The coke should turn into an instant slushie inside the bottle within about 3 seconds. Once it’s slushified, squeeze out into the empty jug. Add 4 jiggers of amaretto and top off with the chilled beer of your choice. Despite the slightly odd combination of coke and beer, this was probably the favourite cocktail of my first batch of guinea pigs. Here is a video of the first attempt to do ‘insta-freeze’ using some bottled mineral water.

Atomic G&T – Tonic water with Gin and atomised lemon drops. Half fill the jug with ice cubes and add 3.5 jiggers of gin and the equivalent of about 40ml of liquid nitrogen frozen lemon drops. Top off with tonic, stir and serve. On the first test-drive the lemony hit from the frozen drops was rather intense, so I’ve toned down the quantity.

Slightly more ordinary drinks

There’s nothing particularly special here beyond what you can already find on the internet and (even) in books about these standard cocktails.
 Long Island Iced Tea – Vodka,  Tequila, Gin and Grand Marnier with Coca-Cola
Cosmopolitan – Vodka, Cointreau, Lime and Cranberry
Pina Colada – Rum, Coconut and Pineapple
White Russian – Vodka, Kaluha and milk
Blue Lagoon – Vodka, Blue Curacao and lemonade garnished with a cherry

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Sous-vide Pork!

Tonight I thought I’d cook something a bit different, so I put a couple of pork chops in my home made sous-vide!


Recipe (serves two or one hungry man):

  • Two pork chops, deboned
  • Two shallots, finely chopped
  • Honey, one desert spoon

Salt the chops lightly, then put all the ingredients into a zip-lock bag, squeeze out the air by holding the bag under the water and close the seal.  Cook for about two hours at an average temperature of 55˚ Celsius.

When the the time is up, put a large frying pan on the stove and sear the chops until they look suitably delicious. You can also pour out the contents of the bag (which should be water and shallots) into the pan if you like. I served it with a tomato on a bed of noodles and garlic mushrooms.

Obviously if you’re going to cook anything in a sous-vide you need to be careful and make sure that you use the right type of plastic bag and that the food is properly cooked before you eat it.

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Rum Poached Apples

First attempt at Sous-Vide cooking. Try at your own risk…

Apples poached sous-vide style

Not bad for a first attempt!

Temperature:65 degrees +/- 3 (to be modified in version 2 of the cooking apparatus once I get a PID controller)

Cooking time: 1 hour  20 mins approx.

Ingredients (per apple):

1 shot of dark rum

2 desert spoons of sugar

Ground Cinnamon – a couple of shakes

Ginger – just a sprinkling

1 desert spoon of raisins

50ml of water (ammended from 100ml, it was a bit too watery).

Oh and don’t forget to add 1 apple, peeled and cut into 8th’s (amended from quarters, the chunks were a bit too large)!

Put everything in a ziplock bag, squeeze out the air by sealing it more or less underwater, shake well and put in the sous-vide. I’m using a so far un-modified deep fat fryer filled with water. Serve in a bowl with the juice – remember to eat it using a spoon!

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Ice Cream-mania!

Some of my friends have recently been treated to my new fad of home made ice cream! They were generally quite complimentary and nobody got ill after eating it, so I thought I’d reproduce the recipe here for the rest of the world to share – in a number of variants.

1)Office Chocolate (Yes, I make ice cream in the office without any specialist tools)
1 Pint of double cream
Whisk, fork or whipping implement (such as a milk frother for cappucino making)
Two bars of chocolate (100g each)
Microwave or hot drinks machine
A few sachets of sugar from the coffee point (not really necessary)
A mug
A tea spoon
Two small size ziplock bags
A friend to hold the ziplock bags open
Ice (freezer optional)
Bowl, if you’ve got one. A waterproof bag will do!

If you’ve got a hot drinks machine that serves hot chocolate, half fill a mug with it. Then break up the chocolate into squares and stir in. It should melt and produce a nice thick liquid chocolate mixture. I find 100g of chocolate + 1/2 mug of hot chocolate to be a reasonable amount. Pour 1/2 the cream into one of the bags, whip using the whipping implement. Then pour in the mug of chocolate and whip some more. Repeat with a second mug of chocolate into a second cream filled bag. The bags should each be about half full. Squeeze out any air and seal the zippers. Put the two bags of mixture in a bowl/bag/box that holds water and add the ice (as much as you can get hold of). Salt the ice generously (a couple of table spoons should be plenty) then shake it up a bit to distribute.

If you’ve got enough ice then it should solidify within 30-60 minutes. For best results bung it in a freezer as well, though this isn’t strictly necessary! Eat as soon as possible and remember not to get brain freeze.

2)Double Chocolate Cookie Ice Cream
As above, but add some gently crumbled chocolate cookies to each of the bags before pouring in the cream. The cookies shouldn’t be broken up too small (split each one into about 5 pieces), otherwise they’ll get a bit lost in the mixture. You could also add:
2a)Chopped marshmallows and cherries for that authentic rocky road taste
3)Maltesers – crush a few for best results
4)Crunchie bars (again best crushed)

5)Rum & Raisin
This needs a blender, some whipping cream, raisins and rum. Vanilla essence and icing sugar are also nice extra touches. Put a couple of handfuls of raisins in a bowl and cover them in Rum. 2-3 measures should do the trick, then leave to soak. Ideally they should soak for 30-40 minutes before proceeding to the next stage.
Pour about 1/4 of a pint of whipping cream to the blender and blend strongly till it’s a bit frothy. Add about 3/4 of a pint of double cream and a touch of icing sugar/vanilla essence if you want. Blend some more till it’s all well mixed and there’s plenty of air bubbles in the cream. Now pour in the rum from the raisins and add a handful of them to the mixture before blending it again till well mixed.
Split the remaining raisins between the two ziplock bags then pour the mixture in on top. Squeeze out any trapped air pockets then give them a shake to spread out the raisins. Add to a large quantity of ice, add some salt and shake/stir. Should be ready in about an hour – less if you can fit your ice+salt+ice cream pot into the freezer!

Half a punnet of strawberries, coarsely chopped into a bowl. Add about 2 shots of Vodka and a couple of table spoons of icing sugar, mush with a fork till there are only a few lumps of strawberry left. Leave to stand whilst adding 1/4 of a pint of whipping cream to the blender. Whisk it up till it’s frothy, then add 3/4 of a pint of double cream and blend some more. Add some vanilla essence (a teaspoon or less is plenty) then blend again. When you’re happy with the consistency add the strawberry/vodka/icing sugar mix and blend it all in – You could make strawberry ripple by just putting it into the bags and adding the mixture on top then shaking, but I’ll leave that up to you. Pour the mixture into two ziplock bags and ice/salt/freeze.

That’s all for now, at some point I’ll be experimenting with using stainless steel containers from Ikea that look ideal (from a fitting in the freezer/heat transfer optimisation/better to serve it out of than a plastic bag point of view) and a couple more flavours –
On the wish list right now:
White Chocolate and Cranberry
Almond and Cherry
(Basically it seems to work when you just add anything you like to a bag of cream and freeze it!)


PS. I should credit my sources – I think the victorians started it.
with the whole salted ice to freeze cream. I discovered it in response to a friend’s efforts to build a peltier powered ice cream maker (I thought I’d come up with a lower tech answer!).

Here’s a good tutorial/description from a chemistry perspective

And a nice video of the process that I found whilst looking for the above

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