Stocking Stuffer Sundays- Apple Spiced Bourbon

At the restaurant I work at I recently served a couple who were seeing each other for the first time since they had broken up. It wasn’t going well, and the guy was clearly trying to combat this the way, let’s be honest here, many of us do, by drinking. He wasn’t drunk by any means but he was definitely out pacing the pretty girl across the table, and after one particularly long silence between them he decided he wanted a shot. She said she didn’t want to join him in that, so I did instead, and when he asked what I wanted to drink I said bourbon.

“Oh, uh, okay… bourbon. Man I’m emasculated right now.”

He shuddered but took it down like a champ, albeit an unhappy one.

I love bourbon. Don Draper drinks Old Fashioneds, and you always read about Hemmingway in his pre-Cuban years sitting down with a bottle of the brown stuff. I’ll confess here, I decided I wanted to be the kind of girl that went to a bar and ordered bourbon, so I drank it until I liked it. This stubborn method has also made me like blue cheese and olives, tastes that are a bit harsh to the uninitiated. I now thoroughly enjoy it, it’s what I always order when I go out, and it’s what disappears the fastest from out liquor cabinet.

Good bourbon is very smooth and round and soft , but also very pricey, so here’s the trick to make even Wild Turkey palatable: you spice it. Several years ago this was told to me by a very talented pastry chef, who said if you bought cheap bourbon and stuck a vanilla bean in it for a day, at the end you would get significantly smoother bourbon, and over the years I have learnt that the more you add, the mellower it gets.

Spices cover a magnitude of sins when it comes to bourbon.

It also, with these spices, tastes just like the holidays. The warmth, the cinnamon, the hint of apple, all makes me forget my tiny messy apartment and fills my head with visions of crackling fireplaces, deep voices, and someone else making dinner. Add a little apple cider to the mix, and you’ve just about got Christmas in a glass.

Once again, the amazing Jen Cook has kindly made us some beautiful labels which you can download for free here. She is all kinds of talented, she made my site here, and she sells vintage clothing here

Apple Spiced Bourbon

1x 750mL Bottle of Cheap Bourbon

2 Apples

1 Cinnamon Stick

1 Vanilla Bean 

1 Black Cardamon Pod

1 Clove

Wash the apples thoroughly, I used soap to make sure all the pesticides were off, or you can buy organic. Either way make sure the flavours of the sprays they use aren’t going into your drinks.  

Chop them up and put them in a large jar. Cover with the bourbon, close the jar firmly and let sit for 2 days.

Carefully split the vanilla bean in half, and scrape the seeds out with a small knife. Put the seeds and the pod into the jar with the cinnamon, clove and cardamon. 

Let these meld in there for another 6 hours, and then strain out, pour into jars. Print up the labels, these can be used as stickers, like I did, or you can tie them on with string. 

Cardamon Spiced Apricot Cake

At the very first restaurant I worked at I was incredibly lucky to have been taken under the wing of the chef, who was unbareably talented. I’m fairly certain it had nothing to do with any talent I might have had and more to do with my bubbly 17 year old personality and my eagerness, my excitement, my glee to work 15 hours a day for well below minimum wage, but whatever the reasoning I will always be grateful.

I worked at the “garde manger” section, the cold side, the appetizers station, chopping vegetables, making aoilis and, joyfully once a week, I worked with the only other women in the kitchen in pastries.

But most days I was generally doing bitch work, except when this kind chef would come over and ask me questions and make me think deep and hard about what I was doing, how it all tasted, and why things worked that did. It was during one of these conversations I learnt about the amazing combination of apricots with cardamon.

In fact, I had actually brought up the two together on a whim, and then he drilled me on my choice and made me very insecure, but when we made the cooked down the apricots, pushed them through a seive, sweetened them with honey and added some crushed cardamon pods I knew I was onto something. At that restaurant we smeared some of this jam on a plate and toped it with foie gras, but these days, simpler days, I just bake it all in a cake.

Cardamon Spiced Apricot Cake

1/2 cup Butter

2/3 cup Sugar

1/3 cup Honey

2 Eggs

1 1/2 cup AP Flour

1 tsp Cardamon

1/4 tsp Cinnamon

1/2 tsp Baking Powder

1/4 tsp Baking Soda

2/3 cup Milk

10 Apricots, cut in half lengthwise and then each half cut into 3rds lengthwise

Preheat the oven to 325F

Butter and flour an 8 inch round baking pan.

In a medium bowl sift together the dry ingredients

In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment cream the butter, sugar and honey together until light and fluffy.

Add in the eggs one at a time beating well between each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for another minute.

Turn the mixer to the lowest setting and mix in one third of the dry ingredients. Stir until just combined then add half the milk. Continue like this until all ingredients are incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out with a spatula. Put the apricots on the top of the cake in a flower pattern- starting from the outside and working in.

Bake the cake until an inserted skewer comes out with only a few moist crumbs, about 35 minutes.

Allow to cool in the pan, carefully remove it, sprinkle with icing sugar and enjoy!

Cauliflower and Cumin Fritters with Lime Yoghurt

I find myself over and over again seasoning everything with fennel seeds, dried chilis and lemon zest. A little rosemary if I’m feeling crazy. It’s a fantastic combination, for pasta sauces, a big plate of sauted veggies, roasted meats, it works on nearly everything. But I’ve been finding lately that I’ve been a little bit on auto-pilot with them. It’s easy, it’s comforting but I’m finding it a little tired lately.

And whenever I’m in a food rut, I turn to Ottolenghi.
His food is simple, easy, and elegant, but it’s also heavily influenced from his Isreali background, and his use of spices is immaculate.

It’s never heavy or laden with them but there is always a waft or coriander, or a hint of rosewater in his food that makes you curious about your food. I like to be curious about my food.

These fritters are no exception. The cauliflower and cumin are a brilliant marriage and the lime yoghurt cuts through any heaviness, making it a perfect appy on it’s own or a great light supper with a salad. Although, with a poached egg on top, this could also be an epic breakfast.

Cauliflower and Cumin Fritters with Lime Yoghurt

(almost exactly how it appears in “Ottolenghi”


1 small Cauliflower, cut into florets

1 cup AP Flour

3 tbsp Chopped Flat leaf Parsley

1 clove, Garlic- minced

2 Shallots- minced

4 Eggs

2 tsp Cumin, ground

1 tsp Cinnamon

1/2 tsp Tumeric

1 1/2 tsp Salt

1 tsp Black Pepper

Oil to fry

Lime Yoghurt

300g Greek Yoghurt

2 tbsp Finely chopped Cilantro

Zest of 1 Lime

2 tbsp Lime juice

2 tbsp Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper

Mix all the yoghurt ingredients together in a bowl, set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add in a healthy pinch of salt and cook the cauliflower until it’s soft, about 15 minutes. Drain.

While the cauliflower is cooking mix together all the other ingredients (except oil) and beat until smooth. Add in the cauliflower and mix that in too.

In a frying pan on medium heat add in a good glug of oil and heat until it’s hot- put a tiny dollop of the batter in, when it starts bubbling your ready to go.

Carefully spoon in the batter and let fry until a bubble or two appears on the top and the edges and the bottoms get a nice brown color. With a spatula flip them over and repeat on the other side. Continue cooking until they are all done, then serve them with a generous helping of the lime yoghurt.