When it comes to sloe gin and food pairings, we’re not picky. Sipped neat with cheese, blended into a dessert cocktail, as an accompaniment to a roaring fireplace and filling winter fare: we like it every which way.
But for those seeking additional seasonal inspiration, we decided to poll some of London’s top chefs for insight into their favourite sloe gin and food pairings. As a complement to dessert? Alongside game meat? Find their suggestions below – and some inspiration for your next wintertime dinner party.
Cookbook author and food writer James Ramsden sums up our feelings on the subject when he says “There aren’t many things sloe gin won’t go with.” We’re all ears, James. “On a long, cold walk I like it nipped from a hip flask with a hot sausage and a dab of mustard; sloshed into a glass of fizz it’s excellent with the usual pre-prandial morsels; and of course after dinner there is no arguing with sloe gin and stilton as a fine alternative to port.”
we decided to poll some of London’s top chefs for insight into their favourite sloe gin and food pairings…
Looking for especially indulgent pre-prandial morsels? Anna Haugh, head chef at Gordon Ramsay’s London House, advises pairing sloe gin with foie gras ballotine for a sweet-savoury treat. From there, she suggests a main course of duck, as the traditional fruit sauces that accompany duck meld well with the flavour of juniper; for dessert, sloe gin and Prosecco also pairs rather delightfully with a scoop of blackberry sorbet.
Haugh isn’t the only one to turn to rich, gamey meats when it comes to sloe gin – in fact, most of our expert chefs voiced similar preferences. MasterChef finalist Tom Whitaker thinks first of game birds like partridge, pheasant or pigeon, whose earthy flavours are rich enough to stand up to the full, ripe flavours of the gin.
Phil Harrison, Chef of The Anglesea Arms in West London, also turns to duck when it comes to finding a sloe gin and food pairing. He advises a roast mallard breast with confit leg and black pudding fritters – for the rather advanced home cook, of course.
Beyond game birds, other game meat also works just as well for a sloe gin and food pairing. Robert Mitchell, Executive Chef at Drake & Morgan, says “Sloe gin goes really well with something hearty like venison and roast winter vegetables – think butternut squash, Jerusalem artichokes and mushrooms. The tartness and juniper of the sloe gin complement the rich, gamey flavour of the venison.” It’s not a surprise that the pairing works; as he says, sloe gin is the traditional accompaniment to the hunt and is often found sloshing around in flasks.
And for dessert? Why, look no further than the humble mince pie, which is as seasonally appropriate as it is a fine pairing partner. Tom Langdon, Head Chef of The Garrison gastropub in Bermondsey, says: “The sloe berries work really well with the fruity filling, whilst the gin cuts the buttery richness of the pastry, cleansing the palate and leaving room for just one more pie!” We like the way that sounds.
If you’ve got a bottle of sloe gin to hand and are inspired to make a trip to the kitchen, we’ll leave you with a rather delectable recipe courtesy of Gerald Mirey (Head Chef of Gordon Ramsay’s The Narrow). His recipe for roast wild duck with smoked bacon savoy cabbage and orange sauce is warming, wintry, and even more delicious with a few fingers of sloe gin on the side.
Beyond game birds, other game meat also works just as well for a sloe gin and food pairing…
Roast Wild Duck with Smoked Bacon Savoy Cabbage and Orange Sauce
1 whole wild duck (mallard), oven ready
100 g smoked streaky bacon
50 ml olive oil
1 whole savoy cabbage, sliced
50 g lardoons
75 g butter
1 tsp thyme
250 ml freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tsp ground nutmeg
75 g sugar
1 tbsp corn flour
Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C.
Wrap the duck with bacon. Add olive oil to a large pan and heat on the hob on high heat until hot but not smoking; add the duck and, using tongs, sear on all sides until golden brown. Remove from heat.
Place the duck in a large roasting tray and roast in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, basting occasionally. After 25 minutes, remove the duck and let rest for 10 minutes before carving. Separate the legs and remove the breast filets from the carcass.
To make the garnish: In a saucepan, add the butter over medium-low heat and melt gently. Add the bacon and cook slowly. Add the sliced cabbage and cook until the moisture has sweated off. Season with salt and pepper to taste before covering with greaseproof paper. Cook slowly until the cabbage is tender, removing the paper to stir from time to time.
To make the orange sauce: in a saucepan, mix all the dry ingredients. Pour in the orange juice and then, over low heat, whisk until all ingredients are incorporated. Bring to a boil. Once the sauce has thickened, remove from the heat and season to taste.
To serve: place the cabbage and bacon on the centre of two large plates. Place one leg and one breast filet on top before drizzling with orange sauce. Pour yourself a hearty helping of sloe gin to go with.
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