Chef's Table: Tiramisu

I am a big fan of Christmas pudding, I could eat it any time - except right after a big Turkey dinner. A lighter, creamy alternative is Tiramisu, a dessert popular among the Italians. It is very quick and easy to make. You need:
  • Two small tubs of Mascarpone cream
  • One packet of dessert sponges
  • 60 ml of Irish cream
  • 20 ml of dark Rum
  • Half a cup of strong black coffee
  • One flake
  1. Start by taking a glass dessert bowl big enough to serve two.  Open your pack of dessert sponges and split each one with a knife so they are half as thick.
  2. Over these, pour the half cup of coffee, very slowly so it soaks into the sponges.  Put it in the fridge to cool.
  3. Take a mixing bowl and add the mascarpone cream and the spirits. Whisk it together using a fork, not a whisk. The fork works best as it mashes the cream into the spirits.
  4. Take out the bowl with the dessert sponges again. Carefully spoon the cream over the sponges and spread it out so the sponges are completely covered. Smooth it down with a palette knife or a spoon.
  5. Crumble a flake and sprinkle it over the top. Leave the Tiramisu in the fridge for a few minutes to set.

And enjoy! Buon Natale as the Italians say. 

By chef Nick Gilmartin who can be contacted on @Nick1975 or find out more here.

At The Flix with @Timmy666

Ho! Ho! Ho! It's a shorter At The Flix this week and this is partly due to the pre-Christmas cinema listings being a little plentiful of new releases. Rest assured, being the festive season, there are plenty of Christmas films on offer and a round up of a selection is below.

 Dumb and Dumber To (15)

Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey reprise their roles as Harry and Lloyd and clearly the leads and the Farrely brothers are a having a complete hoot.

This is a vehicle for the interplay between the leads but especially Carrey who, when on form, is such a comic force of nature.

There's no doubting the talent and commitment here. The film does need to be funny though. Sadly the general consensus from critics is that the fun isn't likely to be wholly matched by the audiences.

Night At The Museum: Secret of the Tomb (12A)

Ben Stiller's Larry Devy returns and finds himself travelling to London's Natural History Museum for his latest adventure saving the magic one more time before it's gone forever.

Night at the Museum is such a curious and goofy concept, one part an excuse for cameos from comedians, one part kids adventure story. The films clearly have a certain fun and sway with mainstream audiences.

This is a film that probably never was necessary and has split critics down the middle but that said, it shows that even if the concept isn't fresh, it can still have legs especially when throwing it to a new location and bringing in a whole new bunch of historical characters.

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Onto the festive offerings. You will find plentiful showings of It's A Wonderful Life, indeed four at at Mac Birmingham and several at The Electric up to and including Christmas Eve.

Indeed The Electric are serving up loads of Christmas films - Elf,  Home Alone and Home Alone 2The Wizard of OzDie HardThe Muppet Christmas Carol Singalong and Joyeux Noel. At a few multiplexes, you will find a Frozen singalong or six, Vue is showing Gremlins and most amazing of all, Nativity 3 is 'still' on!

 That's it from me! I will be back next week for my last Flix of the year and watch out too for my 2014 list of 2014. 

Please add your views below or tweet @Timmy666 or @BrumFaves

Recipe: Winter Cocktails

 

A long time ago, on an island not far away, I worked as a barman for a luxury hotel.  This was before I became a chef.  Dublin was an amazing place to learn the bar trade, particularly cocktails. One of my contemporaries, Peter O'Connor, became a consultant on the hit US show, Bar Rescue.

Throughout the depths of winter, people requested warming drinks rather than alcohol, and we felt we were losing money as a result.  So we developed our own warm cocktail menu.  Here are a few for you to try at home or for parties.

For glassware I only recommend thick glass mugs, wine glasses break too easily.

Hot Whiskey

An old Irish classic.  You need:

  • One shot of Irish whiskey, I like Jamesons, Peter always preferred Bushmills
  • One wedge of lemon
  • Three cloves
  • Honey or brown sugar
  • Piping hot water

Add one measure of whiskey to the glass mug (that's 35.5 ml, not 25.  You are drinking the Irish way now!) Add the sugar or honey and stir to a paste.  Top up with hot water.  Push three cloves into the zest of the lemon wedge and place into the drink.  And serve.  It will clear up any cold.

Note:  If you are not a whiskey fan, try it with port instead.

Irish Coffee

A classic drink, invented by Joe Sheriden, who was, coincidentally, an airport chef at Foynes flying boat base.

  • One shot of Whiskey
  • Black coffee, preferably expresso
  • Sugar
  • Double cream

A lovely drink, but so easy to get wrong.  The secret is to only use fresh cream of a certain thickness.  Start by adding one shot of whiskey and sugar to the bottom.  Stir, and add coffee until the mug is two thirds full.  Now the clever bit.  Take a cool, clean teaspoon and place the tip against the inside of the glass just above the coffee  Make sure the hollow of the spoon is facing upwards.  Now slowly and carefully add the cream to the spoon.  Allow it to 'pool up' in the spoon and then over flow into the coffee gently.  This way it should float.  Decorate with a little shaved chocolate or coffee beans. 

Hot Orange

Here is a simple one:

  • One shot of Cointreau, Grand Marnier or Triple Sec
  • Hot water
  • Slice of Orange
  • Cloves and Sugar

Add one measure of Cointreau to a glass mug, one teaspoon of white sugar, and hot water.  Stir well.  Add one full slice; or wheel, as us bar types like to call it.  Press four cloves in a cross shape into the zest of the orange.  Drop it into the drink and serve.

Irish Milk Punch

Now here is a family favourite.  It is good for getting the kids to sleep on Christmas Eve, I am told.

For one person, you need a sauce pan and the following:

  • 200 ml full fat milk
  • 50 ml Baileys
  • 20 ml Irish Whiskey
  • One teaspoon of brown sugar
  • Cinnamon and grated nutmeg

Heat the milk slowly in a pan, until it is simmering.  Add the Baileys and Whiskey.  Stir, and add the brown sugar.  Pour it carefully into a glass mug.  Add a cinnamon stick to stir and grate  a little nutmeg on top, and serve.  It is always a favourite with the ladies. [Is this true? - the Ed]

Hot Grog

An old dark rum drink back from the days of Sir John Mills standing on the bridge of a destroyer in the arctic winter.

  • One measure of dark rum, or I prefer Captain Morgan's spiced
  • Hot water and sugar
  • Juice of half a lime.
  • Two pieces of lime quarters
  • One small piece of ginger

But, my best, and by far most popular drink was always Mulled Wine, made to my own specifications which you can find here.

By chef Nick Gilmartin who can be contacted on @Nick1975 or find out more here. 

#AtTheFlix with @Timmy666 presents: Best Christmas Action Films

The Birmingham Favourites editor invited me to write a guest blog on Christmas films I love! Rather than dive head first into a top 10 list, where five or six films always appear in everyone else's favourite film list, I resolutely suggested that I do things slightly differently.

So, here it is a list of action films and thrillers with a tenuous festive theme.

Tenuous, because what is indeed quite curious about this selection is  how Christmas is often only referenced loosely, or hardly at all. That said, no matter how tenuous, these are Christmas films. Furthermore, Christmas is a glorious time for film, a time to celebrate in those extended shoot outs, scenes of bloody violence, wise cracking heroes, foul-mouthed one-liners and frankly bad-ass villains. Let's face it, such things are, and should be, an essential part of the festive season.

There's no order, but obviously Die Hard is number one.

Die Hard (1988)

One of my favourite films and a classic which defined action movies for a generation. Theses have been written on the significant of this film and how it subverted the Arnie/Stallone actioned of the Reagan eta and gave us a framework which has been imitated but seldom bettered.

In the context of this list, terrorists led by the eponymous Hans Gruber rudely interrupt a Christmas office party to help themselves to the loot sitting in a building's vault. "Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!" - albeit in LA, where it doesn't!

Die Hard 2 (1990)

"How can the same shit happen to the same guy twice?" asks John MacClane. We're just grateful that it does. One of the most glorious things about the sequel is its self-depricating manner, the fact that is plays up on its predecessor a lot from the dialogue right through to the  exquisitely staged set pieces.

"Just once, I'd like a regular, normal Christmas." says MacClane. For us, watching him in a "mother***** tin can"  is a normal Christmas!

Lethal Weapon (1987)

What, you're asking?  Well, this is set during the festival season. A Christmas start and finish, shoots outs and fights next to trees, and a plot which brings festive subjects such drug trafficking, kidnap, revenge and torture. You're never too old for this, one of the all-time classic buddy movies.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)

OHMSS isn't always set during Christmas but the moment the film arrives in Switzerland, the film takes on a festive theme. The festive segment of the plot involves Bond masquerading as someone else in Blofeld's Alpine lair, Blofeld giving sinister gifts to a bunch of unknowing girls from around the world, iconic ski sequences, numerous stunts and fight scenes, icy stock car racing and Bond proposing to Tracy …. and that Barry synth-bass soundtrack.

In Bruges (2008)

Another of my favourite films, fookin' Bruges is the perfect backdrop in which to weave this hilarious buddy film, and yes, this is also set at Christmas.. Two hitmen are asked to stay in Bruges awaiting instruction following a botched job. The beauty of Bruges contrasted by the indifference of Ray (Colin Farrell) and the wiser more appreciative Brendan Gleeson. Martin MacDonagh's script and direction fizzes with dark humour, one liners and a sense of devilish macabre. One particular line I loved was comparing purgatory to Coventry (somewhat harsh, but made me chuckle royally!)

Batman Returns (1992)

"Meow" said Michelle Pfeiffer and I have to agree, in more ways than one! And yes, this is also a Christmas film. Batman Returns was Tim Burton's second and even darker take with Michael Keaton reprising his role as the caped crusader. This was an altogether more complex mix of villains during a turbulent festive season for Gotham. It didn't get the appreciation it deserved on its release, even more so since the Dark Knight Trilogy has concluded.

This was Tim Burton at the height of his powers and a great romp it is too.  

Remember not to eat the mistletoe!

First Blood (1982)

The original Rambo film was a wholly different beast to its two sequels and it is set around Christmas, and bloody good with it. A battle of survival pitching ex-war veteran John Rambo against Brian Denehy's mad Sheriff. The Christmas hints are there if not explicitly mentioned - lights, decorations, trees! Rambo later comes to set fire to a fair amount of it.

Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang (2005)

Shane Black, who penned Lethal Weapon above, also put his wisecracking antics to fantastic use The pairing Val Kilmer and Downey Jr allows for some dynamite foul-mouthed dialogue - these guys know how to celebrate Christmas. Once again, there's very little about this film which is particularly festive but it is full of less than subtle references to the yuletide season!

The Long Kiss Goodnight (2005)

Before Bourne, this was another kick-ass action hero with a memory problem. This film is also the second Renny Harlin film on this list, notable for the fact that this and Die Hard 2 are probably his only two really good films. His then wife, Geena Davis kick the festive ass out of anyone who gets in her and does so alongside the Mr. Cool known as Samuel L. Jackson.

Share your tenuous Christmas film choices below or complain/agree via Twitter on @timmy666

At The Flix with @Timmy666

Ho ho ho! Tis the season to be cinema going and in this edition of At The Flix, we cover films coming up in Birmingham over the festive period. Will it be tinseltastic or burnt sprouts at the cinema?

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (15)

Many years after the original, and no doubt in response to the fanbase that has grown from it, Ron Burgundy and his gang return for a quote-a-second, over-the-top comedy look at media, this time into the 1980s and the world of 24 hour news. The original was much more a series of sketches with a very loose of plot woven around it. Of course, the comedy element is definitely in the eye of the beholder. With the improvisational talents of Steve Carell and Paul Rudd, expect the unexpected, to be offended and laugh at things you really shouldn't.

I admit to being ambivalent about the film. I'm not party to the 'Legend' tag and the humour from the original was very hit and miss, and often more the latter! I don't expect this to be different.

The film is going be a huge success and if you love the original, you're probably going to love this even more.

American Hustle (15)

This is the new film from the excellent David O'Russell combining talents from his recent films and looking like an entertaining film focussing on late 70s untrustworthy crooks and corrupt politicians - although with a twist, as Russell's character aren't atypical bad people.

The cast is A-list central with Messrs Bale, Cooper, Adams and Lawrence. Oscar winners aplenty. I hope it will be fizzing with sharp dialogue, wit and lots of great music and tonnes of 70s referencing.

Crucially, the film looks like a lot of fun and not serious - which I hope is carried through. One to look forward to over the festive period.

The Harry Hill Movie (PG)

Harry Hill on the big screen doing Harry Hill type stuff there is though some plot allegedly. Hill finds out that his beloved hamster Abu has only one week to live. The two embark on a road trip from London to Blackpool … as you do! Julie Walters appears as a petrol drinking nan and there are cameos aplenty.

With veteran British comedy director Steve Bendelack behind the camera, here's hoping that Harry Hill's bonkers comedy translates to the silver screen well.

Moshi Monsters: The Movie (U)

I'm not an authority on the Moshi Monsters but you are invited to join Katsuma, Poppet and others on an action-packed adventure to stop evil Dr Strangelove and his Glump sidekick Fishlips from pulverising the recently discovered Great Moshling Egg.Did you get that? If not, rest assured it's for kids, or at least I think it is.The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (PG)
Out on Boxing Day, Ben Stiller's portrayal of Mitty has been adorning trailer reels forever it seems. Glad it is actually coming out for real.Stiller is a very talented writer/director and by far a better director than an actor in my opinion. When it's good, he does (dead pan) comedy well, and judging on the few snippets of this film, Mitty has been nothing if not a labour of love for Stiller. It also has a sense of scale, and is definitely pitching itself as an event movie albeit with large doses of whimsy and melancholy - all of which suit him well.If it's cinema done with a heart then I'm all for it. Furthermore, if this is a sign of Stiller embracing more serious films with comedic undertones, rather than outright comedy, I applaud it and look forward to seeing more films from him.47 Ronin (15)

The return of Keanu Reeves is a sort of fantasy martial arts film weaving all sorts of Japanese influences and starring Reeves himself as a nomadic warrior who joins a team of 47 outcast samurai seeking vengeance for the death of their master to restore honour.

I have read relatively little about this film in the build up to its release other than its relative tanking elsewhere and a troubled production. Reeves has been out of the limelight for a few years now and certainly not been anything big budget since The Day the Earth Stool Still, which was a flop as well!

As for Christmas films, I believe everywhere has shown or is showing It's A Wonderful Life. Elsewhere, there are showings of Mary Poppins, The Great Escape, Home Alone and Home Alone 2 at The Electric. The mac is also showing Mary Poppins on Sunday and Monday. By the time you read this, a showing of The Muppets Christmas Carol may have been and gone (Friday 20 at 10.30am). There are showings of Die Hard (my favourite Christmas film) and Arthur Christmas at Vue Star City on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  At the Odeon Broadway, there are showings of Nativity 2 (a few notches down from the first lovely Nativity film),

Ok, that's enough from me. Have a great Christmas. Watch out for a top 10 of the year next week. Shock, horror!

Until then, yippee-ki-yay! Ho, ho, ho!

Tell us if you agree via @BrumFaves or drop Tim a tweet on @timmy666