We all know gin goes well in a glass with tonic and ice – but what about in a casserole or a salad dressing? Gin lovers, it’s time to open your eyes to the spirit’s potential in the kitchen, as well as behind the bar.
For those of you who are well-versed with the ginassance, you would know nothing compares to a delicious G&T. But as the world moves towards making gin a staple, we can even cook with gin – it doesn’t have to be reserved for tonic alone! Yes, it’s time to move over, dishes made with a wine reduction and cognac. Gin has made a significant comeback recently, inspiring an increasingly popular trend dubbed ginstronomy, which refers to the art of gin-and-tonic food pairings to create a satisfying gastronomic experience. Be it sweet, savoury or a delectable sauce, chefs across the world have leaned towards the spirit to whip up dishes. “With all of the gin’s complex flavour, numerous botanicals and versatility, gin makes an excellent cooking ingredient. It is flavoured with Juniper berries, orange peels, and coriander seeds and distilled in a pot which gives it a unique flavour which can be used for cooking and baking. Gin can be used to cook savoury dishes like pasta, fish and poultry and desserts which can include anything baked to mousses to iced treats. It can be added to preserves like savoury pickles and sweet jams,” said Chef Ashish Singh, Corporate Chef, Dhansoo café, Gurugram.
The white spirit can be used to make a variety of dishes like Gin Gingered Prawn, Gin Penne Pasta, Gin and Tonic Cake, Rhubarb and Gin Sorbet with Rose Cream, Gin-Cured Ocean trout, cheesecake, and even oysters amongst many others. But what better than a Gin and tonic tart? It’s your favourite cocktail, turned into a creamy custard and encased in pastry!
Gin is flavoured with juniper berries, orange peels, and coriander seeds, and distilled in a pot still. Because of its unique flavour complex profile, there are many ways to use it for cooking or baking. Contrary to what you may have believed, Gin makes for an excellent cooking ingredient. The ingredient is flavourful and is a go-to when you want to add a bit of herbal, floral flavours to your dish. Think of it this way; if you’re making a stew, you add herbs and spices, which complement each other and create a delicious flavour. Similarly, with Gin, the botanicals work with the grain spirit to give ready-made complex flavours. “From white meats to certain desserts Gin adds that extra touch when used in a dish,” said Koli. He further continued giving us an insight into the menu at SAGA… “We work with a permutation and combination of many ingredients to innovate and create a palate-pleasing experience for our guests. I use Gin in three dishes, Chicken Tikka Pie, the chicken tikka masala works beautifully with gins that have notes of cardamom and clove; the Grilled Salmon, and Chenna Pinni Toast which is SAGA’s take on classic dessert chenna toast which can be jelled with an all-time favourite gin by soaking chenna toast in a gin and sugar syrup infusion.”
How to cook with Gin
“Gin is a wonder to work with in certain recipes and is often overlooked. The botanicals and grains in the gin work magic and add complex, intricate flavours,” shares Chef Kush Koli, Head Chef, SAGA, Gurugram. Cooking fish with gin is a very old tradition in the UK and a famous dish is the Gin-soaked Salmon. Gin has so many different flavour profiles, from ginger to orange all the way to cardamom, anise, liquorice, cucumber and lemon that it can add amazing flavour to your dish. Being a versatile ingredient, gin can be used to make pasta, a glaze, delicious meat and even dessert. At first, it may sound strange to use bitter alcohol in a sweet dish, but gin does have a few natural ingredients that can be useful in desserts. Gin can be a great ingredient to use in savoury baked dishes. Like vodka, gin is grain alcohol with a high concentration of ethanol and a subtle taste. However, a few unusual ways to use gin could be its use in marinade as well as for a flavourful kick to your soups.
As per Chef Paul Kinny, Director of Culinary, The St. Regis Mumbai, citrus fruits like lemon, lime, grapefruit, and orange work harmoniously with the botanical flavours of gin. Herbs such as thyme, rosemary, and sage can complement these flavours, and spices like pepper and cinnamon can enhance the flavour profile of gin. But a word of caution is to “ …use gin sparingly, as it can be overpowering in large amounts, and add gin towards the end of cooking to avoid losing its flavour,” shares Kinny. Along with Chef Kinny, Chef Dane Fernandes, Executive Chef, JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar also believes that pasta, seafood and poultry work best while cooking with gin. Adding further Chef Niyati Rao at Ekaa, said, “When using gin as a cooking ingredient, always make sure that there are no spices present that would overpower the botanicals of the gin. Also, only cook gin enough to burn off the alcohol, as too much cooking would alter the flavours present in the gin. Gin can also be used as a pickling or a curing agent, imparting a light citrus, herby or vegetal flavours to meats and other ingredients depending on what botanicals are used in the gin itself. Ingredients like cucumber, lime, dill and unripe mango work best with gin. Any neutral, herbaceous or acidic ingredient that works best with the botanicals added into gin is a favourable combination.” While there are some pros, nothing comes without its cons. Chef Ashish Singh, Corporate Chef, Dhansoo café, Gurugram, also shares a word of caution while making a frozen dessert, “… too much gin in the dessert might keep the ice from forming properly.
For those of you who can’t wait to try your hand at cooking a delicious meal, here’s our selection of recipes to add a little Gin to your foodie repertoire.
Juniper Crusted Lamb Loin with Mint Relish and Hummus by Chef Paul Kinny, Director of Culinary, The St. Regis Mumbai
240g Lamb Loin
60g Juniper Berrie
30g Whole Black Peppercorn
30g Whole White Peppercorn
5g Ginger Powder
For Mint Relish
50g Fresh Mint
10ml White Vinegar
10ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil
100 g Boiled Chickpea
5g Tahini Paste
10ml Lemon Juice
45ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil
20g Baby Red Radish
10ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil
5ml Lime Juice
Grind the whole peppers, juniper berries and salt to a coarse grind.
Divide the spice rub into two and mix one with ginger powder.
Rub the loin with ginger, juniper and pepper thoroughly and allow it to rest.
In the meanwhile, take out wedges of orange, thinly slice the baby red radish and keep it in cold water.
Add boiled chickpeas, tahini paste, lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, salt and garlic and grind it to a fine and smooth paste. Adjust seasoning if required.
For mint relish, chop mint leaves into fine chiffonade, in a bowl, add honey, white wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil and mix everything together.
On a hot griddle, grill the marinated lamb loin on each side for 2 and a half minutes or till it has reached a medium rare. Allow it to rest for a while.
Put the hummus on a plate and place the salad well over it. Slice the lamb loin into 1 cm thick slices and place it over the hummus bed. Pour the relish over the lamb and serve hot.
Beetroot and Gin Cured Salmon by Chef Dane Fernandes, Executive Chef, JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar
300g beetroot, washed and peeled
400g demerara sugar
300g table salt
1 tsp black pepper
3 limes, zested
2 tsp juniper berries, crushed
3 tbsp wholegrain mustard
Put the beetroot, sugar and salt in a food processor until it turns into a purée, then add the remaining cured ingredients and blend again.
Pour half of the cure into a large plastic container big enough to hold the fish and cure, lay the salmon on top and pour on the remaining cure. Cover and chill.
The following day, remove the salmon and give the cure a good mix. Put the salmon back and spoon the cure back over, cover and chill for another 24 hours.
Gin Cured Barramundi by Chef Niyati Rao
1kg Barramundi fillet
100ml Gin (preferably with strong notes of juniper and herbs)
100g chopped Dill
20g crushed Black peppercorns
50g smashed Garlic cloves
Combine all the ingredients except the barramundi in a bowl. Place the barramundi in a non-reactive place and pour half the mixture on it. Marinate the barramundi thoroughly, ensuring that it is completely covered with the mixture. Pour the rest of the mixture over the top and cure the fillet in the fridge for up to 48 hours. Wash off the excess and pat dry with a towel. The fillet can be dried for a further 48 hours in the fridge before use.
Grilled Salmon by Chef Kush Koli, Head Chef, SAGA, Gurugram
500 gm salmon fillets with skin
2 tsp Spice Kitchen Tandoori Masala
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp Spice Kitchen turmeric
Spice Kitchen chilli powder (optional)
60 ml Gin
In a bowl mix the tandoori powder with the vegetable oil, turmeric and chilli powder (if using). Then add in the salmon fillets and make sure the fillets are covered all over with the mix. Place the coated salmon fillets on the BBQ grill rack then cook skin down first before finishing the cooking process on the other side. Once the fish is cooked, sprinkle with lemon juice and fresh coriander. Put on a skewer and then roast it on a slow heat. Bast with a mix of butter and gin