A very British brunch.
I’ve had more than my fair share of Bloody Mary’s over the years and reckon I’ve given most incarnations a go. I love those that are generous in their spicing, I quite like the ones with grated fresh horseradish (as long as they’re served ice cold), I’m not sure about the tablespoon of red wine one, I don’t like the ones made with chilli vodka, and as far as I’m concerned, jalapeños and pickles have no place in a good BM in my book.
And while we’re at it, nor do I think they should be adorned with the kitchen sink. I can go a bacon strip from time to time, but I don’t like to see sliders and hotdogs poking out of the top of them, like some sort of edible hipster cocktail umbrella. Rant over.
We each have our own preferred type, my fave is fairly classic; heavy on the Tabasco and black pepper, light on the Worcestershire Sauce, a big squeeze of fresh lemon and a scrunch of salt, served over lots of ice in a glass with a rim that’s heavy on the celery salt, and extra celery on the side. Sometimes maybe a green olive, if I’m feeling like I’m not getting quite enough salt to harden my arteries entirely.
In case you were wondering, I am of course leaving the vodka out of mine. This is a temporary measure and normal service should resume in about five months time, or whenever he (yep, a little he) arrives. But don’t let me spoil your fun — you booze hounds add a shot of the good stuff to yours. I’m not jealous, honest.
As a brunch cocktail and hangover cure we Brits have really adopted it as our own, and it’s currently having a bit of a resurgence in popularity (“we serve the best Bloody Mary’s in London” is a message on pub A-boards all over the capital) there are a fair few tweaks and new takes to try, one of which we had last week. A small addition but a subtly delicious one — smoked paprika.
Smoked paprika and tomato are great friends, so it’s little surprise that it works in a BM. But given cheese and tomato are friends as old as time and firm British favourites, I’m often a little disappointed that the good old fashioned cheese straw doesn’t make its way on to pub menus more often. For they’re the perfect snack accompaniment to the beloved Bloody Mary, not just eaten with it, but dunked in to it, a bit like dunking biscuits in to tea, just as British, only much more grown up.
For the cheese straws — makes around 13 larger ones as I have made here. Cut them finer to make more if you prefer:
This might sound a bit obvious, but the trick with cheese straws is to go heavy on the cheese, and to use cheese that’s quite hard. Parmesan is a ideal, and a strong vintage cheddar works a treat, but if you decide to use it (as I have here) grate the cheddar and leave it out overnight to dry out a bit. You want the straws to be crisp, not slightly damp in the middle as they can be if the cheese is a bit too wet.
- 1 pack of shop bought pre rolled puff pastry — it should weigh about 375g
- 150g finely grated cheese, I used a 50/50 mixture of Parmesan and strong vintage cheddar, mixed together
- A couple of teaspoons of poppy seeds
- 1 egg beaten with a splash of milk
- Plain flour for dusting
For 4 Bloody/Virgin Marys
- 4 shots vodka if going for the BM, no vodka if going for the VM
- 1l tomato juice
- 3 tsp Tabasco
- 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- A generous scrunch of sea salt
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 level tsp smoked paprika
- Juice of one lemon
- A few teaspoons of celery salt
- Celery stalks and lemon segments to serve
- Lots of ice
Method – For the straws
- Preheat your oven to 190°C, and remove your pastry from the fridge 15 minutes before it’s needed.
- Line a baking sheet with baking paper and lightly dust a work surface and rolling pin with plain flour.
- Unroll the puff pastry (it’s the thickness of a £1 coin if you’re wanting to roll your own) with have it in front of you with the long edge facing you.
- On one half of the pastry sprinkle 120g of the cheese, and then fold the pastry over to sandwich the cheese inside. Roll it out a little more using the rolling pin, then cut it in to strips — don’t worry about them being uniform, when they’re wiggly they look even better baked.
- Carefully pick up each of the strips and twist it over a few times, then lay it on the baking sheet, repeating with all of them until done. You may need a couple of baking sheets as you’ll need a little space between each of them.
- Brush them with the egg wash, trying to avoid the cut edges (the egg will stop them flaking up in the oven, seals them shut) and sprinkle the remaining cheese and poppyseeds over the top. Don’t worry about getting the cheese on the baking sheet — these crispy bits are delicious and make the straws even tastier and prettier.
- Chill in the fridge for 15 minutes, then put them in to the oven (one tray at a time) for 18 minutes or until golden brown. Once cooked, remove and leave to cool before eating — I promise it doesn’t take long!
- For the Bloody/Virgin Mary
- While they are baking it’s time to get the BM’s made.
- In a large jug combine all the ingredients apart from the celery salt and ice, and stir to combine.
- When you’re ready to serve, dip the rim of each glass in a little cold water then dip them in a saucer or dish of celery salt, coating the edge. Fill the glasses with ice and top with the BM, finishing with the fresh lemon and celery.