We’re very excited this month to introduce a new regular contributor to Ginned! Magazine. Craft Gin Club member Carol Donner is a gin fan with some serious culinary credentials!
A biology teacher by profession, Carol’s love of cooking began when she was a small child. “Both my mother and grandmother were excellent cooks and I learnt by watching them,” she explains. “I am entirely self-taught and developed my skills by a mix of good home cooking and entertaining. I take inspiration from dishes I eat in restaurants or on holiday, and try to reproduce them at home, adding my own twist.”
The approach is one that has definitely paid off – Carol made it to the finals of BBC’s Masterchef in 1993, back when it presented by the inimitable Loyd Grossman. She remembers: “For my first round I had flu, and couldn't taste or smell anything so it was a bit of a miracle I got through to the finals!”
Carol has also cooked with Simon Rimmer on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch and was recently crowned winner of Couples Come Dine With Me, along with husband Edward (although it may be no surprise to discover Carol took charge in the kitchen!). You can still catch the episode online if you want to see your fellow club member in action.
“The show was enormous fun but exhausting,” Carol tells us. “Our three nights began with shopping at 8am day one, then filming began at 2pm and we got home at 2.30am. Bed at 3am then up at 6am and another long day with bed at 3am. Cameras arrived at ours the next day at 8am and we were 'on set' without a break (other than to get changed) until 2am. Bed again at 3am. But we've made some great new friends and had a real laugh doing it!”
Alongside her culinary activities, Carol also nurtures a keen love of gin – perhaps no surprise for someone with such a keenly developed palate!
Inspired by a visit to the London Gin Club, a bar in the capital’s Soho, she and her husband began hosting a gin club in their own village, often concocting dinner party menus for club members based around the spirits they were tasting. “We meet at least once a month for gin, and often food too,” she says. “Between us we have almost 100 gins.”
Naturally, Carol’s Craft Gin Club membership has only helped swell that collection – and inspired some culinary creations along the way. “Since joining Craft Gin Club I've had the opportunity to taste some unusual and wonderful gins,” she explains. “It seemed a good idea to serve food cooked with gin at our gin club meets. The rest, as they say, is history!”
For her first recipe, created especially for us, Carol has been inspired by Four Pillars’ Aussie heritage and exotic botanicals to create this delicious prawn dish. Making use of November's Gin of the Month and a few simple ingredients to spectacular effect, you’ll have no excuse not to throw another shrimp on the barbie, mate! (Sorry. Couldn’t resist.)
Four Pillars Prawns
A fruity and fragrant dish combining prawns, one of Australia's most famous foods, with the aromatic and citrus flavours of Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin.
Serves 4 as a starter, 2 as a main course
20 peeled, raw, tail-on tiger prawns
1 tbsp cornflour
75g baby leeks, sliced on the diagonal
1/2 tsp minced ginger
1/2 tsp minced garlic
Large pinch of ground coriander
30ml Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin
1tbsp rice vinegar
1tbsp light soy sauce
1tbsp demerara sugar
Juice of 1 orange
1 orange segmented (peel and segment with knife)
1tbsp chopped fresh coriander
Salt and ground black pepper
2tbsp rapeseed oil
1. Place cornflour in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper then toss prawns in cornflour to coat them. Pat off any excess.
2. Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan and add prawns and leeks. Stir fry until prawns turn pink and leeks are softened but not coloured.
3. Add ginger and garlic and fry for another minute.
4. Add gin and flambé (if brave!) or bring to gentle boil to burn alcohol off.
5. Add ground coriander, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sugar and orange juice and bring to a boil.
6. Season to taste, add orange segments and fresh coriander.
7. Serve with rocket and orange zest salad as a starter, or with jasmine rice as a main course.