Cooking with alcohol

Christmas is just around the corner. Moneybags journalist Jessica Anne Wood looks at ways you can cook with alcohol this festive season.

If a dish has alcohol as an ingredient, it isn’t always the guarantee that you’ll feel tipsy after consuming it. Jamie Oliver, a British chef and restauranteur, explains on his website: “The majority of alcohol in wine burns off during the cooking process. The amount that remains in the dish depends on the cooking method and amount of cooking time. A quick flambé may not burn off all the alcohol, whereas a wine reduction sauce will leave very little, if any, alcohol content. Heat and time are key. For instance, slow-cooking a stew for two and a half hours will leave just five percent of the alcohol, while 20 minutes will leave 40%.”

However, while the alcohol content may reduce, when cooking for children under the age of two, you should leave the alcohol out, or replace it with a low-salt stock or unsweetened fruit juice.

Oliver notes: “Red wine contains a compound called resveratrol, which could play a role in protecting against some cancers. But it’s important to remember that excessive alcohol consumption is also linked to other cancers – so we shouldn’t overindulge.”

Chef Zola Nene, a food stylist and cookbook author, says: “My number one tip for cooking with alcohol is to only use alcohol that you would be happy to drink, don’t skimp on the quality of booze just because it is going into a dish. If you start with great quality, you’ll end up with great quality and vice versa.”

As Christmas falls in the summer months in South Africa it may be difficult to stick to the traditional recipes. Chef Dirk Gieselmann, from Four Seasons The Westcliff in Johannesburg, reveals: “Looking at Christmas I naturally think of Glühwein and warm flavours but as Christmas falls into summer in South Africa I would rather recommend an iced red berry sangria or a Christmas Don Pedro for the hot days!

“But to keep it up with the traditions it is always worth to deglaze your turkey with some brandy or whisky, to add some Kirschwasser into your hot cherries, to braise a pork shoulder in Christmas beer or cider, to flame some apricots with Amaretto or eau de vie and to have a champagne sabayon with your poached peaches.”

Below are five recipes to tantalise the taste buds over the festive season.

Zola Nene’s Fruit Cake (Makes 1x 20cm cake)

  • 200g butter
  • 200g Muscovado (dark brown) sugar
  • 75ml brandy
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 250g raisins
  • 250g currants
  • 100g dried cranberries
  • 100g chopped dried apricots
  • 100g dried pears, chopped
  • 100g dark (70% cocoa) chocolate, chopped
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 3 Tbs cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 eggs, beaten

To feed: 45ml brandy (for each feeding session per week)

Combine butter, sugar, brandy, vanilla, raisins, currants, cranberries, apricots and pears into a large pot. Heat gently, stirring occasionally until everything has melted together. Remove from the heat then stir in the chocolate to melt, then leave to cool.

Preheat oven to 150oC. Grease a deep round bundt tin, 20cm. If using a plain round cake tin, wrap a few layers of newspaper around the outside of the tin and secure with string – this will protect your cake from the harsh heat in the oven.

Mix the self-raising flour, ground almonds, cocoa and cinnamon.

Stir the eggs into the slightly cooled chocolate mixture.

Mix in the dry ingredients then transfer into the prepared tin.

Bake for about 1 hour 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. If the top of the cake gets too dark, then cover with foil for remainder of cooking time.

NOTE: If using a regular cake tin (not a bundt tin), the cake may need longer cooking time.

Leave to cool completely in the tin.

Unmould the cake, then poke holes all over the cake using a cake tester or toothpick.

Pour the 45ml of brandy over the cake, then store in an airtight container.

Feed the cake once a week by pouring 45ml brandy onto the cake – do this for at least four weeks or until ready to decorate and eat.

Chef Peter Ayub’s Windhoek Larger Infused Turkish Style Lamb Kebabs with Rosemary & Garlic

(Makes 12 to 14 kebabs)

  • 1 ½ deboned leg of free range or organic lamb cut into nicely sized chunks
  • ½ bottle of Windhoek larger (other ½ is for you to enjoy)
  • 1 medium sized lemon – juiced and roughly chop the lemon
  • 3 tablespoons of good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • A big handful of fresh rosemary finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 12 x cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • 3 x large green peppers cleaned and cut into wedges
  • 3 x large red onions cleaned and cut into wedges
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon of corn flour dissolved in a tiny bit of cold water

Combine the chopped lemon, lemon juice, Windhoek Lager, garlic, rosemary, honey, olive oil.

Season the liquid mixture with salt and pepper.

Place your chunks of lamb into a dish – the dish must be large enough that the chunks of lamb are all in one layer.

Season the lamb chunks.

Pour the liquid mixture over the lamb chunks and turn the chunks so that all the meat is well coated.

Cover with Cling Wrap and leave to marinate for 2 hour to 3 hours – give the meat a turn every hour.

Keep the dish with the lamb chunks in a cool place in your kitchen.

Thread the lamb alternating with red onion and green pepper onto either wooden or metal skewer.

The remaining marinade – place in a saucepan and heat up – once it has simmered, add the dissolved corn flour and stir until you get a sauce like consistency. Put the lid on and keep warm for when you serve the kebabs.

Get your fire going and once you have reached the “coal stage” place the kebabs onto the griddle and braai for about five minutes until you have reached a good colour on your meat – turn kebabs and cook for a further five minutes or so – so that the kebabs are nicely charred.

Allow kebabs to rest for five minutes before serving.


J’Something’s homemade biltong bread

  • 550g wholemeal flour
  • 200g white flour
  • 1 tsp instant dry yeast
  • 2 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 100g biltong shavings
  • 300ml Castle Milk Stout
  • 220ml buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Put dry ingredients into a large bowl and mix together well. Pour the Castle Milk Stout and buttermilk into a jug and whisk lightly to combine.

Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon to form a sticky dough.

Tip dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes until soft and smooth.

Shape dough into a round dome shape and place into a clean, lightly oiled bowl.

Cover and set aside in a warm place for 45 minutes to rise. Once risen, slash the surface of the dome with an X mark; this allows the bread to expand and release the air.

Place on a lightly greased baking tray in the centre of the oven and bake for 60 minutes, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Remove from oven onto a wire rack to cool.

Allow to cool completely for about 20 minutes, before slicing. (The resting period is vital, to allow for thorough baking.)


J’Something’s Porto Castle Milk Stout can chicken

  • 1 x 1,8kg whole free-range chicken, giblets removed
  • 330ml can of Castle Milk Stout
  • 1 ½ bag of baby potatoes, quartered
  • 250g smoked streaky bacon or thick cut bacon, cubed
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 2 Tbsp. butter

Marinade ingredients

  • 1 lemon, squeezed
  • 6 cloves of garlic, crushed to a paste
  • Peri-peri sauce, to taste
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • 2 tsp. powdered paprika
  • 1 tsp. powdered coriander


Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and massage into chicken.

Leave to stand for a minimum of three hours.

The longer you leave it, the better the flavour (overnight in the fridge, is best).

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C.

Cube the potatoes and bacon and dice the onion and place in a large roasting dish or tray.

Empty half the can of Castle Milk Stout into the roasting dish so it gets absorbed by the potatoes.

Place the chicken onto the Castle Milk Stout beer can, so it’s standing up, in the middle of the roasting dish, and roast for 1 hour.

The chicken juices will drip into the tray of potatoes as it roasts and the stout will steam the chicken, keeping it juicy and moist.

If the chicken is browning too much before the potatoes are done, place a small piece of foil loosely over the chicken and keep turning the potatoes to cook through.

You can test if the chicken is done, by piercing a ‘boney’ area. When the liquid runs clear, it’s done.

Once the chicken and potatoes are cooked, remove the roasting dish from the oven and brush the skin with butter.

Return the roasting dish to the oven and grill for 10 minutes.

You will be left with a golden chicken, crispy skin, bacon and potatoes.


Give your eggnog an original twist!

Sedgwick’s The Original Old Brown turns 100 this year. To celebrate this milestone and in time for Christmas here is a new take on an old Christmas classic, eggnog.

Old Brown Nog

  • 1 tot Sedgwick’s Old Brown
  • 2 tsp light cream
  • 1 tsp powdered sugar
  • 1 whole egg
  • Nutmeg

Shake all the ingredients with ice and strain, sprinkling nutmeg on the top.