Jelly is a mysterious substance - neither solid nor liquid, but somewhere in between…solid after preparation, liquid and fleeting in our mouths. Often associated with childhood and birthday parties, or the covering of a lamington or jelly slice, I urge you to re-consider jelly with grown-up eyes.
The first setting agents were known to cooks in the middle ages; made from lengthy and complex processes involving the natural collagen found in calves feet and meat stocks; a substance called isinglass, made from the bladders of fish such as sturgeon; and pectin, derived from rich plant sources such as quinces and apples. All of these substances were used to achieve a process known as 'setting', transforming a liquid into a solid state, with varying degrees of viscosity.
As is so often the case, development of cuisine goes hand in hand with technological advances; jelly achieved the pinnacle of its popularity during Georgian and Victorian times when technology allowed more complex shapes to be achieved from the forming and brazing of copper. Enormous, many tiered and complex designs were produced, with foodstuffs both sweet and savoury being entombed in gallons of liquid. Many of these concoctions were more pleasing to the eye than the palate, as many who remember dishes served in aspic will attest; a form of gastronomic amber.
Happily, that is not the case with this recipe, a treat from the one and only Ms. Lawson in her 2000 classic collection "How to be a Domestic Goddess". Both the ingredients and the process are simple, the dish utilises leaf gelatine rather than the powdered alternative. I don't propose to elaborate on the complex issue of which type of gelatine to use here, as the information is bewildering to say the least - the following link from the excellent David Lebovitz may help http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2009/04/how-to-use-gelatin/. For this recipe, I used the stated amount (8 leaves) of titanium grade gelatine, and the result is a jelly which is set without becoming rubbery.
Gin and Tonic Jelly A gently solid version of the world's favourite tipple...
Ingredients 300ml, plus 50ml water 300g caster sugar zest and juice of two lemons 400ml tonic water (definitely not low calorie!) 250ml gin - I use Hendricks, a delicious gin distilled in Scotland from rose, cucumber, yarrow and angelica along with many other aromatics 8 sheets leaf gelatine red or white currants, or raspberries to serve
Instructions Put the water and sugar into a side, thick-bottomed saucepan and bring to the boil. Let boil for 5 minutes, take off the heat, add the lemon zest and leave to steep for 15 minutes. Strain into a measuring jug, add the lemon juice, tonic water and gin - this should make up close to 1.2 litres, if not, add more tonic, gin or lemon juice to taste. Soak the gelatine leaves in a dish of cold water for 5 minutes in order for them to soften. Meanwhile, put the remaining 50ml water into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat, squeeze the moisture from the soaked gelatine leaves and add to the boiling water - whisk to combine. Pour some of the gin, tonic and lemon syrup mixture over the water and gelatine, and then add back into the main mixture. Lightly grease mould or moulds with a release spray and fill with the combined mixture almost to the top. Place in the refrigerator for at least six hours but preferably overnight. When you are ready to unmould the jelly, half fill a sink or large bowl with warm water and stand the mould in it for about 30 seconds - not too long - you want it to release but not melt the jelly! Place a flat plate over the jelly and invert the mould, giving it a little wiggle to release the contents. If this doesn't happen, immerse the mould in water once again, briefly, and repeat the process.
Notes Surround the jelly with red and/or white currants, or raspberries; serve. If you like, you can make a vodka and tonic jelly by replacing the gin with vodka and the lemon juice with lime.