“On one of my many visits to Moscow I met one of the most senior Russian generals for breakfast. Before we sat down, he offered a bottle of brandy and a bottle of whisky. ‘Which one do you drink,’he asked. ‘Both,’ I replied. He replied with a smile: ‘You are my friend’.”
Sir Kenneth Warren
Some people regard me as rather peculiar.
Amongst the many reasons they cite for reaching this conclusion is my admiration for vodka. Actually this often creates the biggest stir. The reaction is predominantly the sort of incredulous disdain, which I reserve for Malibu and Baileys drinkers.
I like vodka; chilled and drank in one. I do, however, recoil at the Russian beauty being dumped in a saccharine soft drink such as Coca-Cola or the nauseating Red Bull.
However, I am rather partial to a Screwdriver or a Harvey Wallbanger with brunch – in fact they are the essential component in making brunch an acceptable meal.
And my father assures me it is a popular drink for grooms before their wedding hour – as it has no smell, you won’t breathe alcohol at the vicar as you take your vows.
However there is a lack of general enthusiasm for vodka. This is probably attributable to youthful memories of excessive consumption that led inexorably to vomit-stained clothes and a dire hangover.
Nonetheless, I want to be like Lenin, VI, and be at the forefront of a Russian revolution and bring the potato based booze the table of the chattering classes.
First choose the brand. And remember that nationals of every vodka-producing country revere their own version and despise everyone else’s.
You could buy Grey Goose – which proclaims itself to be hangover free – but I would always prefer a Russian blend. Furthermore, one doesn’t want to be subsidising the French economy too much.
No I would rather line the pockets of the ever contentious Putin. I reach for a Stoli, Imperial Standard or – if one must – a Smirnoff ( – note – owned by Diageo!! Though a Russian recipe)
However, my dear reader, I am not advocating sitting on park bench and swilling from the bottle with a chaser of white cider and shout at the world.
Please store the bottle in the freezer, the shot glasses in the fridge and add some opulence to your life; do as the Romans, well Muscovites, do and go to the fish market.
This is the perfect sharing starter for a dinner party for four or my perfect Saturday lunch.
A bottle of Stolychnia
A tub of caviar
Decent smoked salmon
3 large eggs
1 small red onion
8 raw tiger prawns
Packet of blinis
It shouldn’t take the brains of an Arch-Bishop to realise that the fish should go in the fridge and the vodka in the freezer. Be sure to get it the correct way round to avoid disappointment!
1. Hard boil the eggs for 10 minutes and run under a cold tap. Leave the water in the pan.
2. Quickly poach the grey prawns in the water – they will be ready when they completely change colour to pink. Run under cold water.
3. Chop the chive and P as small as you can and reserve in separate ramekins.
4. Chop the red onion in tiny dice and pop in a ramekin.
5. Slice the lemon into wedges.
6. Once the eggs are cold, separate the yolk and white. Finely grate the whites into one pile then follow suite with the yellow..
7. Return everything to the fridge and have a glass of v.
8. When you are ready to eat, find the largest wooden board and assemble the tasty morsels in mounds.
9. Open the oysters by laying it flat on a towel and holding in place with your palm. Insert the tip of the oyster knife into the soft hinge. Once in gently twist the edge of the knife to pry it open. Release the muscle, so that the oyster is ready to slip down your greedy throat.
10. Warm up the blinis and place on a separate plate.
11.Teaspoons should be placed on the board to be serve the food but Poseidon’s jewels, like any embittered Russian will tell you, must be eaten notionally by band.
Furthermore, whenever I have been drinking with Russians there is a common theme: continual toasting until you forget what you are toasting to…and then you forget where you are.