Why you should be drinking British pastis

Eve O'Sullivan
23 March, 2016

If, like us, you've got a penchant for pastis, then now's the time to learn more about British producer Southwestern Distillery's take on the classic French spirit

Cornish Pastis, hand-crafted in tiny batches using a flame-fired copper pot still named Tamara, is the first of its kind to be produced in the UK. The man behind the drink is self-taught Tarquin Leadbetter, founder and head distiller of Southwestern Distillery – Cornwall’s first for 100 years. ‘Taking on the French at their own game, and gaining international acclaim in doing so (Cornish Pastis won a gold medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Awards in 2014), is a hugely satisfying endeavour,’ says Tarquin. 'One of the biggest differences this product has to most French Pastis is that our version has no sugar added at all. It’s a completely natural product that uses gorse flower, foraged from the wild Atlantic clifftops of North Cornwall, to add a natural sweetness to the spirit. Whether drunk neat with a block of ice, added to cocktails or used creatively in the kitchen – Cornish Pastis is bold, utterly delicious and pushing new boundaries in the spirits world.’ We asked Tarquin to share his favourite way to cook with pastis and perfect drink to accompany it; the results are as enticing as you’d expect.

Pan-fried haddock with pastis braised fennel, peas, pancetta and truffle oil

Serves 2

Olive oil

1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced

2 shallots, thinly sliced

1 carrot, finely diced

½ red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

4 thyme sprigs, leaves picked

70g pancetta, chopped, plus four whole rashers

100ml pastis

400ml fish stock

Black pepper

Zest and juice of ½ a lemon

Large handful of dill, finely chopped, plus a few extra fronds to serve

Large handful of parsley, finely chopped

150g peas

2 x 200g haddock fillets, or any other sustainable white fish

1 tbsp butter

1 radish, thinly sliced

Small punnet of salad cress

White truffle oil, to serve

Put two deep-sided frying pans over medium heats. Add a glug of olive oil to both. In one pan add the fennel, shallots, carrots, chilli and thyme and cook until softened, around 10-15 minutes. In the other pan, fry the cubed pancetta until the fat has rendered. Transfer the pancetta to the other pan and retain the pancetta oil for the haddock.

Once the vegetables have picked up a little colour, add the pastis and allow to flambé. Add the fish stock, bring to a boil and then allow to reduce by half. Crack in plenty of black pepper and add the lemon, dill, parsley and garden peas.

Fry the pancetta rashers over a medium heat in the other pan until the fat is golden, then allow to drain on some kitchen paper. Next, add the haddock to the pan skin-side down, then fry in the pancetta oil with the butter. Cook until the skin has a nice colour, about 3 minutes, constantly basting the haddock with the oil and butter. Turn once and cook for a further 3 minutes.

Spoon out a generous serving of the braised fennel, then place the haddock on top. Then add the pancetta rashers, radish, cress and dill fronds. Drizzle with a little touch of white truffle oil and serve.

Cornish pastiche: pastis cocktail with apple, lime, mint and almond

Serves 1

½ lime, quartered

Small handful of mint, plus extra to serve

25ml pastis

10ml almond syrup

Ice cubes, to serve

100ml apple juice

Get a tall heavy-bottomed glass then drop in the lime and mint. Gently muddle together, squeezing all the juice from the lime wedges and releasing the fragrance from the mint.

Add your pastis and almond syrup then fill the glass to the top with ice. Pour over the apple juice to the top and the give the drink a good stir. Garnish with some more mint leaves.

Find out more about Cornish Pastis and Southwestern Distillery here

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