Poirot Gourmet, cocktail edition: Elixir de Spa du Chef

I’ve been eager to try out various cocktail recipes with my newly-acquired Elixir de Spa. (For more information about this liqueur from Spa, Belgium, see this previous post.)  This one is called Elixir de Spa du Chef. It’s a nice, summery, champagne-based drink with lime juice, Angostura bitters, and of course Elixir de Spa.  🙂  The recipe can be found here.

My personal word to the wise: don’t leave out the bitters! The champagne and liqueur together is going to be very sweet, and although I tend not to blink at drinking sugar, it’s not everyone’s thing! I don’t often use bitters, but I was happy enough to use them with this drink.

Let’s make the most of our last couple weeks of summer, all! Santé!

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Cookies with painted fondant

I was making fondant-covered sugar cookies anyway, so I thought, why not…  😉   Pictures are painted with gel food coloring and vodka.

Poirot Gourmet, cocktail edition: Elixir de Spa Poire

Things are heating up (or cooling down?) here in the “Poirot Gourmet” corner of the blog, because Kelly has discovered the joys of importing Belgian. Things are about to get that much more authentic, dear readers! Have I got some fun in store for you…  😉

Agatha Christie implies in the book The Big Four that Poirot originates from the Belgian city of Spa, in the eastern province of Liège. The TV series seems to follow this line of thinking as well, particularly in the episode Four and Twenty Blackbirds, where Poirot introduces Hastings to his mother’s Liège-style cooking. I had been poking around a bit for interesting-looking Belgian recipes to share here, but I thought I might as well get more specific. What is gastronomically unique to the area of Liège, I wondered?

Poirot is fond of liqueurs, and lo and behold, I chanced upon one that actually hails from his hometown. By name: Elixir de Spa!

You can read all about this liqueur here, along with recipes for cooking and cocktails. It is made from a wide variety of aromatic plants and herbs, and is apparently renowned for its digestive effects. (That alone sounds like something Poirot would go for, doesn’t it?) Although it is a liqueur, I was somehow expecting something a little more bitter– perhaps the word “elixir’ conjured up purely medicinal associations, or my assumption may have come from the 40% alcohol volume. But no; it is quite sweet, and although I have no idea what’s in it, there is a definite anise or fennel flavor in there, like liquorice. But it isn’t overwhelming; rather, a pleasant and subtle melange of flavors, VERY smooth. It’s a long time since I’ve gotten a buzz from a liqueur, so there you go.

Anyway, I found a cocktail recipe on that page called “Elixir de Spa Poire,” and it seemed very appropriate to feature here. 🙂  The name Poirot can be read as a contraction of “poire” (pear) and the diminutive “-ot,” as in “little pear,” possibly suggesting his shape. Some read the name “Poirot” according to traditional name etymology, presuming someone who grows pears or lives by a pear orchard. At any rate, from what I’ve read, pears actually seem to feature prominently in the food prep of this region… so Elixir de Spa Poire it is!

The recipe is fairly straightforward– the liqueur, pear juice, fresh mint, and orange zest.  I omitted the ice for serving and also used sparkling pear juice (call it a tribute to the famous bubbling waters of Spa). 😉  The result is AMAZING. Next time I will use ice, and possibly drink it for the rest of the summer!

I look forward to seeing what other interesting things can be made with Elixir de Spa. 🙂

Poirot gourmet: French/English fusion edition!

Today’s Poirot gourmet represents a bit of French and English fusion! Inspired by “Four and Twenty Blackbirds” and The Mystery of the Blue Train, I’ve assembled a collection of comestibles which read like a compromise between Poirot and his dinner friend, Mr Bonnington.  🙂  Both book excerpts deal with a fillet of sole.

A blog called Reading Feeding, which deals with food and books, pointed out this passage from The Mystery of the Blue Train between Poirot and his valet, George.

‘The brown lounge suit, sir? The wind is somewhat chilly today.’

‘There is a grease spot on the waistcoat,’ objected Poirot. ‘A morceau of Filet de sole à la Jeanette alighted there when I was lunching at the Ritz last Tuesday.’

‘There is no spot there now, sir,’ said George reproachfully. ‘I have removed it.’

Très bien!‘ said Poirot. ‘I am pleased with you, Georges.’

‘Thank you, sir.’


Filet de sole à la Jeanette
also appears as a dish in the Tommy and Tuppence novel The Secret Adversary. The speculation was: is this a real dish, or a Christie invention? One anonymous commenter noted:

“Actually a real dish made with a tarragon sauce. Jeanette Bertrandy – La bonne cuisine Provençal.”

This seems to coincide with a dish called Fillet of Sole with Tarragon Sauce
(Filets de Sole Sauce Estragon). A note posted with the recipe: “Tarragon, an herb member of the wormwood family, is a popular herb in Provence and is used often with fish, chicken or eggs. This recipe is adapted from the delightful cookbook of Bernard Loubat and Jeanette Bertrandy, La bonne cuisine Provençal.”

I took their word for it and tried my hand at filets de sole sauce estragon. If this is indeed the preparation mentioned by Poirot to his valet George, there would be ample opportunity for a pretty impressive grease spot to manifest itself on his waistcoat. Butter, olive oil, and more butter contribute to this rich and flavorful dish.

Poirot’s friend, Mr Bonnington, had very different ideas on how to go about fillet of sole! From “Four and Twenty Blackbirds”:

‘Mess!’ said Mr Bonnington. ‘That’s what’s the matter with the world nowadays. Too much mess. And too much fine language. The fine language helps to conceal the mess. Like a highly-flavoured sauce concealing the fact that the fish underneath it is none of the best! Give me an honest fillet of sole and no messy sauce over it.’

It was given him at that moment by Molly and he grunted approval.

To compensate for the “French kickshaws” he disliked, I thought I’d throw in some nice Stilton on (square) English cream crackers.

As the story goes…

‘Good evening, sir,’ she said, as the two men took their seats at a corner table. ‘You’re in luck today– turkey stuffed with chestnuts– that’s your favourite, isn’t it? And ever such a nice Stilton we’ve got! Will you have soup first or fish?’

Mr Bonnington deliberated the point. He said to Poirot warningly as the latter studied the menu:

‘None of your French kickshaws now. Good well-cooked English food.’

To round it off properly– a couple of blackberry and apple tartlets! I made these with a bottom layer of crushed blackberries, followed by apple slices, whipped cream, and a blackberry to top them off.

‘Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie! Or blackberries if you prefer to be literal! …He had been eating blackberries again, by the way. A greedy fellow– cared a lot about his food. Eh bein, greed will hang him all right unless I am very much mistaken.’

A waitress brought them two portions of blackberry and apple tart.

‘Take it away,’ said Mr Bonnington. ‘One can’t be too careful. Bring me a small helping of sago pudding.’

Lastly, some crème de menthe for a digestif, and to keep things from being too English!  😀

Poirot Gourmet, from the Orient Express!

Sorry I haven’t been Poirot-ing much; we’ve been on vacation! But I thought I’d drop a bit of “Poirot Gourmet” here for you today.  🙂 (And no, I am not actually traveling on the Orient Express while presenting this episode, sorry!) 😀

Here, we have smoked salmon cream cheese on baguettes with olive oil and sea salt. To drink: a little crème de violette.

And here’s your book reference!

M. Bouc, who was already seated, gated a greeting and summoned his friend to the empty place opposite him. Poirot sat down and soon found himself in the favoured position of being at the table which was served first and with the choicest morsels. The food, too, was unusually good.

It was not till they were eating a delicate cream cheese that M. Bouc allowed his attention to wander to matters other than nourishment. He was at the stage of a meal when one becomes philosophic.

“Ah!” he sighed. “If I had but the pen of a Balzac! I would depict this scene.”

-Murder on the Orient Express

Poirot gourmet: une petite omelette

Here’s a picture of a summery lunch (in progress!) for today’s “Poirot gourmet.” An omelette with sautéed mushrooms, garden chives, Danish brie, and Havarti. To drink: a shandy.

Poirot’s passion for omelettes is pretty well-documented, appearing in stories like “The Third-Floor Flat,” Lord Edgware Dies, Mrs McGinty’s Dead, and several other places. But the shandy may be a new one for you. Here’s the book reference…

‘What shall I get you?’ said Spence. ‘No fancy stuff here, I’m afraid. No blackcurrant or rose hip syrup or any of your patent things. Beer? Or shall I get Elspeth to make you a cup of tea? Or I can do you a shandy or Coca-Cola or some cocoa if you like. My sister, Elspeth, is a cocoa drinker.’

‘You are very kind. For me, I think a shandy. The ginger beer and the beer? That is right, is it not?’

Hallowe’en Party

Poirot gourmet: Crêpes and camembert

Below: Apricot-cherry crêpes, a wedge of camembert, and a lemon-camomile tisane. I used more of the apricot preserves and cherries left over after my experiments with Baba au Rhum. Served up on my best dishes!  🙂

As though in answer to prayer, the flap of the tent was lifted and Hassan appeared, bearing a steaming cup which he offered to Poirot. It proved to be camomile tea, a beverage of which he is inordinately fond.

-“The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb”

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Poirot gourmet: New Year’s edition!

Happy New Year, all! I’m signing out of 2017 with one more Poirot Gourmet entry. Embossed chocolates with a hot chocolate beverage concoction of my own invention– I’ll call it “The Rossakoff.” Recipe and more details below… 🙂

The drink consists of hot chocolate (use your favorite; bonus points for a Belgian variety like Godiva) with a shot of Smirnoff’s Fluffed Marshmallow Vodka, topped with whipped cream and a drizzle of Maison Routin Caramel Sirop.

Speaking of vodka, we have this highly-applicable quote from the alternate version of Agatha Christie’s “The Capture of Cerberus”:

Poirot asked the lady: ‘You will have an apéritif with me?’

‘Yes, yes. We will drink vodka together and be very gay.’

The idea seemed to Hercule Poirot a good one.

As for the chocolate: this is a form of “chocolate clay” (includes corn syrup; recipes abound online), the benefits of which include the possibility of embossing it. I found the most amazing moustache-and-diamond embosser online, so it invariably came home with me… 🙂


Best wishes to all as we head into 2018!!!

Poirot gourmet: Baba au Rhum

For the past several months, I’ve been posting foodie pictures of various recipes I’ve found and made that relate in some way to Poirot, tagging them “Poirot gourmet.” It seems like I might as well share them here– and I can also link to recipes and expound on the book references. 🙂

So here’s the first “Poirot gourmet” entry here at Seven Storeys High: Baba au Rhum with a side of crème de cassis.

Baba au Rhum is a kind of currant-laden brioche soaked in rum-and-sugar syrup, glazed with apricot preserves, and frequently served with whipped cream and fruit garnish. You can soak the currants in rum as well before adding them to the dough, which I did. There are many different shapes and forms the brioche base can take; I made one large loaf in my loaf pan and half a dozen smaller servings in cupcake tins. Baking this will make your house smell AMAZING, and the final product tastes even better than it looks– sweet and sophisticated all at once. (I added the crème de cassis to the scene because not only is it a favorite drink of Poirot’s, but it also happens to be heavy on the sugar, currants, and alcohol.) 🙂  You can find several recipes online for this dessert– I used one from McCall’s Cookbook, which is in this post.

Baba au Rhum can be found as a restaurant order of Poirot’s in Lord Edgware Dies.

‘We will dine first, Hastings. And until we drink our coffee, we will not discuss the case further. When engaged in eating, the brain should be the servant of the stomach.’

Poirot was as good as his word. We went to a little restaurant in Soho where he was well known, and there we had a delicious omelette, a sole, a chicken and a Baba au Rhum of which Poirot was inordinately fond.

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Four and Twenty Blackbirds: episode overview

I haven’t done an episode review for awhile now, so here’s one I’ve been mulling over in the last few days.  🙂

Things I Loved:

Making Poirot’s friend Bonnington his dentist also. Doing this scores a couple of script writing points. First, it provides some insight to Poirot’s character which is reiterated elsewhere in the series (he hates going to the dentist). Second, Poirot’s aching bicuspid makes a convenient excuse for him to meet with Bonnington a second time, so he can hear the news of Henry Gascoigne’s death; in Christie’s original, they meet again randomly on the Tube. Finally and most importantly, it makes the references to the dead man’s teeth seem natural and consistent with the rest of the story, and serves to slightly conceal the vital clue.

The contrast of the opening scene. Brighton’s frivolous outdoor revelry is sharply contrasted by the interior shot of the dying Anthony Gascoigne.

A tiny detail in the closing scene, but I thought it was great anyway– when the lads are gathered again at the restaurant at the end, you see Molly come through the shot from the back left, bearing two plates of a dessert that might conceivably be the blackberry crumble and depositing them before customers. This is an exact parallel of one of the last lines of Christie’s story, and I appreciated the touch.

Mrs Mullen, the neighbor of Henry Gascoigne, treating Poirot like he’s deaf or unable to speak English– SO funny.

-Bringing food into the rest of the story. Many of the early scripts, especially those based on the “slighter” short stories, take elements from Christie’s original and incorporate the themes into the other characters’ storylines. (For example, in The Cornish Mystery, Mrs Pengelley’s digestive troubles and diagnosed “gastritis” parallel Hastings’ stomach issues and diet.) The crux of Four and Twenty Blackbirds is one man’s eating habits which give away a crime. The script writer for this episode adds the delightful scene of Poirot cooking for Hastings, which is also a good excuse to throw in some Belgian references. The line, “Please– do not be stinting with your praise” is one of my all-time favorite moments of Poirot vanity.  🙂

Miss Lemon’s wireless program. She is listening to a radio drama featuring A.J. Raffles, “London’s Man of Mystery.” He and his sidekick Bunny were modeled from Holmes and Watson; she describes Raffles as “such a dashing figure.” You could read this as an early indication that Miss Lemon finds the whole renowned-London-detective-character attractive, and it elicits a very interesting look on Poirot’s face when he hears it. Of course, in the books, Miss Lemon wouldn’t touch detective fiction with a ten-foot pole (see: Dead Man’s Folly), but the discrepancy doesn’t trouble me. Oh, and the fictional Raffles is also a CRICKETER! Considering Hastings’ cricket mania in this episode, is this a coincidence?

-The forensics team at Scotland Yard, which would go on to send Poirot a get-well message after his bout of food poisoning in Evil Under the Sun.  😀  And Japp absolutely cracks me up in the scene at the Yard in which Poirot is trying to wheedle some information out of him. His “scrap heap of scrap” and his “I didn’t”… ha! And in the midst of the humor, and despite his skepticism of Poirot’s interest, you nonetheless get a good sense of Japp’s own intelligence here.

-Speaking of which, I need to hold forth about the denouement of this episode. This is the very first of Poirot’s many dramatic, public reveals. He (rather outrageously) brings the whole Scotland Yard forensic department onto Lorrimer’s stage. When Lorrimer tries to make a dash for it, he is blinded by stage lighting and cops appear to cover all exits. It is done in truly over-the-top theatrical style– practically music-hall, indeed– and foreshadows future denouements with a calculated theatrical setting (Problem at Sea, Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan, Lord Edgware Dies, Three Act Tragedy, The Big Four). But what stood out to me in this early “big reveal” was a reminder of one of the reasons that David Suchet manages the character of Hercule Poirot so well. It’s one thing to say that he’s a great actor and does his homework and all that– true, but the same can be said for Ustinov and Branagh, and I don’t really want their Poirots. There is a combination of characteristics that Suchet seems to have a natural facility for playing really, really well. The “foreigner” is an obvious one. But in dramatic reveals like this one, a duality in Poirot’s personality is displayed in striking fashion: on the one hand, an extremely charming and/or charismatic gentleman; on the other, a figure who is ruthless to the point of death, and deadly terrifying as a result. Several of Suchet’s very best roles of screen and stage have featured this duality of character, including Robert Maxwell, Rudi Waltz, Melmotte, and Iago. Christie wrote this contrast into her own character, and to see someone of Suchet’s experience and skill have at it is absolutely inspirational.

Things I Didn’t Love:

-Hastings himself was a bit weirded out by the vaguely voyeuristic overtones of the awkward moment in the gallery when Dulcie Lang is posing for a life class. I mean, points for character representation of Hastings, I guess. Not devastating or anything as a moment, but awkward.

-For all the fun of the denouement, there were some curious choices in the general unraveling of the crime. The biggest clue in the story were the “blackbirds”– or blackberries– that the dead man with the unstained teeth was supposed to have eaten. This discovery of Poirot’s was revealed not at the climax of the story, but in the middle. Likewise, the supposition that the last meal that Gascoigne had eaten was not dinner, but lunch, became a deduction made along the way. The dramatic denouement was really more about informing Lorrimer how much tangible evidence they had against him. Part of me wanted a bit more recap at the very end as to just why Lorrimer’s performance was “fatally flawed” (mainly, because he forgot to eat like his uncle).

Things That Confused Me:

-If you were already familiar with the story, the dynamic shifts in the TV plot may cause a little confusion generally. In the book, Anthony Gascoigne had married a rich wife and was consequently well off, while brother Henry was an “extremely bad” artist who was poor. Lorrimer had to wait until Anthony died, because the money would come to his brother, who he had to kill shortly afterward, hence the careful timing of the murder. In the episode, Anthony may or may not have been well off, but Henry was, including assets that could only be sold after his death. If Henry Gascoigne is the rich one, why does Lorrimer have to wait until after Anthony dies to kill Henry? Instead of the chain of inheritance, the focus is shifted so that the very existence of Anthony serves to provide other plot elements: another suspect for the impersonator, some background as to the brothers’ quarrel and the influence of an artist’s model, and just general red herring-ness. It seems the story almost could have been told without Anthony.

-It was something that puzzled me in the book as well– how does George Lorrimer know that Anthony Gascoigne had made no will (or in the book, no recent will at least)? Since the twin brothers had a very long-standing quarrel, it makes sense that they’d consider cutting each other out of their wills if they’d had any.

-Why does Mrs Mullen, the observant neighbor, unlock the door of Gascoigne’s house and let Poirot and Hastings in, since she’s so suspicious of them? And if she knew that Dulcie Lang was upstairs, why “break in” at all– why not just ring?

-In Poirot’s first meeting with Dulcie Lang, he surreptitiously cuts a small piece of blotting paper from the blotter on Henry Gascoigne’s desk. We don’t discover what this is all about until the stage scene, where he reveals how the deception with the smudged postmark was done. But surely there is no way Poirot could have guessed at that point that the tiny blotter smudges he first saw on Gascoigne’s desk were of any relevance to his death.

-Are we supposed to believe that Dulcie Lang’s passionate retort that she would never part with Gascoigne’s paintings at any price indicates some romantic interest? It kind of comes across that way– and the deceased was not young, just saying.

-The restaurant in the book was called the Gallant Endeavor. This was changed to the Bishop’s Chophouse in the episode, and was accordingly filmed at the oldest chophouse in England, Simpson’s Tavern. This is all well and good, since the Gallant Endeavor is supposed to be extremely British in its cuisine, shunning all things hinting of the continental, and has all the marks of a chophouse. However, I don’t really understand why the sign “Simpson’s” is clearly visible on the outside of the restaurant as it was filmed, as characters in the episode clearly refer to it as the Bishop’s Chophouse.

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Conclusion: What can I say? I do love it! In all of its inimitable, sweater-vested glory!  🙂