Category Archives: Beer and Food

Food Memories: Frutti Di Mare

6d4ee09dd982342e9b5f60e499c0e119_bigger…Just a quick plug for another guest post I’ve contributed to the excellent food site Food & – this time answering the call to try and think about meals and food with special meaning to you. It’s light on beer but, if you’re interested, the link is here. Come for the words, stay for the gorgeous illustration by Rose Jocham. There should be more illustrations in these sorts of things, don’t you think?

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Chicken & Rice Stew

IMG_1363Despite the days stretching out, there’s still plenty of bite in the air to force your hand to stews and broths in the kitchen at this time of year. We all know what cracking bedfellows stews and beers are, but we normally lean toward Beef, Lamb and Dark ales. Chicken Stew is also a good match for golden ales, as long as you stay on the sweeter side. So here’s my recipe for a super-simple one-pot Chicken & Rice Stew. This recipe serves four, or two for two days.

In a large stock pot, slowly sweat one whole Leek and four peeled and diced Carrots. When the carrots are soft, add two pints of chicken stock, and four chicken thighs (with legs). Let these simmer for about 25 minutes, then remove the thighs and legs. Once these have cooled, pull (with your fingers, there’s no other way around it!) all the meat off, and return to the broth. The skin won’t really be worth eating, but if you want to add it in, then do.

Pour in 200g of Rice – use the type you’d use for Paella; Arborio or Bomba, if you can get it – they’ll fluff up and thicken the broth. Now, all you need to is season the broth with a little Salt, one crushed Garlic clove, white Pepper, fresh, chopped Thyme and Rosemary. Stir, then leave to simmer on a low heat for another 30 minutes.

074 (2)That, basically, is that – I told you it was easy. By not making the stock, you’re shaving a load of simmering time off it;  I’ve done both and to be honest, not been that aware of the difference.

Like I mention above, sweet Golden ales go well with these thick, savoury broths.I enjoyed Coniston’s Bluebird XB (4.2% abv) with the broth this time; it’s toffee-sweet in the body; just teetering on the edge of too sweet, rescued by a crisp bite and robust kick of flavour that’s worthy of the landscape from whence it came. Tempered with this easy-going broth, there’s plenty to be happy about, even if the weather outside is still frightful.

Haggis Meatballs with Sweet Potato

IMG_1343Ok, here’s a Burns Night recipe inspired by the ‘new-twist-on-an-old-classic’ I enjoyed at the EBBC in Edinburgh last year. Instead of going for the full Haggis works, I’ve used it to create meatballs; you get a slightly meatier flavour, and they cook a little faster too. This recipe is made for two, but just adjust the amounts of both the sweet potato and meatballs as you see fit.

Start by making your meatballs. Open 6 Beef Sausages (Beef seems to work a little better than pork, as well as feeling a little more Scottish) and put the meat in a bowl, along with half a Haggis (uncooked). Season with a little chopped Thyme, and a small onion, chopped finely. Mix well (with hands!) and then form meatballs. Place on a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper – tinfoil seems to stick too much to the balls. Leave to firm up in the fridge.

Heat your oven to 200c, and peel couple of large Sweet Potatoes and a couple of Carrots. Cube them and place into a baking dish. Drizzle with a little Olive Oil and some Salt, and then roast until soft – should be about 30 minutes. After 10 minutes, put in your meatballs. Oven-roasted, these should take about 20-25 minutes to cook.

When the veggies are soft and slightly caramelised, remove from the oven and mash. Keep warm, and make a hot/sweet sauce buy gently warming some Double Cream (about 100ml) with a knob of Butter, and stirring in a teaspoon of Mustard and a generous dollop of Honey. Sounds strange, but the smooth/sweet/spicy combination works really well with the sweet mash and peppery meat.

IMG_1289Arrange on a plate and enjoy – with a beer, of course. Dubbel, Stout or Porter would be good here; or even full-bodied Best Bitters or, of course, Scotch Ales. You don’t want anything too hoppy near this dish at all; just enough to lift the edges off the cream and cut through the sweetness. Siren Craft Brew’s  Liquid Mistress (5.8% abv) was the beer I opted for; plenty of sweetness and red-fruit in the body, laid on top of plenty of biscuity malt. You’d expect it to be a hop-bomb but it really isn’t; this lady just purrs with enough freshness at the finish to cut through the sweetness of the food.

If you’re not familiar with Siren’s range, I’d rectify that immediately; especially if you can pick some up in London, where I’ve found the bottles particularly to be in good nick. Broken Dream (6%) is a self-styled Breakfast Stout which drinks very well indeed; plenty of juicy raisin and smooth chocolate in the body, married with a fresh, coffee-accented finish. Soundwave IPA (5.6%) does what it says on the tin; that now-standard boiled-sweet, full-flavored body with plenty of tropical fruit notes going on in the nose and in the long, pithy finish.

Cheese & Potato Pie with Gadd’s Dogbolter

IMG_1338The humble cheese pie; often overlooked for more sustaining, edgy ‘meat’ varieties, gets a bad rap. It’s always the bridesmaid or – worse still – shoved onto menus as an afterthought, the trad ‘vegetarian’ option; dull, mealy, and filled with ‘cheese product’ rather than the real thing. Make no mistake – the limp Cheese pie has been dealt a poor hand in life.

At IMBC last year (yeah, it was last year, crazy, huh?), my notes contained as much rhapsodising about Great North Pie Co’s Cheese and Onion Pie as the beer that washed it down. The pastry light and crumbly, the cheese filling silken and perfectly poised, it was an anthem of a pie. And it’s been in my mind ever since.

So, Christmas extravagances out of the way, I spent a relaxing hour making my own cheese pie last weekend. Nowhere near as lithe and graceful and Great North Pie’s, it was, nontheless a robust, hearty meal that brings a smile to your lips and, when paired with a great beer, one half of a very, very accomplished duo.

This recipe makes a medium-sized pie for two; if you’re doing a ‘plate pie’ it’s probably about right for a standard-sized plate, too. Firstly, you’ll need to make your filling. In a large mixing bowl, drop cubed cheese – about 120g in total. You can use whatever cheese you want, but I like to blend a couple (think of it like  using aroma & bittering hops, a base note and a top note. Really). I used a toothsome Welsh Cheddar (40g) and a softer, subtler Wensleydale (80g).

Peel 2 medium-sized potatoes, then slice them thinly using a mandolin or grater – watch those fingers. Put the potato to one side, and chop the white part of one small Leek into thin rings. Add the Leek to the cheese, then spoon on 100ml of Creme Fraiche. Season well with white pepper and a pinch of salt.

Grease and line your pie tin with some pastry, leaving it hanging over the edge. layer the Potatoes in the bottom, then add some cheese mix, then layer some more potatoes on top of that. Keep layering the cheese mix and potatoes until you get to the top, then place your lid on top, crimp, and glaze with a beaten egg.

Place in a pre-heated over at 175c for about 40 minutes, watching it carefully. Test for doneness with a skewer – it should go right through cleanly. Leave to cool a little, and you’re done.

IMG_1287My own preference with cheese is almost always dark beers, although a juicy, cold IPA would have been interesting too. But on this occasion I plumped for a bottle of Gadd’s Dogbolter. This 5.8% abv Porter is a bit of an icon – the beer that Eddie Gadd witnessed the birth of; the beer  that’s the cornerstone of the Firkin Brewpub empire. It’s still – in my opinion – criminally underrated, passed over for younger pups that don’t have a tenth of the depth of this beer. When in perfect condition – as this bottle was – this rough diamond’s aroma not only carries dusty, powdered chocolate and red berry, but a yeasty, earthy note that gives some hint to the complexity of flavour waiting for you.

Sweet chocolate, smooth, roasted grain which gives toasted bread and fresh coffee, and a surprisingly green, well-hopped finish, it hits all the right notes (and yes, in the right order) to make this beer a perfect match for Cheese and Charcuterie or, in this case, a Cheese pie.

Oakham Scarlet Macaw and Fish Tacos

IMG_0447Drinking Oakham’s Scarlet Macaw is like living in technicolour at the moment; the cliche would be that section in The Wizard of Oz when the candystore tones of Oz reveal themselves to Dorothy and Toto, banishing her previous monochrome life to memory. At the moment the leaves are crisping, jumpers are getting pulled over fuzzy heads in the gloomy mornings, and breaks of blue in the sky evoke mild excitement. A beer that evokes another season by simply opening the bottle deserves to be talked about.

Not that I’m complaining; despite being born in the Summer,  Autumn’s my favourite time of year. I don’t mind the need to huddle around warmth on an evening, I like belly-busting food and rib-sticking desserts; I don’t mind watching the tone of my beer stash rturn from gold and straw to black and brown. But when the riot of colour and flavour that is Oakham’s Scarlet Macaw presented itself, the change was almost immediate; what a slap of colour, what a reminder of a hot, sticky summer.

The gang from Peterbrough won’t be put down;  they just keep churning out accessible beers with super flavour for their strength, and Scarlet Macaw (4.8% abv) is no exception. Golden with a hint of caramel, there’s tonnes of ripe stone fruit on the nose, a hefty spoonful of pineapple chunk and an assertive yet….well, juicy finish. It’s delicious in every sense of the word; sweet enough to remain balanced yet not tooth-jarringly so. The label says it’s a sharp as a macaw’s screech, but to my mind it’s more a blast of a trumpet at a carnival; a one-note shrill in your ear rising above the tribal drums and kaleidoscopic costumes.

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With that in mind, I whipped up some Fish Tacos to enjoy alongside, as you do. It’s simple really; a hunk of good, firm fish (I used Coley but Monkfish is good and quite popular now) drenched in batter spiked with flecks of chopped red chilli and deep-fried. And yes, I realise I haven’t added beer to the batter but a) I didn’t have anything quite to suit and b) less is more sometimes.

Serve with a mayo mixed with Tabasco sauce and a little tomato puree, some sweet Jalepenos, all wrap it all up in a soft tortilla. A salad of chopped avocado, lime and tomato will do nicely, too. And although it’s not really in line with the dish, a couple of dollops of Mango chutney would really bring some sweet fruit to the party (Calypso?) to dovetail with the beer.

A Walk Through The Herb Garden, Bottle in Hand

IMG_0824Since being captivated by Wild & Fyne’s Cool as a Cucumber beer a little while back, I’ve been rolling the concept of herbs, spices and such in beer around in my head like a lone jar of Garlic Salt in an empty pantry. Surely it’s a great way to get beer into the kitchen – if that’s your thing – but many fall flat on their face. Wild Beer Co have almost made this their niche in the short time that they’ve existed, taking the brave step of eschewing the easy route and brewing a genuinely interesting bottled range.

But brewing with herbs and spices isn’t new – just seemingly relegated to the ‘seasonal special’ section of a breweries’ roster and mostly ending up in the ‘discount’ bin. Beers that seem to recall herbs – through the wonder of yeast, hops and malt – seem to convey those flavours better than beers that would actually contain them, like a cuckoo’s egg in a nest.

There’s probably even a strata of drinkers who avoid these sorts of beers full stop, huffing and puffing with indignation as the latest brewery announces their Juniper-spiced Pale Stout. Is there a need for them? Of course there is; it’s another facet of the wonder of beer and if it piques the interest of someone who wouldn’t normally try beer, then it’s a home run.

In an effort to see what’s out there, I’ve spent the last few weeks gently keeping an eye out for more mainstream beers with added spice or herbs, discounting the more popular flavours, such as Ginger, Honey, Coffee and (surprisingly), Chillies.

It really was a mixed bag (or perhaps spice rack).

Sharp’s Cornish Pilsner (5.2%abv) was first out of the cellar; swanning around all regal, classy and deft of touch – a dry, flinty pils with a muscular abv that’s just won a major award. Poured into a tall glass it fair induced a thirst; I’ve enjoyed it before, but this version was spiked with Thyme grown at the excellent Eden Project. As expected, the beer was spot on, those grassy Saaz hops providing a stone-fruit and cut-grass flavour alongside a similar nose – but I just couldn’t taste any thyme. I had some fresh Thyme in the garden and considered a swirl…but I didn’t want to spoil the great Pilsner, to be honest. Still, buy the beer; it’s great.

photoHackney’s Pressure Drop Brewing comes screaming to the fore next, with Wu Gang Chops The Tree, a 3.8% Hefewiezen ‘with foraged herbs.’ The label doesn’t say what herbs, and I didn’t check them out so as not to degrade the guessing game – but again, I was faced with a decent beer but no discernable herb flavour or aroma. Well, not exactly. Plenty of lemon rind and a vague mintiness (the kind that Sorachi Ace hops can impart) lurked in a solid – and deceptively delicate – Hefeweizen.

Onto a beer that’s popped up in the Sainsbury’s Great British Beer Hunt, which is currently in its last stages of competition. Batemans Black Pepper Ale (5.1% abv) comes with a ridiculous little pepper sachet to ‘sprinkle on’ the head, which needless to say didn’t happen. However , I was surprised at the taste of the beer; it did taste of pepper. The ruby-hued beer is perfect for this time of year; Autumn in a glass. There’s a firm, nutty coffee-inflected body, and yes, a real smack of Black Pepper in both the aroma (which is redolent of Gingerbread) and taste. I must admit, I didn’t like it at first; but actually warmed to it as I drank. True, I couldn’t drink a lot of it, but in terms of this experiment, it passed. It tasted and smelled of black pepper; I enjoyed this with a Steak Pie and needless to say, it played along nicely.

But something niggled; although the brewers have successfully transferred the taste and aroma of Pepper into the beer, I can’t help but think they’ve chosen the wrong style; it’s too strong a seasoning to put into a session-strength, autumnal ale. The pepper would have worked well in a Dubbel-style beer, or even a Stout or Porter. I guess I could always try Goose Island’s Pepe Nero, but that fell short of the mark for me, too.

DSCF4181Marble & Emelisse’s Earl Grey IPA (6.8% abv) has its fans, too – and it’s easy to see why. It’s a big, big beer, with a rich, honeycomb toffee nose which carries through to the body of the beer, but just when you’re processing that thick, tongue-coating sweetness, a huge wave of bitterness crashes in and cleans everything up. Again, in terms of Earl Grey notes there’s not much that I can’t get in a regular IPA, apart from an oily at first, then drying, fuzzy-tongued finish that *could* be from the tannins – or *could* be from the hops. Still, it’s a satisfying spiky IPA. If you’re a committed hophead and haven’t tried this yet, then seek it out.

Carrying on the tea theme is Camden’s Gentleman’s Wit (4.3%), a Witbier the colour of lemon curd and tasting not dissimilar, either. I remember speaking to Mark Dredge at the northern launch of Camden Ink about this beer in particular; Camden were looking for ‘something different’ to inject a bit of fun into their wheat beer and had landed on the Lemon/Bergamot combination as one that suited. It does suit; the lemon coming to the fore and – if possible – making a light, crisp Wit seem even lighter.

photoIt’s a lovely little beer – perhaps a little too clean at the end of the sip – and although I think ‘ I do taste Bergamot’, there’s a lot of Bergamot notes (citrus, green leaves) in the beer anyway. Can I pick it out? No, but it’s an easy win for Camden in terms of pairing flavours and, yes, I think the average drinker would happily concede that.

So yes, overall, a hit-and-miss event in the case of actually transferring the essence of the herb to the beer. I’m sure that, much like hops, it’s down to the age of the beer, the bottling, the condition as to how much of the herb you get in your glass at the end of the day. Which begs the question; if you can’t guarantee that, why do it? Brewers – is brewing with such fine and delicate herbs a major headache? Does the alcohol obliterate the flavour, thus opening up Low-ABV beers as the way forward?

I don’t feel done with this question yet…

Seared Tuna & Olives with Rooster’s Accomplice

016 (3)If you want to hang onto the last hurrah of Summer, then this is the mid-week dinner for you. It also uses a general tomato & Olive sauce that I use on fish all the time – and is good for Chicken, too. It takes all of ten minutes to knock up, and gives your food a southern French sort of feel.

I don’t actually eat that much fresh Tuna – I find it a little dull and to be honest, there’s much more interesting fish out there, especially if you use a fishmonger rather than a supermarket to buy from. However, it’s readily available and is a good choice for those who don’t like fish. The thickness and steak-esque flavours it has lets it stand up to the more muscular flavours from the Olives, Garlic and the beer I’ve chosen.

So; sauce first. Chop a handful of Olives in half, and do the same with some small tomatoes. I used the tail-end of my own crop from the summer, but you can get loads of cherry varieties out there these days. For some reason, this works much better with small tomatoes rather than chopped large ones – i think it’s the sweetness. Anyway, gently warm some Olive Oil in a pan, and drop a small dollop of Tomato Puree. If you have tomato pesto to hand, you could use that, too. You only need a small amount, just enough to colour and flavour the oil.

Gently simmer your tomatoes and olives in this oil for about 10 minutes until the tomatoes begin to break down. Add one small crushed clove of Garlic.  All the juices will start to mingle and create their own sauce; all you need to then is season with a good pinch of salt, a little pinch of sugar, and a little chopped Basil. A little caramelisation on the Tomatoes isn’t a bad thing, either.

Leave to simmer whilst you cook your Tuna – not too long, or the fish will dry out. For a decent (medium) sized steak, about 4/5 minutes each side. Just enough to cook through.

Plate up, give your fish a squeeze of lemon and a little salt, and you’re good. Eat immediately, with some crusty bread. The sauce is punchy, so don’t smother the fish in it – it’s just an accompaniment.

DSCF4376Spookily, in terms of beer, I opted for a fresh bottle of Rooster’s Accomplice (6% abv) to enjoy with this. Pouring a rich shade of amber , it’s a trademark Rooster’s IPA; nutty, bready malt body with hints of sweet gingerbread spice, a nose packed with marmalade and pine, and a clean, restrained bitter finish. Incredibly elegant, it was originally brewed with Tom Odell last year, but made a comeback this summer. And so it should; it’s a cracking beer, and one that dovetails nicely with the strong flavours in the sauce.

If, like me, you’re figuring out how to use the last of those tomatoes (and fresh herbs) that have done so well during this arid summer, here’s another simple idea that tastes amazing. Not so much Sun-dried, but oven-dried Tomatoes. All you need to do is take your tomatoes – however many you have – and lay them on a baking tray, cut in two. Sprinkle liberally with salt, and pop into an oven on 100C for around five hours. If you have fresh herbs – I used Sage and Rosemary -lay those on top during the last hour.

Oven-Dried TomatoThe time is estimated – it depends entirely on the size of the toms. What you want is a result where they a deflated, dried but not burned. Give them a prod and if they have ‘toughened up’, you’ll know they are done. Sterilise a Kilner Jar, then put your tomatoes in. Leave to cool, then cover with Oil, a smashed clove of Garlic, and another couple of sprigs of fresh (bruised) herbs – any you want.

Leave for 24 hours in the fridge, then enjoy with Pasta, Cheeseboards, Pizza or however you want. Couldn’t be easier. They last about a week.

Scotch Eggs: Two Recipes

Chorizo Egg with Tabasco Mayo

Chorizo Egg with Tabasco Mayo

One of the earliest memories of being in a pub concerned Scotch Eggs. I was young, probably about ten (so this would be about 1990), and my grandmother was taking me to the Leeds Dental Hospital for some work. My teeth were terrible in those days. Anyway, afterwards, we went for lunch in Whitelocks and my Grandmother plumped for a Scotch Egg.  So far, so idyllic – but what remained in my mind was that it was freshly-cooked – and warm. There was tomato sauce. And a little salad. God knows what I had – probably Fish Fingers and pop or something, but that Scotch Egg lodged itself in my mind as the king of all pub snacks. I had never seen anything like it. The eggs in my granddad’s Butcher’s shop were like little golden pool-balls, sitting in rows in white cardboard boxes. They were a little strange and tasted…well, flabby. 

Fast forward twenty-odd years and the little egg that could has made an undoubted comeback. Not only is it being served in any self-respecting Gastropub, there are boutique Scotch-Egg makers supplying pubs up and down the country with high-end eggs wrapped in sausage. Or maybe Black Pudding. Or perhaps Braised Pig’s Cheek or even Chickpeas. Because it’s the chameleon-esque nature of it that makes it appeal; whatever flavour you desire, you can probably get, within reason. Pie and Sausages enjoy the same sense of no boundaries.

Anyway, it occurred to me a few months ago that I had never made them. I had read this article by Melissa Cole ages ago, and it remained lodged in my ‘read-later’ file for ages. I mean, how much fun does that look? Anyway, I pay homage to that today and publish the two recipes that we enjoyed at the start of the summer. Scotch Eggs aren’t that easy to make – there’s a certain knack, for sure – but once you pull a perfectly golden, sizzling ball of meat out of the fryer, split it, and get that perfectly oozy egg yolk, you’re the king of the world.

Here’s the base  recipe, then. I’ve used Melissa’s base recipe and method, and it worked a treat. First up, Chorizo Scotch Eggs. I tried to approximate the flavour of Chorizo by spicing up my pork mix, and it worked pretty well. Of course, you can just buy flavoured Sausage – but where’s the fun in that?

Firstly, chop one small Onion and lightly fry it oil, along with three cloves of chopped Garlic. Don’t let the Garlic burn, as it turns bitter. Once done, leave to cool.

Take 8 Plain Pork Sausages out of their skins and put in a bowl, then season with a twist of White Pepper, two splashes of Original Tabasco Sauce, A dollop of Honey, a handful of chopped, fresh parsley, and a heaped tablespoon of smoked Paprika. Finally, add a teaspoon of Chilli Powder. Mix well (a plastic-gloved hand is best) and don’t forget to use good-quality sausage.

Smoked Bacon & Cheese Egg, Mustard Mayo

Smoked Bacon & Cheese Egg, Mustard Mayo

Once mixed, cover with clingfilm and leave for the flavour to settle into the meat – in the fridge, for about twenty minutes.

Meanwhile, take four eggs and place in boiling water for five minutes. Remove from the water, and plunge into a bowl of cold water. Refresh the cold water a couple of times as it warms up. Whilst this is happening, beat two Eggs into a bowl, and sit next to a plate of Plain Flour, and a plate of Breadcrumbs. Make your own, by all means, but I’m a sucker for the ready-made kind. My natural breadcrumbs don’t ever achieve the same crunch. Do as you wish!

Put your oil on to heat – you want to get it to about 170-180 degrees and I used Olivio. Be careful around hot oil, as always.

Now to make the Scotch Eggs. On previous attempts I struggled with this – until I read Melissa’s trick; grease a sheet of cling film, and use it to ‘roll’ the egg.  Place a patty of your meat on the sheet, place your ‘peeled’ egg in the middle, and using the sheet, roll it around the egg. Don’t put too thick a Sausage rind on the egg – it won’t cook through.

Roll your egg in the flour, then dip in the egg, then flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs. This is how I do it – if you have a preferred breading method, then use that.

Chill your eggs (aim for four) in the fridge for another 15 minutes to firm up. In the meantime, heat your oil to around 170-180 degrees. I used Olivio. Fry for about 7-9 minutes, keeping an eye on the colour, and  then drain on Kitchen Roll. When you’re happy to touch them, you’re all set. Serve with Salad, a few chips, some cheese – whatever you want. It’s your Egg. Personally, I like a massive dollop of brightly yellow English Mustard – enough to make your nose throb! For harmony, though, I mixed Tabasco with Paprika into Mayo to make a piquant little sauce.

SoleI enjoyed my Chorizo Egg with a bottle of Adnam’s Sole Star; a real gem for a low – alcohol beer (it weighs in at 2.8% abv), the light feel of it didn’t battle the creamy egg and strongly-spiced meat, and it’s caramel heart gave up enough sweetness to make it a very  satsifying combo. In fact, I’d say the egg gave the beer more oomph.

Another variation that I made was the Smoked Bacon and Cheese Egg; same method as above, but begin by gently frying some chopped, smoked Bacon, and leaving to cool after draining. Chop about 15 pickled Silverskin Onions into little prices, and add them to the pork. When the bacon is cool, add that, along with a twist of Black Pepper and about 150g of sharp Cheddar. Finally, squeeze a swirl of Maple Syrup over it – not too much. Mix well, and away you go – like a little Ploughman’s in each bite.

For that, I’d recommend a no-nonsense Bitter such as Marble’s Manchester Bitter or Hobson’s Town Crier – although, for comparison, I would also like to try something a little snappier such as Dark Star’s Sunburst or Gadd’s No 3, too – something to stand up to those onions!

Overall, I was pleased; certainly with the flavours, and my only criticism would be that the meat pulled away a little from the breadcrumbs. But all sliced up, ready to eat and a pint of beer on the side, it made for a satisfying lunch that took me right back to one of my earliest food memories.

Blueberry Pancakes with Wickwar’s Station Porter

IMG_0674A few weeks ago I grabbed a punnet of Blueberries-  the last of the season, I’d suspect – and the Americophile in me immediately thought of Blueberry Pancakes. Easy to make and super-filling, they are delicious and are great to enjoy with a Stout or Porter. There’s loads of recipes out there, but here’s mine.  The recipe is actually a ‘Scotch Pancake’ one that I’ve always used, so I doubt it’s authentically American – but it’s delicious nonetheless.

You will need to make a thick batter with 175g of Self-Raising Flour, 45g of Caster Sugar, and a Teaspoon of Baking Powder. Sift into a bowl, then make a well in the middle and add one egg – the largest one you can get. Beat in about 100ml of Whole Milk, then beat in another 100ml until it reaches a creamy, yet thick, consistency. Finally, add a ‘crapload’ (offical terminology) of Blueberries. However many you want, you drop in.

Heat a small pan and warm a knob of Butter. When foaming, drop a large ladle of the mixture in, and let it settle out. Remember, you want it thick . I find cooking it on a high heat to ‘seal it’, then turning it down slightly to cook one side through before flipping it works best. Flip (with spatulas!!) and cook the other side. It’ll take about a minute and half/two minutes each side.

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Demolish warm, with a dusting of Caster Sugar, or a dollop of Vanilla Ice-Cream. I enjoyed my last one with a pint of Wickwar’s excellent Station Porter (6%abv). A multiple award-winner, it’s a Porter I’ve enjoyed a lot of over the years in both bottle and the odd occasion on cask. There’s a lot more going on in it than you’d expect – and by that I mean it’s full of flavour. Sweet at first, it pops up with plenty of blackberry and plum, before drying right out on a wave of milky coffee and vanilla. There’s the slightest hint of oak at the end adding a little more complexity, but the sweetness of the Pancake rounds everything out nicely.

Summer flavours meets Autumnal beer? Yes, I think so. It’s that time of year. As I mentioned, Blueberries are gone now, so feel free to substitute for Blackberries, which are bursting into life on bramble bushes everywhere right now. 

Highlighting #My5

I’m a fan of Twitter. Really, I am. If you use it right it can be incredibly useful for connecting with the like-minded.  I’d hasten to guess that everyone I follow has at least had Twitter come to some kind of use for them in the last 6 months.

Late last week, an unassuming hashtag suggestion popped up from the keyboard of Ben Hodgkinson, who works for James Clay and is not only is an all-round good egg,one of those beer-sellers who actually likes the stuff. Anyway, here’s what he said:

Ben Hodgkinson ‏@CptCheerful22h

Lots of bars/restaurants only have a small range of beers. If you could only stock 5 beers, what do you pick? RT & use #My5

It’s one of those questions that you ask your mates when you’re halfway through a round of beers on a lazy Sunday lunch, isn’t it? A hint of The Session, a dash of Desert Island Discs. I’m not one normally to follow hashtags, but this piqued my interest. I fired off my response, and logged out.

Then logged in again. And again. And again. And…you get the picture.

It was genuinely interesting to see people’s different responses – the only hashtag in recent months I’ve actually followed.  And what was the general response? Not as varied as you’d think, actually; but that’s the microcosm of Twitter working there. Perhaps the question would be better asked outside of Ben’s beer-oriented followers.

Orval_1Orval has a slavish, cult-like following. It popped up on the majority of people’s suggestions (including mine) and that’s a good thing. Orval, in my opinion (and it’s my blog, so that’s what you’ll get), owes this to it’s sheer accessibilty. Plonked on more restaurant’s drinks lists – and promoted correctly – it would do well. There was a lot of IPA; which again would probably do well too as IPA, as a style, is the catalyst of a lot of the new interest in Craft Beer. 

Ben was carrying out a little research for a project, and I’d like to applaud him for asking the question. The key to getting diners to choose beer over wine isn’t down to choice, however. If you ask me, it’s how the beer is presented, sold and discussed with the diner. If the staff don’t push it, talk about it, pair it, or sell it, ‘The Beer List’ will remain a curio in Restuarants;  forever the poor relation of Wine.

My five? I’ve gone for balance, a typically ‘something for everyone’ approach, as that’s what I’d like to see when I open a menu. Hawksheads’s Windermere Pale, Orval, Bristol Ultimate Stout, SN Torpedo, Cantillon. 

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