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.
Spookily, 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.
The 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.
Duck: a bird I love, yet find incredibly difficult to cook. I can’t count the amount of Ducks I’ve roasted, only to find that instead of crispy skin and succulent, moreish meat within, i’ve ended up with dry, tasteless fowl. I don’t buy whole ducks anymore. They scare me.
Meanwhile, I have been able to nail fool-proof (and the above statement should qualify me as a duck-fool) breasts, and when put with a beer with high fruitiness such as Madame Rose, it becomes a bit of a wonder. Basically, it’s about heat.
Take your breasts and score heavily on the skin side. Rub with Salt, and a little five-spice powder (which normally contains Star Anise, Cloves, Cinnamon, Pepper and Fennel) and get a heavy frying pan hot. Very hot. Don’t put any oil in, and when you’re happy with the heat, lay the breasts in, skin side down.
Now, keep an eye on them. The amount of fat that comes off them is staggering. After 90 seconds or so, drain the fat out of the pan (careful!) and return the breasts. Do this a couple of times until there’s a minimum of fat. Turn the breast once, and colour the flesh side. Your skin should be nice and brown, crispy yet succulent underneath. When the breast is firm to the touch, and to your liking, take them out and rest them. All in all, you’re looking at about 6-7 minutes cooking time for a medium-sized breast.
Whilst they are resting (and it’s massively important you do rest them; don’t even think about skipping that part), make a little pouring liquor by gently heating dark soy sauce, a little Madame Rose, a pinch of brown sugar, one minced Garlic clove and little rice-wine vinegar. Lob a fresh Star Anise in there, and when the liquor has thickened ever-so-slightly, you’re done.
Slice the duck, pour on the sauce, pour your beer, and serve with noodles or rice, accompanied with a little chopped Coriander and Spring Onion. The meat should be crispy-skinned and seductively pink in the middle, the sauce sweet and savoury.
Beer-wise, Madame Rose (7.1%abv) isn’t massively complex on its own; plenty of acid, a hint of funk, and an underlying cherry note that’s more akin to cherry-skin than juice – bitter and crisp. Pair it with the sweet, smoky flavours in the duck and sauce here, though, and that magic thing happens where all of a sudden everything becomes tastier; cutting through the richness and pairing perfectly.
If you don’t want to be perhaps as obvious as the duck-and-cherry combo, I would probably experiment with a robust IPA from the likes of The Kernel or Magic Rock – or even one of Wild Beer Co’s bitter and woody Saisons.
I eat Paella a lot. Once a month, at least. Despite sounding fearsome, it’s such an easy meal to make and it’s our default for a hearty weekend meal when we can’t quite be bothered to spend time in the kitchen. As a dish, it’s pretty much perfect; cooked in one dish, to be eaten communally with a big serving spoon and warmed dishes and ridiculously adapatable – you want Chicken and Chorizo? OK. Rabbit and plump, black Olives? Sure. Green Beans, Tomatoes and Pepper. You got it. Adjust to taste, and enjoy.
There’s leftovers, of course. There always is these days; thoughts turning to how many meals can I get out of this borne out of not only frugality but of the wish not to eat well the day after, too. Arancini is the perfect way to transform Paella and Risotto into another cheeky little snack. This leftover imposter isn’t true Arancini; but it’s perfect finger food to enjoy with a beer.
All you need do is take your leftover Paella (in this case, seafood – Prawn, Mussels and Chorizo), and chill overnight in a sealed tub or jar. When ready, chop any larger parts of meat or fish smaller, and grate lots of cheese into it – I had some Manchego left over and that was perfect . Roll the rice into balls, and then roll in seasoned flour, beaten egg, and breadcrumbs.
Drop into hot oil and watch them. As soon as they turn a darker shade of brown, they are done. Keep an eye on them – they cook quickly. Drain well on kitchen paper, and eat as soon as you can with another sprinkling of salt, some lemon, and a dipping sauce of Mayonnaise blended with smoked Paprika, a minced Garlic clove, and a splash of Tabasco.
Beer-wise, you want something crisp and cool, something to cleanse the palate and refresh after the oil, salt ,and cheese. Hop Studios Pilsner – see previous post for full tasting notes – is perfect. Cool, long, chilled and way, way too easy to drink. Eat with hands immediately and look forward to Spring.
Well, it’s that time of year. Oktoberfest, the wedding-party-cum jaded beer festival that you can choose to celebrate in a number of ways. You can actually go (although I’ve been told this is not really recommended these days), design a new football shirt specifically to cynically rip off tourists and your dumb fans or just go a little German for the week and get going in the kitchen with some Oktoberfest-inspired, stomach-lining grub to soak up all that beer. Which is what we did last week.
So – first up, Pretzels.
Well, they turned out a little thicker than I anticipated, but the dough was dense as a pretzel should be and they tasted excellent; moist, salty and incredibly moreish. Here’s what you do: take 300g of Plain Flour, and sift it into a bowl with a pinch of salt. Warm 200g of Milk in the microwave – about a minute should be fine – and to that, add a packet of dried, active yeast, and a dollop of Honey.
Yes, I know Honey isn’t particularly authentic, but that yeast needs a little sweetness and sugar’s a bit dull isn’t it? Give the milk, yeast and honey a stir and let that bubble up. When frothy, add to the flour, mix, and when you get a dough, give it a bit of a roll until you get a pliable ball. Pop back in the bowl, cover and leave somewhere warm for an hour. Go have a beer.
When you return, the dough will have risen so you can then knock it back, and knead well – you want a satiny, silky feel to the dough. Roll out into tubes, about 30 cm long, and then twist into the pretzel shape. Heat your oven to 175c, and – here’s the part that you really don’t want to miss out of the process: bring a pan of water to the boil, and drop your pretzels into it for a minute or so before putting on your baking tray. Boiling them gives you that nice glaze on the outside, whilst keeping the insides moist. If you use eggwash, you’ll get a hard, french-bread type exterior; which is fine if you want that but I personally prefer chewiness.
Boil all your Pretzels, sprinkle with Salt (or whatever you want, really. Caraway seeds seem popular in some parts) and place on a greased tray to bake. Keep an eye on them, and they’ll take about 10- 15 minutes to bake.
We enjoyed ours with some Sausage, Ham and Mustard, and lots of cold, cold Augustiner Brau Edelstoff (5.6%abv), which had tonnes of sweetness and a lovely, soft mouthfeel that ensured it disappeared quickly down our throats and complimented the simple sweetness and smoke of the meat and bread perfectly.
…If there’s one thing that we proved empirically at the Beer & Cheese night at Beer Ritz a few weeks back, it’s that rich, deep stouts and sharp, salty blue cheese are one of the best food and beer experiences out there. Talk about complimentary. My favourite duo? Perhaps…for this week!
Anyway, add Beef (in this case, a little steak) to the equation and you’ve got a cracker. Here’s a really simple sauce you can make that combines all those flavours. If you like Cauliflower Cheese with Beef, give this a go next time. There’s strong flavour going on, but if that’s your thing then you’ll love this.
Chop one large Leek, and saute it gently in butter. Whilst that’s going, make a simple bechamel sauce by adding flour to melted butter to create a roux, then milk slowly to that, whisking all the time. You don’t need a lot, just enough for a small side-dish.
Chop your Blue Cheese of choice (I used Blacksticks Blue in this) and add that to the sauce. Take your Leeks and add them to the sauce, along with a knife-tip of Wholegrain Mustard. Tip the sauce into a dish, top with more cheese and a grind of black pepper, and grill under a moderate heat until bubbling.
Whilst that is happening, fry your steak, adding salt once done, and get your stout poured. I opted for something a little special – Harviestoun’s Ola Dubh 12. Picked purely because it’s one of my favourites, it’s just got so much going on; almost raisin-esque sweetness in the body, a wonderful balance between fruit and smoke, and a ripple of dry, almost chocolate powder notes running through it. It’s a sublime beer, and once that is always worth picking up.
Serve it with a good steak, however, and you’ve got some wonderful things going on; the beer almost becomes sweeter as the sharp, salty cheese and rich meat takes over the palate. Also, if you’ve got any left over, you can spread it on brown toast and enjoy a bit of a posh toast-topper. Hurrah!
…Just a quick spot of self-promotion; given the success of the Sweet Treats night we held earlier in the year, those lovely chaps and chapesses at Beer-Ritz have once again decided to fling open their floor to a little Beer and Cheese party. Come by, drop in, have a little chomp and a little slurp. Have a chat to the staff about anything beer.
Simple as that. It’s free. There’s lots more of these nights to come, including some special guests in the summer and beyond.
I mean, it’s a no-brainer – right? See you there! 1st of May!
Breakfast. Being honest, not something I eat a lot of. I generally don’t get hungry until I’ve been up an hour or so, and by that time I’m normally on the way to work. On holiday, or when not at work, however, I do try and get something special on the go for ‘Brunch’.
There’s something inherently decadent about most things you would cook for Brunch – noticed that? A personal favourite is Scrambled Eggs on a toasted Bagel, made with cream and butter, stirred through until just-so and then topped with layers of sweet, smoky Salmon. Simple, fortifying and probably incredibly bad for you. Toast. Butter. Black Pudding. Bacon-Bacon. Sausage. All these things are not the cardiologist’s friend. It’s never really going to be health-food. Nope, Brunch is all about fat. Which normally equals, as we all know, flavour.
My tastebuds, however, flick two fingers up at my waistline and heart when Brunch is on the go. So it’s a return to familiar, comforting flavours this lunchtime. A tubby, rotund Cep-like Mushroom, sliced thickly and sauteed in butter; with only the merest lick of Olive Oil to stop burning. Wedges of The Blue Pig’s Black Pudding, now officially my brand of choice. The nuggets of pig-fat that stud it are just meaty, chewy Haribo-pork goodness, and when sauteed in the same pan you get crispy, crunchy exterior – and moist, delicately – spiced interior.
Stack them on top of warmed Ciabatta – or Toast – and you’ve got a massive, massive flavour-bomb of a lunch. (We’ve eaten late; it is lunch but just feels like Brunch). A pint of Bowland’s Headless Peg (4.5%abv) joins proceedings; dark-amber with a serious red streak, there’s gentle fudge and toffee-sweetness in the body, with some raisin and black pepper (take note, Pepe Nero!) rounding things off with a hint of earthy spice. A surprisingly flavourful beer, it’s perfect with the rich, subtly herbed notes of the Black Pudding and Mushroom.
Consider the Potato. One of life’s little nothings; a staple across the world, a food that everyone likes. Chipped, roasted, boiled or mashed, the potato is both a jack of all trades and master of them all. You like potatoes. I like potatoes. We all like potatoes.
Except Louise, my wife.
Well, almost. Mashed potatoes are something she just can’t handle the taste and texture of, which causes no end of issues in the kitchen. Sausage and…new potatoes? Nah. Cottage Pie? nah. Fish Pie. Christ; you can’t do fish pie without that field of mash, forked, buttered, browned on top, can you?
Maybe. We make it with Roast Potatoes on top, as that’s what she’ll eat – and although different, it’s pretty tasty. Here’s what you do.
First, make your Roasties. Now, I’m not going to tell you a definitive way to do this -as there are as many variances as there are cooks – but I will say that using chicken, duck or goose fat works better in the overall flavour of this meal than lard or beef fat. I par-boil my halved spuds first – sometimes leaving the skin on – shake them about to get them roughed up a little, then slaver in (normally goose) fat, black pepper and salt and then roast in a hot oven for about 30-40 minutes, turning halfway through.
For the fish pie filling, again it’s a simple case of doing a simple fish pie base. Simmer one fillet of firm white fish such as Coley (what I used here), Monkfish or Sole, and one fillet of Salmon in milk with half a chopped Onion, a Bay Leaf and some Black Peppercorns. After about ten minutes, throw in a handful of raw Prawns.
When the fish is firm and the Prawns pink, remove to a warmed plate and break up into chunks for the pie. Strain the milk into a jug and reserve. Make a simple roux with Butter and Flour, but use your flavoured, reserved milk to make into a Bechamel sauce.
Spread out in a pie dish, and arrange your Roasties on top. Sprinkle big chunks of salt on top, and bake at 175c for another 25 minutes.
Fish Pie without the mash, for all (three of you) mash haters out there. Beer-wise, you want to be going for something light and citric to cut through that sauce but not overwhelm with tonnes of Grapefruit or Pine. Adnam’s Spindrift fits the bill, and not just because of its nautical feel; enhanced by the name and the gorgeous blue bottle. At 4% abv it’s a super-easy drinking, pale, a hint of cereal in the body and refreshing with a hint of Lemon and Strawberry as it fades to a dryish finish. It’s clean, fruity but entirely restrained, and a beer I’d recommend with food any day of the week. Give it a go.
Even waking up in the dark on a weekend is vaguely exciting if I’m food shopping…Sad, I know, but what can I say – I’m a nerd. I have no idea what I’m going to buy, because that kind of defeats the object; the ‘weekend meal’ – the one I make the most effort with and have the most time for – is a seasonal, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants affair.
We always end up in the Fish market. With the opportunity to buy glistening, red-gilled fish as fresh as this, I don’t want to miss out. I want my shellfish with mud still adorning the shell. Taking home and freezing is not an option. This time, huge Prawns catch my eye – green and pink-shelled, so much baby lobsters or mutant Crayfish. I’m not sure if they are local, but it’s no use – I’m locked in. Those suckers are coming home with me.
Prawns and Chorizo. Truly one of the reasons God created tastebuds; simplicity, flavour, sweet and vibrant, you never have enough. Just slice the prawns down the middle with a sharp knife, clean them up a little, and place under a red-hot grill for all of five minutes; when that sweet flesh is white, you’re ready.
While this is grilling, I’ve thrown one chopped up stick of Chris Wildman’s Yorkshire Chorizo (available at Paninoteca in the Market) into a dry pan. Once you’ve tried this, you’ll be forever a slave to it, turning your nose up at your usual brand. Slightly softer than you’re used to, it’s got a slightly more smoky, Pimenton note going on that just sets it above everything else. Gently fry the chunks off – not burning – and then pour the whole lot over the prawns. The flavour is in that orange oil; that’s what Chorizo is all about.
The beer? Oakham’s Inferno (4%abv) – a beer I’ve been drinking a lot of recently. Pale, slightly wheaty and packed with subtle Grapefruit and Lemon notes, it’s slightly sherbety nature and dry finish is perfect for seafood; cutting through the fat in the meat and complimenting the sweetness of the Prawn. One is not enough, quite simply.
Another good beer to enjoy with this beer would be Leeds’s Hellfire. A pale ale that tastes nowhere near it’s 5.2%abv, it’s crisp, clean, flinty and excellent chilled. Again, the dry finish makes it moreish, and if used on the table will disappear as quickly as the food itself.
Some great beers, and ones that – along with the food – transports me, just for a little while, to sunnier, warmer climes.
To carry on with the Halloween season-theme, I thought I’d join the ranks of bloggers at making a Pumpkin Pie this weekend. I’d never made one before – and it is slightly more involved, baking-wise – but if you’re into Autumnal flavour (spices, richness, cosy comfort food) then it’s one to attempt. The Streusel-crumb topping is something I saw whilst researching the recipe, and I’m glad I added it – the sweet, candied crunch it provides really rounds the Pumpkin filling off nicely.
Firstly, you need to roast your Pumpkin. Get any size you want – but a decent one. If you can only get small ones, get a couple – after all, it’s better to have too much than not enough. Half the Pumpkin, scoop out the seeds and stringy insides, then roast, face down, on a baking tray in an oven at about 180c. When soft (depends entirely on the size – about 30-50 minutes, I’d say), remove, drain the excess water you’ll get, then scoop out the flesh into a bowl. Mash it up and leave to cool.
Now you need to make your sweet pastry. Sift 140g of Plain Flour and 1/4 tsp of Baking Powder together in a bowl. Add (and you can put as much or as little as you want here, but I recommend a heavy couple of pinches) of Cinnamon, Nutmeg and Ginger – all powdered, of course. Add a little Salt, and 50g of Caster Sugar. Finally, add 50g of diced, cold unsalted Butter. Rub it together with your fingertips and soon you’ll have breadcrumbs. Make a well in the middle, add one beaten Egg, and mix until it becomes a stiff Dough.
Roll the dough out on a floured surface and line a greased baking tin with it. Crimp up the edges, then cover with cling film and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes to harden.
Now to finish off the filling. To the Pumpkin mash, add one whole tin (200ml – ish) of Condensed Milk, a dash of Vanilla Essence, more Cinnamon and Ginger, a pinch of Salt, 1tbsp of Demerara Sugar, and mix up. When the mixture is cool (it should be by now anyway) add two beaten Eggs.
All you need to then is pour the mixture (you’ll hopefully have more than you need) into the pastry case. Bake at 220c for 15 minutes.
Whilst the first stage of baking is happening, make the Streusel topping by putting 2 tbsp of Plain Flour in a bowl, and adding 4tbsp of Demerara Sugar, 1tsp of Cinnamon, a chunk of cold, unlsalted butter (about 5g) and rubbing together to make a crumb like you did with the pastry. Add 60g each of chopped Walnuts and Pecans and mix in – there you go.
Take the pie out, add the topping, and bake at 180g for another 30-35 minutes or so. It’s done when you put a skewer into the centre of the pie and it comes out clean.
Well, there you go. It’s a decent couple of hours all together in the kitchen; but hey – crack open a beer, put some music on and you’re laughing. Beer-wise, I didn’t drink any whilst this was being ‘tested’ whilst warm – but yesterday I had a slice with an old bottle of Mikkeller’s Jackie Brown (6%abv) and it was lush – the coffee-focused finish of the beer just took some of the sweetness away from the Pie in a really balanced way. I’d certainly recommend going for lighter, but dryer, darker beers rather than heavy, sweet ones – the Pie is sweet, spicy and creamy and you don’t want to over-do that. SummerWine’s Barista, Mikkeller’s Beer Geek Brunch, Kernel’s Porter, Hardknott’s Aether Blaec and Dark Star Espresso are all beers which immediately spring to mind.
And of course – you can also give this a go with Sweet Potato if you have no Pumpkins!