Sunday, 12 April 2009

An Awesome Salad for a Beer

I eat healthily. I also exercise a lot. I do this to justify drinking everyday and over-indulging in food and beer at the weekends. If you’ve paid any attention at all you’ll know I like beer with my food. As it starts to get warmer my beer gets colder, paler in colour and crisper and juicily bitter in taste. With this the food I eat changes too, to salads and fish and all things lighter and fresher. A salad is what you make it. If you just chuck some leaves in with some pieces of tomato and maybe some meat and drizzle some oil on top then it’s pretty crappy, but a salad can be a marvel. It’s a collusion of colours and textures and tastes, it’s fresh and (normally) healthy, it’s uplifting and if you serve it with a vibrant and zingy beer you get a summer-tastic match.

This is my current favourite salad. I first made it (that’s the one in the picture) while I was working on the food and beer matching I did for BrewDog and it was designed to go with Chaos Theory, their 7% copper IPA. I made it up, poured over the dressing and I loved it. It had the crunch of fresh carrots, the creaminess of avocado (that crunch and cream is a wicked combo), the nutty pods of chick peas, the heat and tingle of chilli, a fruity, sweet and spicy dressing and the uplifting presence of the fresh herbs. It’s a really delicious salad to pile up in a bowl and eat with just a fork. I like food like that; minimum effort and maximum flavour. And it was good with the beer, just not great; it was missing something.

I made the salad again, put it in a Tupperware container and took it to my girlfriends for dinner. I made it exactly the same and added the dressing. I ate some of it and put the rest in the fridge and when I was looking for breakfast the next morning it was calling out to me. Yeah, I know, it’s a weird breakfast, but that’s how I roll. Anyway, the point is this: as I was eating it I saw a box of grape nuts in the cupboard. For those who don’t know either the flavour of grape nuts or malted barley, they taste very similar. It’s nutty, malty like ovaltine, biscuity and fairly sweet. So grape nuts taste like the fundamental base of all beer (there’s pale malt in every beer) and this salad that I was eating for breakfast was designed with beer in mind. 1+1=2 and the grape nuts went into the salad. And oh my goodness, it added that essential missing element. A crispy crunch, a savoury-sweetness, a bit of bite and texture to mess around with the softness of the avocado. Hazzah!

And a beer with this? A BrewDog Chaos Theory – the original inspiration – would be a good choice as the thick fruitiness and spiciness in the beer is great for the sweet Moroccan spice. The orange juice and spice in the dressing give beer a lot to grip hold of, add the grape nuts and the chick peas and there’s a world of choice. And I think the beer should be cold and drunk from the bottle if it isn’t bottle conditioned. Stone IPA or Goose Island IPA would be my joint number one pairing as they both have incredible fresh flavours and a big hop finish to pick up the spices. What else… Thornbridge Kipling or Jaipur, or Sierra Nevada Pale Ale would be a magical match.

Carrot, Avocado, Chick Pea and Grape Nut Salad with Fruity-Spicy Dressing

Now I don’t really do instructions for salads. They aren’t challenging things to make where you need exact measurements, it should be done to taste and by sight, if you like a lot of one thing and less of another then make it like that. The dressing needs a stricter hand, but only just. Here’s how I like mine and this’ll serve one or two, or more if it’s a side to a piece of grilled (even barbequed) fish or chicken…

The Salad

  • 1 massive carrot, or 2 normal sized carrots
  • 1 ultra-ripe avocado (if it isn’t squishy then don’t bother
  • 1 can of chick peas (it has to be chick peas, you need their nutty bite)
  • A few handfuls of grape nuts
  • A red chilli
  • Some green bits – some rocket would be good, but don’t go crazy, and some herbs are in, I like a little coriander, a few springs of mint and maybe parsley or basil
    Some seasoning and spices – Paprika, chilli powder, salt and pepper

The Dressing

I like a little of all the tastes to play around on your tongue, so there’s got to be sweet and salty, sour and bitter and unami. Plus a little spice, because spice is nice and it goes great with a hoppy beer.

  • Something Sweet: Juice of half an orange or tangerine (or another orangey thing), maybe a squeeze of honey
  • Something Sour: Lemon or lime juice or vinegar; cider, white wine or apple balsamic are good
  • Something Salty: salt
  • Something Unami-y: Soy sauce, a few drops
  • Something Bitter: Erm… a few drops of the beer will do it!
  • Extra virgin olive oil, you'll want double the oil to the sweet and sour elements
  • Spices (a pinch of each): Ground cinnamon, Turmeric, Paprika (sweet or smoked or go nuts and have both), Chilli powder or Tabasco for extra heat, if that’s your thing

Grate the carrots and squeeze some of the excess juice out. Then grate the avocado and mix them together in a large bowl. Drain and rinse the chick peas and chuck these in. Cut the chilli into tiny cubes and put them in. Mix in the grape nuts and the herbs, which I like finely chopped. Season it. Mix up the dressing - I use a jam jar – and then just spoon it over until it shimmers and gives off all the lovely aromas of oranges and earthy spice. Yum o’clock.


  1. Liam, I too am into salads. My favorite being Som Tom, which is a Thai green Papaya salad. The dressing is amazing, burns your lips and gums. Goes great with pale, hoppy ales.

  2. Nice, there's something fantastic about the freshness in a salad and a great hoppy ale. I've made a brilliant salad of chicken with mango which used IPA and chilli in the dressing and that was great.

  3. The salad sounds very good! And to match it with a good IPA, even better! I'll be trying this real soon.

    Oh, I found the Brew Dog Punk IPA and did a review of it. I'll post it in the next day or two.

  4. Great news that you've found the Punk in GA! It's one of the best modern IPAs that's brewed in the UK, and it's getting hoppy beers out to the everyday drinker.

    I look forward to the review!

  5. Sounds like an excellent combination with the added crunchiness of Grape Nuts and the spices in there to keep things interesting. Great salad idea to add to my arsenal of vegetarian recipes, especially since it speaks to the "lazy chef" part of my personality.

  6. Yum! I love salads and make them with almost every meal. I didn't know they sold grape nuts here-- I love them. I've heard of people in the US making beer with grape nuts.

    I'll have to try this salad.

    Have you heard of this beer & food blog?

    I think you'd dig them.

  7. This salad is just delicious. I think we got the grape nuts from ASDA but I'm not certain. And beer made with grape nuts?! Interesting!

    I haven't seen this blog before, it's cool. I'll keep dropping in and reading, thanks for the link.

  8. I had never, ever, thought of salad and beer going together before this, but it's fantastic. Much as I love sausages and pies, my gut tells me that the range of 'beer foods' needs to be expanded like this.

  9. The Punjabi tradition has eaten salad with beer (and whisky) for generations as a ‘starter’snack:

    Red onions
    Green Chillies
    Sprinkle with salt and pepper
    Squeeze fresh lemon on top (or malt vinegar if preferred)

    Let it stand for 30 mins.
    Drink beer and munch on the salad.