“What would you recommend to eat with Infra Red? I've got a bottle in the fridge and want it with dinner!” I asked @HardknottDave, figuring that I’d go to the man who made the beer and see what he suggested (the power and wonder of twitter at its best). Dave replied: “personally I'd go for something rich and spicy like a chilli con carne or rogan josh, spicy red meat and tomato, beef bourginon.” I didn’t fancy any of them so I completely ignored Dave and did something else.
Hardknott Infra Red is a 6.5% oxymoronic IPA (kind of an Imperial Red, or something). In the bottle it pours a great looking amber-edged crimson with a dense layer of fresh custard-coloured foam. It’s fruity and floral straight off with orange blossom and pith, beneath that there’s a little maple syrup, toast and strawberry jam. It’s a glugger of a beer with sweetness at the beginning and a lasting dry kind of bitterness at the end, with orange pith and floral hops, some herby spices and toasted nuts along the way. It’s a really nice drinking beer, really delicious. But what food to have with it?
Step up Cajun salmon with rice and peas. The idea was that the rich salmon would be charred in a cloak of herbs and spices while the rice and peas would be a coconutty counterpart to the heat and hops. The pairing was a cracker! The beer’s inherent sweetness was spot-on with the salmon and spice, the fruity heat in the chilli provided a harmonious finish with the hops, the ‘redness’ of the beer provided a toasty depth which was enough to temper the blackened (read: burnt) spices and not leave an astringency, while the coconut rice had a bridging nuttiness to the beer which loved the hint of jammy sweetness and the fruity hops. FABPOW!
The seasoning was easy to make (although perhaps not strictly Cajun, I’m not sure – I didn’t want it too hot to crash into the hoppiness, so favoured the savoury pepper flavour over the heat...): fresh thyme, dried thyme, loads of black pepper, paprika, smoked paprika, a pinch of all spice, salt, bay leaf, garlic, chilli and cayenne pepper. I put it in a sandwich bag with a little oil and the salmon for 20 minutes before cooking. The rice and peas is also easy: onion, garlic and thyme in a pan, add long grain rice, red kidney beans and cook with equal parts water and coconut milk, plus seasoning.