Sunday 29 November 2015

Curried Dunkelweizen Lamb Chops

The smoking lamb chops of Whitechapel curry houses are legendary because they are so delicious. And as many of the better places are bring your own, you can eat them while drinking delicious beers. Wanting to recreate that at home, I cooked these lamb chops after brining them in Dunkelweizen and curry spices, where the brine makes them incredibly tender (like I said here, brining is a very good thing when Cooking with Beer…)
 – something important when you don’t have a searing flame grill to cook them on and you don’t want to chew on spicy boot soles. I used Dunkelweizen here because it has a sweetly toasty malt depth and also some complementary spices for those used on the lamb.

Serves 4

8 Quality Standard lamb chops (at least 8... these are addictive things)
1 bottle of Dunkelweizen (dark lager or Saison also work)
3 tablespoons of salt
3 tablespoons of sugar
1 whole chilli
1 onion, quartered
5 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon of curry powder
1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds

Dry rub: 2 teaspoons of coriander seeds, 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, ½ teaspoon of fennel seeds. Warm these in a dry pan then grind into a fine powder. Add ½ teaspoon turmeric, ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper, a pinch of cinnamon and lots of salt and black pepper.

In a large plastic container with a lid, make the brine by mixing the beer with the salt and sugar and stirring until it’s all combined. Add the other ingredients and then top up the container with cold water. Put the lid on and place in the fridge for 8-24 hours. When ready to cook, remove from the brine and dry on kitchen towel. Cover in the dry rub and leave for 1 hour. Grill or fry on a high heat for 5-10 minutes (or until cooked to your liking).

These are a brilliant beer snack or starter and I wouldn’t bother serving them with anything other than a cold glass of good beer. Dunkelweizen is clearly a good match here, or go for a good Oatmeal Stout with a nice nutty, liquorice depth as that’s great with the spices and meat char.

The meat for this was provided by Simply Beef and Lamb. Look for the Quality Standard Mark in independent butchers and selected supermarkets to be sure that the beef or lamb is quality assured and responsibly produced by people dedicated to producing great food.

Saturday 28 November 2015

Smoked Porter Carne Asada Tacos

I’m having a thing with tacos right now. It started over the summer when I made some using chicken brined in lager and lime, also using lager in the corn taco mix (this is in book four, Cooking with Beer, coming spring next year!). Then I had rauchbier pulled pork in tacos at a barbecue (also in book four…). Delicious things. And then I went to San Francisco and ate at five different taco places in three days. Since being back I’ve eaten tacos five times in two weeks…

Mates were coming over to drink all the IPAs I brought back from California, so I cooked up a huge batch of Smoked Porter-brined flank steak. Brining, I have learnt, is an incredible way to cook with beer, leaving beer-infused food that’s brilliantly tender, where the sugar-salt combo does magic things to meat. I used BeavertownSmog Rocket in these tacos. And I serve them with traditional California toppings of salsa, onion, coriander and lime.

Smoked Porter Carne Asada

Serves 6
1kg Quality Standard beef flank steak
2 cans of Smog Rocket (or another smoked beer)
5 tablespoons of salt
5 tablespoons of sugar
1 whole chilli, sliced in half
1 lime, sliced in half
1 onion, quartered
5 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon habanero chilli flakes

In a large plastic container with a lid, mix the beer, salt and sugar until combined. Add the meat then the other ingredients. Top up with cold water until all the meat is covered. Place the lid on the container and put it in the fridge for 8-24 hours.

When you’re ready to cook, remove from the brine and dry on kitchen paper (discard the rest of the brine and ingredients). Slice thinly and then fry or grill on a high heat in olive oil for a few minutes.

Corn Tacos
Buy them – I use Cool Chile – or make your own as they’re really easy. You can also make them with beer: 250g masa harina, 330ml of beer and a pinch of salt. Mix it together into a dough, wrap in cling film for 15 minutes, unwrap, cut into small balls and roll into tacos about 3mm thick (even better, use a taco press) then fry in a dry pan for 30 seconds on each side.

6 whole tomatoes
Half a white onion
2-4 chillis
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper
Splash of beer (optional)

Roast all the ingredients (apart from the beer) at 200C for 20 minutes. Put in a blender and whizz until smooth. Add a splash of beer, if you like, then check the seasoning (I also add a squeeze of lime for more acidity).

To serve: stack two warm tacos (always two), place meat on top, add lots of fresh white onion, finely chopped coriander, a spoon of salsa and a big squeeze of lime.

These are great served with smoked porter as well – that beer loves the meat flavour and can handle the lime and spice.

I can see a lot more taco making in the next few months…

The meat for this was provided by Simply Beef and Lamb and it was genuinely some of the best English meat I’ve tasted. Look for the Quality Standard Mark in independent butchers and selected supermarkets to be sure that the beef or lamb is quality assured and responsibly produced by people dedicated to producing great food.

Tuesday 24 November 2015

Tropical Fruit Juice IPA (or IPA in 2015)

Cellarmaker, San Francisco. At the forefront of new IPAs
The world’s greatest craft beer style, the one with the most storied history, the one most misunderstood, most widely brewed, has been changing for the last three centuries. And IPA continues to change and evolve faster than it ever has before.

Defining what an IPA is has become a difficult thing to accurately achieve. Right now, arguably the closest we can get is to say IPA is a beer that’s pale in colour and well-hopped, specifically for aromatics. I think we’ve even got to a place where IPA is a synonym simply for ‘hoppy’ and we require a prefix to tell us more precisely what to expect (Imperial, Session, Red, and so on), with many variations being brewed.

If we take IPA to mean the typical core-range American-style IPA then it’s likely going to be 5.5%-7.5% ABV, straw-to-amber in colour, hop-bitter and aromatic with US and new world hops, and that’s a very broad general description which doesn’t tell us anything specific about the flavours or subtleties – it’s like saying a cheeseburger is a meat patty topped with cheese between a sliced bread roll, but it mentions nothing of the finer details.

One approach, albeit limited, is to break down American IPAs into some broad geographic types, or ones linked to particular periods of time, which I attempted in The Best Beer in the World.

Seeing as the style is so fast-moving, I didn’t get to include the most recent American IPA trend, which I think evolves from the profiles of Oregon, Vermont and newer California IPAs, and which can accurately be described as Fresh Tropical Fruit Juice.

These new IPAs are unfiltered (sometimes hazy, sometimes properly murky) and very pale in colour. The intensity bitterness is low and character malts are non-existent. The time of them being super-dry and bitter has shifted towards softer, rounder bodies with some residual sweetness, though you don’t immediately notice that texture because the hop aroma is so dominant, so powerfully wowing, with the aroma sticking to the subtle sweetness in the beer, and giving the unmistakable qualities of fresh fruit juice – pineapple, mango, peaches, melon, papaya. There’s also a new focus on freshness to capture those aromas at their very juicy best – two weeks old is becoming too old (don’t underestimate this and it's not like these enjoy before they die IPAs: the draft-only, local-only – perhaps brewery-bar-only – hyper fresh IPA is nearby).

And notice that the pine resin, florals and grapefruit aromas are missing from the flavour profile of these IPAs – the classic qualities of American C-hops like Cascade, Columbus, Centennial are not present. And that’s relevant because these juicy IPAs are using newer hop varieties.

Citra was first released in 2007 but it took a couple of years before it was grown and brewed-with in larger volumes. The flavours in Citra (tropical, citrus, soft fleshy fruits) are different to those famous C-hop staples; they aren’t tangy, pithy, resinous or floral. They’re juicy.

At a similar time we got to try more Australian and New Zealand hops with their exotic tropical fruity aromas. Then came the next big hop releases from 2012 onwards: Mosaic, Equinox, Tahoma, Azzaco, Polaris, and more, plus newer European varieties like Mandarina Bavaria. These take that juiciness further and give even more tropical fruits plus melon and fragrant stone fruit. These new hops have changed the way IPAs taste because once we know it’s possible to make a beer smell like Um Bongo we crave more of its freshness. Bitterness, pine and grapefruit can do one – it needs juice now.

More Cellarmaker... They were the inspiration for this post thanks to their juicy, juicy beers
One side-effect of this change is how brewers are re-focusing on the American IPA. In the last five years we’ve seen the IPA-ification of all beers, like Black IPA, Belgian IPA, White IPA, Wild IPA, Fruited IPA, and so on, but we’re now seeing those sub-categories disappear. In their place are new IPAs. There’s IPAs using these new hops in new combinations, IPAs brewed with new hopping techniques from emerging research studies on hops, there are SMASH IPAs (Single Malt and Single Hop), hop burst IPAs, and more. It’s interesting that while the broader sub-categories seem to be disappearing, the Session IPA is an unstoppable style. And with this beer we’re seeing some of the best uses of these new hops and techniques (Stone Go To IPA, Firestone Walker Easy Jack).

IPAs currently account for around 27% of the US craft beer market, or seven million barrels of gloriously hoppy beers. In 2010 it was only around 12% of the market and one million barrels. That’s incredible growth, even more so when you consider that the craft beer segment is also growing exponentially – IPA is growing within a fast-growing category.
As well as growing up and out it’s still changing. It’s always changing; it’s been changing for 300 years, a liquid snapshot of brewing. These tropical fruit juicebomb IPAs (they are juicier than Juicy Bangers) are not like West Coast IPAs from five years ago. They’re not like the now-classic examples from 10-20 years ago (Lagunitas IPA, Racer 5, Odell IPA). These are today’s IPA where the never-ending search for newness and freshness continues to change what IPA is. And tomorrow’s IPA? Surely it can – somehow – only get juicier. Until it changes again.