Showing posts with label Favourite Foods. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Favourite Foods. Show all posts

Sunday, 19 June 2011

FABPOW! The Search for the Best Beer for Sausage, Chips and Beans

Two weeks ago I asked an important question on the back of many failed attempts to find the answer for myself: what is the perfect beer for sausage, chips and beans? This weekend I made it my mission to get the definitive answer by using those responses.

The beers were gathered and I soon realised that I had to call in some assistance, so I invited Mark and Matt over to my sausage party. We started off with seven bottles but this jumped to nine by grabbing two other possible choices from the fridge. I could see from their enthusiasm for all things sausage, chips, beans and beer that they were well up for this, even if it was possibly the most ridiculously geeky thing we’ve ever done: three of us squashed around a small table with three plates of food, nine bottles and nine glasses and an hour talking about sausages.

We had a mix of beers from pale to dark, bitter to fruity to smoky to sour. The sausages were Waitrose gourmet pork (cooked to slightly beyond caramelised...), homemade chips cooked in the oven and seasoned with salt, pepper, a little paprika, a clove of garlic tossed in and a pinch of thyme. The beans were beans.

Anchor Bock was my first sip with a sausage. Smooth, chocolatey and surprisingly light bodied, it works ok and just handles the beans but veers off in different directions at the end and almost crashes.

Monsieur Rock was suggested by Andrew from the Bottle Shop, where I picked up a few of the bottles. He thought it was be a refresher able to lift the heavy flavours off the tongue and I could see where he was coming from. Sadly the beer got lost in everything and didn’t work but it's such a good beer that we finished it off alone after eating.

Bath Barnstormer, with its dark, fruity malt flavours, was nice but the badass beans blew it away and left it a little lifeless.  

I picked the Strong Dark Mild from Kernel and Redemption because I wanted a dark mild and I love Kernel and Redemption. It was probably a little too bitter to work and left the flavours blurry rather than clear.

My fridge is a constant source of Avery Brown Dredge so we grabbed one of them and I’ve never tasted a beer that works so perfect with a meaty, herby sausage. It was amazing. The almost-savoury bitterness means it’s made for meat, herbs and garlic. However, it is not made for baked beans...

Rodenbach was an interesting choice but it totally makes sense if you think of it like a ketchup or HP sauce with a beer-as-condiment match (because I think Rodenbach tastes like tomatoes and vinegar). The first taste got me excited: the beans softened the sourness and the flavour profile works really well, sending it off in an exciting new direction, but between forkfuls of food it doesn’t work so well and, as Matt said, it doesn’t sit with the tone of the meal, which calls for something simpler.

Purity Pure Gold was a late entry, plucked from the fridge in a desire for a pale British beer with British hops, and we’re glad we did grab it as it was excellent. It doesn’t add anything in terms of flavour but it does a great job of clearing the palate and compliments the mouthful. Together the food and beer taste better, and that’s always a good thing.

Rochefort 6 was my choice for a Belgian brune and was also my choice as the best match of the night. It doesn’t do anything special but it’s able to balance everything out perfectly. The simple, dried fruit body, more carbonation than found in the other beers, plus a dry bite of hops in the finish were spot on. Uncomplicated and excellent. Somehow it also made the chips taste more potatoey.

Finally there was Schlenkerla Marzen, which Mark and Matt chose as their top match. Like a sprinkle of MSG it makes the whole thing taste bigger and meatier, complementing the sausage and the beans excellently while adding its own flavour to the overall pairing. It did work superbly well.

All three of us listed Schlenkerla and Purity Pure Gold in our top 3. Matt and I had Rochfort 6 in there and Mark had Rodenbach (for sausage alone Avery Brown Dredge was a winner – if we have somehow created the perfect beer for sausages then I’ll be inordinately proud of that). If we hadn’t been geeky enough already we then spent half an hour discussing the relative merits in depth while we sipped the rest of the beers.

What is interesting in this example is the type of match you want for the dish. Rauchbier was spectacular with sausage, chips and beans but do you want something spectacular with such a simple meal? I don’t. It’s a meal we eat without thinking; a regular meal that doesn’t want beautifying with beer, but one which can benefit from a nice choice, so I want a beer which is equally simple and complimentary to go with it. The extension of this is that the beer should be something you drink before, during and after the dinner – where Rodenbach and Schlenkerla work really well as flavour explosions, I don’t want to drink them (mainly because I don’t really like them) away from the plate.

That’s what pushed Purity Pure Gold forward: it’s a simple beer but a good one. You can open it while sizzling the sausages, sip between mouthfuls and then finish it after you’re done eating. The same with the Rochefort which works before, during and after.

So there we have the definitive selection of the best beers to eat with sausage, chips and beans. My FABPOW would be Rochefort 6. The malt sweetness, the carbonation and the dry hops work amazingly well to compliment and then to cut through the fat and creamy, beany sweetness. If you want something completely different, but completely awesome, then go for Schlenkerla Marzen which is a faceful of meat.

Friday, 7 January 2011

The Session #47: Cooking with Beer: Scotch Eggs and Beer Mayonnaise

I love cooking with beer so couldn’t resist this month’s Session with the topic chosen by David Jensen of Beer 47. My Imperial Chilli is one of my greatest culinary creations, made awesome by the addition of a bottle of imperial stout; these beer ribs are fantastic; beer ice cream is very cool, my favourite so far was made with BrewDog RipTide; malty ale in macaroni cheese adds a brilliant depth; and my Barley Wine Cupcakes passed the ultimate test: my girlfriend liked them. And there’s more I want to do with food and beer: a carbonnade challenge of a few different beers; roasted garlic IPA mashed potatoes; beer and cheese soup; spaghetti bolognese made with rauchbier; ice cream made with rauchbier (why not?!); beer jelly; a curry made with Mongozo Coconut… I could go on.

Some people seem to think that cooking with beer is a terrible waste, but I’m not one of them. I love how it adds a different depth to food, how parts of the beer’s make-up come through in unique ways. Plus, I like to experiment with flavours, regularly turning my kitchen upside down with wild ideas of faux culinary genius.

I also love eating with a beer on the side and this is the perfect condiment and snack which also includes beer as an ingredient and has the ability of throwing you up in the air and down on a street somewhere in the middle of Belgium (albeit inexplicably with a delicious meat-wrapped-egg in one hand).

Scotch Eggs and Beer Mayonnaise

I have a weakness for scotch eggs. Not the mini ones which taste like cardboard and egg mayo and not the big chewy, dry ones with taste like sulphurous breadcrumbed pulp, I’m talking about hot, fresh, crispy-on-the-outside-and-soft-in-the-middle-ones. A scotch egg fresh from the heat of the oven (I’m in the baked camp of the baked vs fried argument), cut into quarters with a pile of ketchup/mustard/mayo on the side. They are rightly near the top of the beer snack hierarchy; an all-day breakfast of sausage, egg and bread neatly rolled into a palm-sized ball.

Ketchup is my condiment of choice. A red splodge was on almost every plate of food as I grew up and, while it may now have been gradually made redundant, it’s still very important to some foods, especially sausage-based ones. But through curiosity I tried out beer mayo for this snack.

Like custard, it’s a food which comes with a police tape block of fear around it from the worry of it splitting and ruining, but do it right and there’s no fear of oily egg yolk sick. The recipe I used was from Richard Fox’s The Food & Beer Cook Book and it worked perfectly, leaving a thick and delicious mayo with just a hint of beer (I guess you can use any beer or cider you want; I’d like to try one with lambic next instead of lemon juice).

Scotch eggs are easy to make, even if they do take a few processes. First, soft boil an egg, run it under cold water to stop it cooking in its shell, peel it (peeling eggs sucks; how do they do it in scotch egg factories?! My job from hell would be an egg peeler), and roll a little flour around its quivering white exterior. Then get some sausage meat, either a block of it or take some sausages and remove the meat from the skins. Add any seasoning you want – salt, pepper, fresh or dried herbs, spices, chilli, even a few drops of beer, if you want – and then shape a handful of meat around the egg, making sure there are no gaps. Get three bowls out: one for flour, one for beaten egg and one for breadcrumbs. Roll the ball in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs. Put on a baking tray and bake for 30-40 minutes until it’s crispy and cooked.

For the mayo it’s one large egg yolk, two teaspoons each of beer (whatever you’ve got open or whatever you want to use) and lemon juice, one level teaspoon of Dijon mustard, up to 200ml of light oil (the lighter the better so it doesn’t overpower the taste of everything else), seasoning. Mix the yolk, mustard, beer and lemon juice in a bowl and then add the oil a little drizzle at a time, whisking (by hand) constantly. Keep whisking and slowly adding oil until it’s the texture you want it to be. Word is that says that if it splits then add a drop of warm water and whisk like a maniac and it’ll come back together.

As beer snacks go this is one of the best; made with beer and best enjoyed with a beer on the side. Now I’m craving a huge bowl of fries with a slick of homemade lambic mayo and a nice glass of cold beer.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Beer with roast turkey and all the trimmings

Christmas Day. A day filled with presents, family, food and beer. A day when my favourite meal of the year is served. A day when an appropriate beer is needed to go with the meal. A day when it’s fine to open a bottle of something nice at 9am and carry on going straight through to passing out in the evening. A day to look forward to each year.

Breakfast is for coffee stout. Something tongue-coating and thick, rich and warming. Any Mikkeller Beer Geek will do the job and set you up for a day of fun. Between breakfast and dinner is a free-for-all before the turkey comes out and gets carved beside a vegetable mountain.

Roast turkey and all the trimmings is a fun challenge for a beer. What you want is something that’s full of flavour with enough booze to give body and sweetness; not too much bitterness as it’ll kill the vegetables and enhance their bitter edges; sweetness is key to buffer the richness of the food; a little spice or Christmassy depth of fruit cake work nicely with everything on the plate. I haven’t decided what’ll be on my dinner table yet but I’ve got a few choices...

Fuller’s Vintage 2010. A fruity-nuttiness plays with a dry bitterness and plenty of malt depth to deal with whatever your fork brings. Any other Vintage would also work very well but there’s something nice about having the 2010 before the year is out (this Vintage is also ready to go right now).

Chimay Blue. This is what I had last year and it’s a winner. Dried fruit with hints of festive spice and an uplifting carbonation. It works so well and the beer’s available in Waitrose so easy to get.

Adnams Sole Bay. A big, fancy bottle, handsome on the table and something a little different. I haven’t tried it yet but I’ve got one in waiting and it sounds like a great beer to try with dinner – Belgian-style, little spice, fruity esters, Nelson Sauvin hops.

Goose Island Sofie. One of the Belgian Goose Island beers, this is 6.5% and aged in wine barrels with orange peel so what you get is a dry, almost-tart beer with a big depth from the orange but also vanilla and body from the barrel it’s matured in. It’s the white wine alternative; it’s also a great beer.

Marble Chocolate Dubbel. What a beer. Spicy yeast, lots of chocolate, lots of body to chase down those vegetables. A richer, darker choice but a good one if you’ve got a bottle hanging around and fancy something different.

I don’t do beer with Christmas pudding. By that stage I’m more stuffed than the turkey was two hours earlier. Later in the day the bottles come back out again, but this year I have no idea what and I’ll be grabbing them depending on what I fancy.

Beers for the turkey: what have you got? And do you have a breakfast beer planned in?

Monday, 11 October 2010

FABPOW! Venison Burgers with Kocour Višňový Ležák

The 1-litre plastic bottle of Kocour Višňový Ležák had been in the fridge since I returned from Prague over a month ago. I picked it up from the bottle shop attached to Zly Casy, one of the coolest beer bars in town, because I couldn’t resist it: a litre plastic bottle, bold branding and sour cherries. It hadn’t been drunk yet because I couldn’t decide when to open it, or if I wanted to share it, or what to eat with it. After a long week at work I needed a big glass of beer, opening the fridge I saw the giant bottle and the yellow label shone like a beam of sunlight on a grey October Friday.

I opened the bottle before I started to cook dinner. In order to get to the point of cooking I’d walked around Waitrose for half an hour with an empty basket intermittently picking things up and putting them back again, eventually settling on venison burgers, burger rolls and mustard, plus some bacon because there was going to be leftover rolls and it was more sensible to spend £3 on bacon than throw away 40p worth of rolls, naturally.

The beer is 4.7% and has sour cherry essence added. It pours a deep amber, edging towards conker red. The aroma is immediately cherries, like candy but not so sweet, a little floral like blossom. It’s smooth and crisp, the dark malts give toast and a little chocolate, which develops throughout; the cherry is fruity but not sharp, fragrant and floral but never over the top; cocoa comes through and mixes with the cherry in a great way, like a pre-mixed version of sweet kriek and dark chocolate, only in a way that’s subtle enough to make you work for it and jump for olfactory joy when you get it.

The burgers were simple: meat, slightly-toasted rolls, onions caramelised with chilli, ketchup (to one I also added gherkins, tomato and burger mustard but it was too much – the simple one worked best). With the beer it was perfection. Venison is often paired with cherries or chocolate so having a beer which gave both was fantastic, adding a touch of sweetness to the meat, while also being robust enough with the darker malts to handle the charred edges of the burger, with the sweet and spicy onions pulling it together like a group hug and the fragrant hops acting like a refresh button after each mouthful.

This was an impromptu food and beer match discovered through indecision and a little serendipity. Beer and burgers are universally great, no matter what the burger or the beer, but sometimes they can power beyond great and they can become FABPOWs

Sunday, 5 September 2010

FABPOW! Tipopils and Pizza

I have a theory: any beer works with any pizza...

Pizza is an inherently simple, eat-with-your-hands food. It’s the stuff of our childhood but we still eat it as a grownup, which has a cheeky appeal, like eating milky bars or fish fingers. Pizza can be one from a box (shop bought or take away-ordered) or it can be made from scratch, satisfyingly gooey in the middle and crispy at the edges, topped to your heart’s desire. On the grand scheme of food-things, making your own pizza is joyous and fun and bursting with childish appeal, like having free-reign to decorate a banana split with sauces, sweets and sprinkles.

Tipopils is a lager from Birrificio Italiano and it’s one of the best lagers I’ve tasted. It’s made with four hop varieties (Hallertauer Magnum, Hallertauer Perle, Hallertauer Hersbrücker and Hallertauer Saaz), it’s a little sherberty to begin, a little herby and floral and a hint of fresh bread in the aroma, which mellows out to an inviting orange and pineapple fruitiness. It’s incredibly smooth drinking which creates a cuddle-effect before the bold hops stamp through and leave their lingering trail of dry bitterness. It’s got so much character to keep it interesting throughout the glass, making you want to drink more and more after each quenching mouthful. Remarkably good, enough to make me look for flights to Milan leaving in the next 24 hours.

The pizza was homemade, both the dough and the sauce (the most flour-dusted and sauce-splattered pages of any cookery book I have are the ones in Jamie Oliver’s Jamie at Home for pizza dough and tomato sauce). There were four of them; Lauren and I both topped two each – mine were dramatically better, of course (she used mostly sweetcorn and onion which, in isolation, suck as pizza toppings). One of mine was smoked pancetta, chilli and lots of mozzarella, the other was piled high with flat mushrooms, red onion, basil and mozzarella (although, as Reluctant Scooper says, the toppings aren’t relevant, it's pizza and beer and that's what matters). Both of the pizzas are umami-bombs calling for the fruity sweetness and fizz which Tipopils deals up, while the dry finish at the end cuts the richness of the cheese and tomato. The match is helped along even further by the Italian heritage of the headliners.

This was one of those dinners where every mouthful is a pleasure and you eat and drink until you are a food-comatose lump on the floor, covered in crust crumbs and spatters of tomato sauce, but still somehow sipping at the beer because it’s so good, eyeing the slices which remain.

Pizza and beer belong together, a glass in one hand and a slice in the other. Like meat and potatoes they work, whatever the infinite varieties of recipes permit. It’s the simplest of pairings and always works, whether it’s a can of cooking lager or a bottle of something special. Pizza and beer: what do you think? Is there any beer which wouldn’t work with pizza (I won’t believe it if there are!)? Are there any which work particularly well with certain pizzas?

I’m now going to eat the cold leftovers and I’m dribbling at the prospect.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

FABPOW: Geuze and Crispy Chicken Skin

I have no pictures of these together because I was elbow deep in a chicken, half-pissed and trying to juggle a beer glass and carving duties. I was also busy discovering perhaps the most delicious Food and Beer Pairing of All Time - FABPOAT! Simply this: roast a chicken with lots of salt and pepper add some paprika, garlic, thyme and olive oil. When it’s cooked take it out of the oven and at the same time take a bottle of geuze from the fridge. Pour the beer out, strip the skin off the chicken and eat it with the beer. It’s insanely good. Salty, crispy, fatty skin and sour, citrusy, peppery beer. It’s just perfect. And it’s not just chicken skin either, sour beer is also incredible with pork scratchings and I had a food and beer epiphany at GBBF last year – a Montegioco Mummia with those festival pork scratchings. Sometimes it’s the simple things which have the biggest impact and this is just about the best beer snack going. 

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Gooey Chocolate Puddings

This is my favourite dessert recipe in the whole wide world. And just to forewarn you, this pudding is so good that whoever you serve it to will fall madly and deeply in love with you, so just watch who you give it to...

I’ve had this recipe written since January and just haven’t got around to posting it, but the time has come to unleash this dessert and change the world by pairing it with some awesome beers.

The chocolate pudding is feather-light on the outside, hot, rich and gooey in the middle and it’s enough to melt even an iron heart. Pair this with the right beer and it turns all magical and supernatural. But what beer? Some would go straight for the cherry beer, and this is wise, no doubt, but there are better beers to pour with this. Personally, I’m thinking a big coffee stout. Here’s why: coffee stouts and chocolate are killer combos. It’s all about the lustful coming together of sweet chocolate and roasty-bitter coffee beer: it just works. But you need a big coffee beer, something full-bodied, imperial, rich and strong enough to leave you wired. It’s a real pick-me-up pairing, like a do-it-yourself tiramisu (I have to make tiramisu with coffee stout in the base one day…) where the chocolate soothes and the coffee kicks.

The pudding recipe has never failed me and it’s incredible. The pudding coats the tongue in the way that only good chocolate can and then the beer glides in and lifts it all away, making you want more and more and more… But there are careful steps needed to get that oh-so-important gooey centre. First, I add grated chocolate to the mix. Second, I add a little contingency square of chocolate in the centre. Third, make the mix a few hours before you need it (this is helpful anyway) and then chill it. Fourth, bake it for exactly 10 minutes at 220C – no more, no less.

Gooey Chocolate Puddings

This makes 6 puddings.

  • 200g dark chocolate (or part and part with milk chocolate)
  • 150g butter, plus some for lining the dishes
  • Pinch sea salt
  • 3 whole eggs and 3 yolks
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 20g plain flour
  • Cocoa powder for dusting

Line the ramekins with butter and sprinkle cocoa into each so it all sticks to the butter. Melt 150g of the chocolate with the butter (in a glass bowl over a pan of bubbling water) and add a pinch of sea salt. While that’s melting whisk the eggs, yolks and sugar until they are pale and creamy. When the chocolate is done take it off the heat for a minute, in that minute grate a few chunks of chocolate (leaving six squares behind) into the egg/sugar mix then add the melted chocolate and butter and stir through gently. Next add the flour and stir into a pudding mix. Pour into the ramekins and pop a square of chocolate into the middle of each one. Chill until you need it.

To cook the puddings the oven must be preheated to 220C – exactly 220C. Add the ramekins and watch the clock very closely. As soon as ten minutes are up take them out, run a knife around the edge and turn them out onto a plate.

I like this served with ice cream. The first time I tried it I had it with a coffee ice cream and that was super but I personally think a more subtle ice cream would be best, and something like the RipTide Stout Ice Cream would be spot on. Another excellent choice would be a banana ice cream (coffee, chocolate and banana is a truly great combo). Or just go for a good vanilla ice cream.

As for the beer, I’d jump straight to Mikkeller and grab the Beer Geek Breakfast, or even better, the Beer Geek Brunch Weasel (I wrote about that here). I’ve had the puddings with BrewDog’s Coffee Imperial Stout, as the picture shows, and that was fantastic. You could try the Meantime Coffee but I think it might struggle to deal with the awesomeness of the dessert. If you can’t do a coffee beer then go for a straight up imperial stout - Thornbridge’s Bracia would kick serious pudding-fattened ass, Stone’s Imperial Russian Stout or a sublime De Struise Black Albert. The dessert deserves good beer, the dessert demands good beer. But remember the cautionary words at the beginning: whoever you serve this to will fall wildly in love with you.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

FAB POW! Orval and Paella

The call of the flowery superhero returns and FAB POW! is here as the antidote to non-believing beer drinkers who think that a pint of Kingfisher and a chicken balti is the furthest stretch of the imagination when it comes to having a beer with dinner. To them I say, eat this!

It took me a while to ‘get’ Orval. The first few bottles, spread over a few fledgling beer drinker years, did nothing for me, perhaps being too esoteric, perhaps just being out of my ‘5% dark ale’ comfort zone. Then, on a hot day, I poured myself one and sat in the garden with a book and all of a sudden it was entirely clear to me. It’s elegant and light but it’s mysterious and intriguing. It’s the swathe of opaque orange, the simplicity of the malt, the mouth-filling body; then it’s the big peppery hops, that bitterness and then that burst of brett with its almost-impossible-to-describe, ever-evolving lift.

And it’s an almost perfect food beer. It’s got the spritzy tart finish, it’s got boozy strength to stand up to big flavours, it’s got a savoury peppery quality and it’s got palate-sweeping fizz. Fish, check. Cheese, check. Salads, check. Battered cod and chips, check. Curry, check. Hell, I reckon it’d probably even be awesome with the king of dinners: sausage, chips and beans.

This Food and Beer Pairing of the Week! is Orval and paella. For me paella is a ray of sunshine. It’s a memory of the summer, of a sea-breeze, of sitting outside in Barcelona by the water side, the smell of cooking, of the sea, of the warm air, the feeling of warm skin, of a beer or two already drunk, of being chilled out. I cook paella when I want to recreate that feeling; it’s a burst of summer warmth. And why Orval? Why not just some Spanish cerveza? San Miguel, Cruzcampo, Estrella Damm? Well, paella is salty and rich and fishy and it comes with lemons to cut some acidity through it, but why use lemons when you can use a beer to do that job? The just-sharp finish of Orval picks up everything, glides through it and rounds it all off, while that hop bite matches the chorizo and loves the fish and rice. Add to this the primal, summer breeze-like aroma of the beer and it’s a totally awesome match. And what could be more summery than that? Forgo the lager on this one, pour the beer into a fancy glass and enjoy.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

The Asparagus Season and My Favourite Spring Lunch

Okay, so most of the food things I write about here tend to be my ‘favourite’ something or other. What can I say? I write about what I like. This is my ultimate lunch when the sun is shining, everything is coming to life in April and the long-awaited asparagus season has begun. And it is a long-awaited season. I adore asparagus but I keep myself far away from it all year round just to be able to enjoy it even more during that short window between April and June when it is all around, standing tall and green and proud. The little beauties.

Just thinking about this lunch now makes me smile. Simply and far-from revolutionary, it’s fresh, new season asparagus fried in butter and oil (with a whole fat clove of garlic and salt and pepper to flavour everything, plus a squeeze of lemon at the end to make it sparkle), a poached egg or two on top, loads of Lincolnshire Poacher cheese is grated over and this all stretches and oozes over of a slice of bread which sucks up all the salty-lemony-buttery-yolky juices. It really is just a little moment of perfection how everything works together – the charred crunch of earthy-sweet asparagus, the slick rich yolk, the salty bite of the cheese, the soft chewyness of the bread… This is my food heaven.

And would you believe it, it’s also great with beer! Try pairing a wine with this and you’ll get yourself in all kinds of bother. Instead, pop the crown off a bottle of English-style IPA - Meantime’s IPA, Downton’s Chimera, Thornbridge’s Halcyon and Worthington’s White Shield would all be totally awesome. Their grassy, earthy notes along with the sweet malt backbone and the dry, lingering hops just have a wild fling with the richness of the yolk and cheese while the fresh spears of asparagus are enhanced by everything the beer can throw at it.

What could be better? And it’s all just so bloody gloriously English that it makes me proud.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

FAB POW! Stone's Ruination IPA with Spicy Belly Pork

Here’s my Food and Beer Pairing of the Week!

I’ve been on a bit on an IPA bender of late. The last few weekends have just been all about the hops and I can’t get enough. Last weekend I was drinking it all day and bought as many bottles from Utobeer as I could carry, so it looks like my IPA-a-thon will continue unabated. Right in the middle of all this fun I had the big dog.

And I finally did it, I finally found something to go with Stone’s Ruination IPA. I think. (I've written about bitterness and this beer here)

I wanted to open this beer on that fateful night whatever happened and drinking it would’ve coincided with dinner so I thought I’d try again to put them together. The thought process was something like this: the food has to be BIG and rich and fatty and meaty and spicy and sweet and earthy. So the choice was obvious. Spicy belly pork with chilli and garlic roasted butternut squash. That’s it.

I roasted the belly pork with chilli, paprika, loads of pepper and cayenne pepper and a touch of five spice. Then the squash was just cut into wedges, oiled and seasoned, smothered in crushed garlic and chilli and smoked paprika and roasted until soft. The result was surprising good: the crunchy crackling starts it all off, then the layer of mouth-coating fat, then the juicy meat and peppery spice (that’s a lot going on, flavour- and texture-wise) and the beer pours in and glides over the fat, it pulls the sweetness from the meat and the spice and tingles the heat of the chilli, blending it all with the huge caramel base of the beer. The fragrant squash is a buffer of earthy sweetness to soak up the hops and give a delicious fruitiness while still retaining all of that palate cleansing/stripping bitterness. It had me eating then drinking then back for more pork then more beer in a sexy and vicious circle of spice, meat and hops. I had a ball.

But I said that I think it works. Even now I’m not certain that it actually did work as a brilliant match. Maybe I got something which just dulled the bitterness stopping a monsterous palate pile-up but not actually giving a great match-up, or maybe my bottle was a bit old and had lost some of its kick. I don’t know. For me it worked a treat and I’d pair it again happily. Plus, belly pork is a favourite food of mine and Ruination is a favourite beer, so…

Anyone had anything great this week? Or has anyone had any luck trying to pair a dish with any extremely bitter beers?

Thursday, 26 March 2009

FAB POW! Curious Brew's Brut and Fish Fingers

FAB POW! the call of the gay superhero and the Food and Beer Pairing of the Week!

Curious Brew are the beer side of Chapel Down wines and they make three great beers which I’ve written about here. The Brut is brewed with champagne yeast and it’s a super little beer, spritzy and lively and light and elegant. It calls out for delicate seafood so what better to put with it than fish fingers?!

Fish fingers rock. Simple as that. I love them. Fish fingers, chips and baked beans is a winning dinner every time and don’t even get me started on the fish finger sandwich! It’s one of the greatest things this world has to offer. I love them.

This match is a little bit of cheeky with a little bit of classy. That’s a good fun pairing. And it’d be even better if you’ve got a Deus Brut des Flandres to open...

What good FAB combos have you had this week?!

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Fish Finger Sandwich

I love sandwiches, they are maybe my favourite food group. And this is perhaps the best sandwich in the world. Although I do love peanut butter and jam, or a hot sausage sandwich, Christmas dinner leftover sandwich, ice cream sandwich…

Did you know that over 1 million fish fingers are eaten daily in Britain? And over 100 packs are sold in the UK each minute? In a poll in 1993, Captain Bird’s Eye came second in a list of the most recognised captains. Captain Cook was first. I don’t know which captain I would name first, but I know which one is my favourite, for without him we wouldn’t have fish fingers, potato waffles and chicken dippers, plus some other captain would’ve found the rest of the world eventually anyway.

Whether it is day or night, if I am happy or sad, alone or with friends, drunk or sober – these are when I want a fish finger sandwich. It is just the simplest thing to make, but the combination in textures between the fluffy bread, crunchy golden crumb and soft, hot fish is unbeatable.

A fish finger sandwich technically only needs bread and the fingers (at least 4 per 2 slices of bread) to qualify it as such. The bread can, of course, be brown or white, freshly baked or shop bought. The fish finger can be any brand you like, and you could even make your own but this feels completely frivilous. At university, my housemate and I used to marvel at the supermarket value options because each finger cost just 2p, although the actual ‘fish’ content is a little hazy and the texture a little cardboardy, so look towards the big name brands – don’t spare any expense here! The choice of condiment is yours too: Red, brown, spicy, sweet, creamy, anything you like. And the addition of some ‘green stuff’ is discretionary (adding cucumber would be a crime, but some crisp iceberg lettuce is fine). And a slice of plastic cheese is often very welcome.

My perfect fish finger sandwich goes a little something like this…

· 2 thick slices of white bread
· 4 fish fingers, at least
· Butter, for the bread
· Ketchup, mayonnaise and sweet chilli sauce, a little of each
· Optional extras, depending on how I/you feel – crisp iceberg lettuce and a slice of cheese (burger cheese of course)

Grill the fish fingers until crispy and golden and the sweet juices begin to leak through the crumbed shell. Butter the bread and spread with as much of whatever condiment-combo you want. When the fingers are cooked, and still piping hot, place them lovingly on the bread, but be careful not to burn your fingers in greedy anticipation. Lay the other slice of bread on top, and press it together. This press is almost essential and I would state (without scientific backing) that it makes everything taste better – incidentally, this 'pressing rule' applies to any and all sandwiches. Cut in half and eat immediately, so that the butter melts and mixes with the sauce, driping out naughtily.

Should you want dessert, I suggest a Twix or 3 or 4 Jaffa Cakes.

With food that is eaten with the fingers, you need beer from the bottle. Your favourite bottled variety is best, something light and crisp. There really is no ‘ideal’ beer to go with a fish finger sandwich and to be honest it may be a little unnecessary drinking booze with a child-like dinner, but I would expressly suggest Anchor’s Liberty Ale or their Steam Beer. Or look towards some British beers, Meantime’s Pilsner is a winner, as is Whitstable Bay’s Pilsner or BrewDog's Physics. A glass of orange squash might be the most appropriate drink.