Wednesday, 9 November 2016

To My Niece and Nephew, and Others of Their Generation

I'm so sorry, I don't know what else to say for the dangerous legacy being heaped upon generations to come.

I'm not sure when we lost our way so badly. 

I'm not sure how, contrary to all scientific standards, we are managing to go backwards with our social evolution and I'm cannot fathom how we have got into the situation where hate, fear and protecting what's yours has become more important than protecting our society as a whole.

Maybe it was because, somewhere along the way, we forgot just how damn good so many of us have it.

Do we find ourselves so far away from the awful wars that ripped the world apart in the 20th century, and situations like the Cuban missile crisis, that it seems a smart move to have a dangerously foolish and narcissistic man, surrounded by much more clever and malevolent interest parties, with his finger on the button.

I am at a loss to see how in the US that so many intelligent and seasoned politicians seemed incapable of addressing the root cause of this issue.

How could they not sway the mentality of educated people who live in relative comfort or spectacular wealth that, somehow, helping raise the standards of those less well off is something to be feared is the cause of this - it's not the 'disenfranchised poor white man' you only have to look at the numbers of college educated, middle-class whites who voted Trump in the US elections to see that.

There is no universe in which people like me and the much, much richer would be penalised unduly to raise up the lot of those who have next to nothing, how did we get to the point where in the US, a country I really love, where educated people with so little to lose decided that they wanted to vote for a man, and his cronies, who seem hell bent on destroying their whole country and taking the world with them.

And although, statistically, it was the reverse here with the Brexit vote, with those with less education and considered to be 'lower class', voted to leave, it was a direct echo of the US elections in that it was built on a tissue of lies and the cult of personality - albeit the morally repugnant ones of the likes of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson, who have no need to worry about the consequences of their actions because they are rich and white and there will always be jobs for those kind of boys.

How have we allowed ourselves to slowly cave in to a world of post-factual debate, where that cult of personality has become more important than professional competency and where hate and fear have overtaken - and we find ourselves back to the points of history I made earlier all too neatly.

It seems all too easy to say make blithe comparisons to Nazi Germany right now but I'm sure you've studied it in school and it must be on your mind that this sounds horribly familiar and all I can pray is that we aren't heading down that road, but it does feel like the start of it is far, far behind us.

How do we have people amongst us who aren't voting on principle or on a considered analysis but on some sort of 'they're going to take it all away from me'? And are so ashamed of their protectionist attitude towards their own position that they can't even admit it to pollsters, who don't even record their names.

And in everything that is going on, let's not forget that one of the most balanced and caring politicians we had in the UK was murdered during the Brexit campaign and the man accused will go on trial this month or that a man was able to sit outside a polling station in the US with a sign that said 'faggots vote Democrat' and a gun isn't going to even face prosecution.

Let alone the message that is sent to any victim of sexual violence, especially women, that a man who is accused of 11 counts of sexual assault, can be elected as 'the leader of the free world'.

So, I'm making this plea to you my darling niece and nephew, and to all of their generation - be better than us, 

Lead us into an era of compassion and sense, lead us into a world where facts are more important than the frothing hatemongers hell-bent on feathering their own nests and where caring and embracing other cultures is more important than building walls; continue the work of breaking down barriers that has characterised so much of society in the last 50 years or so and, most importantly, love your fellow humans - we have more in common than we do separating us and that intelligent and thoughtful actions around caring, understanding and acceptance are the most important things you should open your hearts and minds to. 

And always remember that I love you, you are our future, please make it a bright one.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Orange Beer Ice Cream

On a damn hot day it seemed like a good time to publish this – enjoy!

Makes about 1.5l ice cream

I served mine with a doppelbock fondant tarte that I'll post the recipe for soon
400ml whole milk (preferably Jersey as it’s got extra fat content that will make up for the beer not having any)
75ml Orbit Peel or Earth Ales Spicy Weisse
300ml double cream
5 egg yolk

140g caster sugar           
zest 2 oranges (blood if in season)
4tbsps of blood orange juice or juice of one orange

  1. If you have time, freeze the orange juice
  2. Gently heat milk, beer cream until it starts to just bubble
  3. Whilst you’re keeping an eye on that, whisk together yolks and sugar until it’s properly amalgamated and very pale
  4. Get a damp towel under your bowl so it doesn’t move around and then gradually whisk in the warm beer/milk/cream, do not stop whisking or you’ll get lumps!
  5. Return to pan, really gently heat and stir until thickened (I find one of those silicone spatulas is best for this, it brings it off the base of the saucepan best) DO NOT STOP STIRRING
  6. When you can draw a firm line on the back of the spatula you are done
  7. Allow to cool for a few moments and then stir in zest and (frozen) juice, which will help bring the temperature down, pass through a fine sieve in case you did scramble some egg and put in a metal bowl and allow to get very cold in fridge
  8. Churn in an ice cream maker or follow this method if you don’t have one – enjoy!

Friday, 1 July 2016

Simple Beer Bread Recipe

I love sourdough, I do, it's great... but there are times when you just want simple bread.

Just nothing complicated bread, still warm from the oven that you've made yourself and salivated over as it cools so you can cut off the crust, slather it in artery clogging levels of salty butter and sink
your teeth into it... that's this bread.

However, good bread - like good beer - doesn't just happen, it has to be approached with some consideration for a number of things - the main ones being the base ingredients and the fermentation temperatures.

First off, let's discuss the beer.

After I made this bread without beer a few times and it worked well, I then tried five different beers Williams Bros. Ebulum, Elgood's Black Dog, Waitrose own brand Dunkelweiss, Sierra Nevada Torpedo and Purity Saddle Black.

The Ebulum just shaded it (closely followed by the Black Dog & Dunkelweiss) because it genuinely brings something extra to the party, the elderberry gives a little fruity tang and I really like the added depth of a slight chocolatey sweetness it brings.

And you might notice there's a common theme with the beers I liked - they're sweeter malt-forward beers and low-hop and that, in my opinion, is what you want.

Your choice of beer is important for a number of reasons but the main one is bitterness levels and you want to keep these low in bread in my book.

Now, don't get me wrong, when I drink a beer I like a good belt of bitterness, I love a good IPA, but that's not the point, it's about the appropriateness of the beer in the bread.

In my personal opinion, and all these things are personal, I don't like highly bitter beers in bread. I find that bitter finish doesn't work, it doesn't harmonise with the sweetness of the wheat flour and there are also some other factors at play that can make it more intense than when you put it in.

When you make bread you lose roughly 10-13% of its weight, the majority of which is evaporation in the proving, baking & cooling process, but why does that affect your beer choice?

Well, it means tastes and flavours are going to be concentrated - which can prove particularly troublesome when it comes to intense bitterness, which only has to grow by small increments for it to go from pleasant to lingering to minging!

If you'd like a simple example then just think about how that one small piece of burnt garlic can make a whole dish taste like the Springfield tyre pyre and you'll get what I mean.

So, make sure you know your beer and how bitter it is before you get carried away with the baking!

Beer nailed, let's talk about the second part of how to get this bread bang on and that's fermentation temperatures.

Temperature control in bread is as important as beer to get the right results but it’s often one of those steps that’s kind of futzed when you read recipes, so it’s taken me a while to figure out a good system to get my dough to proof properly.

The missive you hear and read all the time on TV, the internet and in magazines and cookbooks is to leave your dough ‘somewhere warm’ - not terribly specific is it? It kind of implies gently balmy doesn’t it? Most people’s homes are ‘warm’ these days anyway, that’s enough right?


Unless you are basically a lizard (or me, I’m never warm) the average home is around 18C/64F but the best temperature I've found for getting good fermentation in my bread is about 80 degrees F or roughly 26 degrees C (I use Dove’s Farm Quick Yeast BTW).

But, how do you get that temperature? 

Well, the simple route is to get a proper oven thermometer and heat your oven to 26C/80F and pop your dough in with a damp tea towel over the top, turn your oven off and use a temperature probe in your dough to make sure it doesn’t get too hot or your yeast will die and you’ll have less a loaf of bread and more a brick.

Or, if you’re a sad case for kitchen gadgets like me, you can use a temperature-controlled sous vide/slow cooker for your proofing… yes, I know, I need to order less things from the internet when I've been drinking!

And that's it, just follow the recipe below and you should be knocking out luxurious loaves before you know it!

However, just one final thing before I go, do have a play around with your yeast’s source of sugar. I’ve found that using maple syrup provides just a tad more richness and smoothness to my finished bread but find what works for you.

So, here's a very simple beer bread recipe after what was a somewhat complicated post! 

Do send me pics on social media or post your results below, look forward to hearing from you. Cheers.
Simple Beer Bread
Makes 1 medium loaf
300g strong wholemeal flour
200g strong white flour
1tsp fine ground sea salt
1tsp quick yeast
1.5tsp maple syrup
150ml boiling water
150ml cold Ebulum
1.5tsp ground nut oil (or another fairly neutral oil)
Half pint of tap water to hand for baking part
1tbsp linseeds
1tbsp sunflower seeds

  1. Pre heat your oven to 210C/190C fan
  2. Put all dry ingredients in a bowl or mixer and mix together quickly
  3. Add your maple syrup to your boiling water and stir until dissolved, then add the cold beer, this should give you the perfect temperature to add to the dough
  4. Start your mixer or stir in half the liquid, then continue to add until your dough forms, you may not need all of it, you may need a bit more - every flour is different!
  5. Need until smooth - mine takes about eight-10 minutes in a mixer
  6. Turn out into a lightly-oiled bowl and cover with a damp tea cloth (or get one of these awesome little Lekue bread thingies) and leave somewhere at 26C/80F for 30-35 minutes
  7. Turn into a lightly-oiled bread tin (or leave in your Lekue) and get ready to move quickly!
  8. Put your bread tin within grabbing distance and pick up your half pint of water, open your oven door and throw the water on the base of the oven, grab your dough and put it on the middle rack and close the door as quickly as possible - this helps form a good crust on your loaf
  9. Check your loaf for even browning after about 25 minutes and turn it if necessary and it should be done in about 40 minutes total
  10. Leave for at least 10 minutes - I know it's torture but that just completes the final bit of cooking in the middle and means you won't get a tummy ache from eating it!
  11. Slather with salted butter (none of this unsalted crap and don't even talk to me about spreads or margarine) and enjoy

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

A Brief Commercial Interlude

Tonight I'm launching a beer I brewed with Jonny Park of Tap East and my dad for his 70th birthday.

Mischief managed!
This, in case you are wondering, is what he looked like when he was about five years old - tie askew and clearly plotting something naughty for when he gets out of school.

And, if I'm really honest, I don't think he's changed much mentality-wise, he's just got better at getting away with stuff as he's got older!

I may also resemble this remark...

However, it would be wrong to say I'm just like my dad, I'm not, I am, without doubt, the sum of my mum and dad's personalities, with a little of 'just me' in there too.

I have my mum's blunt pragmatism, 'don't give a shit what you think' attitude and her moves on the dance floor.

The best way I can explain why I've picked out those three things as most resembling my mum, is also a story of one the funniest things I have EVER seen.

Let me set the scene: my bestie Christine has a fabulous loft apartment in Clerkenwell and it's the perfect party venue and she kindly offered it to me for my 30th birthday party, which was ace.

So, there's about 40 of us having a great time apart form one person the girlfriend of a (now former) friend who I had explicitly asked him not to bring... nobody liked her as she was the judgiest person ev-ah!

Look at that wicked grin!
Anyway, mum & I were dancing away happily to my great mate Dave VJ spinning the tunes but he couldn't play music loud enough to drown out her chuntering away about how we were dancing and how 'inappropriate it was for a woman of Bernice's age' and so on and so on.

So, after two songs of this behaviour my mum, god love her, had had quite enough and straight-up slut dropped - waving her booty right in front of this judgy baggage's face!!! Stood up and said: "No, that's probably a little inappropriate for a woman my age but I don't give a shit what you think" before sashaying her way back over to where I was standing with my jaw on the floor before bursting into uncontrollable howls of glee at her actions.

Honest to god, in my eyes that evening, my mum wore a cape that fluttered in the non-existent wind as she stood there with her hands on her hips like a dance floor-owning, bitch-slapping goddess.

That's what I get from my mum and I love that side of me, and her.

However, there's no doubt I have more similarities to my dad as I grow older - which my mum & sister would tell you is not necessarily a good thing!

We go fishing together, we like to work with our hands, we are both story tellers (although I cannot tell jokes and my dad excels at it) and if you leave us alone together for long enough we're almost bound to get in trouble/break something/do something silly that will piss my mum off/be reduced to uncontrollable giggles at a joke only we understand... or all the above.

It was my dad that taught me that being selfish isn't necessarily a bad thing, as long as you don't hurt other people along the way. By 'selfish' I mean doing what you want to do, to achieve what you want to achieve or experience new things and gain new skills in life.

He was also my role model for striking out on my own and offered lots of advice and support to me as I did so.

However, the thing I love most is spending time on the river bank with him, nothing does my soul as much good as hanging out with my dad for the day, trying to catch trout and setting the world to rights.

Smelling gooooood! 
But brewing this beer came a close second.

Seeing dad recognise how much hard work and expertise goes into a brew, seeing me chatting with a brewer about how we were going to progress through the day, what we were looking to achieve and then getting stuck in was brilliant.

Not so keen on the hurry up and wait aspect (he's also where I get my notorious lack of patience for things that aren't engaging me from) it's probably the most engaged I've seen him in a project that doesn't involve woodwork, springer spaniels, sailing or fishing.

And it's the personal nature of the brew that I'm thrilled with too - Commercial Road is named after the road in the East End of London that connected the East & West Indies Docks.

It's also happens to be where my grandparents lived until their house was bombed in WWII and they ended up in Englefield Green in Surrey, (a wonderland for naughty little boys to grow up, with Windsor Great Park just down the road!).

So, between the connection to my dad's parents and the fact that the road joined the docks where IPA was shipped to the Indies, it seemed only natural to brew an English-style IPA.

However, right at this point in time I am more scared about a collab launch than I've ever been.
I haven't been able to try it yet and I can only hope that we've created something that's half as memorable as the day of brewing it and that the fun we had making the beer somehow comes through.

Whatever the outcome, it's a day that I'll never forget and one I hope was a nice present for my dad, who isn't in the least bit 70, he's still that tie-askew, wide-eyed-at-the-world, total hooligan you saw in that picture above and in that, and so many other things, he will always be my role model.

Quick thank you to Jim and the guys at Simply Hops, without me even asking, donated the hops for the day - we used Target for bittering and three additions of Warrior Queen and Endeavour and a dry hop of both too.

Big love goes to Jonny Park at Tap East who was unstinting with his time, knowledge and ability to cover me in wort on the day! And thanks to Mike Hill & Richard Dinwoodie for allowing us to go and play on the kit.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

London's Hopping To It

(Just a quick note, I'm working with the London Brewers Alliance on this - mostly because it's AWESOME!)

With over three times the amount of pubs, bars & restaurants signed up to the London Brewers Alliance Hop Shoot Festival than last year, chefs are ready to cook up a storm with an ingredient considered the most expensive veg in the world[1].

Curious diners and beer lovers are set for a rare treat for just a few days from Thursday night as the London Brewer’s Alliance annual hop shoot pick comes around again.
Members of the Alliance, along with a few enthusiastic helpers, will be picking hop shoots, that would otherwise wither on the bine[2] as part of the cultivation process of the plant, and turning them into delicacies to put on a plate.

Among the big name restaurants rising to the challenge this year are St John, Duck & Waffle, Alyn Williams, The Manor, Pidgin, The Dairy, Quality Chop House and Paradise Garage – alongside other noted names as the Drapers Arms, The Empress in Victoria Park, Pitt Cue and the iconic Eagle gastropub – and a long list of other illustrious and award-winning venues across the capital.

Not only are the outlets challenged to use the hops, they are also challenged to think about pairing the dishes with a beer, which means consumers will have a chance to see the full journey of the plant in a very tasty and satisfying fashion.

Commenting on this year’s walk founder of the initiative, and London Brewers Alliance stalwart, Peter Haydon said: “It’s fantastic to see that not only is there a huge growth in breweries in the capital, there’s a huge growth in interest in the whole scene around beer, which includes these hop shoots.

“I’d just like to thank everyone who has got involved this time around and look forward to seeing what creative things the chefs come up with, and perhaps having a few beers with a few of the dishes myself!”
Award-winning beer & food writer Melissa Cole, who assists with project, said: “It was a high bar set by chefs last year who, when I delivered the produce, fell on them with huge enthusiasm and excitement – and I can’t see that changing this year, which means diners and drinkers are in for a huge treat.”

Notes to editors
Social media account details:
Tw: @londonhop
IG: Londonhopshootfest             
For further information please contact:
Melissa Cole on 07798 568400 or or Peter Haydon on 07973 465081 or

Full list of venues:

Paradise Garage
Duck & Waffle
St John Smithfields
St John Bread & Wine
Quality Chop House
Alyn Williams
The Guinea
The Manor
The Dairy
Drapers Arms
The Marksman
Yard Sale Pizza
John the Unicorn
Fanny Nelson's
Lupollo Pizza
The Regent
The Lauriston
The Empress
Crooked Billet
The Hope
The Catford Constitutional Club
Knowles of Norwood
The Bull at Highgate
The Bohemia
Pitt Cue
The Bell Walthamstow
The Eagle (Farringdon)
Essex St
161 Food & Drink
Canopy Tap room
Hops & Glory
Brewdog Soho
Hopstuff Taproom
King & Co.
Woolwich Equitable
The Florence
Flour to the People
Pub on the Park
The Lady Mildmay
Chai Ki
Zerodegrees Blackheath

Beer News Round Up

Random selection of beer news for you! 

@HiverBeers is doing urban bee keeping and beer tasting sessions in Kennington, which is brilliant, we need more bees and pollinating insects full stop - I have taken to randomly throwing cheap packets of wild flower seeds on barren ground to do my bit, but this seems like a much more sensible solution!

Secondly, @littlevalleyale has created a range of beers to stimulate debate in the EU referendum - whilst strongly stating they are voting IN - well done guys & gals.

Also, I'm excited to announce that I'll be doing a beer & food event with @marble57Tstreet during Manchester Beer Week - we've already been working up a menu and beer pairings and it is shaping up to be a properly boozalicious afternoon with, I believe, a few unique beers you won't have seen before. Tickets available here.

It's also London Brewers Alliance hop pick tomorrow, we have two full minibuses and some AMAZING venues on the list including St John, Alyn Williams, Pitt Cue and Duck & Waffle - as well as a whole bunch of pubs like the Bohemia, the Bull at Highgate, Zerodegrees Blackheath and at taprooms like Hopstuff and Sambrook's. I'll have a full list up by this evening with any luck!

Finally, if you'd like to see the all the winners from the @brewersassoc World Beer Cup which I was judging at recently then you can find them here.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Bavaria Gets Controlling Stake in Palm

Bavaria NV has acquired a 60% majority stake in Belgian Palm Craft Brewers. 

Palm Belgian Craft Brewers will thus from now part of Bavaria NV, with (it looks like from the translation) Bavaria taking 100% ownership by 2021 but I need to double check that.

I've been wondering what's going to happen to Palm for a while, the company's withdrawal from direct sales in the UK struck me as incredibly odd, the thirst for a number of its brands here was clear: Rodenbach & Boon couldn't be more loved.

I'll add more as I get the UK translations! 

Thanks to @belgiansmaak for forwarding the releases to me - very kind.

Monday, 21 March 2016

It'll All Be Back Soon!

So, my lovely friend Andy has helped sort out the issues with my website and I've reverted back to my old Blogger home for now and, frankly, the foreseeable future.

I still need to upload all the old posts from the website, but I'll get round to that over the next few weeks but it feels good to be back!

Thanks to all of you who contacted me to let me know my old site had been hacked, I hope the person who did that was proud of themselves... go and do something useful like using your skills to MAKE things rather than destroy them.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Hopping for a Heavenly Experience!

Morning beer lovers, I’m super-excited to announce details of my latest collab and how we are launching it.

It’s called Green Goddess and I have once again teamed up with Ilkley to make a slightly bonkers, but hopefully belting, beer.
Collecting the fresh Sovereign hops at the Charles Faram Hop Walk
The beer is named Green Goddess as an obvious reference to the green hops in the beer but also helps highlight the gloriously soft Yorkshire water the brewery uses, with a nod towards the Roman goddess Verbeia of the River Wharfe, which runs through Ilkley,
The process for making this beer started a little unusually, in that the day before brewing I found myself on a train to my second hop walk in a week*
Myself and a bevy of brewers, ate a truly delicious buffet lunch before listening to Mr Hop himself, Paul Corbett of Charles Faram about the UK harvest, which is actually looking surprisingly healthy, my new hero Dr Peter Darby of the Wye Hops research and development facility and the wonderfully passionate Alison Capper, who is subtly overhauling the British Hop Association – which was all very enlightening.
After this, and a mosey around to see the bines and some traditional hop stringing demonstrations, we jumped in the car and drove up to Ilkley (trying not to be lulled to sleep by the soporific effect of the hops) to brew the next day.
The lovely people at Ilkley had sourced some La Chouffe yeast and so, alongside the brewster Harriet, we set to work creating what I hope will be a truly heavenly beer.
As is usual with me, you won’t be surprised to hear that there are a few surprises in the beer, and this time I wanted to add some Szechuan peppercorns, to help underpin the spicy nature of the yeast and bring a little ‘oomph’ to proceedings and also Nigella seeds (also known as Roman coriander, which chimes nicely with the reference to the historic connection we’ve chosen for the name!), for their slightly bitter, lemony aspect.
So, where can you get it? Well, we’ll be launching it on October 3 in London and it will be sitting on the bar alongside my previous Ilkley collab, Siberia, and the brewery’s new, luscious but low ABV, golden beer called Dinner Ale, which is a celebratory brew of the beautiful Nelson Sauvin hop.
Details of the launch venues and timings we’ll be there, at which point Green Goddess will start pouring, are:
Red Lion, Leytonstone, E11 - 5.30pm- 6.30pm
Tap East, Westfield, Stratford - 7pm-8pm
Old Red Cow, Smithfield, EC1A - 8.30pm-9.30pm
The Rake, Borough Market, SE1 - 10pm until closing
*The first hop walk being courtesy of Shepherd Neame, which I thank profusely for a lovely 24-hours of hospitality and you should check out the Kent Green Hop Beer Fortnight website here for more info on that very cool idea.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Never Was a Cornflake Girl

You can just see how juicy this is, sorry about rubbish pics and general carnage of plate!
I am afraid that headline will only mean something to those of you of a ‘certain age’ but, hopefully, for those of you who get it it’s raised a nostalgic smile (for those who don’t understand the reference, hit iTunes and search for Tori Amos, if nothing else, the Armand Van Helden mix Professional Widow has stood the test of time immensely well...).
Anyway, I digress, back to cornflakes… they were never a favourite, even though my beloved granddad would feed them to me. I was always a Rice Krispies fan (loved that snap, crackle & pop) but when I heard of the concept of cornflake ‘fried’ chicken I was intrigued!
Ever since visiting Yardbird in Miami, I’ve become a little obsessed with the whole fried chicken thing, so new variations on a super-crunchy outside had me hooked.
However, what I didn’t realise was that this was supposed to a healthy version of fried chicken cooked in the oven, which (naturally) I completely ignored, and went ahead and fried anyway!
I’m not going to lie, this is a multi-stage process but - oh my - is it worth it when you sit down to indulge! I am not saying you can’t oven cook this, I’m sure you probably can, I’m just one of those people that doesn’t bother with half measures.
To whit, I am going to offer some advice based on the no half measures mantra; making your own buttermilk using lemon juice or vinegar is simply not as effective as buying the proper stuff, I’ve tried on numerous occasions and, frankly, it’s rubbish in comparison.
I’m afraid that the pictures are of my first attempt and not the more successful second, because I was so excited to get in there and eat it, I forgot to take pictures of the finished article. But, no matter, because I’m pretty sure you guys are smart enough to get the general gist of things!
Beer & Buttermilk Brined Fried Chicken w/Cornflake Crust
Another truly dreadful pic that makes it look burnt, it's really not! Sorry about my lack of camera skills!
Sharp knife
Chopping boards
Large non-metallic bowl (needs to hold about 3l of liquid)
3 bowls suitable for flour, egg and bread crumbing your chicken
Pestle & mortar
Small frying pan
Deep fat fryer or wok
Large, deep saucepan
Food processor
Slotted spoon
Cooking thermometer
Cooling rack
Baking tray
Kitchen roll
Cling film
Ingredients - for brine/cooking liquor:
1 free-range chicken butchered into eighths or 8 sizeable chicken pieces, skin on
600ml buttermilk (got mine at Sainsbury’s)
2 bottles light summer ale, I used Bath Ales Wild Hare
2 white onions
4 celery sticks – roughly chopped
2 carrots – roughly chopped
4 garlic cloves – smashed
Bunch of thyme – bruised with back of knife
Bunch of oregano - bruised with back of knife
1 jalapeño (or hotter chilli depending on preference) – pierced in several places
5 tbsp Cajun seasoning (I used Bart’s)
2 tbsp smoked paprika
250ml brown chicken stock
4tbsp sea salt
Groundnut oil
 Stage 1:
  1. Warm pan to medium heat, soften onions, celery, carrot for a few minutes, then add garlic
  2. After another minute add the Cajun seasoning and paprika, when they start to become nicely aromatic, deglaze pan with chicken stock and pour into the non-metallic bowl
  3. When cooled slightly add beer, then buttermilk and whisk well, pop in freezer to cool
  4. Place chicken pieces into cooled mixture, cover with cling film and place in fridge overnight
 Stage 2:
  1. Take your bowl of chicken out of the fridge for at least half an hour
  2. Get a large pan, big enough to take the chicken and the liquid and pour it all in
  3. Bring to a temperature where bubbles just break the surface, cook for 15 minutes – check internal temp of chicken has reached 75 degrees C
  4. Allow to cool in cooking liquor
  5. When just warm still, remove from liquor and place on some kitchen towel and return to fridge
  6. Discard liquor
 Ingredients - for the frying stage:
250g breadcrumbs (I use granary bread because I like the nutty crunch)
75g cornflakes
3tbsp Cajun powder
1 tbsp finely-chopped thyme leaves
2tbsp Chipotle hot sauce (I used the Wahaca one)
2 large eggs
100g cornflour
1 litre of groundnut oil
 Stage 3:
  1. Using your thermometer in a deep frying pan or wok, heat your oil to 175 degrees C and turn your oven on to a low ‘keep warm’ heat
  2. Using a  food processor, pulse the cornflakes until roughly chopped and mix with breadcrumbs, add 1tbsp of Cajun seasoning and set aside
  3. Mix the flour, thyme and remaining 2tbsp of Cajun seasoning
  4. Roll chicken pieces in just the seasoned flour and then gently lower into hot oil in batches
  5. Allow to just brown and remove immediately to fresh kitchen towel
  6. Whilst chicken is cooling slightly, whisk your hot sauce into your eggs
  7. Line a baking tray with kitchen towel & put a cooling rack over the top
  8. When all your pieces are done and at a heat where you can hold them, re-roll in flour, then egg mix and finally breadcrumb/cornflake mix
  9. As you crumb each piece, lower it immediately, gently and away from you, into the hot oil
  10. Cook one or two pieces at a time (depending on size of your pan) and then, when they are golden brown, put on cooling rack and pop in oven to keep warm/rest
  11. Repeat until all your chicken is cooked and in the oven resting/draining
  12. I served this with corn on the cob (I first boiled, then dried, brushed with unsalted butter and then popped this in a dry pan to get a bit of smokiness on it) and home-made coleslaw but your sides are your business!
 To Drink:
It’s an American classic, so you can’t not have an American beer with it! I’d just been sent some Fordham to try and the Pale Ale wasn’t a bad accompaniment, but I did find myself wanting something a bit bigger, so an Odell IPA or a Bear Republic Racer 5 would go nicely.
p.s. My attention has just been drawn to what the song I referenced in the headline was about, I was completely ignorant of this and did not mean to be glib in any way, it was just a pop culture comment, will now be making a donation to a charity that fights this kind of ignorant practice post-haste!

p.p.s Said donation now made to @OrchidProject

Eggstra, Eggstra!

As today I was able to announce that I’ll be compering the awesome Scotch Egg Challenge at The Ship on the banks of the Thames at Wandsworth on September 25, I thought I’d post my own modest offering.
I am, as they say, a bit of a bugger for a good Scotch Egg; when made fresh I think they are best served slightly warm and with a runny yolk, which is always a gamble when you can’t see what’s going on inside when you're frying it, but it’s worth a whirl nonetheless, and I think I’ve pretty much nailed it with this method.
Personally I like it with a good mustard mayonnaise or sauce to dip them in, but some people prefer some brown sauce - Daddies, HP or posher is, of course, down to you!
I do specify the type of black pudding in the recipe, but if you can’t get hold of Bury black pudding then try it with any other you can get your hands on, but do try and make sure it’s got a good ratio of chunky fat in it, it’ll help make your Scotch egg an unctuous thing of sheer beauty.
p.s. Sorry about lack of picture of my offering, some bugger has nicked my camera and that’s what the pictures of my gorgeous eggs were on :( So instead I shamelessly nicked this image from David Constable's blog Forever Eggsploring, he's the curator behind this competition and had the hard job of whittling down the entries along with the Ship guys & gals!
Equipment:Sharp knife
Large, non-metallic mixing bowl
Medium bowl
Small saucepan
Fine sieve
Kitchen roll
Slotted spoon
Cling film
Medium frying pan
Deep pan suitable for frying, wok or deep-fat fryer
Dishes suitable for flour, egg & breadcrumb process
Pestle & mortar
Chopping board
Ice cubes (not strictly equipment but worth flagging up!)
100g granary breadcrumbs
50g plain flour
3 medium eggs (at room temperature)
2 tbsp milk
100g room temperature sausage meat (I used Duchy Organics but a good pork sausage, skinned, should do it, or ask your butcher for your preferred type)
50g room temperature Bury black pudding, finely chopped
100ml traditional bitter, I used Black Sheep Ale (you may not use all of it)
½ red onion, very finely chopped
½ tbsp fresh sage, finely chopped
½ tbsp fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
½ tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
½ tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped
½ tsp ground chilli flakes, crushed further in pestle & mortar
1 ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
1litre of groundnut oil + a little for frying
Small knob of unsalted butter
At least two trays worth of ice
  1. Put pan of water on to boil
  2. Meanwhile, very gently fry your onion, pepper, chilli & herbs until onion just softened in the butter with a little oil added
  3. Place in sieve over some kitchen towel to drain, put in freezer to cool
  4. Place two eggs in boiling water for five minutes and then plunge straight into bowl of iced water
  5. Take your onion and herb mix out of the freezer; rub your hands with a little groundnut oil and squidge into the black pudding and sausage meat (it’s joyously mucky this bit!) and slowly add your beer, making sure you don’t make too sloppy a paste and that there’s still bits of whole black pudding in the mix
  6. Pop in fridge for 10 minutes to mingle and become a touch firm
  7. Take a foot long piece of cling film and oil it lightly, place half your meat mixture on it, lightly flour your carefully peeled egg and then use the cling film to mould the mixture around the egg
  8. Repeat with other half and return to fridge for 10 minutes to firm up slightly
  9. Whisk together your egg & milk, put in a dish and, in two other separate dishes put your breadcrumbs and flour
  10. Heat your oil, in your large pan or deep-fat fryer to 170c
  11. Remove your ‘naked’ Scotch eggs from the fridge, unwrap and dip in flour, then egg/milk mix and then breadcrumbs, repeat the egg and breadcrumb steps at least once, I tend to triple dip mine as I like a really good crunchy coating
  12. Using your slotted spoon, lower the eggs gently into the oil and fry for approximately seven minutes, turning occasionally
  13. When the eggs float they are done
  14. Place on kitchen towel to drain and as soon as you can handle them without searing your fingertips, cut in half and serve with your sauce of choice – or just by themselves, your choice!
Beer Accompaniment:I am a big fan of a really good traditional pint of British bitter with these; I like the rest of the bottle of Black Sheep with them (if it lasts through the cooking process, which is unlikely) but have also found Fuller’s Chiswick, Young’s Bitter, Sambrook’s Wandle (in bottle that is, still not a huge fan of the cask) and have even found that a more robust ESB will go well. I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that a mild would also be a belting partner, something like Moorhouse’s Black Cat for example.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

An Open Letter To All Breweries About Branding

Dear Brewers, Brewsters, Marketing People and Art Departments,
I love our industry, I really do. I feel blessed every day to work in, what is undoubtedly, the warmest, most welcoming and fun business in the known cosmos.
But I've got a bit of a bone to pick with you... in fact, I've got a whole skeleton's worth... and it's about the sexist imagery some of you use to promote your beers.
Just in case you haven't noticed, in the last few days there's been a bit of a furore about the issue of rape, some bloke called Julian, a mahoosively ill-informed American politician and some loud-mouthed idiot who has remarkably managed to manipulate a whole section of society into voting for him.
I'm not, for a single moment, saying that pump clips or bottle labels incite rape - that would be equally bone-headed - but you only have to look at the enormous backlash such idiotic comments have evoked to see that sexism has no place in modern society - so why do you still indulge in it?
As business people can you honestly not see that it does PRECISELY NOTHING to encourage intelligent people into drinking beer? And I'm not just speaking for women here, a brief comment on Twitter, and the resulting responses, shows that many men find it equally disturbing.
And just in case you're wondering whether this is merely an intellectual objection, I'd like to give you an example of why branding and sexism is a real issue. At the Great British Beer Festival this year I was happily minding my own business, waiting for a mate to return to the bar, when I was approached by a man who asked me what I thought of the pump clip next to me.
It was a nonsense 'slap & tickle' style image and I said I thought it was stupid. Cue said 'gentleman' launching into a full-scale rant at me that started with: 'Yeah, I know who you are. You're that joyless cow who complains about this all the bloody time. It's harmless fun, what's your f*cking problem.'
And much as I enjoy a spirited debate from time to time (for those of you who know me, feel free to snigger), I walked away. Why? Well, as a wise man once said to me: "Don't argue with idiots, they've had way more practice."
But I was targeted, in a very aggressive manner, by someone who wanted to use my stance on sexist marketing as a big stick to beat me with for being a woman in the beer industry - is this something you want to encourage or that you want your brand associated with?
And if that one anecdote, and sadly I have a number of them, doesn't do it for you, perhaps I could draw your attention to the fact that research by Molson Coors shows that 42% of women are put off beer by the macho marketing...
From a professional standpoint I also get more than a bit ticked off when I seek to engage with you about this issues quietly and politely in the background (I'm looking at YOU Marstons) ignoring my efforts is pretty rude to be honest, so I'm going to say it publicly instead!
Some of your range of seasonal pump clips for the Wychwood and Jennings brands are depressing at best and, at worst, simply puerile. Are you honestly proud that your products have joined the beer equivalent of the rogue's gallery over at Pumpclip Parade? (BTW, kudos to Jeff Pickthall for running this site.)
If smaller companies like Hart Brewing, which has previously been a particularly bad offender, has recognised that it needs to change its ways, how come one of the largest regional brewers in the country seems incapable of doing so?
And can we just take a moment to look at the Slater's range and the frankly pathetic out-dated, out-moded and tragic pump clip for the equally tragically-named Top Totty that hit the headlines earlier in the year after being banned from the Strangers Bar in the House of Commons?
All else aside, from a purely aesthetic point of view, how can a successful and genuinely good brewery not see how appalling cheap, nasty and tacky it looks against the rest of the brands?
These are sadly just a small selection of the awful dross out there which is damaging our industry's image and making life difficult for women to get into beer, let alone those of us who are already in, what I've said before and will say again, is a truly wonderful business.
You may think I'm making a fuss about nothing but, I'm a firm believer that any aspect of society that fosters intolerance is created of thousands of elements, none of which are too small to challenge, and this element should, most certainly, be called time on.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Sometimes Simple Pleasures Take Some Work

Simple & seasonal, with Jersey Royals & asparagus
well worth the prep
I don't know about you but I love roast chicken, I mean I really love roast chicken!

The smell of it cooking, the juiciness of the wings when they are yanked off just after cooking as a naughty chef's treat and then, the main event, that glorious white meat (or in my case I prefer the brown meat) nestled amongst some greens and roast potatoes, the crackle of browned skin, the addictiveness of reduced pan gravy... I could go on but I'm making myself hungry and I've only just had lunch!

However, there is always that between the crispy skin and juicy meat isn't there? Well, not any more! If you follow this recipe you'll have no dilemma, just gloriously juicy chicken AND crispy skin. And thank you Heston, once again, for inspiring this method of cooking.

Firstly, you'll need to start the prep 24 hours in advance but it's so ridiculously simple to do that you'll not break a sweat, even in this lovely weather!

Secondly, mix it up by all means, there's no real limit to what you can put in a brine in my experience, the only thing I do recommend is that you don't use aggressively hopped beers, they are just too bitter and counteract that delicious sweetness you want from the chicken and mess up the gravy.

Thirdly, don't over-do it on the salt, the reason why this works is that it is on the lower end of brining and means you can not only use a small amount of the brining liquid in your gravy but also that you don't have to spend ages and, let's face it currently precious water, to rinse it for an age when it comes out of the brine.

Finally, the great thing about this is, and I rarely hint at the healthy thing because, frankly, I'm more interested in flavour, but this does save stuffing a load of flavoured butter under the skin like I used to. (Although, if you don't have time for this method it's still a damn tasty way to go!)

Frying pan
Non-metallic bowl big enough to hold chicken
Sharp knife
Brined and ready to go
Chopping board
Roasting pan with trivet big enough for chicken
Meat thermometer
Oven thermometer
Kitchen towel
Small saucepan
Fine sieve/muslin

Ingredients for Brine:
1 bottle of Chimay
Handful of coarse sea salt - crushed/milled
Mild green chilli - pierced several times
Just out of oven
(browner than it looks!)
Bulb of garlic cut in half horizontally
Onion roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
6 cracked peppercorns - dry pan fried quickly
Handful of fresh thyme

Other Ingredients:
1 free range (or organic) chicken
1 lemon - pierced several times
Garlic from brine
1 pint of brown chicken stock
1tbsp dried tarragon
1 tsp sherry vinegar
1/2 tsp honey
Ladle full of brine


  1. Give chicken a rinse, if it's trussed then untruss it and remove wishbone for easy carving
  2. Put all brine ingredients into bowl, stir until salt dissolves
  3. Place chicken in brine & then top up with enough water to cover, leave in fridge overnight
  4. When ready to cook, heat oven to 90 degrees C
  5. Whilst oven is heating take chicken out of brine, reserving a ladle full of liquid and the garlic and place the chicken on a plate on a bed of kitchen towel and also place some kitchen towel on top of skin to dry it, remove after a few minutes and allow chicken to come to room temp, around half an hour should do it
  6. When chicken is no longer cold to the touch pop your lemon and the garlic from the brine in the cavity, place  on the trivet in your roasting tray in the middle of the oven and leave for around 3.5-4 hours depending on the size of your bird, keep an eye on the oven temperature every so often
  7. Check internal temp after 3 hours and every 15 minutes or so from there, and when the thickest part of the breast has hit 60 degrees turn the oven off, leave the door open for five minutes and then allow to rest in the warm oven for around half an hour
  8. By this stage I generally find my skin has crisped a bit, but if you want it browner take chicken out of oven and transfer to another baking dish/tray
  9. Whack temperature up to 200 degrees C 
  10.  Whilst your oven is heating up, put your baking tray on the hob and heat, then deglaze with some chicken stock, scrap all the gooey goodness out and then transfer to your saucepan, add your ladle of beer brine and the tarragon, reduce to your taste of thickness
  11. When the chicken is browned, open oven door and leave to rest for 15
  12. Strain off gravy through sieve to lose dried tarragon, add your honey and vinegar to taste for the gravy, whisk in, heat for a few more minutes and then carve, serve, enjoy!

Drink Match:
I am actually drinking the Thatcher's 2011 Vintage I planned to have with this as I type, but something light and fruity, soft and blonde would be perfect. A great quality lager, like Brooklyn, Freedom or Pilsner Urquell or a light ale like Adnams Explorer, Camden Wheat, St Austell Clouded Yellow or Little Creatures Pale Ale would be delightful.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Final Ride

Whilst it's not unexpected, I am very, very sad to hear of the death of Dave Wickett, a true titan of the brewing world, after a long battle with cancer.

Dave's brew, Kelham Island Pale Rider, was my epiphany beer - the beer that changed the course of my life you could say - and for that I will always be grateful to a wonderfully collegiate, intelligent and passionate man.

When I met Dave at the Great British Beer Festival for the first time, I couldn't have been more delighted that I really liked and admired the man who made it as well. 

In fact, I will freely admit that I behaved like a star-struck adolescent, stammering out ridiculous stories of how his beer was the one that made me sit up and take notice of real ale and, despite my burblings, he seemed genuinely interested in the impact his beer had on me and never stopped being interested, or interesting, during any of our subsequent conversations.

And it’s not just me that had a bit of a crush on Dave either, the whole UK brewing industry has a soft spot in their heart for him and he gets much credit for inspiring a whole new generation of brewers in the UK, not just through his own brewery but by helping other businesses like Thornbridge get off the ground too.

But where did he start? Well, it all happened when Wickett decided to throw in his lecturing day job and opened the Kelham Island brewery in 1990 next door to the Fat Cat pub and he also threw his doors open to the public.

During the brewery tours that he gave he showed off raw ingredients and he saw that men would really like the aroma from rubbing the bittering hops but that women didn’t, they like the aroma hops and a similar profile of behaviour happened when it came to the tastings.

However, he had no desire to make a lager, so he saddled up for a brainstorming session and  devised a beer that was high in aroma and low in bitterness like a lager but with a full, creamy body of an ale and Pale Rider was born.

The reports back were that the beer was flying out, being enjoyed by men and women from all walks of life and within three months it was the most popular beer the brewery has ever made and it’s not stopped winning awards either, it took CAMRA Champion Beer of Britain award in 2004 and so many others it’s hard to keep count.*

Dave, you are a huge loss to the brewing industry but I hope you know that your legacy is one of greatness, of innovation and of true leadership by example. RIP.

*this is a slight adaptation of what I wrote about Dave in my book, this is not an advert, just a clarification.