Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Food for Thought

I've been doing a few bits and pieces on beer and food for trade magazine the Publican and the lovely food editor and mate of mine John Porter kindly agreed that I could reproduce them here - I hope they provide some inspiration or at least get the old juices flowing!

Golden Ales
Light and hoppy, best served quite chilled and unfeasibly refreshing - golden ales are my summer drink, they are like liquid sunshine. And because of this they complement summer food beautifully - particularly when it comes to kitsch classics; lemon, honey & mustard drumsticks straight from the BBQ, Coronation chicken and prawn cocktail all go fantastically with these golden glories - but there is also so much more scope for them food-wise than this rather unimmaginative stuff.

I think golden ales are the ideal aperitif - I often like to serve them super-chilled in a champagne glass as their intensely hoppy nature gets the palette going beautifully - especially such hop monsters as the legendary HopBack Summer Lightning or the lesser-known, but equally fabulous, Beowulf Mercian Shine.

Or, if you want to pair them with some exciting food, how about a sumptuous John Dory stuffed with aromatic rosemary, garlic and lime and roasted until the skin is crispy and flesh is flaky and to round off a meal how about knocking up a classic key lime pie? Golden ales with their blaring hops and tingly carbonation will be more than equipped to cope with this lusty finish to a fine meal.

Wheat Beers
My first experience of a wheat beer was when it was served to a sceptical me about 10 years ago with sushi, at the time another first, and I haven't looked back since; so with the summer approaching and, at the time of writing, the England cricket team doing well your attention could turn to al fresco dining and light refreshment in the form of the filtered wheat beers like Sierra Nevada's Crystal Wheat.

The clearer wheat beers can be deliciously refreshing and citrus and to match them I still don't think you can't beat pan-Asian cuisine such as with sushi, sashimi or a vibrant Thai salmon salad with a tongue-tingling sweet/sour/salty/spicy dressing, with crunchy slivers of carrot, beansprouts, sugar snap peas and pea shoots.

But if we're looking at the colder days - such as the recent test at Headingley where I could be found freezing various extremities off - I would opt for the deeper, sweeter, heartier hefe with something like a slow-cooked shoulder of pork in milk.

This Italian favourite - which is flavoured with cinnamon, sage, rosemary, garlic and lemon peel - should be served with the crispiest of saute potatoes and a big helping of curly kale.

The aromatics in the pork will really complement the clove and orange characteristics of most hefes whilst the honest, earthy flavours of the potatoes and kale will dampen the often overwhelmingly sweet bubblegum notes in hefes and stop it from becoming too cloying.

Russian Imperial, English Milk or Irish Dry - stout is truly a marvel of brewing alchemy, its deep ruby depths yielding the most amazing array of flavours and aromas from gentle caramel to gooey molasses.

There is an array of stout-friendly dishes which spring instantly to mind – beef & stout suet pie, deep rich mutton stews and, of course, sausages & colcannon – but I think its unsung partner is Cajun food. Forget your overly creamy draught or canned Guinness and pop a bottle of Original in the fridge and, while you’re getting your marinade ready for those ribs, sacrifice some of your drinking pleasure for the ultimate caramelised crust on your meat when you whack it on the barbecue or griddle pan.

For the chocoholics why not serve Sam Smith’s Imperial Stout with a cardamom-infused 70 per cent cocoa pot and see how it makes the spice in both the beer and the dessert sing. And when it comes to English milk stout, such as Mackeson’s, don’t think of using anything else in your Christmas puds – they will never be as dark or rich.

Best Bitter
My desert island match for best bitter is a simple beef sarnie - I know it's neither exotic, nor glamorous, but it's just so satisfying. Sinking your teeth into a mixture of cold rare beef and fresh granary bread - topped with salty butter and the thinnest layer of strong horseradish - is just one of life's great pleasures.

It's the sumptuous meaty flavour of the beef, the nuttiness of the bread and the spiciness of the horseradish all combining so perfectly with the biscuity aroma of the malt and the aromatic bitterness of the hops. and, the best bit is, the gentle carbonation of the beer cleanses your palate so you can enjoy it all over again - what's not to love?

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