Monday, 14 January 2013

Bye Girl's Guide, Hello New Website

From now on you'll be able to find my posts,min lauding everything on here and much, much more at www.letmetellyouaboutbeer.co.uk

See you there!

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!
Equipment:
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
Tongs
Cooking thermometer
Whisk
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
Whisk
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!)
Ingredients:
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
Method:
  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!)

Equipment:
Frying pan
Non-metallic bowl big enough to hold chicken
Tongs
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
Water
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


Method:

  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.


Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Send Yourself to Siberia!

Come and drink beer with me!

Because today, Wednesday April 4, I shall be launching my collab beer with Ilkley Brewery, which is also a saison called Siberia, which has been made with Yorkshire forced rhubarb, vanilla, grains of paradise and orange peel - yep, another mental one from me!

The Siberia is fab, I'm really pleased, it was spicy peach on the nose, a tiny bit sour, pleasingly spicy and orangey on the palate and absolutely bone dry, it's lush! :)

 Here's the agenda for the pub crawl we're embarking on, which could be dangerous as this beer has rocked out at 5.9%, eek!
 5.30pm: The Bull, Highgate
6.45pm Southampton Arms
8.15pm Draft House Tower Bridge
9.30-close The Rake

P.S. In case you're wondering why it's called Siberia, it's because rhubarb originates from Siberia, something I only found out when researching it - every day is, indeed, a school day! :)



Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Upcoming Beer Events


Pan-toasted & ground grains of paradise 
added to rhubarb & vanilla!!
Hi everybody! How's tricks? Enjoying the sunshine? Well then that means it's time for a beer then doesn't it?

Tonight (March 28) my lovely fellow beer writer Pete Brown (@petebrownbeer) will be launching his Ilkley Brewery (@ilkleybrewery) collaboration Medina, which is a Moroccan inspired saison with some yummy spices in it.

Then on Monday April 2, I shall be hosting a Spring beer and foodextravaganza at Meantime Old Brewery with head brewer Rod Jones, which I'm really looking forward to - details here of full menu.

UPDATE: There are only a few tickets left to my Meantime Brewery event next week, get 'em whilst they are hot! :)

Then, on Tuesday April 3, if you have nothing better to do you can come and laugh and point at me through the windows of the Tap East brewery, as new head brewer Jim Wilson as we knock together a pale ale, launch date of which is currently TBC.

Finally, on Wednesday April 4, I shall be launching my collab beer with Ilkley Brewery, which is also a saison called Siberia, which has been made with Yorkshire forced rhubarb, vanilla, grains of paradise and orange peel - yep, another mental one from me! I am getting to try it for the first time tonight, so I'll give you an update after that, but the boys from the north assure me it's tasting mighty fine! 

UPDATE: The Siberia is fab, I'm really pleased, it was spicy peach on the nose, a tiny bit sour, pleasingly spicy and orangey on the palate and absolutely bone dry, it's lush! :)

Here's the agenda for the pub crawl we're embarking on, which could be dangerous as this beer has rocked out at 5.9%, eek!

5.30pm: The Bull, Highgate
6.45pm Southampton Arms
8.15pm Draft House Tower Bridge
9.30-close The Rake

P.S. In case you're wondering why it's called Siberia, it's because rhubarb originates from Siberia, something I only found out when researching it - every day is, indeed, a school day! :)

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Pie - that is all!


I don't know about you, but anything with the word pie in the title is enough to catch my attention, so I thought I'd save my terrible punning headlines for another day!

In case you didn't know, it's National Pie Week...WHOOP!

And as I recently created a pie I was pretty proud of (and that my mate @cityjohn went back for seconds of) I thought I'd pop it on the blog!

It's my take on a chicken and ham pie and my reason for making it was that I always find chicken and ham pie disappointing - it's generally claggy and bland and just, well, meh! So I wanted to make an updated version that had a little more to it - I think I've succeeded.

I will hold my hands up that, on the occasion I made it, I used shop-bought shortcrust pastry for the base, but I was pushed for time and would normally make it myself, so I've included the recipe but you really don't have to use it but do follow blind baking instructions.

Another cheat I used was some frozen leftover chicken gravy from a roast that I let down with a little bit of brown chicken stock, but if you buy a good-quality chicken gravy (Duchy's from Waitrose is not too shabby) or reduce some good chicken stock with a few unpeeled cloves of garlic, a bit of arrowroot/corn flour, a bay leaf and a few peppercorns (strain before using!) then you'll get pretty similar results I'm sure.

As for puff pastry? Life's too damn short! Now you can get all-butter puff in the shops it's just not worth your while making it in my opinion - but if you're masochist enough then please feel free to go the whole hog!

And whilst I'm here, I'm immensely excited that Carl Smith of the Windmill in Mayfair, one of my oldest contacts in the trade, is giving away the secrets of his award-winning pies on YouTube - most especially my absolute favourite the English Breakfast Pie, it's awesome and I'm going to be making my own version of it next weekend with a few little beery (and possibly black pudding) tweaks for a bit of fun!

So, without further ado, here it is...


Summer Lightning Chicken, Leek, Ham & Cornish Brie Pie
Serves 4 very hungry people, you don't need much more to accompany it than some samphire/greens/peas & carrots (the potatoes were a little much when I had mine!)

Equipment
Sharp, decent sized knife
Chopping board
Mixing bowl
Rolling pin
Tongs
Cooking spoon
Rubber spatula
Pastry brush
Large heavy-based saucepan
Large dish (I used an oval one that is 24cm long x 16cm wide x 5cm deep, but a false bottom/spring form would have been better to see the pie in all its glory!)

Sundry Ingredients
375g All-butter puff pastry
Egg

Make your shortcrust pastry:
500g/1lb plain flour (plus some extra for rolling)
125g/4oz unsalted butter (plus extra for greasing dish)
125g/4oz lard
pinch salt
1 tsp cider vinegar
1 egg, beaten
Cold water

1. Sift flour & salt into a large mixing bowl
2. Rub the butter & lard into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs
3. Add vinegar & enough cold water to bring mixture together into a smooth dough
4. Wrap in cling film, chill in the fridge for 30 minutes

Filling
500g skinless, boneless chicken thighs (free range)
100g Jamon Iberico lardons (Waitrose) or smoked bacon lardons
White onion, very finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped or smushed
Two good size leeks (trimmed, washed, cut into 3cm disks)
200ml chicken gravy
1 bottle of Summer Lightning (and more to drink with it!)
1tbsp dried Tarragon
100g Cornish brie (I used Llawnroc)
Seasoning
Groundnut oil

1. Get a pan on a medium high heat
2. Chop your chicken thighs into bite-size chunks
3. Put oil in pan and add chicken
4. When it’s golden brown on one side, turn over and then throw in onion & lardons
5. When chicken is golden brown all over, onions should be softened and almost disappearing, lardons should be golden & crispy too
6. Throw in your chicken gravy to deglaze pan then turn heat right down
7. Add garlic and leeks, cook for a minute
8. Add half your bottle of beer (other half is for the cook!), reduce at a gentle pace, it will take about 20-30 mins to reduce to a thickish sauce
9. Put in fridge to cool

Assemble Your Pie
1. Roll out shortcrust pastry and put in a suitable, lightly buttered, dish and leave some hanging over sides
2. Fill with baking parchment (quick tip, scrunch up your baking parchment before trying to fit it in, makes it easier – as well as a satisfying noise!!), and fill with baking beans, or rice and blind bake for 15 minutes in 180 oven or until it’s just beginning to colour
3. Once it’s set, remove baking beans and parchment, allow to cool for 10-15 minutes then trim the excess off the sides
4. Put half your cooled filling in the pie, stud with torn off chunks of half your brie, repeat process with the rest of your filling & brie
5. Roll out your puff pastry and put it over the top, crimping it to the shortcrust pastry base as you go, poke a hole in the middle to let the steam out & egg wash (tip: put remaining egg wash in a small plastic tub in freezer, very handy!)
6. Bake in a 200 degree fan oven for about 25 mins or until the top is golden and the insides bubbling!

To Drink
The Summer Lightning goes gloriously with this, of course, and really any spritzy, citrusy blonde ale will go well. I also thought that the Saison Dupont I had was also a good accompaniment too, take your pick!







Thursday, 16 February 2012

Ice, Ice Baby!


Hello troops! How you all doing? Hungry?

Well, for those of you who follow me on Twitter I have recently been tormenting you with pictures of a rather jolly ice cream I made, so I thought I ought to post the recipe here so you can give it a whirl.

The recipe was born of one of my new year's resolutions to cut down on food waste in my house, as I will hold my hands up that I can be pretty shocking with wasting food - particularly fresh fruit and veg. 

I've always been happy to blame my bonkers schedule, the unpredictability of self-employment or the fact that it's too cold and I want to dodge a salad - but I had to be honest with myself and say that, invariably, it was just because I'd not thought hard enough about the appalling ease with which I just chucked stuff in the bin (I also like very much what these guys are doing, @foodcycle, very worthwhile).

And there is something else good that comes from this as well, thinking about what you've got kicking around forces you to be creative, which is where this recipe came from.

Now, I'm not going to pretend that this is anything other than an utterly indulgent recipe made from some quasi-posh ingredients - I'm pretty sure that having leftover Amaretti biscuits & 85% cocoa solids chocolate falls firmly under the Twitter hashtag #firstworldproblems - but my point is if I hadn't been thinking about limiting waste, I might not have come up with this recipe and just chucked the biccies in the bin when they got stale.

As a slight side point, one the things I've been doing for a number of years now is to freeze any (very occasional) bits of leftover beer. Generally I have a couple of tubs on the go that fall broadly under the churches of stout/porter/mild and bitter/barley wine/ESB - this keeps them around for chucking in stews and gravies and such like for a bit of added richness - it's very handy.

Anyway, back to the ice cream, I've chucked in a few variation suggestions at the end, as a result of some people on Twitter expressing a dislike for nuts/amaretti etc. but I haven't tried them, so if you give them a whirl please feed back how they worked out!

I have got an ice cream maker but you don't need one according to David Lebovitz, a food writer I have a lot of time for, however I can't recommend my Cuisinart one highly enough, the bowl freezes in six hours and makes the ice cream in about 25 mins, which is extremely exciting (WARNING: it is bloody noisy though!).

Imperiously Nuts Ice Cream
Just some quick parish notes, it might look like the Jersey milk & extra thick cream are difficult ingredients to get but I bought them in Sainsbury's, so they shouldn't be too tough for you to source, alternatively use whole milk & double cream.

This recipe is a bit like brewing, it's all hurry up and wait! You will need five hours or so overall to make it from start to finish, but most of the time is taken up by cooling, so don't panic...

Equipment:
Ice cream machine
Flexible spatula
Mixing bowl
Heatproof bowl
3 x saucepans
Whisk (electric or balloon)
Ladle 
Sharp knife
Chopping board
Electronic scales
Tubs for ice cream (makes just over a litre)

Ingredients for Ice Cream:
280g extra thick cream
300g Jersey milk 
85g golden sugar
4 large eggs
5 Amaretti biscuits, frozen for 15 minutes then chopped roughly
50g Pisa or Disarrano liqueur
15g vanilla extract (not flavouring, they are vastly different)
1 vanilla pod

Ingredients for Choc & Imperial Stout Swirl/Topping:
330g Imperial Stout (I used Dark Star)
100g 85% cocoa solids chocolate
1/2 gelatine leaf

Method:
  1. Mix together milk and cream in a saucepan, split your vanilla pod down the middle and scrape out seeds and chuck it all (pod included) in pan with the milk-mix, add vanilla extract in and very gently warm
  2. Meanwhile, cream together your eggs and sugar, it's mixed properly when it goes very pale
  3. When bubbles start to form around the edge of the milk & cream, take a ladle full and add it to the eggs whisking vigorously to prevent curdling, don't stop whisking until it's all incorporated
  4. Tip your egg mixture back into the saucepan, stir until it's all incorporated and then add your liqueur
  5. Keep heating slowly until it starts to thicken, a little patience may be required for this but I reckon once it's thick enough that you can leave a trail through the back of the spoon/spatula with your finger you're done!
  6. Put in the fridge for three hours to cool
  7. Once it's cooled, fish out the vanilla pod and sprinkle in the chopped up Amaretti biscuits,      then pop in your ice cream maker (or use above method for making without machine)
  8. Once this is churning, put your stout into a pan and slowly reduce by half, this takes about 20 mins on a very low heat, be patient or it'll go bitter
  9. When the stout is nearly reduced, put your heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and break up the chocolate, allow to melt
  10. Soak your half leaf of gelatine in some cold water
  11. By this time your ice cream should be ready, put into tub/tubs and then take pop in freezer for 10 minutes 
  12. When chocolate is melted whisk it into the stout and, when it's fully amalgamated, whisk in your gelatine
  13. Put in the fridge to cool slightly so it thickens but doesn't set, about 10 minutes
  14. Take ice cream out of freezer and make some channels in the ice cream, pour your chocolate stout mixture into channels and then pop back in freezer for 10 minutes or until ready to serve!
  15. There may be some choc mix left over, if you're feeling very poncey you can serve it as a small quenelle on the side! (ok, mine isn't the best quenelle in the world but my mate @cityjohn was sitting on the sofa salivating at the time and I needed to get it to him before he started shouting!)





Suggested alternatives:
If you have a nut allergy, or just don't like them, then I reckon you could substitute the nut liqueur for some orange liqueur and use Jaffa Cakes instead of Amaretti or possibly some creme de mur and blackberries or, mega retro, some creme de menthe (maybe using a little less so you don't end up with mouthwash ice cream) and mint matchmakers!!

Beer Match:
I was lucky enough to have some Southern Tier Crème Brûlée stout in the house which was utterly decadent and wonderful with this. However, I reckon the Dark Star Imperial, Fuller's Past Master's Double Stout or even Bristol Beer Factory's Milk Stout would go equally well. If you were feeling a little more adventurous then perhaps something barrel-aged would work like Goose Island Bourbon County or even Ola Dubh - effectively surrender to the dark side and see where it takes you!

Monday, 30 January 2012

UK Brewing Industry Unfriendly? Really?!

Over the weekend I caught up with some reading I've been meaning to do since I ordered, what can only be described as, a plethora of beer books.

I finally got around to flicking through Jeff Evans' Book of Beer Knowledge, which is a fun romp through a load of trivia which will assist me greatly in planning beer quizzes in future! And I also perused excitedly through Stan Hieronymous's Brew Like a Monk and Jeff Sparrow's Wild Brews - both of which definitely got my brewing blood racing!

However, unfortunately, there was also something that made my blood pressure shoot up so high I'm surprised it didn't come spurting out of my ears - and that was Greg Koch and Matt Allyn's The Brewer's Apprentice.

Now, I should clarify here, it's actually not the book itself that's the problem, I like it, I like its content, I like its concept - in fact to get that many world class brewers in one book from Schneider to Lost Abbey, Dogfish Head to Cantillon and Russian River to Fuller's is a truly wondrous thing.

But when I got to the BrewDog page I was so incensed by their comments I actually chucked the book down in disgust.

I don't think I need to go into why BrewDog do what they do, I think we're all familiar with their shock tactic methods by now, but it's one thing to thumb your nose at authority and it's another to tell outright lies.

The comment, photographed right, is simply outrageous, the UK brewing industry closed? Yeah, ok lads...

If the UK brewing industry is so damn unfriendly why is it that Stuart Howe of Sharp's is going up to Sheffield this week to present a cheque for over £6,000 to a hospice after the whole brewery staff gave up their weekend for free to help bottle and package a special charity beer called DW, brewed after Howe heard that fellow brewer and leged Dave Wickett was diagnosed with bone cancer?

If it's so miserable and unsharing, how is it figures like John Keeling of Fuller's or Mark Tranter at Dark Star, amongst many others, are trotting around the country doing brews at small craft places like Marble or Magic Rock? And using their, much larger, PR machines to publicise it? Not to mention the amount of beer writers and bloggers to who are now welcomed through brewery doors to do collaboration brews.

I also know for a fact that brewers all over the country regularly borrow raw ingredients off each other, seek advice on things that have gone wrong or just ring each other up for a natter about their next beer; I could go on but it would seem pointless in a way because I'm pretty sure it will fall on deaf doggy ears.

What I will say is this though: this is utter, utter rubbish and I would implore you not to listen to it.

The UK brewing industry is not only booming and forward-thinking, it is also fabulously friendly and I feel, quite strongly, that BrewDog owes the industry as a whole a bloody enormous apology.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

No Female Beer for NZ Competition

Wow! It's bad enough that rubbish like 'beers for the ladeez' are foisted on women in the UK, but at least there isn't the archaic attitude recently demonstrated at a show in New Zealand where a woman wasn't allowed to enter a home brew competition because, well, she's a woman!

The awesomely-named Rachel Beer was told that she could enter her beer but it wouldn't actually be judged because, wait for it, it was a blokes-only competition.

Initially I thought it was just one dinosaur who had put everyone else in a bad light... but then, oh then, I saw this bright idea from the show president Mike Smith in this article from the New Zealand Herald.

He suggested Ms Beer put a proposal to his committee for a women's or mixed sex section next year.

WTF? Are you kidding me? Is that supposed to make it all better? 

I actually find that more offensive than the outright sexism of the original exclusion because this fossil can't seem to recognise that it doesn't matter, as Ms Beer so bluntly and brilliantly put it, whether someone has balls or not - the entry should be judged on the quality of the brew!

I am also cross at how badly this reflects on the NZ beer scene, because I've tried quite a few of the craft brews coming from that neck of the woods and they are excellent and I also know some of the brewers, most notably the boys at Epic, and couldn't find their attitude to be more diametrically opposed.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Take Time to Smell the Beer



I spend a lot of time during tutored tastings encouraging people to smell their beer before drinking it, in order to get the maximum enjoyment, but today I had a powerful reminder that this isn't just about immediate gratification, but could one day give you a beautiful gift in the form of a very happy memory.

Smell is the most powerful of the senses when it comes to recalling memories and I certainly experienced that this morning, when the mere act of opening a wooden box led to the unearthing of a memory that was so happy, it bought tears to my eyes and a huge smile to my lips.

It was a memory of my Granddad, Alf Cole, who was a man I loved dearly. In fact, I'd go as far to say idolised. He died when I was 12 and, to this day, I find it heartbreaking he didn't live to see me grow up; I hope he would have been proud of me but, if nothing else, he would have at least enjoyed some free beer, that's for sure!

So when this box wafted its muted sandalwood scent at me, a tidal wave of powerful memories was unleashed and I was transported back at least 30 years to a bright summer's day in the Barley Mow pub garden on Englefield Green in Surrey and my Granddad holding his pint glass to my lips for me to take an illicit sip, which I’m pretty sure is my earliest beer-related memory - but it’s also so much more than that.

With that aroma came a host of other remembered scents - over the pungent nuttiness of the beer, I could smell the smoke on his fingers, the Brylcream in his hair and, throughout, the woody note from the Old Spice shaving cream that he used, whisking it to a lather in its branded china pot with a badger hair brush.

I then remembered how I would find him in the morning, carefully shaving in a mirror in the kitchen because it had the best light, wearing just his vest and trousers, with his braces flapping around the backs of his legs; how he'd pretend I wasn't there as he carefully finished, then wiping any excess foam away before giving me a good morning kiss and making me my breakfast, which was always a bowl of cornflakes followed by blackcurrant jam on toast.

I am so pleased to have these precious memories gifted back to me for the rest of my life by the simple act of opening a wooden box that I just want to encourage you all to do something that will hopefully make you as happy one day as this did me.

Stop and take the time, when you're out enjoying yourself with friends or loved ones, to just inhale the aroma of your beer.

Just take that few seconds to commit that smell to memory and, perhaps, one day you will be drinking that same beer and you will be back transported back to that exact moment in time of joy and companionship - and I hope it brings a smile to your lips as you take a salutary sip.