Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Beer & Food

Or, cooking with GAS (Good Ales and Such)

In response to your kind comments and as a result of writers’ block, I give you The Beer Blokes’ first instalment of beer cookery. Now, beer cookery itself is nothing new. I always have a beer at hand while I’m cooking. You’re probably the same, yourself. And we’ve all been to barbeques where the cook seems almost unable to cook unless the hand holding the tongs is balanced by the other hand holding a beer. I’m the same myself. Ying and yang. Ale and Lager. Tits and Arse.

No, today we talk about cooking food with beer as an ingredient. Again, nothing new, but a subject I feel has been sadly ignored and a process which can offer many a culinary delight. You’d think, too, that with the growing, mutant breed of celebrity TV chefs that seems largely unstoppable, that one of them would touch on the subject. Some of them could certainly do with a cold beer or ten to help them lighten up and cook something that is vaguely replicable at home or that doesn’t have bloody rocket in it. Come to think of it, there is probably room for a new TV cook who specialises in beer food. I can be contacted at this address, Lifestyle Food people.

I think, being beer people, that we should begin with something simple. Who doesn’t like pie? The old meat pie is something of a ‘soul food’ for Australians and I would like to share my beer fuelled version with you.

Beef and Ale Pie.

Ingredients; Diced Meat (Cheap stuff like chuck, gravy beef, oyster blade, stewing steak or mince if you prefer. Don‘t use good Fillet steak !) Veg (Whatever you like, or whatever you can’t get the kids to eat) Beer. Six stubbies. You with me so far?

Equipment; Large heavy bottomed saucepan. Large heavy bottomed frypan. Large heavy bottomed assistant. Sorry, Mrs Pilsner. Stove top. Fridge (for the Beer).

This recipe works well with any Ale, but I have had best results with stronger tasting brews as the cooking will develop the flavours but reduce the depth a little. James Squires’ Strong Australian Ale (limited release) was a cracker. I have also used JS Original Amber Ale, Coopers’ Dark Ale and Newcastle Brown. If you can drink it and enjoy, you can cook with it. You can also add a layer of mash to the top before putting the pastry on to make a shepherds pie-ish thing.

Step One. Take two beers. Pour one into a nice glass. Drink.

Step Two. Gently fry off some onion in a large saucepan with a little oil and butter to soften. Don’t overcook. Add diced, firm veggies like carrot, celery and parsnip. Stir.

Step Three. Check beer glass. Top up if necessary.

Step Four. Toss the beef in some seasoned flour and, in a frypan, brown in small batches. If using mince, don’t try to coat each bit in seasoned flour. If using good Fillet steak , see above. Add meat to the saucepan with the veg. You can add a little beef stock at this point.
Step Five. Repeat Step Three.

Step Six. Take two more beers. Drink one and pour the other into the saucepan.

Step Seven. Bring to a boil and let simmer gently for at least an hour. If using mince, this should be enough. If using cubed steak, an hour and a half may be needed. If using good Fillet Steak, I won’t tell you again. Allow the volume of liquid to reduce by about half. You can add peas, corn or mushroom with about half an hour to go.

Step Eight. Use this time to go to the bottle shop for more beer, if required.

Step Nine. Don’t drive to bottle shop if you have repeated step one or step three more than twice.
Step Ten. Probably should’ve put step nine before step eight.

Step Eleven. Sorry.

Step Twelve. If home again safely, repeat Step Three.

Step Thirteen. In the frypan, melt a little butter and add some plain flour. Cook gently for a minute and then stir this into the saucepan to magically create the gravy.

Step Fourteen. Have a beer to celebrate learning to make the gravy.

Step Fifteen. Turn the stew-like mixture into a pie dish and top with pastry. Bake at about 180c for about ten minutes, or until pastry is golden, or until everyone is too hungry to wait anymore. If using mince or cubed, you could make smaller, individual pies. If using good Fillet Steak, call for pizza now. And think about drinking a little less, yeah?

Step Sixteen. Enjoy eating your Beef and Ale pie with the same beer that you used in the recipe. The same KIND of beer. Not the beer you used in the recipe. It is now too hot and cooked to drink. If you still go ahead and drink it, go and sit in the corner with the good Fillet Steak bloke, please. I will speak to you both after class.

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