Saturday, May 15, 2010

Beer & Cooking

We had a group in the restaurant last night who wasted no time at all in getting straight into our rather extensive beer list. In fact, the guest of honour and his missus had been in for their anniversary a while back and made the decision to return for his birthday because of our amber offerings.

From Tuskers to Leffe Blonds and Estrella Damm to Grozet Gooseberry they were keen to try as many as they could. One bloke had a big game today and so he rationed himself to a single beer which he tipped over on the table-join after the first sip and one bloke who didn't want to drink beer at all had Budweisers all night, so there was really something for everyone.

We got talking about our Beer Dinners and the new menu items making their way onto our regular menu which feature beer as an ingredient. We've got some intensive research going on in the test kitchen and it's quite amazing just how much beer you are forced to sample when getting the delicate balance just right.

We nailed a Beer Damper using Cooper's Sparkling, the residual yeast giving the bush bread a bit more texture and lightness and that might pop up as a starter soon. We have shelved plans for a Chicken A La Bier until we can get the presentation right - after all, we eat with our eyes first. Taste-wise it's deluxe, the look on the plate just needs tweaking.

Our Beer & Barley Soup (from the now-famous Matilda Bay Beer Dinner) may poke its head up as the weather turns colder and the Lamb Stew could certainly get a look-in about the same time.

But it was the Stout Ice Cream that captured the attention and I promised I would post some tips on the blog: here they are. Feel free to use the comments section to add your own beer/food secrets. I have no shame, I'll adopt any and all of them!

For the ice cream, I reduced a 375ml Cascade Stout down to about 150mls on a low heat that barely raised a bubble, leaving it for about 45 minutes. This produces a nice, thinnish syrup that concentrates the sweetness and the coffee and caramel notes of the beer but leaves an unmistakeable beery bitterness. As a result, we used very little stout syrup to ice cream ratio and still got a beautiful stouty middle palate, a tingly bitter hit before the sweetness of the ice cream ran in to settle things down. A good quality vanilla bean ice cream helps a lot.

Now, for a Stout cake, our friends had used Guinness as part of the liquid component of their recipe. I reckon Guinness has a bit too much sharpness and roasty astringency for a cake, although you could balance it out with some extra sugar. I'd prefer a Young's Double Chocolate Stout in place of the Guinness and, rather than adding it 'wet' I'd reduce it down as in the example above.

Hope that makes more sense than it did late alst night!

Prof. Pilsner

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