Sunday, March 30, 2008

Harpooned Venison

Oh yeah.
We made the weekly trip to the market with Duck in mind but ended up with some excellent venison that the Game Stall were promoting that week. Bearing in mind a 'winter warmer' I had languishing in the beer cellar, an idea formulated...

Harpooned Venison
You will need:
2 Venison shoulder steaks
Salt, Pepper
4 large mushrooms
5 small potatoes, sliced
Two cloves garlic
Fresh,chopped parsley
100 ml Harpoon Winter Warmer ale
Beef Stock
1. Firstly, make your potato and mushrooms to accompany the venison. Warm your oven to 180c.
2. Slice your mushroom and chop the garlic. Gently sweat the garlic in som butter in a pan, and then add the mushrooms and sweat also. Be gentle with the heat here. Too much and the garlic with scorch.
3. Peel and slice the potatoes. Don't rinse them.
4. Grease a small gratin or ovenproof dish. Arrange the potatoes in layers, with some of your buttery, garlicky mushrooms inbetween each layer. Dot the top with butter, season well and bake in the oven for at least an hour. Keep your pan.

Next, the Harpoon Gravy: simply boil up about 500ml of stock and add a little sugar to it. Add the beer, and stir. Add a little cornflour with water at the end to thicken up. Leave on a low simmer to reduce. Couldn't be easier.

Warm up the garlicky, buttery pan you used for the mushrooms. Get it smoking, then pan-cook your Venison. Simply roll the venison in salt and crushed black pepper first, and don't add any more oil or butter.Cook the venison as per steak to your liking (but please, for god's sake don't go 'well-done' - you may as well rip up your tastebuds and throw them away), serve with the gravy,mushroom and potatoes to accompany.
Easy. Enjoy the rest of the Harpoon with it. This worked out perfectly due to the cinnamon and nutmeg notes in the beer; game goes really well with these christmassy flavours. You couldn't drink a lot of the warmer - but it compliments this dish perfectly.

Gnocchi with Ham and Chilli Sauce

...To continue what seems to be becoming my 'Pork Fortnight', I've got one final use for the Parma Ham that worked really well.

Gnocchi isn't hard to make but does take a little effort - but if you like hearty, intense flavours then this is a good place to start. Much like making pasta, making Gnocchi is worth the effort. This basic recipe is so simple; almost a Puttanesca style sauce packed with heat and punchy Garlic. Sorry my Gnocchi recipe isn't exact - I use the basic Guidelines set out in The Silver Spoon (If you like Italian, you simply must have this book), but it varies each time. Use your gut feeling - you'll be OK. This recipe serves two, or three if you want slightly smaller portions.

I recommend you make the sauce first; I made it in the morning. The flavours intensify the longer you leave it in the pan. I wouldn't consider making this and pouring straight onto the Gnocchi. It has to sit for a while.

Ham and Chilli Sauce
One tin of chopped tomatoes
2 whole chillies, de-seeded and chopped
4 cloves of Garlic, chopped, smashed, whatever.
Good Olive oil
Parma Ham - whatever you have left - at least 1oog.
A couple of leaves of torn, fresh, Basil.

1. Heat some olive oil in a good saucepan. Pour in your toms.
2. Add the garlic & chilli, and season with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar.
3. Stir well and then, with a wand blender, blend the sauce to a smooth 'Passata'.
4. Simmer for about 20 minutes very low, then put the lid on and leave as long as you like.

Couldn't be easier. I find that the thinner the sauce, the better for Gnocchi, hence the blending. When you want to re-heat it, simply simmer with the Parma Ham added. Again, you don't want to cook the ham too much and kill it.

Gnocchi (very basic recipe).
Boil or steam one large potato,(huge) or two medium sized ones. Once done, mash and leave to cool. To the mash, add plain flour (about 100grams) and one beaten egg. Knead the dough, and keep working it. Add a little more flour if too wet. Soon (and keep faith with it) you will have a pliable dough. Leave to rest for five minutes, then tear off some chunks and roll into long rolls. Cut into inch-long sections, and cook like pasta in deep, salted, boiling water. When cooked, they will rise to the surface - this won't take long at all.

Then just pour on your sauce and add some Parmesan cheese. We used the rest of the Manchego and that worked really well. If you want it hotter, then add a little Tabasco. I've previously made this with Smoked Bacon - which adds yet another dimension. If you do this, just fry the bacon in the saucepan before adding the tomatoes.

We quenched the fire with Adnam's Explorer. I'm not familiar with Adnams at all (apart from the Oyster Stout, which I secretly love), and this initial brew was excellent - hops are dominant, with a lemony, grapefruit aroma running through. It was quite dry, but battled the garlic and chilli well.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Total 'Porkography'

I've spoken about 'Food Porn' in the past; the true pleasure seems to come in the smallest packages. When I opened one of these Scotch Eggs up last weekend for lunch, my jaw just about hit the floor. It was one of the best things I had ever eaten. Check out the grain and fine herbing of the Sausagemeat! See how it butts right up to that egg! Double yolk! Fried Oniony bits in the crumb!
Homemade, artisan Scotch Eggs... I got this from a random stall at Last weeks' Bingley Food Fest - the man selling them had no sign, but a big smile on his face.

Awesome. You know you want it.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Brooklyn East India Pale Ale

Or the one I'll be drinking a couple of whilst watching the England game.

In case I hadn't made it clear enough, I'm a big fan of American Brews , and although Brooklyn hardly qualifies as a micro, I'll generally treat anything they brew with interest. The East India Pale is new to me, and it doesn't disappoint. Despite my leaning for IPA's is of the 'massively hopped' variety, the East India Pale goes down well. Light, and not all 'massively hopped' - it has a light, almost fruity, grapefruit body; and the malt stays in the background, present, without overpowering. The EIIPA pours copper with almost no head, and doesn't taste anywhere near its 6.8 abv; those piney flavours you expect to linger with IPA fade pretty quick. I'd drink this again, no problem.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

A Warm Salad of Mushroom and Parma Ham with Savoury Toasts

...Right, so onto what we did with those ingredients we picked up at the Bingley Food Festival. We had been inspired by TV (doesn't happen often) the night before - Thomasina Mier's show on Spain was decent watching for those into Iberian Cuisine, and her Iberico Ham and awesome-looking mushroom dish gave us inspiration. So, given what we had available, we went along the same lines...

This is a 'Yorkshire Tapas' sort of dish - but where Tapas conjures images of heat, lightness and simple but punchy flavours, this is an altogether earthier affair. The Mushrooms and ham combine perfectly, and the simple cheese toasties bring smoke and bite. The 'Morcilla' tapas is a Spanish classic and an excellent showcase for good-quality blood sausage. We bought our Parma Ham from the ever-excellent Salvo's Salumeria in Headingley, Leeds.

Savoury Toasts
You will need:
Two Cheeses - we used Smoked Goats' Cheese and Manchego. These are interchangeable according to taste, but I really recommend one smoked cheese in there.
Good Olive Oil
Black Pudding, sliced.
Red Onion Chutney - available in most stores, but you could make your own sticky onions if you prefer.

1. Preheat your oven to about 150.
2. Heat a griddle pan, and lightly wipe with olive oil and season the surface with black pepper.
3. Slice your cheeses into chunks, and slice your ciabatta into mini-crostini chunks.
4. In another pan, lightly fry your black pudding slices until crisped on each side.
5. Lightly toast the toasts on the griddle pan.
6. On a baking tray, arrange the lightly toasted toasts and drizzle with olive oil. Arrange cheese on some, and a teaspoon of chutney and a slice of black pudding on others.
7. Place the assembled toasts on a low heat in the oven - this is only to keep them warm and to melt the cheeses.

While they are holding, make your Salad:

You will need;
Three Garlic Cloves
Fresh Parsley, chopped/torn
Two Large Mushrooms, sliced
Some Sliced Parma Ham, shredded
Half a small bag of Spinach Leaves, washed & drained

1. In a pestle & mortar, pound the garlic and then add the chopped parsley and some cracked black pepper. Cover in Olive Oil. This will become your dressing.
2. Heat a large pan. Drop in a little olive oil, and add your sliced mushrooms.
3. When they have soaked up the oil, add the ham. Don't be tempted to turn the heat up too much; you want the ham to release a little fat, but not to overcook it and destroy the flavour.
4. Add half the dressing; the mushrooms will soak that up too.
5. Toss in the spinach, wilt, then serve onto warmed plates.
6. Finish the dish with the rest of the dressing.

Serve with the toasts!

It may seem like a lot of work but it's not - just have the oven heated and you can hold the toasts while you make the salad. The smoky cheese brings loads of depth to the toasts, and the sweet/savoury taste of the black pudding toasts complements the ham and mushroom salad in an amazing way. Don't add salt, by the way - the ham's got enough to round!

In terms of beer, I paired this with Breconshire Breweries' Red Dragon. Despite the slightly Dungeons & Dragons label, this bottle-conditioned gem is a serious beer - a complex, malt body, with a lively, unashamedly bitter aftertaste, it complements the autumnal flavours of the meal with ease.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Bank Holiday Shenanigans - Bingley Food Festival/Haworth

...So Good Friday finally comes; the start of four free days that work cannot spoil. The weather can (curse the snow!!!) - but the office cannot. So it's off to the Food Festival at Bingley to pick up something good for dinner, then onto Haworth for a little lunch and a few beers.

Size Isn't Everything....
...But in the case of the Bingley Food Festival, it is. By the time we got there - about 11ish - the tent was rammed. And I mean rammed. I don't know wether Bingley Council (or whoever organised this event) seriously underestimated the pull of a food festival these days, or just ran out of space, but this was not a pleasant environment to browse round. However, the hungry and determined are a force to be reckoned with and we managed to grab some gems before our patience finally ran out.

We were pleased to see Salt's Deli running a stall - Salt's are a long-time fave of TGS, and thier fresh, crisp Ciabatta was just what we needed. We sampled one of their Chorizo Parcels, too, and a lovely little treat it was - crisp filo rolls, filled with chunks of piquant Chorizo, peppers and red onion. So simple, yet so delicious. Glad to see them doing a roaring trade.

The cheese stall provided a couple of coups, too - once we fought our way to the front. We picked up some amazing smoked goats cheese, along with a good chunk of one of our favourites, Manchego. After a quick stop at the veg stand to pick up some huge mushooms and some fresh spinach from H Baxter & Son of Preston, we made our getaway - but not before picking up a log each of black and white pudding from RS Ireland. I'm a stickler for blood sausage and Ireland's are fantastic.

An honourable mention goes to the man with no sign, selling homemade pies and pasties. His Scotch Eggs were, quite simply, a revelation, and will warrant their own post very soon....

...After that frantic hour, some lunch and a couple of beers were definately needed. So on it was to Haworth - half an hour up the road from Bingley. We are overly familar with Haworth - my mother lives ten minutes away in Oakworth and we spend a lot of time there. So in the respect it's a failsafe, a no-brainer. You can always get a good pint there.

Is that you, Branwell?
First up, at the top of the main street, sits the famous Black Bull; reputedly haunted by Branwell Bronte, brother of the famous literary sisters whose image and story you can't escape in the village of their birth. A large, stone-flagged pub, it can always be relied on for a decent sandwich and a pint. Deuchars IPA and Copper Dragon Golden Pippin seem to be the regulars and there is always a guest - this time, Osset's Fine Fettle, which I opted for. Crisp, dry and very hoppy with a familar floral aroma, Fine Fettle was a good call indeed and made light work of a Roast Beef and Horseradish Baguette. I like The Black Bull a lot; it's reliable, it's somewhere you know is going to have a good beer and a corner table waiting for you. My first pint of Moorhouse's Pendle Witch was drunk here, and that went on to become a firm favourite of mine.

Gotta Be A Taylors...
In terms of sheer quality and consistency, Taylor's is up there, in my opinion; and The Fleece, at the bottom of the main street, serves the best TT's in Haworth; and I noticed they had spruced up thier bottled range, too, offering Warsteiner, Duvel, Cooper's, Goose Island and Quilmes to name a few. I was disappointed that the Celebration Ale has long sold out - a testament to the high regard Taylor's is paid here Instead I opted for a pint of Dark Mild, which had to be - and no hyperbole here - one of the best pints I have for a long time. Dark with a tight, coffee-coloured head, the Dark Mild was roasted malt all the way, with a light treacley finish. Perfection(Come on...when in Rome!),it was time to go. We figured out what to make with the produce we picked up that morning on the way home, and the results of that will be coming up this weekend.

The shot on the right shows the hand of a very contented man...and the reason
for that contented feeling!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Quick Honey & Mustard Chicken with A Simple Potato Gratin

As you all know, I recently hit yet another Beer Festival and made this super-simple dish to eat when we got back. The main reason for choosing this was one that I have been discussing with John recently - Inebriation. Half - Cutness. Merriness. A side effect, albeit an entirely pleasant one (in moderation) of a weekend's Beer tasting. The simplicity lies in the make-ahead feel of the meal, and the fact that cutting a few corners never hurt anyone.

Quick Honey & Mustard Chicken (Serves two)
You will need:
Two medium sized Chicken Breasts
A tablespoon of Grain Mustard, such as Gray Poupon
Two Tablespoons of good, thick, runny honey

1. Mix the honey and mustard well in a dish, then cover tightly with cling film. Refrigerate and go to the Beer Festival.
2. When you return, 'Butterfly' the breasts and then pour over the Mustard Honey. Place under a pre-heated grill and cook. (About 20 minutes).

Now, that's pretty easy, and to be honest you could stop right there. Put the meat in a warmed , buttered baguette and you've got a tasty sandwich right there with which to soak up that good booze. If you want to make something more of it (and are up to it) - then:

A Simple Potato Gratin
You will need:
One large waxy potato, peeled, sliced as thin as you like it
One pot of double cream (about 350ml)
3 crushed Garlic Cloves
Shake of Black Pepper, Shake of Nutmeg
2 teaspoons of olive oil

1. Preheat your oven to about 2ooc.
2. Gently saute your sliced potato in large pan in the olive oil (not too much heat;not too much oil), and then when colouring slightly, pour over your cream and discard the Garlic. This par-cooking shortens the oven time - something your grumbling belly wants.
3. Let it bubble away for about 20 minutes to soften further, on a low, low heat.
4. Finally, transfer into gratin or deep dish and place in the oven to brown. That'll take about 20 minutes.

Not complex cooking, I know, but this dish is big on flavour and fills your belly; soaking up beer as it goes. Or, like me, you could sink a pint of Springhead's Roaring Meg as you go. What can I say? I wanted another beer, and Meg's citrussy style and huge floral aromas cut through the cream, complimented the sweet/hot chicken but didn't add any more weight to the meal. In some ways, a perfect match-up.

Beats a Doner pizza anyday.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

CAMRA's Leeds Beer,Cider & Perry Festival 2008

It had been a long time coming but finally the Beer Festival programme hit my neck of the woods. Pudsey Civic Hall is also about ten minutes away from where I live, so I personally couldn't think of anything better to do on a Saturday lunchtime than go see what's happening.

I can understand why some enthusiasts steer clear of Beer Fests like this - there's nothing in the way of atmosphere; unless you count the uneasy apprehension between the older veterans of the brewing scene and young enthusiasts like myself. Some really don't like this split; this faction in the brewing world, and simply avoid it - for me, it's a great opportunity to taste some great beers in one place. Simple as that.

Art and Beer? Beer and Art?

No sooner had I arrived at the North-sponsored 'Global Beer Bar' than we were greeted by a cheery young lady from Bare Arts Brewery. Thier pumps were, quite cutely, in the shape of pigs, and tasters were soon offered of their Bitter. Very nice it was too; quite light and easy- going for a dark bitter. Bare Arts had already won kudos for the friendliest stand of the weekend; how many breweries have a fully-functioning art gallery attached?

Let's Get Down to Brass Tacks...

Armed with the obligatory souvenir pint glass and beer tokens and a remit of 'I'm not trying anything I have drunk before...' , a quick glance at the programme gave me some idea of what I wanted to try. And try i did, over the course of a thoroughly enjoyable early afternoon. My picks of the weekend? Well, I was very impressed by Naylor's Brewer's Choice Special Brown Ale - 4.6% - sweetish, but with a firm, biscuit-malt body. Gorgeous. So that becomes my Beer of the day. Also sampled were:

Anglo Dutch's Devil's Knell - 4.8% - Slight carbonation, but with a long, hoppy finish. Great amber colour. Solid entry from this talented and forward-thinking brewery.
Boggart Hole Clough's Farmer's Stout - 4.5% - I only picked one stout, and was glad it was this one. Light in body but with a complexity of flavour, rounded with a treacley finish. Great session stout.
Church End's Goat's Milk - 3.8% - Straw-yellow in colour, light bodied. Typical hoppy golden ale, again would be good session beer on a warm day. Refreshing.
Old Spot's Beer Stalker - 4.1% - Again, very similar as the Church End inasmuch that it's an entirely refreshing, hoppy ale. Maybe a little light for my taste; grapefruit aromas.
Purple Moose's Dark Side of The Moose - 4.6% - Dark ale, foamy head and a long,long bitter finish. Very moreish, very impressive indeed.
Slaughterhouse Saddle Back - 3.8% - Impressive showing; had to be tried - any brewery that's based in a ex-slaughterhouse gets my vote. Traditional bitter with a huge malty body and gentle hop finish. Really solid - could drink a lot of this. My 'Session beer' recomendation of the weekend.
Windie Goat Fisherman's Pride - 5.0% - All the way from Ayrshire, Fisherman's Pride poured red and malty, although with practically no head. A slightly vegetal aroma gave way to a long bitter finish. Quite sweet.

Phew. Needless to say, great pleasure was to be had tasting all those.

I Coulda Been A Contender...

There was a little disappointment; some beers that I were looking forward to had either sold out or weren't available. I had heard great things about Glencoe's Wild Oat Stout, and Skinner's Helegan Honey sounded interesting too. Leeds Brewery had a brand-new beer on, Leap of Faith, but I gave that a miss. I'm no stranger to Leeds and their excellent wares. Favoured drinking spots The Fox & Newt and Foley's had beers on show, the latter brewed by York Brewery. Other great brewers such as Goose Eye, Cotleigh, Purity and Elland all were represented.

After a stop at the Global Beer bar to pick up some of Left Hand Breweries' JuJu Ginger (Been after some of this for a while), it was time to go. I could have happily gone back today and started again; such was the quality of the ales on offer.

Next fest; Skipton!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

You Know You Are Food & Beer Obsessed When:

1. Your holiday destination is chosen by 'regional speciality' and not weather/location/kudos/price. In fact, travel is completely justified by food, rather than experiences or sights.
2. You read blogs like this one. All the time. And by that, I mean 'When you should be working'.
3. You're walking down the street. Two charity-box wielding volunteers corner you outside Borders. One is for 'Rescue the Children/Dogs From An Awful Life (delete as appropriate), and the other represents 'Save our Local Microbrewery'. Your immediate response is 'Mine's a Pint, Barkeep.'
4. Your 'Top Ten Greatest Films in The World Ever' List includes 'Big Night', 'Sideways', 'La Grande Bouffe' and 'Babette's Feast'. Or, if you're female, 'Chocolat.' (The book was better).
5. Speaking of books, your cookbook collection makes up at least 20% of your home library....
6. ...In fact, a trip into Waterstone's 'Cooking' section brings on hyperventilation, insane purchases (ooh, the French Laundry book - put it on the card...', and palms that haven't been sweatier than the time you 'accidentally' ordered a Jenna Jameson flick on the missus's Amazon account.
7. A balmy weekend proposal of 'A pleasant walk in the country' translates as 'A chance to track down an awesome pub/micro that no-one else has found this side of 1975'.
8. Meals are planned. On a calendar. With Beer Matches. And this rota is fitted around re-runs of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations. Well, it wasn't going to be Delia, was it?
9. ...You see nothing wrong with this. In fact, everything you cook or drink is there to be tasted, reviewed, and discussed with your foodie chums. Everything.
10. Not only is your kitchen the most used room in the house, its the cleanest, most expensive room in the house (Yeah, we got the sofa at the charity shop but check out my Sabatier Five-Knife set...).

Would anyone else like to share? Let's get our obsession out in the open...together, we can work it out.