Sunday, July 27, 2008

Landlord's Fish Bites

Beer-battered Fish is a beercooking classic – and rightly so. This isn’t an original recipe by a long shot but is easy and tastes great. Cook in as large quantities as you need for guests at a gathering. Serve –of course – with handcut, beef-fat fried chips.

You will need (to serve four):
Three large fillets of white fish, cut into hearty chunks – (Cod,Haddock or Pollock are good)
250g plain flour (plus extra for dusting)
¾ pint of Timothy Taylor’s Landlord Pale Ale (well chilled)
Pinch of salt
3 tsps of baking powder
A pinch of chilli flakes, a pinch of black pepper and a good sprinkle of paprika
Sunflower oil to fry in – I mix half oil with half dripping or even goose fat!

1. To make the Batter, simply sieve the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Add the beer and stir well. You want a thick emulsion – but not too thick. You’ll know when it’s ready.
Heat up your oil – it needs to be good and hot – about 160c. To test, simply fry a chunk of bread. If it fries cleanly and floats to the top, you’re done.
2. On another plate, sprinkle some of the flour and season this with pepper, chilli flakes and paprika. Dust the fish in this before dredging through the batter.
3. Drop the fish into the oil (away from you) and fry for about 5-6 minutes, or until golden brown. Don’t overcrowd the pan – only do a couple of pieces at a time. Take care not to overcook – you want the fish to stay moist.
4. When ready simply leave to drain for a minute or so on some kitchen paper. Serve with slices of lemon and a good dose of salt and vinegar!

I've used Timothy Taylor's Landlord here because it's an assertive beer that punches through the batter. However, any beer that you feel fits this bill will do. Experiment! I can also recommend Moorhouses's Pendle Witches Brew for good beer-batter, too.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Midweek: Wylam's Northern Kite

I have this compulsion in Beer where I'll get seriously hooked on one brewer, and as soon as I see thier pump clip gleaming up at me from a just-wiped bar, I gotta have it, regardless of style or mood. Last month it was Elland - this month it's Wylam.

I simply have yet to taste a less than excellent beer of thiers. Northern Kite is no exception. Wylam bill this luscious beer are a Ruby Ale, and in some respects I can see where they are coming from. Northern Kite is a mahogany, soft-tasting beer with a massive malt character and not much hops coming through. In that respect, I actually likened it to a mild, but one with a bigger a.b.v at 4.5%. This is one pint I could drink a lot of.

Wylam are a family-run brewery, and have been about since 2000. Long may they continue. Cheers.

I enjoyed this pint, and many others, in great nick at my local, The Abbey, in Leeds. I'll be reporting on this fine establishment in greater detail in the upcoming weeks.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Midweek: A Couple from Cairngorm

A relative of mine recently brought me back a couple of gems from a touring trip to Scotland - Cairngorm's Wildcat and Stag beers.

I've never tried Cairngorm's stuff before, but based on this bottled sampling, it'll be one brewery i'll keep an eye out for. My favourite, Wildcat (5.1abv) was the tastiest; a clear, bright ruby beer that had a well-rounded, fruity malt taste with a long, bitter finish. The stronger of the two, Wildcat's alcohol kick doesn't come through until the end, resulting in a supremely drinkable and lively pint. Stag (4.1abv) was quieter in profile -darker in colour, with a much softer malt palate than its' colourful cousin. Much more caramel comes through, and this means a longer, quaffable beer.

Both were very welcome at the end of a long day and I can certainly recommend Cairngorm's wares. I understand their Trade Winds to be worth seeking out, also.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Easy Moroccan Chicken with Sweet Potato and Garlic Mash

...Does what it says on the tin. Chicken's one of those meats that lends itself to being marinated the hell out of, and this is one of my favourite 'easy' recipes - perfect when you don't have much time, but want to create something impressive.

Serves two.
You will need:
Free Range Chicken Breasts, skin on, please.
Marinade: A couple of teaspoons of turmeric, ground coriander, a good chunk of chopped fresh ginger, some chilli flakes (as many as you like), a dash of lemon juice, a little olive oil, and a little ground black pepper and some salt.

1. Firstly, make some slashes in the chicken breast, and cover liberally in the marinade above and leave to rest in a large dish or bowl for at least an hour. The longer, the better.

Meanwhile, you can make the mash:
Peel four large redskin sweet potatoes, and chop into roast-sized chunks. Arrange in a roasting dish with a good drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkle of good salt and a little fresh Rosemary. Add the whole cloves of garlic, and make sure the skins are left on.

Roast the sweet potato and garlic for about 30 minutes; they will turn pulpy when done.
Then, whack the chicken breasts under a hot grill and cook until done. When the meat is ready and resting, you can pull the veg from the oven, place in a bowl and mash. Pop the garlic from thier jackets and work this into the sweet, orange mash.

Arrange as you like and you're done.

Not only does this meal look like a lot of effort but if you're a garlic lover (who isn't?) it's heavenly. The sweet mash compliments the sweet notes in the chicken marinade, and isn't too heavy a meal either. As a beer match I chose William's Red, a fruity- peppery, full-on beer that is robust enough to take on all that garlic and spice and still come through.

This recipe was inspired by A Merrier World's campaign to heighten awareness of the importance of buying free-range chicken. For the record, I buy my chicken at Hunt's Game & Poultry in Leeds Kirkgate Market. We all know the importance of buying free-range meat, not just from a moral standpoint but from a quality one, too. It simply tastes better, and the people that produce free-range meat - and independent food and drink producers in general - need our support wherever possible. Without them, we'd be in a really depressing state.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

A Postcard from Bulgaria #2 - So, What's to Eat?

So, there’s not much out there about food in Bulgaria worth reading, so I thought I’d cobble together a few words and pictures, should any of you ever visit.

Food in Bulgaria is a strange mix – the heat and the setting feels distinctly Mediterranean – indeed the first glances at menus reveal kebabs, souvlaki, fresh salads, grilled meat and fish – but then you’ll also get a wide range of soups and stews. This reminds you with a jolt that you are in fact in the Balkans.

First up, the salads. Why do tomatoes always taste better in the sun? Shopska Salad, a Bulgarian version of ‘Greek’ salad, with tomatoes, onions, cucumber and mild, creamy sheeps’ cheese, is actually – gulp – nice. Very nice, in fact, I formed a slight addiction whilst over there. And I generally don’t eat salads on their own.

One thing that surprised me greatly was the seafood – the quality of the fish where we were based (the very bottom of the Black Sea coast) was excellent, and much better than our recent forays to Greece and the sadly depleted Med. The Bulgarian classic ‘Fish On A Roof Tile’ (translated) was an outstanding example of Bulgarian cuisine. Whole fish, usually Mackerel, laid in an earthenware, trough-shaped tile, topped with a rich, red-wine and shallot sauce, then slow baked. Like a fish Stifado, if you will. And possibly one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten. It’ll pop up here sometime soon as I try to recreate it in my own cack-handed way.

However, the real deal for me was lightly battered and quick-fried clams, mussels and squid – doused in lashings of salt and squeezed lemon. Lip tingingly good. A bowl of this in an open-air seafood place and the sun going down...that’s me. Kill me there and then, I’m done. All that was missing was a good, zingy Weisse to wash it down with. Clams and smoked, sweet bacon were often stirred into fried rice with tonnes of fennel and parley, to result in a kind of Balkan risotto. Wonderful.

As if that wasn’t enough, pork was often eaten chopped, fried in a huge pan with gherkins, mushrooms, peppers, and topped with smoked cheese. Then delivered to your table, spitting all over you but you don’t care because it’s a loaded skillet of pork and smoked cheese. I didn’t make a note of what this dish was called – if anyone knows, help me out!

I’m slightly obsessed with Gyro; but we found that Bulgarian gyro tends to have sour cream instead of tzatziki, and use chicken and pork instead of lamb. For me, although a great snack, the garlic and fennel suckerpunch of Greek tzatziki was missing, big time.

Sozopol is divided into two parts; new and old town. All the best restaurants are in the Old town; Check out Neptune for the best seafood (in fact, the best food) on the Island, although Rusalka runs a close second. The Windmill offers a great dining area and good, hearty soups and stews, and Tavern Chuchura for the sizzling pork/cheese skillet. Finally, El Greco (next to Rusalka) does an amazing creamy seafood pasta, and has wonderful fresh Anchovies.
....And as for Beer...well, forget it. Nothing at all except generic Bulgarian lager that goes down ok when you’re baking alive reading Dave Gorman’s America Unchained on the beach. Instead, opt for Bulgarian wine – it’s damn good and maybe slightly unappreciated. Mavrud is a really good red grape variety unique to Bulgaria (I think –I’m a beer obsessive, not wine!) and the Traminers and Chardonnays from nearby Pomorie were not only reasonably priced but delicious too.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

A Cheeky Bit of News

...It's taken a while, but the winners of the Leeds Beer Festival have been announced, and are as follows: Beer of The Festival - 1st: Hopstar Smokey Joe's Black Ale, 2nd: TSA Highland Fling...Mild of the Festival - 1st: Milton's Minotaur Mild, 2nd: Hobson's Mild.
Well done all - and i'll be there next year.
Another haunt of mine, Foley's Cask Ale House in Leeds are holding their First beerfest - it'll be happening on the 15th - 21st of August and I'll keep you updated if I find out more...If in Leeds, pick up a copy of Leeds CAMRA's Full Measure Magazine...there's now a food and beer column hosted by yours truly...and finally, happy 10th anniversary to Beer-Ritz - keep up the stellar work, chaps.