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To Toast the Games

So, this evening we get the start of the greatest show on earth. It really doesn’t seem like seven years ago that we found out that the UK would be hosting the Olympic games. And while there has been a lot of cynicism with regards to the sponsors and LOCOG, I do genuinely believe that it’s something we can all get behind. The world is watching, and it’s our time to show off. Negativity isn’t going to change anything or stop it happening, so can’t beat them join them I guess.

This evening, I’ll be at home, watching the opening ceremony. So far we’ve had sneak previews of people in PJs jumping on trampoline beds, colourful dancers and what look like owls on bicycles. So far so eccentric. I’m glad to say however, I wont be drinking any ‘official’ beer of the games. I’ll be sticking by my usual ethics and going for something tasty, perhaps local, perhaps not. Probably British. I’ll be having a curry, it’s often wheeled out as the nations favourite meal, so what could be more British than a ruby and a pint? I don’t think my choice of beer will be with added steroids this evening thanks.

What will you be drinking this evening? Will you be watching, or determinedly ignoring all the fuss until after 9th September?

Norwich City of Ale: Event Picks

It’s just a couple of days now until the launch of the second City of Ale event in Norwich.

There are a lot of events and beers listed in the programme, so I thought I’d choose what I think will be some of the highlights of the festival. Let me know what you’re looking forward to, and what you enjoyed when you went along. There are lots of music events, pub quizzes and the like, but I thought I would choose to highlight parts of the programme which are a bit more unusual.

31st May – Official Launch Party at St Gregory’s, this is a ticketed event, where you get nibbles, beer and music, should be good fun with a lot of the local brewers and landlords going along. I attended this last year as a brewery, I think this is the first time it’s open to the public as well.

Throughout the Festival – The Forum is hosting a film show on it’s impressive Fusion screen, which depicts Norwich brewing past and present. There are also talks and historical walks taking place over the 10 day festival if you want to learn more.

1st June – The Political Debate at St Gregory’s. Free to attend Three MPs are confirmed for the Political Debate on Friday 1st June – Toby Perkins, Labour MP for Chesterfield and Shadow Pubs Minister; Chloe Smith, Conservative MP for Norwich North and Economic Secretary To The Treasury; and Simon Wright, Liberal Democrat MP for Norwich South. The fourth member of the panel is Tim Hampson (@BeerHero on twitter) beer writer. BBC East’s David Whiteley will be chairing the debate, which will focus on pubs and brewing.

2nd June – The Brewers Market – Outside the Forum – a chance to buy bottles from your favourite breweries, sample some of the beers and local produce.

6th June – Ladies Beer Tasting – at the Ketts Tavern – Ok, so I may have a hand in this one with landlady Dawn, but it will be a fun evening with lots of different beers to try along with a few nibbles, it’s aimed at those who don’t drink beer as well as those who’d like to learn a bit more; the best news? That it’s a free event, but make sure you book in advance.

7th June – Tapas Night at The Cottage – Sally the landlady has lived in Spain, and creates delicious authentic tapas. Booking will be essential for this one, as it’s really popular.

8th June – Dirty Burger BBQ – The Plough – Probably just what you’ll need after a week of beer drinking in the city.

These are just a tiny selection of what will be on, there are so many events on each day that you will be really spoilt for choice as to what to go along to. I really recommend that you make the effort and get along to Norwich, the one thing that makes these kind of events great is the people who attend.

Let me know what your hight lights of the festival were and what you’d like to see more/less of next time!

Roasted Veal

UK rose veal is becoming rather fashionable, and rightly so. It’s lean, tasty and very easy to cook with. It’s pale, so think more like you’re cooking pork than beef and you won’t go far wrong. I’ve seen lots about braising veal, or using mince for ragu, but not as a roast. My local butcher is the cities only organic butchers, and having something of a conscience about such things, I generally only buy meat there or from the farmers market. This week they had a great selection of local veal in, and I really though it was about time I gave it a go.

I much prefer having a roast on a Sunday, than a stew, I don’t know why, it just feels a bit more special, so I was determined to give it a go with veal too. I got a small-ish joint, probably would feed 3 people although 4 at a push.

It was a kind of veal topside, not my favourite cut for roast beef, but I thought that I could still make a go of it with the veal if it was treated right.

I marinaded the meat with a mixture of bashed up garlic, rosemary, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and white pepper. I used white rather than black pepper corns as I thought they would go with the more delicate taste of the meat better.

I rubbed it all over the meat, and left it for half an hour or so. I then went onto sear the meat all over in a hot pan, with some onions, the smell at this point was pretty good, so I was happy that the choice of rub would work well. Once browned all over, I put the joint into a roasting dish in the oven at about 170 (fan assisted). I put half the onions in with the joint, and de-glazed the pan with some red wine (a Beaujolais, thinking that I wanted a light wine, but not white), poured that over the meat and covered with tin foil.

The rest of the bottle of wine went in the pan with the remaining onions, and reduced down to make a gravy/sauce kind of thing.

I roasted the meat for about half an hour, then left it to rest. Served with a selection of roasted root veg and some spring greens. For pudding we had some home made melting in the middle chocolate lava pudding things from Rachel Allen‘s Bake book, which I was a bit worried about, but were very tasty. Yesterday was a good cooking day.

I used wine here, although I do love cooking with beer. I think a nice light saison or wheat might work, although I’ve never cooked with those. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this and what you think might work well.

The meat was cooked really to perfection – for me anyway, golden on the outside and pink in the middle. Veal can be very lean, so I guess you either cook it quick as above, or slowly in a slow cooker or similar. I really recommend trying it, it’s light and tasty, perfect for spring.

Summer is Coming

Well not quite, but it’s the one of the first really sunny days and it’s warm and just perfect for lazing about in a pub beer garden all afternoon. I got to thinking as to which are my favourite summer beers.

I want something light, at least in taste, crisp and refreshing, and preferably something that I can have a couple of pints of. Nothing too strong then, there’s something about drinking in the sun that seems to make you merry at a much more alarming rate than in the evening. Not sure why, or if it’s just my perception, but it seems that way.

Anyway to the beers:

Green Jack Summer Dream 4%  From their website: ‘The Summer Dream is a pale summer ale, floral, dry and hoppy brewed with hand picked elderflowers from the hedgerows of Norfolk and Suffolk. Our most popular seasonal brew can be ready in May if we have a warm spring or June if its cold and is available till the end of September. Huge aroma of Summertime!’

It’s a lovely brew, nicely aromatic and delicate taste. The only thing is that obviously, it’s not available all year round, sadly, so I wont be enjoying a pint this afternoon.

 

Oakham Ales JHB 3.8% From their website ‘A golden beer whose aroma is dominated by hops that give characteristic citrus notes. Hops and fruit on the palate are balanced by malt and a bitter base. Dry, hoppy finish with soft fruit flavours.’

Nice and crisp, refreshing too. It’s a permanent line, so no waiting until June to get my sticky mitts on this one.

 

Fyne Ales Jarl 3.8% ‘A full-on citrus experience. Light and golden, a perfect ale for whiling away the hours at any time.’

Lovely aroma, well balanced, refreshing grapefruit tang.

 

Hop Back Summer Lightning 5.0% ‘A trendsetter in the brewing industry; the original Summer ale brewed all year round. An extremely pleasant bitter, straw coloured beer with a terrific fresh, hoppy aroma. This, coupled with an intense bitterness, leads to an excellent long, dry finish. Probably the beer to receive the most awards in Britain!’

Probably on the strong side for a few in the sun, but one of the beers I enjoy at any time really. Taiphoon is also a great beer, and with the lemongrass and coriander hints, perfect for beer garden weather.

 

I’m still searching for the perfect wheat beer to enjoy in the sun, we made a one-off raspberry wheat beer that was dry and delicious, I find some too sweet if they have fruit, or a bit too similar to Hoegaarden to be very original. I like wheat beer to be cloudy, I don’t know why, I find the clear ones to be a bit of a cop out really. What’s the point in calling your beer a wheat one if it’s not the main grain (or at least a good % in it)?

I’d like to know what your favourite summer beers are, whether they’re ones your brew yourself, from a tiny micro near you, or something so mainstream that you can pick it up in any supermarket.

Happy sunshine drinking!

The untrendy pint

Last night, I went to one of my local pubs, they do a great tapas night on the first Thursday of the month. The food was great, as it always is, Sally has lived in Spain, and creates some lovely authentic dishes at very reasonably. But that’s not really the point of this post. I was struck by a couple of beers that were available. First was Adnams Oyster Stout, it was in great condition, and was tasting fantastic. It has everything I enjoy in a stout, the rich coffee flavours, the creamy thick mouthfeel, just a superb pint. The second was Crouch Vale Brewers Gold which again was perfect, crystal clear and with a fabulous aroma. I tweeted that it had a lovely ‘nose’ and then that it made me sound such a beer snob using that kind of phrase.

It sparked an interesting conversation that Crouch Vale weren’t really trendy enough to make me sound like a beer snob. We don’t really get that many ‘trendy’ breweries beers available in Norfolk, it’s quite a conservative brewing county. That’s not to say the beers aren’t good, they can be great, but they’re just not setting the beer geek world alight. We get a few offerings from Thornbridge and Dark Star, but nothing from the likes of Hardknott, Magic Rock or Kernel at any rate. I do love trying new beers, and the ones I’ve tried elsewhere from these  breweries have been fantastic. However, when at home if I want a consistently great pint, then I know I’ll get that from breweries such as Crouch Vale, certainly in the pubs I drink in.

When it comes to a thirst quenching pint of something golden in the beer garden, a dark and rich beer next to the open fire, or something bitter to go with a pack of pork scratchings, quite often the untrendy pint suits me just fine.

Pulled Pork – Vindaloo style

I know pulled pork is very popular at the moment, but I thought it would be fun to try a twist on it, and have it with Southern Indian spices and flavours rather than the traditional US ones. I tried this recipe out at the weekend, it takes a long time to cook, but it’s very simple, and the results are utterly worth it. Don’t let the vindaloo put you off, this isn’t mind blowing hot, the long slow cooking takes a lot of the heat out. If you like a bit of hot stuff, I’ve indicated where you can add more chilli to get a real kick.

So, this recipe is enough for 4 people, serve with rice, or with whatever you fancy. Adam thought that it would go with mashed potato quite well too.

I used 1/3rd of a pork shoulder, on the bone. This should fit nicely into a slow cooker – if you don’t have one, a casserole dish in a low oven would be just fine.

Firstly, stab the pork shoulder all over, I don’t have great knife skills, so it’s all simple, and this works just as well as slashing it.

Marinade:

1 tsp cumin seeds

5 cardamom pods

3 cloves

1 tsp cinnamon

4 peppercorns

1 chilli (as hot as you like)

3cm bit of root ginger, grated

5 garlic cloves

Juice of a lemon

Bash these all into a paste with a pestle and mortar, do the dry ingredients first. Use a spice/coffee grinder if it’s easier. Combine them with the lemon juice.

Rub the marinade all over the pork, pop it in a non metallic dish, and cover. Put it in the fridge overnight.

Next day you’ll need to start this around 11am if you want it for dinner. Set your slow cooker to heat up, or turn the oven on.

Cooking Sauce:

Vegetable oil for frying

4 cloves of garlic – chopped

2 onions – sliced

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp chilli powder

1 tin chopped tomatoes

3 tbsp white wine vinegar

Seasoning

Start by frying the garlic on a low-ish heat, you don’t want to colour them too much. Then add the onions, and turn the heat up a bit, fry the onions until they’re soft and turning colour. Add the turmeric and tinned tomatoes, chilli and vinegar. Let it all bubble away for a few minutes, season.

Put the pork into the slow cooker dish/casserole. Pour over the sauce and then top up with boiling water until the pork is about 2/3rd covered.

Cook for around 6 hours, turning the pork over every now and again. You’ll notice it becoming softer and softer until it is falling off the bone. Take it out of the slow cooker and shred it at this point. Discard the bone and the fat. A lot of the fat from the pork will have melted out and formed a layer on the top of the sauce. Skim this off if you wish. Place the shredded pork back in the sauce, now you can get the chilli kick back if you want, add some freshly chopped green chilli.

You can leave it now on a very low heat until you’re ready to serve, I left the lid off the slow cooker to allow the sauce to thicken up a bit – but that’s my preference. Before you’re ready to serve you can sprinkle a little more chopped chilli and even some fresh coriander over the top.

All ready to serve, add some of the cooking sauce over the top.

Rillette: a simple guide

This weekend I spent doing some cooking, I wanted to attempt something I’d not done before, and try something out of my new cookery book I purchased recently… Le Charcutier Anglais. I’ve been looking for some tasty and straightforward recipes for pate, terrine, rillette and sausages that I could try at home, without too much fuss, if you’re interested in this kind of cooking, then the books is ideal – it also talks in detail about curing, smoking and all manner of preserving and presenting meat, from back pudding and faggots to hams and sausages pretty much all you could wish for is covered.

I’d always assumed that making rillette was a long time consuming process, complicated and too much hassle to bother with at home. But thanks to Marc Frederic’s easy instructions, I decided to give it a go. You need very few ingredients, and the most difficult bit is the waiting, and trying not to snaffle the lot whilst the piggy porky aromas starting wafting around the house.

I chose a mixture of pork shoulder and belly, chopped into large chunks:

Chunks of belly and shoulder

I removed and reserved the skin from the belly, and cooked it later for a crackly snack.

Once the pork was prepared, I melted some lard. The lard is important, if you can, get hold of some unrefined lard, the commercial stuff doesn’t have a particularly nice flavour to it, the unrefined will though. I had some from Brays Cottage, which I used. I think you can see in the picture that it’s slightly yellow, an unrefined lard wont be the perfect white colour that you might be used to.

I cooked the lot in my slow cooker, set it to warm up, add the pork, and cover in the melted lard. Now leave it for hours. The smell is amazing and will probably drive you crazy, as you’ll want to keep ‘sampling’ it, but I urge you, keep your hands off it as long as you can. Eventually – the pork will start to break down, and you can cut it with a spoon. Take the pork out of the pan and shred it.

 

In a large bowl, put all the shredded meat, and mix in some of the cooking juice and melted lard, and season. You could use all sorts of things here: white pepper, mace, nutmeg, smoked salt, bay, a handful of green peppercorns,  juniper or paprika. Keep it simple, just one or two, but you’ll probably need more that you think. Mix well and press into a large terrine dish, and if you’re going to ‘pot’ it, cover in a good layer of the fat.

Cover and leave in the fridge –  if you’ve potted it you wont necessarily need to refrigerate it, but it wont hurt to do so. Leave it for the flavours to mature a bit. We tried it the next day, and the flavours weren’t as good as they are today, and I expect they’ll be better again tomorrow. I kept the fat that I didn’t use in the mix, and will use it next time I’m going to make rillette, I might get a bit fancy and try with some game – hare or rabbit would work well I think.