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Category Archives: Norfolk

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?

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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!

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!

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.

Welcome

Welcome to my new blog, I’ll be chatting about lots of things, but mainly drink, food, local produce and service. Focusing on Norfolk, but not excluding the rest of the world either.

This weekend has been a bit of a celebration of local food and drink. Starting early Saturday, we took a trip to The Norfolk Diet Farmers Market  in Norwich, gathering cakes, pies, bread and oils from the many stalls in attendance. I may be slightly biased here, I used to sell our beer on the market, and worked closely with Sarah of Brays Cottage and Linda of bright blue skies to set the market up, after the existing one in Norwich was slowly dying. Essentially the market is about Norfolk produce, celebrating the varied and often unique food and drink that comes from our region. There are the regular meat, veg, bread and cakes that you would expect, but we also have saffron, excellent local wine, goats milk and refreshing cordials. It was very chilly as you may remember, but all the stallholders were smiling, chatty and generally making the most of the winter sun.

Our haul included a selection of delicacies from Macarons & More – the general consensus was that the praline macalongs are a work of genius; 4 different pies from Brays, including the new lamb and beef pies. My favourite being the beef – tender chunks (not minced, I was glad to see) of local beef, with onion in a crisp pastry; a selection of bread from Pye Baker including the sour dough flute, cheese and onion bread and a rye & caraway loaf, which 2 days on is still doing great as toast; and dressing from Crush who crush rape seeds to produce a vibrant yellow oil, they also make a selection of tangy dressings; and a huge slab of belly pork from Oak Tree Farms  I think this one will have it’s own post once cooked.

We then proceeded to hot-foot it up the coast to Wells-next-the-Sea to get our sticking mitts on some charcuterie from The Norfolk Deli Co (formerly known as De-lish). Jules who makes the pate, sausage, rillete, pancetta is not only a great bloke, but very talented. The balance in seasoning, depth of flavour and overall taste of his products don’t come easily. Jules will talk you through the produce, describing the hard work that goes into each small strip of jerky. This stuff is seriously good… and addictive. The jerky barely makes it back home with us.

Heading further round the coast to Brancaster, it’s oyster and mussel season. We stop at The White Horse for a late lunch of steaming bowls of mussels. They’re so sweet, I could dunk bread into the the creamy garlicky juice at the bottom of the bowl all day long. Washed down with a pint of Adnams American style IPA, a lovely aroma, maybe just not as much oomf as I’m used to, but a very drinkable beer none the less.  Just over the road is a little fish shop, selling fresh & frozen sea food, fish and game; you can even get hare. The car loaded with food we head home.

To me, there is something very special about being able to talk to the person who has created the pie/beer/wine/sausage that you’re eating. I feel very strongly about supporting local business, be that food and drink or clothing boutique. You see, and this is often the part people forget, it’s not just the person who made that pie you ate that you’re supporting, but the farmer who raised the pig, grew the grain for the flour. The whole network of small businesses supporting each other just got a little boost because you chose to get your porky pie from a lovely lady at the market rather than a generic (and less face it, inferior) one from the super market. Now I know sometimes shopping at a market is a luxury, and that times are tough. I know only too well about that. But if we don’t support these small businesses, they will fail. I shop at the supermarket, I’m not going to make out I’m some kind of locavore saint, I’m not. But I wont buy meat there – I get that from my local butcher – not only cheaper but much tastier. I get fish from the fishmonger, and beer (well I have rather a lot of that at the moment), but I wouldn’t get that from the supermarket either, same goes for wine & spirits.