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Category Archives: seasonality

Comfort Beer

It really shouldn’t be the time of year for this kind of post, but as the rain is lashing the windows, a huge storm predicted and thunder rumbling about outside, sod it. I’m sat here with a bowl of soup. It’s not even chilled. Along with a big wedge of thickly buttered bread. Comfort food really.

I’m full of cold, and rather run down. I’m feeling the need for the kind of beer you can nurse in front of the fire, curled up on your favourite chair with a quilt on your knee. Comfort beer. I really am feeling like an old woman’s granny today.

So, what have I got in mind? Something dark, all about the rich roasted, vanilla, coffee and chocolate flavours. Not too bitter, but maybe a nice touch of  fruity hop – something along the lines of  candied peel in a fruit cake.

I tried Norwich Bear Coconut Pawter last week, a special beer produced for City of Ale which at first I thought might be a little too sweet. Described as a Bounty bar in a glass (I hate Bounty bars – mainly due to the texture than the flavour). But no, this was delicious. Helped as it was paired with dark chocolate truffles and blue cheese. A deeply satisfying hit of cocoa in there, coffee to balance and the coconut on the finish. Reminded me of the smell of Hawaiian Tropic… yearning for a holiday in the sun, can you tell?

Green Jack’s Lurcher Stout would be another contender, a little variable in the past, but has been good the last few times I’ve tried it. All lovely roastedness with hints of vanilla. A good satisfying pint.

One that isn’t about at this time of year is Adams Oyster Stout. A really great pint, in good condition I can not fault this at all. Inky black, smooth and creamy, enough coffee flavours to stop it becoming cloying.

I am sneakily hoping that by positing this we’ll get a heat wave and everyone will laugh and ask ‘what storm?’ So then, tell me, what’s your go-to comfort beer, and if we do suddenly hit 28 degree temperatures, what will be in your fridge?

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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!

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.