MATCHING and complimenting drinks with food is no longer left just to wine. In fact, the beer-with-food movement is gathering pace. I spoke about my passion for artisan beers in this column about a year ago and since then it seems matching beer with food has gone from strength to strength.
Artisan, independent breweries are springing up across Scotland, books are being published and educational courses are being established as people take an interest in where the beer they drink comes from, how it is brewed and how it is best enjoyed. It’s an exciting time for the industry.
Mass-produced beers can often be packed with additives, so it is worth seeking out ales from specialists or micro-brewers. Most of these modern ales are cask- or bottle-conditioned, which means you get plenty of flavour and often natural carbonation. A good-quality beer will also make it easier to pick up notes and flavours to match with your food. Often the flavour begins with the smell when it comes to beer too, so make sure you stick your nose in the glass before you taste.
One of the aims for our new gastro pub was to find local ales. We have spent months meeting brewers in the same way as we do with our food suppliers. It’s important to us that we understand the people behind the breweries and the beers they brew, and to tap in to their passion and knowledge. It means we can then share all of their expertise and enthusiasm with our guests.
One of the brewers we’re working with is practically a one-man operation. Barney’s Beer is produced in Edinburgh and is on the site of the 1800s Summerhall brewery. The operation started in a kitchen and uses a traditional method, where fermentation is allowed to happen naturally in the bottle – as opposed to the method for filtered beers, which are carbonated using high-pressure gas injection. You’ll get a bit of sediment, but the quality is great. We discovered the beer when Barney himself turned up at the door of the Kitchin to let us try his brews. His caricature appears on the bottle and looks exactly like him. I love that kind of personal touch when it comes to a product.
World-class beers have been produced in Scotland for centuries, and brewing is a craft we should be incredibly proud of. Some of those traditional brewing methods are being revived again today and, just like the food I’m passionate about, it is about taking traditional classic Scottish recipes and methods and giving them modern flair and flavour. The beers we serve come from breweries that are reinventing – and breathing new life into – old Scottish recipes. This makes beer more appealing and accessible for a much wider audience.
The beauty of sourcing beer from micro-breweries is that they are made in much smaller quantities than the mass-produced brands, which means you get consistency and quality. It’s the attention to detail that really makes a product stand out.
The other similarity between beer and food is its seasonality. Although you will find most beers throughout the year, some micro- brewers are also producing seasonal varieties and flavours, working with the local produce around them. That’s another reason to start thinking about matching your beer with the food you’re eating, because the natural flavour-matches in season will compliment one another perfectly.
The beauty of pairing beer and food is that even though certain types of beer will compliment different types of food, there really are no rules. The best thing is to go with your own taste and try something new and different. Often, as a rule of thumb, the lighter the ale, the lighter the dish should be. The key is to enhance the flavours, which you can do by either contrasting them or seeking out like-for-like matches.
Braised hogget shoulder with lettuce and peas
1kg hogget shoulder (buy it tied from your butcher)
2 carrots, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 sticks celery, chopped
1 bouquet garni
½ head of garlic
1 tsp peppercorns
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsps cumin powder
2 tbsps tomato purée
400ml white wine
1 litre lamb or chicken stock
1 tbsp parsley, chopped
1 tsp rosemary, chopped
100g caul fat
For the peas à la Française
½ white onion, finely chopped
90g unsalted butter
1 tbsp salt
600g fresh or frozen peas (podded weight)
100ml whipping cream
salt and pepper
10g pancetta, cut into batons
2 baby gem lettuce, thinly sliced
To prepare the hogget
Heat a heavy-bottomed pan. Season the hogget shoulder and colour in the pan until golden all over. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Heat the chopped carrots onions and celery, then sweat gently for two to three minutes.
Add the bouquet garni, garlic, peppercorns, fennel seeds and cumin powder. Then add the tomato purée and sweat for one or two minutes, before slowly adding the white wine and cooking off.
Add the hogget shoulder back into the pan and cover with stock. Place the meat in the oven with a lid over the pan and leave to cook for two and a half to three hours.
Once cooked, remove the hogget shoulder from the stock and open it up to allow the meat to cool.
Meanwhile, pass the stock from the pan through a seive and reduce it by two thirds. Keep a bit aside to use later.
Separate the meat carefully from the shoulder, gently flaking it into a bowl.
Once the stock is reduced, add the flaked meat and season with salt and pepper, then add the chopped parsley and rosemary and mix together.
Take the mix and create a crépinette by making a nice ball of the hogget mix and wrapping in caul fat. Try to wrap the mix so each is about the size of a tennis ball.
Place the hogget parcels into the stock and baste through for five to ten minutes on the side of the stove.
To prepare the peas
Sweat the chopped onion in 50g of the butter for four to five minutes. Bring a pan of water to the boil and add the salt. Blanch the peas for a couple of minutes and then refresh in iced water. Drain the peas, then add about a third of them (about 200g) to the onions – keep the rest aside to add to the finished dish.
Add the cream and seasoning to the peas and onions and cook together for a further two minutes. Blitz quickly and leave to chill – this helps keep the purée green until serving.
To finish, blanch the pancetta in boiling water for a minute, then drain through a sieve. Sweat the pancetta in the remaining 40g of butter, then add the rest of peas and pea purée and cook for three to four minutes. Add the lettuce and check the seasoning.
Ale to try with Hogget
Red Cuillin is a cask ale from the Isle of Skye Brewing Company – the first brewery in Skye and the Western Isles. The rich, malty flavour and subtle bitterness of this beer go well with the meat. The brewing method harks back to tradition, and that’s what I’ve tried to do with this dish – give a modern twist to quite a traditional Scottish recipe, using an often forgotten cut of meat.
Tripe & Ox Tongue with Piperade
For the ox tongue
1 ox tongue
Salt and pepper
1 onion, chopped
2 celery sticks
1 head of garlic
1 bouquet garni
1 tsp white peppercorns
For the tripe
100g bacon, chopped
2 onions, halved
3 carrots, halved
1 celery stick, quartered
50g tomato paste
1 litre chicken stock
1 bouquet garni
For the piperade
4 red peppers
50g bacon, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 head of garlic, chopped
1 bouquet garni
1 tsp pepper sauce
To prepare the ox tongue
Soak the ox tongue in a bowl of water overnight.
Bring a pan of water to the boil and add the tongue. Season and add the onion, celery, garlic, bouquet garni and peppercorns, then leave to simmer on a medium heat for two to three hours.
Take the tongue from the pan and remove the skin. Roll the tongue and wrap in cling film then slice it thinly.
Heat a heavy-bottomed pan and add a splash of olive oil, before adding the sliced tongue and frying until crisp.
To prepare the tripe
Slice the tripe into 5cm strips. In a heavy-bottomed pan, add a splash of olive oil and caramelise the bacon. Add the onions, carrots and celery and cook until tender.
Add the strips of tripe along with the tomato paste and cook. Add the chicken stock and bouquet garni and braise the meat until tender. Remove the onions, carrots and celery. Remove the tripe and set aside and reduce the stock.
Add the tripe back to the stock and mix together.
To prepare the piperade
Roast the peppers in a heavy-bottomed pan, then peel them and remove all the seeds.
In a heavy-bottomed pan, add a splash of olive oil and caramelise the chopped bacon. Add the sliced onion and chopped garlic and continue to sweat gently.
Add the peppers and the bouquet garni and cook out for about an hour until the peppers are really soft. Add the pepper sauce and mix together.
Spoon the tripe and ox tongue into a small bowl, pour the piperade over and mix together. Season with salt and pepper.
Ale To try with Tripe
This dish is quite rich so you need something fairly strong to stand up to the bold flavours.
Edinburgh Gold, from Stewarts Brewing, is a continental-style blonde beer. It works well because it has a bit of body, yet it’s still balanced and full of flavour. The continental hoppy aroma is prominent but it’s a balanced flavour that will still let the spices and complexities of the dish shine through. It gives a nice refreshing lift to the dish and a pleasing smooth finish.