Beer as a substitute for wine at upmarket functions is only just about passable as an idea in some social groups. Beer instead of wine with dinner may take a while to catch on in certain circles. The idea of cooking with beer, however, sounds daft to the point of being laughable even to some committed beer drinkers. There are, of course, those who pride themselves on their culinary skills and would not dream of spoiling well chosen ingredients with a bottle of ale. On the other hand, there are those who pride themselves on their beer drinking skills, and for whom steak and ale pie is the one and only instance that beer should be interrupted with food, except when – occasionally – beer is spilt on the traditional late night kebab.
Between these two extremes exists the open minded individual, who enjoys both beer and food and at some points stumbles across the notion that these two edible and enjoyable substances can be combined, in much the same way that, for example, wine is often added to a pasta sauce. In much this same way, in fact, is precisely how one should be encouraged to start out cooking with beer… Picture this: You’re twenty something and you’re entertaining guests. You’re trying out a pasta dish with tomato sauce and whilst cooking you open a bottle of red to share amongst friends. The bottle stays in the kitchen where you drink the lion’s share of it. Towards the end of cooking you taste your pasta sauce to find it’s missing something. As you panic, an image in your head is recalled of Lloyd Grossman, or Jamie Oliver literally pouring a good quarter bottle of wine into their dish. You have about a third of a bottle left…you pour it in. The rest is history. The guests were satisfied, the meal tasted great (or just not so bad) and you realised that wine is not just for guzzling from plastic beakers at house parties.
Possibly you are, or consider yourself to be, far advanced of the scenario outlined above. If so, it is just a case of either trying a few recipes such as the Belgian ‘Carbonnade á la Flamande’ (see related article: ‘Using Beer as an Ingredient’), or adapting some of your existing favourite dishes to incorporate beer. In much the same way that mint goes with lamb, you will be able to ascertain what beer will go with what ingredient from their respective aromas. A simple way to start off would be to marinade meat in beer (approximating and matching smells and textures), with a variety of herbs before grilling, or – in the summer – add a little ale to traditional salad dressing recipe.
If in any doubt here is one simple recipe to try, but remember above all to experiment! This one is of the ‘Beer Experts’ own devising; if you can’t find a Guinea Fowl, a chicken will do just fine.
Guinea Fowl Roasted in Honey Beer and Served with Crème Fraiche sauce.
- One Guinea Fowl.
- One tub Crème Fraiche sauce.
- One bottle Honey Beer (Waggledance or Honeydew)
- Several sprigs fresh Thyme.
- Small handful fresh Rosemary.
- 3-4 carrots quartered.
- 6 shallots.
- 6 cloves garlic, crushed.
- 10 new potatoes, blanched.
- . Melt a quarter of a pack of butter in a pan and brush onto baking tray and all over the Guinea Fowl. Place Guinea Fowl on the baking tray.
- Insert one peeled and halved shallot inside the guinea fowl with 2 crushed cloves of Garlic, two quarters of a carrot, a knob of butter and two sprigs of thyme.
- Pour any remaining butter into the baking tray and add the rest of the ingredients. Add the honey beer to the baking tray liberally so that there is about one inch of liquid (enough to well cover the ingredients in the tray), and pour some of this liquid over the Guinea Fowl.
- Cover the tray loosely with foil and roast in the oven on Gas Mark 5-6, keeping an eye on the potatoes, so that they don’t burn.
- Check that the Guinea fowl is cooked through, remove and put to one side for carving.
- Place the baking try on a heated, flaming hob, and pour a liberal amount of crème fraiche into the tray, stirring whilst continuing to heat. Continue for 3-4 minutes, ensuring that all of the vegetables are well covered in the creamy honey beer sauce.
- Carve the Guinea Fowl, serve on separate plates and pour the sauce/vegetable over it.