Pie + Beer

Pies and beers! Yes, I know, it’s not exactly a revolutionary concept but I’m not talking about questionable meat encased in stale pastry and wrapped in microwave safe plastic. Though this isn’t to say you won’t catch me occasionally devouring a servo pie on a road trip up to Perth. However, in this instance I’m talking about a twist on the old favourite.

Pies and beers! Yes, I know, it’s not exactly a revolutionary concept but I’m not talking about questionable meat encased in stale pastry and wrapped in microwave safe plastic. Though this isn’t to say you won’t catch me occasionally devouring a servo pie on a road trip up to Perth. However, in this instance I’m talking about a twist on the old favourite.

Continuing my current cook book love affair with ‘Cooking with Beer’ by Paul Mercurio, I decided to try my hand at the Chicken & Leek Pie. The recipe calls for a Saison however after an unsuccessful hunt around it would appear this particular beer style isn’t around these parts … not yet anyway as I hear the Eagle Bay Brewing have a Saison lined up for their next limited release. In a search that took me from bottle shop to bottle shop like a lost alcoholic, I stood in the Dan Murphy’s liquor store and wondered what would be the best replacement. I looked at Belgian ales and English ales and then realised there was something a little closer to home that would be ideal – Feral White.

Cooking with thirsty work!
Feral White and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale made excellent cooking companions

Feral White  (4.6% abv) is brewed true to the Belgian Witbier style with a 50/50 ratio of barley and wheat and also uses an imported Belgian yeast strain. Coriander and orange peel are added during the boil and it’s appearance is cloudy and unfiltered. I doubt there would be any beer lovers in WA who aren’t familiar with Feral Brewing and their first and most popular beer, White. It has delicate spices and sweetness and has a nice level of carbonation so you don’t end up feeling like you just swallowed a packet of inflated balloons. I have a special place in my heart for witbiers as they were the first beer style I fell in love with, discovering Hoegaarden when I was working at The Belgian Beer Cafe Westende. This is, however, the first time I’ve tried cooking with it. The fruity notes from the beer added a touch of sweetness that went nicely with the pie, I think that anything sweeter would have been overpowering for the chicken, butter and veggies. Feral Whites spices and subtle tartness are great with leek, almost making it bolder than what it would be on its own. Unlike when I made the Onion, Stout and Goat’s Cheese Tart, the impact of Feral White on the outcome was subtle to the point where I doubt I would have been able to pick it if I didn’t know it was in there. I’m going to take this as an indication of balance of flavours and ingredients though whether this is accurate or not, I am not entirely sure but, what the hell, it sounds good.

The end result was just lovely, a hearty dinner with a great balance of flavours. The bonus being a little creativity in the pastry, I don’t know why, but whenever I use pastry I always have to write something.

“Yum” + “Pie” … Chicken, Leek & Feral White Pies

Stouts + Tarts

In order to further develop my experience in cooking with beer I decided to purchase a book – “Cooking with Beer” seemed to be a pretty safe bet given the fairly clear title. It’s by Paul Mercurio who I think of as a) the Strictly Ballroom guy and b) the guy who really likes beer who was in Strictly Ballroom. The first recipe I decided to try was the ‘Onion, Stout and Goats Cheese Tarts’, not only because they sounded really tasty but because my most recent trip to Cellarbrations Carsisle had seen me bring home quite a number of stouts.

This is a picture of a tart with a lot of beers

In order to further develop my experience in cooking with beer I decided to purchase a book – “Cooking with Beer”.  It seemed to be a pretty safe bet given the fairly clear title; it’s by Paul Mercurio who I think of as a) the Strictly Ballroom guy and b) the guy who really likes beer who was in Strictly Ballroom.

When I first got the book I did the thing we do with cook books and flicked through saying “yum” at almost every page. My patient boyfriend had to endure twenty minutes of the same sequence of sounds – a page turning, my exclamation of “yum!” and then a listing of ingredients. Lather, rinse, repeat.

The first recipe I decided to try was the ‘Onion, Stout and Goats Cheese Tarts’, not only because they sounded really tasty but because my most recent trip to Cellarbrations Carlisle had seen me bring home quite a number of stouts.

Cooking with Beer
Paul Mercurio

I made a couple of changes to the recipe, omitting fennel as I am not a big fan and had to find a cheese substitute since I couldn’t find any blue goats cheese the recipe called for. I decided to use Persian Fetta AND King Island Ash Blue, trying to ensure I had all my bases covered. Perhaps using two different types of fairly assertive cheeses was a little overkill, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing – it’s just making my taste buds work a bit harder.

Initially I had thought a tart would be a light, easy going dinner, you know, nothing too heavy. As I started preparing to cook I found myself looking at a kitchen bench top loaded with ingredients that painted a very different picture. The end result was a dish packed with rich creamy mushrooms and onions, big doses of garlic and brown sugar sweetness all mixed in with half a bottle of Coopers Best Extra Stout. Oh and don’t forget the two cheeses I selected, both dolloped on top in generous spoonfuls. I’m really not a subtle cook sometimes…

The Coopers Best Extra (6.3%) added noticeable coffee bitterness and roasty element to the dish. Savoury mushroom richness was dominant and the Ash Blue had it’s own little mushroomy flavour as well. The rich malt sweetness in the stout was harmony with the spices and brown onion. It was also nice to have a beery bitterness contrast with the tongue coating creaminess of the cheese and rich almost gravy like mushroom and onion medley.

When it came time to find a beer to match only something big and bold was going to be capable of satisfying this rich tart. I immediately went for the Murray’s Craft Brewing Wild Thing Imperial Stout (NSW) that had been sitting in my fridge waiting to be opened. It was an amazing match to the Onion, Stout and (now multiple cheese) Tart because of the similar flavours to that of the Coopers Best Extra – assertive coffee and expensive chocolate bitterness, rich malt and a touch of roast characters but all in much bigger quantities but still balanced. And it’s all encased in a 10% abv monster that adds warming boozy sweetness. Not only did it do a great job of standing up to the tart (what a great way to open a sentence) but it confidently went head to head and survived.

Murray’s Wild Thing
Imperial Stout
10% abv | Murray’s Craft Brewing Company

Fish + Pilsener

Natural Olive Oil Soap Factory aka Vasse Virgin
135 Puzey Road, Willyabrup in the Margaret River Wine Region

I had never been to The Natural Olive Oil Soap Factory before. At the risk of sounding like a borderline alcoholic I strongly suspect that the lack of booze is the reason. Despite the fact there’s still no booze there (probably a good thing) I recently visited and I’ll be heading back soon … don’t worry, this is still a beer related post!

For 15 years they have been making various soaps, scrubs and lotions. The shop sits beside the factory floor where it’s all made so you can see the process etc and the shop even has a basin for you to test their beautiful soaps, though it is a little strange washing your hands in a crowded shop. Out the back in their Gourmet Room you’ll find fat juicy olives, chunky macadamia pesto, aromatic olive oil, dressings and fresh pasta and sauces that have you looking around for a pot and an open flame. In fact you can taste test a lot of their items to such a degree that you could practically have lunch.

It will come as no surprise that it was the Gourmet Room that won my beery heart.

One little gem I stumbled across was Lime Olive Salt from a company called Camilo in Victoria. With the words “lime”, “olive” and “salt” on the package it was hard to resist – what’s not to like about that combination?! Ripping open the sachet the tangy cooked lime and black olive aroma is so addictive I had to be careful not to inhale any.

The woman at Vasse Virgin suggested throwing it over fish then oven baking. I took her advice and also threw in a few chopped garlic cloves and shallots for good measure. I used local pink snapper and served it with creamy mash potato.

Lime Olive Salt Pink Snapper on Potato Mash

I matched it with Mac’s Hop Rocker, a New Zealand pilsner that’s one of my favourite beers. It is made with Cascade and Nelson Sauvin hops, providing fruity and floral notes, that seemed to bring out a little sweetness from the shallots and being a nice soft flavour against what is a fairly light fish. The beer carries hints of citrus and delicate bitterness and worked beautifully with the lime olive salt.

Mac’s Hop Rocker Pilsener
4.8% abv

Laksa + Hops

It’s always a great journey when you discover a new beer, regardless whether you enjoy it or you find it’s not quite your cup of tea. I recently went to visit the guys at Cellarbrations at Carlisle so our fridge currently has a full shelf of beers I have never tried before. During the always difficult selection process, hampered only by my credit card limit, I was asked “do you like hoppy beers?”, “hell yes” I replied, or at least something to that effect. That’s when a bottle of Heretic Evil Cousin landed in my shopping basket. The label had the words “A massively hoppy imperial IPA” on it … what’s a girl to do?!

It’s always a great journey when you discover a new beer, regardless whether you enjoy it or you find it’s not quite your cup of tea.

I recently went to visit the guys at Cellarbrations at Carlisle so our fridge currently has a full shelf of beers I have never tried before. During the always difficult selection process, hampered only by my credit card limit, I was asked “do you like hoppy beers?”, “hell yes” I replied, or at least something to that effect. That’s when a bottle of Heretic Evil Cousin landed in my shopping basket. The label had the words “A massively hoppy imperial IPA” on it … what’s a girl to do?!

The Heretic Brewery comes out of California in the United States from Jamil Zainasheff, a home brewer since 1999 when he first caught the beer-bug. Since then he has won a number of awards, co-authored a couple of books, contributed to many a beer publication, his own blog and podcast and, of course, the Heretic Brewery since early 2011. A quick read through his blog on the Heretic Brewery website and, like all brewers I have met, he comes across as an all round decent guy who just wants to brew great beer and share it with everyone.

“A heretic is a person who practices heresy, and heresy is when you hold an opinion at odds with what is generally accepted. Galileo was considered a heretic for supporting the theory that the earth revolves around the sun. In a world where over 90% of beer drinkers believe mass market light lagers constitute the universe of beer, craft beer lovers are all heretics”, December 2010

“You blithely assume that you can just buy some kegs, put beer in them, and you are good to go. Not so fast. It takes more thought than that. In fact, I can’t believe how much time we’ve put into thinking about packaging so far”, March 2011

“So, one year of blog entries down. Normally I need to think long and hard about committing to another year of writing anything, but these blog entries are different for me. I get to say just about anything I want. I get to ramble on about random thoughts, and as long as the topic somehow relates to beer, everyone seems to be OK with it. Cool gig, huh? But don’t take that as an indication that I don’t care”, February 2012

The Evil Cousin sits at 100 IBU and 8.0% ABV so my boyfriend and I decided it would be the perfect partner to a home made prawn laksa. We sat at the table and poured the ale into a couple of wine glasses, the colour alone put a nice big smile on our faces, bright copper and oh-so-lively. Floral and citrusy hops were basically fighting each other to escape from the bottle, delightful! The taste was chewy and rich, like lollies that are bad for your teeth, and stays true to the American Imperial IPA style with big notes of pine needles and citrus with a generous hop bitterness to finish plus there’s a sweet fruit like sweetness underlying it all.

Home made laksa often features on our rotating list of home dinners, especially during winter, and I decided prawn laksa was the way to go for this occasion. I slowly simmered the prawns in a mix of olive oil, finely diced garlic and fresh red chilli before throwing it into the laksa. It all came together beautifully, and in true laksa tradition, it was messy to eat and down right tasty.

The match of prawn laksa with such a beautifully hoppy Imperial IPA was harmony what with chilli and hops being such good bedfellows. Both dishes were equally rich, all the flavours demanding your attention and for once I hadn’t gone overboard with the chilli so it was nicely balanced and my mouth wasn’t on fire.

Heretic Evil Cousin + Home Made Prawn Laksa

Prawn Laksa

Prawns

Slowly simmered in a mixture of olive oil, finely diced fresh red chilli and garlic, throw into laksa moments before serving.

Laksa 

Button Mushrooms

Red Capsicum

Garlic

Coconut Milk

Spring Onions

Udon Noodles

Laksa Paste

Additional Links:

Beer and Whiskey Brothers

Interview with Brewer Jamil Zainasheff on MoreBeer!

Check out Heretic Evil Cousin Ale currently rating 96 on Rate Beer