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.
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.