Trying my hand at a creamy Thai Pumpkin Soup and discovering that the IPA in my fridge goes really, really well with it. Happy Sunday!
I’ve had a flu for the better part of the week, leaving me feeling far more ‘girl+snot’ than ‘girl+beer’ so it’s not been a very beery week. No point in drinking it if I can’t taste it.
To kill off the last of this bug, I decided to try my hand at a Thai Pumpkin Soup from Bill Granger’s ‘Bill’s Everyday Asian’ cook book. I’ve used this book many times and it’s suitably covered in dots of sauce and oil. I love when my cook books look like this and it makes it easy to remember what recipes I’ve liked the most! This soup is stupidly good and pretty easy. That’s two boxes ticked! It also makes quite a fine match to a James Squire Stow Away IPA. I have to be honest, this kinda surprised me.
I don’t find the Stow Away IPA particularly bitter; the bitterness is more soft than tongue-rippingly sharp but there’s a little spice and some malt sweetness in there too. I suspect an American style IPA with far bolder bitterness would have pulverised the poor little soup into submission and perhaps this is why this particular IPA made for a good match to the soup which calls for spices such as cumin, coriander and cinnamon. As it is a Thai style soup it also required some heat so in went a couple of chillies and a nice dash of paprika. I say “dash” because the recipe calls for a teaspoon but I didn’t have any clean ones on hand so I guessed. The chilli and paprika created a slight chilli heat to the soup and mirrored the slight bitterness in the beer.
I’d like to be able to say this beer + food match was set up, planned and expertly executed but I’m not that clever. In reality I made the soup and my boyfriend wandered past and dropped a beer beside me thinking it might work – he’s a good man.
Trying out Sticky Chicken Wings (using Coopers Pale instead of Sake since I had no sake!) matched with the latest Little Creatures Single Batch – The Day of the Long Shadow (and even longer beer name that makes it a real mouthful!) …
Styled with a cold European Christmas in mind; it’s a boozy 8.9% abv that smacks you lovingly in the face but it’s nicely balanced with assorted spices and dark fruits. Whilst Little Creatures are normally known for a more American hop approach they have used UK Sovereign and Challenger hops. These English hops lend softer and more earthy characteristics with Challenger hops, in particular, providing fruitiness and sutble spices. There is a little bit of bitterness lurking about as well so I thought a dish with some contrasting bitter/sweet flavours could be an interesting match.
I flicked through Bill’s Everyday Asian and landed on a recipe for Sticky Sesame Chicken Wings. The contrasting soy, chilli and sugar sounded like it could work up against the Little Creatures “the day of the long tea time of the soul darkness etc etc” but at the same time I had my doubts however I liked the sound of the dish and couldn’t be bothered looking into it any further. I had briefly contemplated something Christmas inspired, in keeping with the theme, but I really didn’t have the time to be trying to roast a leg of ham or turkey and fruitcake isn’t really dinner appropriate. I had also committed myself to cooking three other dishes that night (related to other occasions) so I was inclined to get on with it!
I kinda followed the recipe however we didn’t have Sake so I just used the nearest booze in arms reach … in went a generous dash of Coopers Pale Ale. I had palm sugar in hand, which I had purchased for another dish, so I grated some and tossed it through instead of the regular white sugar the book called for because, to be perfectly honest, it felt more asian-y. I ditched the sesame seeds because I just couldn’t be bothered. The result was a recipe that went a little something like this:
Sticky Chicken Wings (based on Bill Granger’s Sticky Sesame Chicken Wings)
I served with chilli fried rice so dinner wasn’t just a plate of chicken wings …
6 Chicken Wings
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
1 red chill, finely chopped
2 tablespoons Mirin
2 tablespoons Soy Sauce
Generous splash of Coopers Pale Ale
Grated Palm Sugar (approx 30 grams)
Throw chicken wings into a dish lined with baking paper and into a hot oven (200 degrees) for about 35-40 minutes. In a saucepan over medium heat throw in the other ingredients, garlic and chilli first and then the rest. Cook for a few minutes or as long as it takes for the liquid to reduce by about half. Whether this was because of my handful of variations this actually took a good 15 minutes.
After 35-40 minutes remove chicken wings from oven and coat with the sauce, toss through to ensure they are covered. I was a little skeptical at this stage, thinking the sauce wouldn’t stick but after another 15-2o minutes in the oven the result was just as the title promises!
Dinner was sticky and good but sadly not a winning match with the beer with far too much contrast going on between the food and the beer. Ah well, I get another chance at it with a Gauloise Christmas still in the fridge!
One of my most successful home cooking matches to beer so far with James Squire Four Wives Pilsener plus a few words on James Squire branding and the birth of Pilsener. Oh and you can see what my beer + food of choice whilst writing this post.
My boyfriend came home last week with a case of James Squire Four Wives Pilsener. I do love coming home to him and if there’s beer involved, well, I’m hardly what you would call an unhappy woman.
James Squire is a brand I’m pretty familiar with as my former employer Five Bar is one of their Ambassador Venues, translating into me having done quite a few sessions of James Squire education. In turn it also meant, much to my delight, first dibs on their limited releases including the Mad Brewers range. I like James Squire beers, I’ve sat down happily to many a pint of Golden Ale (incidentally, the only James Squire beer to make it into the 2011 Critics’ Choice Australia’s Best Beers – they had 6 in 2010) and I have liked most of their marketing. I like the wood(ish) tap handles representing beer barrels, I like the James Squire signature but the latest, though by no means recent, branding efforts are a bit of a mixed bag. They have been outlined nicely by Matt on Australian Brew News back in April 2011 but just to highlight my favourite element of this re-branding, let’s look at the stories. I’ve fallen in love with stories around beer, it’s history and it’s heroes, I find them fascinating and completely endearing. However, really only half of the James Squire permanent range seem to have a decent story. Now, I’ll be the first (or at least the third) to admit I have a tendency to ramble. With that in mind I have been rather considerate and separated the following James Squire branding rant so you can easily skip ahead to the main part of this post. See? I’m a lovely girl.
So, Four Wives Pilsener? Yeah, the man was said to be popular with women and had a little more than just a bit on the side. I’ll buy that. Stow Away IPA? Yeah, he was on the all female boat to Australia instead of being squished in with other smelly, thieving men of questionable moral standing. I’m okay with that story too however please note we are a mere two stories into the infamous James Squire and it’s all been about what’s in his pants. Not what I would call revolutionary male thinking. Nine Tales Amber Ale? Ok, yes, he had a lot of tales to tell throughout his varied career from baker to copper and a few in between. Having said that, this name is largely dependent on the visual of distinguishing tales from tails. Take a moment to consider how much more of a magical story it be if James was reported to actually have nine tails. Then you’ve got 150 Lashes Pale Ale. I’ll even pay that too just for the sheer cheekiness of the story, stealing and then bribing out of half the punishment with ale. The remaining new names are a little less solid. The Chancer Golden Ale? Ahem … that’s cause he took a lot of *clearing throat cough* chances in his life. Jack of Spades Porter, from the press release, barely makes sense, aside from a vague gambling reference. I had been under the impression it was because ol’ Mr Squire was a Jack of all Trades – butcher, baker, candlestick maker (one of those isn’t right) and thus a little play on words. You can almost hear the marketing pitch in the Lion Nathan boardroom, the tone becoming stronger with each weakening correlation. And don’t forget about Sundown, because people would visit James’ tavern as the sun went down. Good thing they didn’t go when they were clinically depressed, I don’t know the marketability of a beer called ‘Life Sucks, I Hate Digging Holes’ Australian Lager.
In short, as I said, I like all the beers from the Malt Shovel Brewery, especially the Mad Brewers releases. Also, I understand the desire to tell stories and create history around your beer, I’m just not totally sold on all of the James Squire stories.
Now that I’ve got that out of my system … let’s move on.
We had a few Four Wives Pilseners throughout the evening and my brain started to get hungry. I was concurring up ideas of a lemon or lime grilled white fillet of fish, swimming in creamy butter and garlic, lying on top of soft potato mash dotted with crunchy fresh spring onion … (wow, I really shouldn’t write when I am hungry) … so that’s what I did the following night.
Four Wives is a Bohemian style Pilsener so there’s a good whack of Saaz hops (GER) in there for lovely floral aromas. I believe it’s Munich and Pale Malts for the base, resulting in pleasant bready sweetness. But what surprised me, having not had this beer for a while, was the lemony citrus I was getting and that’s where the home cooking light bulb popped over my head.
A Brief History … Pilsner was brought to life by Josef Groll in 1842 in the town of Pilsen in what is now known as the Czech Republic. In what could be seen as a dramatic example of the power of consumers, the citizens of Pilsen, fed up with the poor and inconsistent nature of their beloved beer, sent an entire season of it down the drains, unfit for consumption. They then built a brand spanking new brewery and set about joining forces to brew better beer (and perhaps pinch an idea or two from the neighbouring Bavarians). Enter Josef and put the spotlight on Bohemian Saaz Hops and the unique soft Pilsen water (allowing for more flavours from hops and barley to shine through). Now you’ve got yourself the birth of Pilsner which, as you may have figured out by now, was named after the town, originally meaning “from Pilsen”. People caught on quickly to this great new style and similar beers quickly starting popping up all over Europe. It was another 17 years before “the original pilsner” (the brewery then becoming know as The Pilsner Urquell brewery) would be trademarked. Despite the name now thrown around like confetti, there are two true styles of Pilsner – German and Bohemian/Czech, both using Saaz hops. German Pilsners tend to be bigger in hop bitterness and possess earthy qualities whilst Czech Pilsners, such as Four Wives is styled on, tend to be darker in colour, a little more delicate, grassy and floral.
The result was a lime, garlic and butter pan fried local snapper sitting happily on a bed of ruby red potato mash with garlic dosed mushrooms and leeks on the side. There was some nice savoury sweetness through this dish to play happily with the malt in the Four Wives. Limey goodness went well with the zesty lemon I had picked up in the beer (and yes, that is a char-grilled piece of lime as part of my garnish in the photo) and the fish and mash as the bulk of the meal were delicate but still flavoursome enough to not dominate other elements of the dish. I was very pleased with this match up as far as home cooked meals and beer go if I do say so myself.
Lime Butter Pan Fried Local Snapper w/ Ruby Red Potato Mash and Garlic & Butter Mushrooms
Ruby Red Potatoes
Do up your lime butter first, using one of your limes, and set aside. I know Bill’s recipe only calls for a single tablespoon of lime juice but I wanted a pretty dominating lime flavour!
Pan fry your mushies and leeks in garlic and butter and be sure to have your potatoes boiling away. Get your big pan fired up and ready for the snapper. Throw it on, douse it in butter and garlic (if you’ve not noticed I do like butter and garlic) and randomly squeeze some fresh lime on the it from time to time.
Mash your spuds and mix in some freshly cut spring onions to finish them off.
Serve it all up and drizzle your lime butter on the top of everything!