girl + chilli

Chilli con carne is more than just a tasty meal, it’s the total delight at having a kitchen bench full of spices and colour and the aroma filling the entire house. It’s about slouching on the couch afterwards in your favourite trackies and being full and happy. And yes, it’s totally made better with beer.

I love chilli con carne; it’s warming, inviting and bursting with flavour. It’s a dish that falls into my “home food” category, i.e. I’m very unlikely to order it at restaurant because my love for it is greater than just the dish itself; it’s about my total delight at having a kitchen bench full of spices and colour and the aroma filling the entire house so much so that our dog is practically drooling. It’s about slouching on the couch afterwards in your favourite trackies and being full and happy.

Granted I could say this about a lot of dishes if I really thought about it but it is particularly true with chilli con carne.

Last week I had a go at making Paul Mercurio’s version from his Cooking with Beer book. I’m surprised that I’ve owned this book for a year and only just tried this recipe. Shame on my beery heart.

Chilli con carne

Weizenbock – a strong wheat beer, ‘bock’ indicating strong and ‘weizen’ German for wheat.

The recipe calls for a 330ml bottle of Weizenbock and I immediately wished I hadn’t drunk my last bottle of Mountain Goat / Brooklyn Brewery collaboration beer, the Hopfweizenbock – a hopped up weizenbock. With such strong wheat beer characters like banana and spice, coupled with biscuit, stone fruit and a good punchy finish, well it would have been pretty damn good.

Nøgne Ø Tiger Tripel … a little barnyard, dried pineapple, stone fruit, spicy, crisp citrus and a little red fruit. Sensational!

However, having enjoyed all the Hopfweizenbock I had to find a suitable substitute in our fridge. I decided on Sierra Nevada Kellerweis and a splash of Nøgne Ø Tiger Tripel, hoping my beer mathematics would work – Kellerweis + Tiger Tripel = Weizenbock.

Sierra Nevada Kellerweis

Nogne O Tiger Tripel

The end result was an amazing chilli con carne, seriously one of the best I’ve made. I think this will be the chilli con carne recipe, the go-to recipe. My partner and I matched it with the Sierra Nevada Kellerweis, the wheat beer qualities like spice and coriander complemented the dish perfectly. The beers uber-refreshment also made for a fantastic palate cleanser for the heat in the dish.

Chilli con carne with Sierra Nevada Kellerweis

Click the image for the full recipe
Click the image for the full recipe

Mustard + Coopers

It has been a number of weeks since I’ve been to Bunnings on a weekend to enjoy one (or even two) of their fantastic sausage sizzles. It must be universally accepted that you can’t have a proper hot dog without mustard and so, since I woke up with strong urge to cook, it seemed like a good time to try my hand at mustard. Paul Mercurio’s Cooking with Beer book came to the rescue with a recipe for “Kick-arse Hot Beer Mustard”.

Check out more photos here

This mustard is delightfully easy to whip together and makes you wonder whether you’ll bother to purchase mustard from the shops ever again. The use of the words “kick-arse” and “hot” are no exaggeration so if you are a fan of big flavours, heat and bag loads of spice then you’ll love this mustard too. With so much flavour going on here I’m not sure how much impact 1/3 of a cup of Coopers Sparkling has on the finished product. Since it’s so easy to make I think I’ll mess around with different beers and see what difference it makes.

Now that I had made mustard it was time for hot dogs … well, actually it turned out to be more of a sandwich since there was fresh turkish bread on hand. (I’m trying not to giggle as the words “sausage sandwich” come to mind). Anyway …

  • Mushroom & Onion Sausages from the local Capel Butcher
  • Shredded Capel Cheddar
  • Tomato Sauce and KICK ARSE HOT BEER MUSTARD!

It was seriously tasty and I’ll be putting beer mustard on every dish for the next week!

Sausages with Kick Arse Hot Beer Mustard in Turkish Bread
(try very hard not to label this photo as ‘Sausage Sandwich’)

Fish Curry + Chimay

More cooking from Paul Mercurio’s Cooking with Beer book – this time I tried my hand at the Indian-style Fish Curry with Belgian Ale using Chimay Triple

Cooking with Beer by Paul Mercurio
My new favourite cook book

More cooking from Paul Mecurio’s Cooking with Beer book but this time it wasn’t just for myself and my partner but also for his parents.

I decided to try the Indian-style Fish Curry with Belgian Ale. This was silly for a number of reasons –

  1. I’ve never tried cooking this dish before.
  2. The first and only time I tried cooking a fish curry was so long ago I can’t remember whether it was good or bad. I figure if I can’t remember, it couldn’t have been very good.
  3. The ingredients list was 23 items long.

I’ll cut the suspense and state right now that the dish turned out to be freakin’ amazing.

Indian-style Fish Curry with Belgian Ale
… be prepared with your best pestling skills

One of the ingredients in this dish is, clearly, beer – more specifically a Belgian-style high-alcohol ale. I went to Dan Murphy’s in search of something suitable and came home with Chimay Triple. 8% abv, rich sweetness, fruity and with a good bitter finish.

The Chimay beers remind me of The Belgian Beer Cafe Westende, one of my first jobs as a bartender and where I was first introduced to the big wide world of beer. If you check out the Chimay website you’ll see the words “Chimay, the Art of beer and cheese” … two of my favourite things!

Chimay is one of only 18 authentic Trappist monasteries in the world where the monks and nuns live by the motto “ora et labora (prayer and work) so basically when they’re not praying they are working hard to produce, amongst other things, amazing beer. For more information on Trappist beers, here is a great website.

The beer is rich and complicated with lots going on and with an ingredients list of over 20, the curry is much the same. It’s full of spices like cumin, mustard seeds, curry leaves and turmeric and also uses garlic, ginger, and coriander to ensure there is plenty of flavour. When you throw in a cup of Chimay Triple it’s hard to say whether you can taste the difference with SO much going on. I guess you’d have to make the dish twice – one with and one without the beer – but I have to be honest, that’s a lot of mortar and pestle work thats enough to make my hand cramp just thinking about it. I’m happy enough with the outcome that the recipe was fun to make (though it does need some time and love) and tasted great.

You’ll work up a sweat making this paste!
Fish Curry … Simmering away nicely

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