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Thursday, 27 January 2011

Bacon, Chocolate & Stout Muffins

Christmas morning. I'm back home, surface area at a premium, every good sitting spot is taken, glasses rest on window ledges and on the arms of chairs. The floor is a battlefield of wrapping paper, dreaming of its former glory it lies there wounded, in the final throws of life; peeled away like a shell, it valiantly clings to the shape it once held, but that black sack of death stands tall in the corner of the room. The background smell of roasting Turkey builds, the mass of bodies cause condensation to cloud the windows ....

"Your turn. Mark! Your turn!"

"What, huh, oh yeah! Sorry, miles away."

I close the cover and put the newly-revealed book down, clearly I got it wrong this time. Straddling that line between interest in the present you just opened and holding everyone else up by forgetting to put it down, it's a difficult one to get right. The book in question is "The Flavour Thesaurus" by Niki Segnit and, even with attention set to flick-through, my head is swamped by ideas and inspiration.

Chocolate with bacon wrestles its way to the front of the list. Like many, I tried bacon and maple syrup for the first time with considerable reservation, only to be blown away by just how incredible a combination it can be. Apply that theory to chocolate and you can understand how the two might work in partnership. A muffin strikes me as the perfect medium on which to bring these two flavours together, and it just so happens that I’ve got a tried and trusted muffin recipe in my arsenal already.

I always cook bacon in the oven, laid on a cooling rack that sits in a walled baking tray. I do this for a few reasons: firstly it means the flat doesn’t smell like the local cafe for the rest of the morning, secondly because I find it allows the fat to drip away from the meat, causing it to dry out slightly and crisp up better. That and because I don’t own a grill!

I cooked two rashers of smoked streaky and then diced them very finely. This was added to the batter right before resting, along with four heaped teaspoons of cocoa powder and two tablespoons of Young’s Double Chocolate Stout. Baked in the normal way, the muffins were then cooled and enjoyed with the rest of the beer.

I like Young’s Double Chocolate Stout. It’s like a big beery chocolate bar forced into a bottle. It’s a great beer for pairing with food and it worked really well here; the thick body and chocolate notes sitting alongside the dense, sweet muffins. A palate cleansing crackle of carbonation and then a tease of bitterness. All happening whilst that salty, meaty bacon added depth to the chocolate, almost seasoning it, enhancing the chocolate flavour but taking it in a new direction at the same time.

A strange combination, but one that really works.

* Flickr photo set for this post.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Stop! Stand Still and Eat Chips!

I spotted this article in the Evening Standard last week and it made me laugh.

"Moderate drinking is good for your health and can cut the risk of diabetes and high blood pressure, claim doctors". Fantastic! Any idea who these doctors are, or perhaps what makes them qualified to make such a statement?

"Up to a pint a day, combined with exercise and a Mediterranean diet, can even help people lose weight, said Spanish researchers". CAN help people lose weight, so equally there's a good chance that it WON'T help people lose weight? Surely one cigarette a week, combined with exercise and a diet low in saturated fat could equally serve to act as a weight loss diet? This just in: a diet of marathon training, Ryvita and Vodka (one shot per week), CAN help you to lose weight!

The researchers are from Spain though ... narrows it down a bit further than those doctors at least.

"Beer drinkers here [in Spain] do not resemble Britons, who drink large quantities, almost without moving from one spot, while eating chips". Brilliant! So, if you thought our national pastime was cricket or bowls or football or lawn tennis, you're sadly mistaken.

I'm off down the pub to drink twelve pints, stand in the same spot for four hours and to eat my own body weight in fried potato. See you all there.

Thursday, 13 January 2011


I'm attempting to pull my various social media streams together and to make them the focal point of the blog. To the right-hand side is an icon that will link you to my Twitter, Facebook and Flickr accounts. Extras will be added as they come up. I'm thinking Wikio and possibly something like Upcoming.

Get connected!

Friday, 7 January 2011

Beer Blogging In 2011

Hello 2011, where did you come from?!

I'm attempting a bit of a blog redesign at the moment. It's taking up the small amount of free time that I've actually got, so things have slowed down blog entry wise as a result. Rest assured that everything will be back to normal very soon.

My first new beer of 2011 will come in the form of The Kernel Black IPA, brewed in collaboration with Rake manager Glyn and being launched here. Looking forward to it and will hopefully see some of you there.

Did somebody say Twissup?