I love Italian food. Maybe its because I spent a lot of time there as a youngster, maybe it’s because I watched too much Jamie Oliver growing up; I just cant help but love the simplicity and the emphasis that’s put on produce and provenance. Is there anything better than slices of ripe tomato, torn mozzarella, basil leaves and olive oil? Toasted ciabatta, Parmesan and pesto. Stone-baked sourdough pizza, hazelnut gelato …
And pasta. I eat loads of pasta during the week because it’s quick, delicious and really versatile. A real favourite is roasted tomato and garlic with spaghetti or linguine. I usually take bread crumbs and combine them with salt, pepper, olive oil, thyme and garlic. Slice some tomatoes in half, pack the crumb mixture down into the fleshy part and roast on a low heat for an hour.
When they’re all nice and roasted, I throw them into a blender with some passata, a squeeze of tomato puree and another big slug of good olive oil. That’ll make you a fantastic sauce to stir through pasta, but something I really like to do is then add about half a bottle of Peroni Gran Riserva. Continue blending until well mixed and then return to the heat to thicken slightly.
I find that the beer adds a honey-like, malt sweetness that you don’t get by adding table sugar. The beer adds depth and richness to the sauce; by drinking the rest of the bottle with the food you’ll be able to pull out spicy, muscovado sugar and ripe fruity flavours in the sauce that wouldn’t be there without the beer.
As a nice variation: at the point where you add the beer, just keep on adding, and you'll end up with a delicious soup. Have that with some toasted bread and you're sorted. Peroni Gran Riserva is sold in lots of supermarkets, but if you have another light (or 'helles') bock instead, I'm sure it would work equally well.
Tuesday, 21 June 2011
Sunday, 19 June 2011
I realised that I hadn't posted my remaining photos from the Beer Bloggers Conference. Days two and three saw a food and beer pairing lesson, a talk from Martin Dickie of Brewdog, hop pickers on stilts, racing snails, a tour of Fuller's brewery, LOTS of great beer at Camden Town Brewery and another fantastic meal with some special bottles from the cellars at Fuller's.
Monday, 13 June 2011
About two months ago I wrote this. An experiment with some surplus homebrew, some sour beer dregs and an overactive imagination.
Six weeks after giving birth to that beer I took a sample to see how things were progressing. It was warm and flat, of course, but it was also tart and lacking any signs of obvious oxidation. Even more positive was the BIG Brett flavour that now dominated. Things are going well I thought to myself, but what this beer could really do with is lots (and lots) more sourness.
Enter the lactic starter.
So a friend of mine sees an article in Zymurgy that he thinks might interest me. It describes a process by which you can make a lactic starter without the need for buying a lactic bacteria culture. He's right, it does interest me, and it seems like perfect timing.
Here's what you do. Lactic bacteria live naturally on the outside of malted grain. If you take a wort at 1.038 and you hold it at 38c, you produce the perfect environment for lactic bacteria. Add malted barley to this mixture, wait three days and this is what you get:
That bacteria on the outside of the grain will eat the sugar in the wort and will reproduce, making lactic acid along the way. That lactic acid is (part of) what you're tasting when you drink a sour beer like Lambic or Gueuze.
I used about 50g of dried malt extract in 500ml of water. I boiled this for about 5 minutes and then cooled to 38c. I poured this into a sanitised milk bottle, added 2 heaped dessert spoons of crushed pale malted barley, capped it with some tin foil and sat it in a temperature controlled water bath for the three days.
My lacto-friends now ready for battle, all it took was a sieve to strain out the junk and 300ml of new fresh wort at around 1.040. Both these things pitched into the main batch of Rhubarb Lambic and away we go. This is the pellicile that now sits atop my beer:
This might just be the most geeky post I've written on this blog, but I don't care - this is why I love homebrewing!