I love working with chefs. Their sense of ingredients and flavour and how to combine them often reminds me of painters taking individual colours and combining them to create something different and better, while evoking something more than just the component colours .
Obviously my favourite chefs are the ones who see beer as a source of flavour not just a drink. Oddly enough, that’s not all of them – or even many of them. I once had a celebrity chef, who had only just finished gushing effusively about his sour dough bread, dismiss beer as being of no interest to him in terms of being a food match. I didn’t have the heart or the patience to follow up by asking him to explain how he saw one foodstuff made with yeast, grain and water as being any different – or more interesting – to one made from grain, water, yeast and hops.
Among the tastings I run in Brisbane, I do a regular cooking class at the Golden Pig Cooking School. Chef Katrina Ryan is a wonderful chef, and is former Head Chef in Neil Perry’s famous Rockpool and worked at Yandina’s highly-regarded Spirit House Cooking School on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. Once a month Katrina creates a recipe that she demonstrates before I match it to a selection of beers as the guests feast on Katrina’s dish du jour.
This week Katrina cooked mussels, a dish that I love making and for which beer is the perfect base. When asked for a beer to use, I suggested Feral White, a beer I often use for mussels. Trying the recipe, Katrina just didn’t find the Witbier sharp enough for what she was trying to achieve with the dish. She tried adding lemon peel to the recipe but it just didn’t get the desired result. We kicked it around and I suggested she try the Mornington Pensinsula Sorachi Kolch. Made using the very distinctive Japanese developed Sorachi Ace hop, the light ale has a sharp lemon pith character. Katrina tried it and thought it perfect.
Here’s her recipe…give it a try. Try it a couple of times and experiment. Play around with flavour…try it with the Sorachi Kolsch, try it with the Feral White. I also find a Saison, such as Bridge Road’s Chevalier Saison gives a cracking result.
For the record, the beers I paired with the dish were Celis White, Bridge Road Chevalier Saison and Sorachi Kolsch.
If mussels are your thing, here’s another recipe to try…
If you’re in Brisbane join us for one of the Golden Pig’s Learn to Cook & Drink classes.
Mussels with beer, garlic and bacon
- 2 Tblspns olive oil
- 3 cloves finely chopped garlic
- 100g bacon cut into small strips
- 2 Tblspns thyme
- 1 large ripe tomato cut into chunks
- 1 x 330ml Beer (see above – Sorachi Kolch from Mornington Peninsula worked very well)
- 1kg Kinkawooka Mussels drained and rinsed in cold water
- 1/3 cup cream
- 1 lemon zested
- 2 Tblspns chopped continental parsley
Heat a large pot or wok. Sweat the garlic and bacon in the oil with the thyme until the bacon
starts to crisp.
Add the tomato. Open the beer and take a big guzzle from the bottle. Pour the rest into the pot.
Cook rapidly for a few minutes then add the mussels. Put a lid on and cook over a high heat for about 5 minutes until the mussels open. Add the cream, lemon zest and parsley and serve immediately with crusty bread and salad.