Small beer - "something that does not seem important when compared to something else" Cambridge English Dictionary
Apologies for being so slack this week. I have been busy with book groups and cooking for family - the inevitable spaghetti and meatballs in that case, which involves a fair amount of labour. So today I have an hour or so and thought I'd start a bits and pieces post, this week using the synonym Small beer. Which is sort of interesting in that we appear to be in the process of coming full circle when it comes to drinking small beer - which is actually a term used since very early times - medieval - for beer of low or no alcohol. Back then large amounts of beer were consumed - mostly to sustain them as they laboured on the land. If you are drinking several pints a day - as they did - then you don't really want to consume a lot of alcohol.
Beer was also safer to drink than water, and even children drank it. Small is definitely small though, because it apparently means beer with an alcohol level that can be as low as .5% to 2.8%. Nowadays the definition has expanded to 3.5% in Australia. And interestingly Australians are some of the highest number of consumers of low and non alcohol beer - 13% of beer drinkers apparently.
Why? Well it's partly a desire, particularly amongst the young to cut back on alcohol, and partly because the quality of the drink itself has improved enormously. This one -
Tinnies Ultra-Low Alcohol Hoppy Ale won the 2022 Australian International Beer Awards for low alcohol beer.
Apparently the vast improvement in the taste is down to various technological processes and inventions, which frankly I did not understand, but if you are interested, the ABC has an article that explains it all.
The reason I'm featuring this recipe is two-fold. Maybe more, we shall see.
The main reason is that whilst the chicken itself was just very plainly roasted, before roasting the legs were removed - the whole leg, not just the drumstick, taking care to keep as much skin as possible on the main part of the bird, so that it could be tucked underneath. You could also remove the wings if you liked. The reason for doing this is so that the chicken cooks evenly. As you know the leg has darker meat, that takes longer to cook, so getting the chicken at a perfect state can be tricky. Anyway I thought it an interesting approach. In keeping with a possible trend back to my youth when we bought whole chickens (well we had to), and cut them up ourselves. It's something I might start doing again I have to say, if only so that I can get a breast with skin and bone on.
The herby sauce was interesting too - another cheffy thing was, that once the ingredients were blitzed, they were sieved and "stored in an ice bath bowl", and finally mixed with a mayonnaise.
But the other thing was a mystery ingredient in the salad - 'muntries'. Otherwise known as kunzea pomifera. The ingredient list said they were optional. Well they'd need to be wouldn't they? I mean where would you get them from? Possibly online, but a quick search doesn't come up with much, other than buying the plant and growing them yourself. The cook was a chef.
A wonderful quote
I just bought Claudia Roden's latest, and possibly last book Med and I will say more about it next week, but I was so struck by the quote which opens the book that I just had to share:
"Cooking is the landscape in a saucepan" Josep Pla
Of course I do not expect anybody else to feel the same way - except Claudia Roden of course. She did choose it after all. I say that it may be her last book, because, as well as being of a goodly age - her late eighties - it also has the feeling of a memoir. A happy one I have to say.
But enough of the book and Claudia Roden - next week. Back to the quote.
Josep Pla is a Catalan writer and this quote is one that has apparently been with Claudia Roden for some time. I guess its meaning is twofold.
The first is personal. The landscape behind a dish that you make, or consume, might not have anything to do with where that dish comes from. It might just be a personal memory of where it was eaten, who you cooked it for, of a person who cooked it for you. But every dish, if you are at all interested in food, will summon up the country and the culture of the country it comes from. - even if it's just frozen pizza. Particularly if you have been there of course, or if you speak the language. Which is why French food in particular has such a personal meaning for me. And there is Claudia Roden in her kitchen - I assume it is her kitchen - surrounded by Eastern Mediterranean tiles which must remind her of her childhood. In her words:
"I realised that food was an important part of a culture, and that it was about roots and identity and that was why people have always held on to it. There was a story behind every cuisine."
It's a lovely book - on the Readings bargain table at the moment. Which is why I couldn't resist.
And I've run out of steam and inspiration. We have been trying to arrange a family get together for my son's 50th birthday party. Thwarted at every turn. In limbo.
Small beer indeed.