"the hoppy, malty, slightly bitter character of a good beer adds a unique quality to food ... pleasantly bitter, a little sweet and most important of all, richly aromatic."
John Wright - River Cottage A-Z
Yesterday my husband had some Corona beer with the curry we had for dinner, but he only drank a little. I don't know whether it was because he had already had some white wine or whether he didn't like it but anyway I am now left with most of a bottle of Corona Extra beer. It's his special meal tomorrow so he decided that that would be my challenge.
I had no idea that Corona beer came from Mexico. Indeed I had no idea that Mexico made beer. Although why not? So I thought that it was just a boutique beer - but no I gather it is actually one of the biggest selling beers in the world. And also that it should be served with some lime. Some indeed have hinted that the lime in the bottle is the gimmick that has enabled it to be so popular. Although I see from their website that they have been making beer since 1925. Whether always with the lime or not I'm not sure. One theory was that it was a marketing idea when they launched the beer into California in the 80s. I'm also not sure whether we bought it or whether one of our younger trendier relatives brought it to the house. Anyway I now have most of a bottle of beer to do something with. I shall resist the beef and ale temptation - we had that last week, and also, sadly for me, the beer battered fish and chips. David decreed I could not do this.
Looking at that advertisement, though, one is tempted. And a beer batter is certainly something one can do with leftover beer. There are heaps of recipes out there. It doesn't have to be fish of course. Jamie Oliver has a recipe for Curried cauliflower fritters, which was somewhat tempting as I have a cauliflower in the fridge waiting to be used as well. But it's probably not really a meal, and we had curry yesterday. So I am discarding the beer batter thing.
But should I discard the fish idea? After all it goes with lime too does it not, and that ad obviously thinks it's a good partner for fish? Early on in my research I found a recipe on the BBC website from John Torode for
Jamaican grilled fish which looked marginally interesting, but perhaps not quite interesting enough. It included limes though. I think it's a traditional Jamaican dish as I found a few more versions, but I don't have any whole fish in the freezer, and besides it's not David's favourite thing. But not wanting to give the fish idea away I looked further and found another slightly unexpected traditional dish - this time from China - from Yanghsuo.
Gourmet Traveller has the most delicious looking version which they call Chilli and tomato beer fish with fried garlic and shallot but this too won't do because of the chilli. But I somehow didn't think of the Chinese as having beer either - or at least not cooking with it. Nor tomatoes come to that.
By now I was beginning to realise that I know nothing about where beer is brewed in the world. I was dimly aware that beers from India and Japan were acceptable, even good, as opposed to the traditional countries of England, Germany, and Belgium - oh and Australia too, but not Mexico, Jamaica or China. Anyway at this point I decided to give up on the fish idea.
So back to the Corona and lime. And actually I found the perfect recipe if I'm just thinking of the things to use up. Chicken with a beer, lime and coriander marinade. I have lots of coriander to use up too. But it looked so pale and unappetising that I was not convinced. Besides our curry had been chicken and included a lot of coriander. I have actually now found lots of similar recipes and some of them - the grilled ones actually look tempting.
But moving on and to cut to the chase a bit because this is just becoming a bit of a list I suppose. There are lots of bread recipes. I am sorely tempted by this - it could accompany a soup after all, even one flavoured with beer. Maybe that cauliflower. But David is making his super bread tomorrow, so it would be a bit rude to make a rival bread. I suppose I could make one of the soups - I vaguely remember cauliflower again or a split pea one.
Then there's sauerkraut. Yes - I really could fancy that. So would that be just choucroute, hot dogs or sausages braised in sauerkraut? Or even pork chops.
There are lots of recipes for pork too. Indeed one of these, German-style roast pork with gravy, from Taste.com is probably worth trying some time. Not tomorrow though - I don't have a suitable piece of pork - it's supposed to be knuckle - now where do you get that? Or Corona grilled pork chops - again with that mix of beer, lime and coriander, - but really not that exciting.
I actually found that Heston Blumenthal also has a version of the pork knuckle dish. He calls it Pork knuckle with juniper berries and caraway red cabbagge - so the same thing really, but very much fancier looking.
And whilst still on Germany, he also has a dish he calls German beer chicken - not for the novice this one, indeed not even for the more experienced like me. I think it would take a few days to do. You have to ferment some barley, make some granola and brine the chicken before you get to actually cooking
it. It also uses stout rather than a light beer, so I'm excused from having a go. He also has a recipe that he calls Butter beer which sounds a bit like a beer punch - beer warmed with various spices and butter.
And finally there is beer and cheese, that most people seem to think is a natural pairing. There are just as many recipes for things to do with beer and cheese as there are for beer and food in general. They range from fondue, Welsh rarebit, beer and cheese soups, dips, sauces, to the very tempting macaroni cheese. Now I haven't made macaroni cheese for decades, so maybe I should give that a go. Here are three pretty nice looking ones, Top left Beer mac'n cheese from Emma Freud via the BBC , Bottom left Easy beer mac and cheese from How Sweet Eats and on the right Beer cheese mac from Delish. Two without bacon and one with, though one of those without said that the only thing that would improve it would be bacon. I like the idea of the crunchy top as well.
So much to choose from. I think I shall probably be choosing between the macaroni cheese and the sauerkraut and sausage options. We'll see how I feel tomorrow.
I have not, of course, mentioned the sweet options - there are glorious cakes - mostly chocolate or fruit cakes with richer beers than I have here, ice cream, apple fritters - the list goes on. If it was summer I might have gone for the ice cream. And there are lots of lists of what else you can do with beer. I think the best one of these was the one on the Bon Appétit site.
It's a complex drink with a wide variety of flavours - even more these days I am guessing because of the craft beer craze, so the way it can be used in cooking is pretty much infinite really.
"There are two main sources of the flavour in beer: malted grain, which gives sweet, toasty, chocolatey, caramel notes; and hops, which are bitter, fragrant and sometimes citrus. Both can contribute to the flavour of a dish. which particular beer you use is a matter of judgement and culinary instinct: there are thousands to choose from." John Wright - River Cottage A-Z
It's such a wide brief really - a bit like saying cook something with wine - or milk, or stock. I mean where does it end? Even in times like these we have too much choice. At least I don't have to choose which beer to use.