A few weeks ago I (along with a few others) was approached by my good friend Leigh of The Good Stuff beer and food guide and asked if I would like to take part in a seasonal food and beer matching event codenamed “My Christmas Menu”.
The brief was simple, create a menu that you are cooking this year or at least would like to cook, add beer suggestions for each course. This worked perfectly to a plan that had formed anyway, where a few select guests were to be invited to my gaff for a “pre-Christmas”, Christmas dinner and bottle session. Sadly though disaster struck, plans scuppered and it couldn’t happen, so this is what I’m hoping to make for the actual day.
I should also mention that one of the other stipulations was that the beers should be readily available and not super rare dusty bottles that other folks could never find. That said, Christmas for me is a time for a bit of luxury, to splash out a little, so I’m going to try and add perhaps a couple of suggested beers, one an available everywhere supermarket job and others slightly more difficult but available online or in decent specialist beer shops. So..
First Course: Crab n’ Prawn Cakes
Partly in homage to the creator of this event (not him upstairs, Leigh from Leeds), I’ve decided the first course should be these lovely crab and prawn cakes. Leigh posted this recipe a good while ago and I’ve made them a couple of times since, they are delicious. You can read the recipe yourself here.
I went for these for another reason too though apart from the above, they are really easy to make, can be made ahead of time and warmed in the oven prior to serving. The only change to Leigh’s originals as pictured here I plan to make is to scale them down slightly so at to make them less filling. There’s plenty more good grub to come and I don’t want folks pushing plates away before desert is well and truly scoffed..
- Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, a light, fragrant easy drinking beer with just enough malty body as to not overpower, but with hints of peppery spice that will compliment the fish. Available in most supermarkets and a great introduction to American beer for those who’ve not yet felt the love (pick up a Goose Island IPA too if stocked, it’s a superb beer)
Main Course: Turkey and Trimmings with bacon sautéed sprouts.
Speaking personally I’d like a change for Christmas dinner, I’m not a HUGE fan of Turkey as it goes, but as I’m cooking for family, some of whom want traditional, it looks like that’s the way it’s going to be. After all as hosts we all aspire to keeping everyone happy yes, so turkey and all the traditional trimmings it is.
Now I’m not going down the road of trying to tell you how to cook and stuff a turkey, but I’ll be stuffing mine with a mix of good quality sausage meat, breadcrumbs, chopped chestnuts and onion and a sprinkle of sage. On the side will be mashed potato “Heston Style”, using baked potatoes, riced and then the skins gently boiled in milk to extract their favour. You then use that liquid with butter to cream your mash.
We’ll also be having more potatoes roasted in goose fat, honey glazed winter vegetables, which basically is carrots, parsnip etc tossed in a little melted butter and honey, spread on a baking tray and sprinkled with sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, then slammed in the oven with the goosies.
The last vegetable addition will be sprouts, yes sprouts I love them. But mine will have a twist to win over the doubters.
Part cook your sprouts so they are still firm but just under cooked, take them off the heat and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process. Then get some streaky (preferably smoked ) bacon rashers or pre prepared lardons if easier and pretty much dry fry them adding a couple of thinly sliced spring onions. Slice your sprouts to get an almost shredded effect and add the pan with bacon and spring onions. There should be enough residual fat in the pan from the bacon to toss the mixture in while cooking through, if not add a little butter, season with a little black pepper as the bacon should have given enough salt. We’re not looking to fry this mixture by the way, it’s a gentle heating through you want after adding the sprouts.
The final touch will be home made pigs in blankets using a high quality chipolata sausage and black treacle cured streaky bacon. You can make your own version of these using what you can get locally, or just buy the ready made from your local butcher.
Oh and a yorkshire pudding on top!
- Topping the bill is Buxton Brewery’s “High Tor”, rich and fruity with a lovely caramel malt sweetness, should be great with turkey and cranberry jelly. Other suggestions Summer Wine Brewery “Rouge Hop”, definitely another contender and may be easier to find that High Tor. Finally, most supermarkets stock Brewdog “5AM Saint” for the uninitiated don’t be put off by the bright red slightly brash branding, behind it sits one hell of a good beer and still one of my top picks year round.
Desert: Stout and Chocolate cake with an ice cream float.
Here is where tradition ends and hopefully a new and beautiful friendship begins for my guests. I fell in love with this recipe the moment I saw it and although I’ve not yet actually made it, I’m sure it’s going to be divine.
Devised by Michelin starred chef Angela Hartnett, it featured on the Great British Food Revival as one of her recipes made using beer. A rich dark chocolate cake made using top quality chocolate and Kernel Brewery’s Imperial Brown Stout. I’m sure you could make this using any decent stout but go for an imperial version if possible as you need to save some for the ice cream float as your side. This is basically a very small glass of stout with a spoonful of rich vanilla pod ice cream floating on the top. Thinking this through I’d say Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Chocolate Stout would also really fit the bill here too. I’ve tried to embed the BBC iPlayer video here but failed miserably, but you can check out how to make it here.
- With chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream I’d always normally head for stout as apartner, but as stout features pretty much throughout this recipe, I think something dark but slightly sweeter fits the bill here. So I’m going to go for a Belgian quadrupel instead, something like Struise Pannepot would be perfect, it’s Christmassy spiced notes giving the whole combination a seasonal edge. St Bernardus Abt12, Urthel Samaranth or La Trappe would work too. Rochefort 10 might be a step too far as it’s quite heavy on the liquorice notes. For supermarket shoppers go for Chimay Blue, it’s still a great beer but not quite up there in this company for me.
For the Queens Speech: Stilton, grapes and biscuits.
Ok you can throw in a few more cheeses in there if you like, but by now hopefully you’ll all be stuffed fuller than the gobbler we roasted earlier. Settle down and nibble away the afternoon, assuming you are still awake.
- Blue cheese and Barley Wines are great but examples of the style can be tricky to get hold of especially in supermarkets and such. In decent beer shops you’ll have choice, Coniston No9 won best beer at GBBF this year but is in short supply, Sierra Nevada Bigfoot, Hardknott Granite are options too as is Stone Old Guardian if you can find it. All that said I’m going to for a final swagger of luxury from north of the border with a large bottle of Orkney Brewery’s Dark Island Reserve. Stilton with port is a fine combination and that’s what you get with this beer, sweet, rich, full of vanilla and chocolate, with spiced oranges. All topped off with a port style finish coming from the Orkney malt whisky casks.
Not sure where to send you for barley wine as supermarkets rarely stock anything other than Gold Label (don’t go there). Open another Chimay or a bottle of Port.. *Update, Robinsons Old Tom is lovely and supermarket friendly.
So there you have it, My Christmas Menu, I hope you enjoyed the suggestions and maybe get it try some or all of them out, I’m only sorry that time did not allow a pre-Christmas practice run to picture the finished articles here.
A massive thanks to Leigh, look out for his post and links to all the others.
P.S. Don’t forget it’s #SeasonsTweetings beer night on Friday 14th December 2012.