What could be better on a chilly winters eve than a big steamy bowl of hearty beef stew? What’s that I hear you say? A Beer? The main problem with winter, as I see it, is that it is cold, and as beer is best enjoyed at higher temperatures this presents an issue of glacial proportions when it comes to enjoyment of ones favourite fermented refreshment. Now wine and cider enthusiasts have similarly found themselves confronted with this frigid dilemma and have found ways to still enjoy a pint or two of mulled, or spiced whatever in the depths of winters maw. However if you have ever tried to down even a room temperature beer (we’ve all been there, third day camping, the ice in the chiller long gone, sometimes you just gotta push on!) you’ll know that this is NOT the way forward.
Well it just so happens that I have the solution to our chilly conundrum. Now, for the purist beer enthusiasts among you this one may be hard to swallow, but we are going to cook with beer! Finally a way to combine two of my greatest passions into one neat little package, and two delicious recipes! I am by no means the first to champion this approach. The Beer Institute has this to say on the topic:
“Because beer is such a satisfying, cooling beverage, many people forget that it is also one of the world’s greatest seasoning agents. Used properly, beer turns the most ordinary foods into exceptional party fare. As a marinade for meat, fish or seafood, it tenderizes. In roasting, baking or broiling, beer is used to baste the foods or as an ingredient in the basting sauce to impart a rich, dark color and highlight the gravy.
Used in place of water as the simmering liquid, beer brings out all the richness of the meat and vegetables. The alcohol evaporates in the cooking, leaving only the delicate flavors to intrigue the diner.
As a baking liquid, beer is unsurpassed. It adds a lightness and buoyancy to biscuits, pancakes, cakes and a variety of homemade breads. Experiment with beer as all or part of the liquid in packaged mixes to reconstitute instant or freeze-dried foods.”
“Exceptional Party Fare!” It goes on a bit, but you get the idea. You can still enjoy the taste of your favorite drop (you are drinking for taste, not just to get fucked up right?) without freezing to death in the hyperborean wastes of winter. I’m sure there are those out there who will just say ‘To hell with your winter!’ take a moment to shake off the cold and promptly harden the fuck up and keep drinking, (I’d still enjoy a frothy one at the north pole thank you very much!) but for those seeking for an alternative, or for those of you out there trying to get the kids into beer (you can never start too young) this might be just the gateway drug, I mean opportunity you are looking for.
Beef And Beer Stew
- 1 turnip, roughly chopped
- 1 onion, roughly chopped
- 1 carrot, roughly chopped
- 2 starchy potatoes (I used Dutch Cream in this recipe)
- 120g button mushroom, quartered
- 800g beef short rib
- 2 sticks of celery, roughly chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 sprig of rosemary, chopped
- 2 sprigs of thyme, chopped
- 50g dark chocolate, chopped fine
- 200mL cream
- 375 mL Chocolate Porter (Any dark beer will work for this)
- 2 Lt beef stock (for home I just used hot water and OXO powdered beef stock cubes)
- 2 Tbsp Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce
- 2 Tbsp malt vinegar
- 1Tbsp ketchup
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 star anise
- 2 cm of cassia bark
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 cloves
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
Preheat your oven to 180°c. First make your spice mix. Dry toast your spices, except the paprika, in a fry pan then grind into a fine powder in the mortar and pestle, now add the paprika. Cut your beef short rib into individual rib chunks to facilitate faster cooking. Heat a large pan with oil until just at smoking point, and then season your beef heavily with salt and brown on all sides in the hot oil. In a large casserole dish dump your chopped potatoes into the bottom and spread evenly across the surface. Move the brown beef into the casserole dish on top of your potatoes. Next add a bit more oil to the beef pan and sauté your onion, celery, turnip, and carrot in all that delicious beef fat until they are starting to colour. Next add your garlic, thyme, rosemary, and your spice mix into the pan and cook for a further two minutes stirring often to avoid burning the spices. Dump this whole delicious mess into the casserole dish and then throw your mushies on the top. Heat your beef stock and beer to boiling point and pour it into the casserole dish. The liquid should cover the beef and veg completely, but if not, do not despair, just add enough hot water to cover everything. Put a lid on the dish and cook in the oven for 2 hours. After the two hours is up bump up the heat to 250°c and remove the lid for 1 more hour. This will cause the surface to caramelise slightly and reduce your cooking time by a few hours!!
When your time is up, test the beef by stabbing it with a pair of tongs, the tongs should pass through the meat with little resistance, if not, keep cooking. If so, then place a large colander over a large pot and strain off the liquid and reserve the solids. Move the pot of cooking liquid to the stove and proceed to boil the shit out of it. Removing the solids from the sauce allow you to perfect the sauce without over cooking everything. Take this time to pick the bones out of the beef and shred it roughly with tongs. Once the cooking liquid has reduced by ¼ add your cream, chocolate, Lea & Perrins, ketchup, and malt vinegar to the mix. Season heavily with salt and pepper, and add a little sugar until it tastes right to you. If needs be you can add more powdered beef stock to the mix to achieve a really meaty flavour. Next make a slurry with cornflour and hot water (about 3 Tbsp cornflour to ½ a cup hot water) and add this to your boiling brew. This should instantly thicken your sauce, use your eye and add more or less slurry depending on how thick you like it (I like mine very thick as it gives a more luxurious mouth feel, and makes it taste richer). Adjust the seasoning again as the thickening will change the way you perceive the flavour. Now smash that shit up with some excessively buttered crusty bread on a cold night in front of the telly, that’s how we do winter round here yo!
Here is our very own Black Chocolate Porter recipe for those of you with way too much time on your hands:
Black Bitch Porter
- 180g Caramel Crystal Malt
- 140g Simpsons Chocolate Malt
- 90g Simpsons Black Malt
- 200g Briess Dark Malt Extract golden light
- 1.5kg Briess Light Malt Extract pilsen light
- East Kent Goldings 40g – 60mins
- Fuggles 20g – 60mins
- Fuggles 10g – 15 mins
- Fuggles – 1 minute
- 1968 London ESB 1 x slap pack
- 200ml vodka
- 300g Dutch cocoa powder
Bring a large pot of water up to 60°c. Put all of your grains into a muslin sack and then into the pot of water and allow to steep at 60-70°c for 30 minutes. Remove the grain sock and drain thoroughly. Bring the pot to the boil and then boil the hops for the amount of time specified in the above recipe. When there is about 15 minutes left on your boil i.e. when you add the 2nd round of Fuggles Hops, add your malt extracts and bring back the boil before adding the 2nd round of Fuggles hops. Be careful at this point as the malt extract changes the viscosity of the mix and may cause the pot to boil over. Once your boil is done, fill the sink with cold water and plunge your pot into it to crash cool the wort (beer base). Repeat this 3 times and then pour the wort into the fermenter and top it up with cold water to a total of 8 Lt. Take your slap pack of yeast and slap it! there is a bag inside the packet that contains nutrients for the yeast cells to feed on, breaking the inner bag allows the yeast to begin doing its thing. Once the liquid in the fermenter is at 20-25°c and the slap pack has puffed up like a balloon, tear open the yeast package and pour the contents into the fermenter and stir the yeast through vigorously. Screw the lid of the fermenter on tight and pour a little water into the airlock and leave in a cool dark place for 3 weeks to ferment. On the fourth week mix the Cocoa powder and the vodka together (the vodka helps to dissolve the oily cocoa otherwise it would just sit on top of your beer and be gritty and shitty) and pour this mix into your beer and stir through. Put the lid back on for 1 more week and then bottle. When using carbonation drops I recommend using one drop for a 375 ml bottle and two for 500-750ml bottles. This is the guide I stick to with carbonating my beers and I have yet to have one explode, or worse be flat…