I have a confession to make. I was born in the county but I don’t really like Yorkshire puddings (nor can I play cricket). Crispy and fluffy with drooling chicken inside they can be a joy, but I’d never go out of my way to include them in my Sunday menu. Burnt on top but soggy on bottom Aunt Bessie’s must haunt me from a youth spent mostly down south.
In fact, I’m not all that enthusiastic about roast dinner. Dry beef, sloshy gravy, none of that’s for me. Chicken I could eat to the bone, but cabbage, carrots and cauliflower combined with lukewarm meat, I’m ok thanks.
But at the Kings Arms wild horses couldn’t have torn me from my plate of chicken, parsnips, roast spuds, peas in a pod and runner beans.
Not even the ornithological taxidermy on the walls could put me off. I even ate all the Yorkshire pudding.
The Kings Arms at Heath sits on the edge of Wakefield, harboured between the back end of the city and the scrub where rugby fans park for the short amble to the creaking ruins of Belle Vue. The area is an unlikely setting for a quintessential English village, an other worldly mix of residential, rural and renegade horses tethered amidst the oddly placed moors.
Lining the top shelves of the wood panelled walls that surround the dining room are hardback books: travel guides, classics, Edwardian children’s books. What Katy Did peers down from a perch besides an ancient guide to my home county. There’s even a dusty bottle of Yorkshire Black Beer, its sepia label faded from years guarding the shelf.
Plates of food are full and large, the food hearty and good value (Sunday lunch for two with drinks under £20). The beer includes the pubs own bitter, presumably brewed by Ossett Brewery who own this revitalised village building. If the food wasn’t great it would be worth visiting just to nestle in one of the many snug rooms and stare at the glass cabinet of historic beers, including one brewed for a former president of the USSR.
And on a slow Sunday in late summer or early autumn it’s easy to stay snuggled in one of these wood panelled snugs for a long time after the well priced and homemade dessert board is delivered. Or maybe I’ll just have another Yorkshire pudding.Tags: heath, ossett, ussr, wakefield, West Yorkshire
December 10th, 2012Beer and Food
Tradition is a funny thing. It’s the osmosis by which culture ebbs down the generations. It is vital to the survival of so much that we cherish. It’s on one hand the facilitator of those differences between cultures that should be celebrated, yet it can also be the glue of homogeneity when we can’t be bothered to make room for dreaded change.
Take Christmas dinner. It’s the bedrock of Christmas Day, a piece of the jigsaw essential to the survival of festive traditions. But who the hell actually wants to eat Brussels sprouts, regardless of what exotic spices our celebrity chefs enthusiastically season the little buggers with? Would anyone eat turkey if it wasn’t part of the Christmas trimmings?
So when Leigh of Good Stuff fame asked me and a bunch of other beery bloggers what our own personal Christmas dinner would look like I was given the interesting choice of either demolishing a gastronomic Luddite or preserving a vital piece of culinary heritage. I think I might have done a bit of both…
I’ve never cooked Christmas dinner on Christmas Day, but I know for sure I’d have a beer whilst trying (bad idea perhaps, but an open beer is an integral part of my cooking routine). I would probably have started Christmas Day with a coffee stout or a sticky jam cherry beer, so the beer to accompany kitchen time would be something light and local and never too bitter. Saltaire Cascade or Hebden Wheat? Or if back in Oxfordshire, a Hooky Gold picked up direct from the Victorian brewery on Christmas Eve (driving out to the minuscule village of Hook Norton the day before Christmas is a tradition well worth keeping in my eyes)
Prawn cocktail does little for me, and pâté is a tad unadventurous for Christmas dinner. So scallops it is, served relatively plain (fried with a touch of cayenne pepper for those wanting a little kick). Here a big oyster stout like this one by Marston’s might work, or go in the complete opposite direction and pair with something spritzy and barely blonde, which would lift the seafood and temper the pepper (Meantime Pilsner was featured at a previous Beer Writers dinner and is very light). But whilst I love both ideas I’ve got plenty of beer to savour later, so I fancy a dash of fizzy cider to keep my palate fresh. Weston’s is widely available in supermarkets and has enough bite to complement the fiery edge of the seasoned scallops (if cider isn’t your thing combine both – Mikkeller Rice Market is has hints of apples, lemongrass and ginger and might complement scallops seasoned in a Thai style)
I was only kidding about turkey, it’s a must have for Christmas so long as there’s a crispy skin and an orange inside. But my favourite meat at this time of year is a whopping great ham, drizzled in honey and punctured with sharp cloves. I’m stuck between beer choices here but top of the list would be a succulent German hefeweizen (Spaten Franziskaner Hefeweizen was recommended to me as one that is more phenol like (cloves) than esters laden (bananas), but Weihenstephan Hefe Weissbier is much easier to find in the shops). A close second would be a Belgian blonde – Bruges Zot can feel a bit sugary but it’s brilliant with ham, or for something more herbaceous try one of the smorgasbord of Belgian blondes available. With both options think beery mustards – one laced with spices, fruit and malt, the other with caramels, pepper and spice (to upgrade these options further try a deep and dangerous fishermans ale?) If they all sound complex then how about stripping it right back and serving with a mean talking pilsner – something like Pilsner Urquell with enough oomph to wash down the feast. The beers all add to the meal, it’s earthier and more fun than turkey, and as a result requires a different angle on veg – mashed potato, carrot and swede and caramelised beetroot all complement the ham. Or fried sweet potatoes and parsnips in a grill pan with honey for a stickier, toastier alternative.
I’m partial to Christmas pud and Christmas cake, but there’s plenty of time to bring them out through the Christmas break. To finish this personalised Christmas meal I want a bit of wow factor and only one dessert brings lashings of wow plus lots of beer opportunity. Actually it’s a style of dessert, as I’ve tried many variations on a theme which have blown me away. The basic idea is to mix chocolate, ice cream and thick stouts. The best I’ve tried have been towers of chocolate cake or mousse served with a creamy vanilla or Cornish ice cream alongside a big stout. I’ve had chocolate and walnut mouse with Gonzo Imperial Stout (world beating!), Bibinca cake and vanilla ice cream with Brooklyn Black Chocolate stout (innovative), Young’s Double Chocolate Stout with Baked Alaska (strange!) and Old Engine Oil with Cadbury’s flakes drowning in mostly melted creamy Cornish ice cream. Not to mention ice cream floats made from Hooky Double Stout or Dark Island Reserve served with clotted cream on digestive biscuits (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!). This year I’ll be migrating to Leigh’s suggestion of baked vanilla cheesecake with Saltaire Triple Chocoholic though.
Yep, Christmas dinner has to be finished with cheese. I would bring the board out some time after eating had finished, and when conversation moves rooms the cheese board must follow. It will still be there when we get to our feet for bed. My cheese must haves are simple. Fullers Vintage must be saved and savoured at Christmas with old blue cheese or brie (and it’s widely available from Sainsbury’s every year, or pick up vintages from beer shops or the brewery). Sam Smiths organic raspberry fruit beer to complement Wensleydale with cranberries (the very over-sweet raspberry beer easily overcomes the drier cranberries but their mutual sourness ties them together, read about the Strawberry version here). Harveys Elizabethan Ale – all raisins and wine – is perfect with Camembert (throw brandy soaked raisins in the cheese too just for laughs). And a complete theoretical experiment I’ll be trying this year is Cornish yarg with Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale – because the combination of green funky cheese and piney hop joy just has to work! (Don’t forget blackstock, Shropshire and Danish blues either – wonderful cheeses for match all sorts of beers).
So there it is, an alternative Christmas dinner with a whole host of beer possibilities. Some will work, some won’t, the fun is in trying them all! Now I just have to wait for my opportunity to cook this feast one year…
Tags: brooklyn chocolate stout, chocolate dessert, christmas, dessert, ham, hefeweizen, Hook Norton, turkey, vintage ale
As well as Leigh’s Christmas dinner you can also find menus from Phil, Neil, Andy and Rick. We’d love to know if there’s anything you’d like to nick for this year, or anything that you makes your stomach turn? And what else do you do that’s different to the norm?!
1July 2nd, 2012Beer and Food
Under steam engine red chandeliers diners gorge on the finest pickle trays and poppadoms in Leeds, though something is amiss.
The view outside to the gun metal concrete walkways of Clarence Dock are punctuated not with tables flush with bottles of rosé wine or ubiquitous lager beer, but tall glasses of fresh fruit juice and spice-calming lassi.
Through rain laced windows showers splatter the swelling body of the marina but inside everything is dry. Including the bar.
A non-alcoholic trip to a curry house might be a strange concept in England, but then again Mumtaz isn’t your typical curry house.
In the corner of the waiting area a double bass stands resplendent in silver amongst luxurious soft cushionings, listening intently to the grand piano sing it’s tinkly instrumental renditions of Phil Collins and the songs of various 80s artists who are still dining out on their spurious hits.
The space is bright despite the best efforts of the incoming clouds bearing large, grey grudges. Long tall windows cast overcast shadows across the garish decor of the eating hall and high ceilings proudly show off their extravagant fittings. The colour palate is more boudoir than biriyani.
But it’s not all bad as the lime pickle and poppadoms arrive (and boy are they good) and the dining chairs suck themselves around our shapes in a firm embrace. They are surely the best dining chairs in the world.
This isn’t however the best curry house in the world, despite the industrial scale take out area, the contracts with supermarkets and the endorsement of comedians, sportstars and the Queen.
Our chutney has disappeared before the realisation that booze is off the menu hits us like a freight train. “Non-alcoholic” the friendly but uncharismatic waiter mumbles.
Nay bother, the only option is to embrace it. Luckily the list of ‘mocktails’ is more impressive than the list of curries (too many of which bear the uninformative description ‘with onions, tomato and Mumtaz spices’). Orange and mint cooler suits lamb kerala down to the ground, and a coconut lassi cleans the palate in the spicy aftermath.
The lack of Cobra is long forgotten later. At first it was strange but then there was a realisation that conversation and curry were not neutered by lack of alcohol. Trudging past the gun metal Armouries in that fine rain that soaks you right through perhaps a beer jacket might have helped, but this curry was beer free.
And it made a nice change. The rain on the other hand, did not.Tags: Cobra, curry, leeds
Step down below the boardwalk into a cushioned seat, rest against a table cut directly from the stump of an strong, thick tree. Magnums of sake screen the subterranean dining area from the narrow stairs that bring merry groups down from the street level bar.
There’s noodles, soup, sushi and specials, with beef, duck, chicken, vegetables and fish (some raw, some cooked). But the bento boxes mesmerise everyone with their cute and stylish partitions of BBQ ribs, chicken teriyaki, fillet steak, pork cutlets, deep fried king prawns and more. They are suitably accompanied by wasabi, ginger, chestnuts, courgette, sweet potato, cherrys, orange slices – and a smorgasbord of deep fried titbits to share.
Sapporo lager seems the honourable thing to do and it’s cleans up after fatty mouthfuls of the battered tasties that start proceedings. A pint of Asahi will do the job too. But not too much – food is abundant here, take things slow.
Asahi Dark, roasted husky cereal beer, is much better complemented with the sticky sauce saturated meat, but even better still with the seaweed drizzled profiteroles for afters – a dry, bitter finish highlights the acute sweetness of the chocolate, complements the sauce; the creamy dessert then reveals something earthy and mellow about the beer.
Don’t ask what to pair with Itchy Lychee ice cream or pink grapefruit sorbet. You may be better off with a smouldering sake or a hot spirit infusion.
“We should do Japanese more often.”
“Yeah, and the beer ain’t half bad either”.Tags: asahi, Japan, japanese, sapporo, tokyo
English breakfast? No!Tags: haiku, holiday, Portugal, Sagres
Spring along the cliffs to find
Sagres and seafood.
Down a winding single lane road the descent to Shibden Mill Inn is not one to be taken with nonchalance. A careless clutch foot could result in an unexpected round of automobile tobogganing, even without the help of rain, ice or snow.
But survive the swooning approach and there sits a fine pub to be snowed in at: good beer, warm hearths and food fit for kings.
The pub is infected with sunny Sunday smiles. Gregarious family laughter shrieks, hoots and squeals around the dining room and through the thick bricked chimney breast. Not that Shibden Mill Inn is loud or raucous, nor large or imposing (though it does look expensive from the outside, which it is). It’s because it’s a place not just for meeting but rather gathering.
The inn sits east of Halifax’s strange topographically imposed footprint – the town’s urban area flares north-westerly like an Olympic flame from the shelf of Southowram. Hidden in the folds of the Shibden Valley it’s a sublime and homely setting for a country pub.
Shibden Brook runs through the garden, an unlikely source of geological carpentry. Its slow lapping pace complements the green and pleasant dale, but once it powered not only nature’s moulding of the valley but the corn mill that stood here before there was a pub (a mill which burned down long before it was rescued by (now deceased) local brewer Webster’s and turned into an eighteenth century inn).
Tucked in a little nook with all the charm and decor of a rural cottage, three candle lit tables are served by a hidden corner of the bar. The laughter is a distant and comforting hum, and we dine here sharing our bar with a clutch of other lunchtime visitors and a map-wielding drinker.
A local West Yorkshire bitter helps wash down a stodgy bread starter – four types of interesting nano-loaves with various homemade pickles and dips (a mini meal in itself, perhaps requiring a full two pints to wash it down).
Service is impeccable (all staff are suited and booted with smart aprons and pressed shirts or little black dresses); the food served is equally sophisticated – pan fried Cornish mackerel in oyster sauce melts at the sight of a mouth, pan fried scallops with artichoke the best scallop pairing since sliced black pudding. The staple fish and chips are completely unpretentious – chunky cuts of potato, a smashing big piece of haddock and generous pot of velvety mushy peas.
Perhaps I should have pushed the boat out and had the venison or Barnsley Chop? Only to raise fork to mouth again and wonder at how the chef made mackerel taste this good?
Full, immensely satisfied, wallet subdued, we still can’t help but acquiesce to the dessert menu and find something sweet to finish our meal off. Perhaps by the time we’ve picked from the luxurious chalkboard a serendipitous snowstorm might have blocked the winding single lane ascent towards home?
The snow doesn’t come, and when we eventually rise to leave the pink-cheeked chap at whose expense the laughter erupted gets his revenge, via a red-faced gusty rendition of ‘For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow’ that announces the triumphantly arrival of birthday-sized dessert under a candle salute. And more people arrive to gather.Tags: gathering, halifax, pub food
Quite frankly, the White Horse was a terrible pub.
Nothing made going there enjoyable. Defeat hung in the air, fighting for headroom amongst depression and drink problems. The lights and jingles from the slots an unnerving theme tune to a nicotine stained prison.
Unfair perhaps, as I only ventured there a handful of times in the four years it competed to be my local. The Commercial that overlooks the same t-junction was a lively, friendlier place to spend time. (It was easy to choose Carling and karaoke at The Commerical over empirical research into a less salubrious side of pub going at The White Horse. And a cheerful bar manager helped too). Not that karaoke would have helped The White Horse survive.
Now the wooden boards are down from the windows, light once more hits the columns that used to block the view of the bar. It’s a Friday night and The White Horse is heaving again.
The mucky sign still hangs over the door, but it no longer lead to sticky carpets and dingy rooms. Instead the building is refreshed as a family run Italian restaurant, bustling with chatter and brimming with customers.
White walls are banded with travertine tiles, not a yellow stain in sight. Decaying lounge furniture is long gone in place of treated wooden tables and chairs with intricate iron cast finishing. Immaculate floors, a wood burning stove, walls covered in frames of family snaps, all the family, and it’s a big family, celebrating their communal efforts. The kitchen, somewhat oddly, looks out onto the street, as pizza bases fly in the air and vegetables disappear under the knife.
But it’s the noise and smell that have changed the most. The vibrancy of cooking rushes through what was a dank and musty chamber. The clatter, clash and splash of pans; a symphony of oil, ingredients, spice and chefs gesticulations; even the lick of a flame, silent but somehow resonating aurally – wispy and crackling against metal.
And cook these guys can. Chorizo – with those fatty bits that perturb me and my mediocre flash frying skills – is no trouble for the chefs at Kasa Rosa, and served with garden peas and shallots the salty meat lifts penne pasta and a tomato sauce from something you could attempt at home to something there’s no point trying.
What more could you want from a local restaurant?
And what more could you want from a broken and finished pub building, long since a lost cause to the local community?
A better pub in its place perhaps? Of course, but on this occasion I, along with many other local people, am counting my blessings.Tags: italian, yorkshire
…my true love gave to me a delicious homemade lasagne. It really was absolutely scrumptious, but not particularly in-keeping with the season.
So to accompany this feast and herald a climax to the Yuletide festivities, I brought a centuries old recipe back to life in the form of wassail.
This winter warmer is a heady concoction of dark ale and spices fortified with a splash of something a little stronger. It’s a bit like mulled wine for real men.
Various versions of this traditional English beverage are described, many based on cider, some on wine, others on ale. Many recipes involve mixing raw eggs with hot beer rendering a rather bizarre form of eggnog, but I fancied something a little more palatable.
Thankfully – and somewhat miraculously – I still had a third of a barrel of home-brewed stout left over from Christmas. The perfect base for my wassail was at hand!Tags: home brewing, homemade, Wassail
Jerk chicken isn’t just tasty to eat, it’s a joy to make. The honey and coriander marinade is messy and sticky, the chicken succulent with a crispy skin – lots of kitchen mess and fun. Juices of bird and salad mean this a meal best served sans cutlery but with plenty of, well, Plenty.
For a ginger beer Robinson’s Ginger (brewed for M&S) is a dark and syrupy affair, quite different from a can of Barr’s or Old Jamaica. It’s strong with a treacly bitterness, but it’s sprightly too, cutting through the runny honey, the chargrilled corn and complementing the rustic spice of nutmeg.
Everything comes together bringing something different to the dish – the rocket and natural yoghurt cleanses and calms, the rice a fragrant bedrock. The beer simply wraps everything up in a tongue tingling finale.
The beer on its own is quite a ride, but with food it’s elevated to an essential role where it fulfils more than it does individually. The recipe calls for rum (which isn’t a staple of our cupboard, therefore omitted) but perhaps next time a dash of strong ginger beer might be called for in the pan, to ruffle the feathers and add a ginger tang to the fiery kick of the chillies.
Killer jerk chicken with a killer beer combo = lots of finger licking and a sticky glass!
Tags: Ginger Beer, Jamaica, jamie oliver, jerk chicken, recipes
It was Mrs Theakston who coined the dream phrase “Black Sheep Brewery”, in a moment of pure and instinctive marketing genius.
It has everything: the tourism factor, rural charm, traditional appeal and just a dash (ok, a mighty big dollop) of implied family strife, backstabbing and conspiracy theory.
And there’s no doubt that the Masham Sheep Brewery was never going to have quite the same ring to it, was it?
The birth of the Black Sheep was the best part of 20 years ago and now the brewery stands proudly at the gateway to ancient Yorkshire market town of Masham, where it hides from view it’s Scottish & Newcastle owned rival, Theakston’s, the brewery which still bears the family name of Black Sheep founder Paul, husband of the woman who named his new venture back in the early 90s.
As the car bumps its way along the A1 to Masham, I’m unaware of Mrs Theakston’s role in the birth of Black Sheep’s brand identity, but I’m very aware of Black Sheep. My perception – a charming, rural, traditional brewery that make pleasant but unexciting beers. A brewery that adopts a bit too much humour from their ruminant mammal brand advocates for my liking.
Generally, I just see Black Sheep as a bit, well, sheepish.
I’m mulling over these perceptions and a recent discussion about innovation in beer as we sit down to start a 5 course beer and food pairing meal organised by Black Sheep at their Baar & Bistro, a notably modern and successful concept. 80 people are hunched over Welsh rarebit and Black Sheep Best Bitter, a simple and tasty dish to kick of the evening’s proceedings. Read the rest of this entry »Tags: Black Sheep Brewery, Food, masham, north yorkshire