Sunday, 27 January 2013

Beer Cocktails

Do you know the feeling when you get to the bar and can't decide what to order - a beer or a cocktail?

Well... me neither, I usually know exactly what I want. But I needed an excuse to combine these two unlikely bedfellows, and I can't currently think of a better one.

Beer geeks will scoff at you. Cocktail aficionados will turn their noses up at you. But here is a selection of  beery cocktails, ranging from crass to classy (by my standards), adding some of my own twists along the way.

Honourable Mentions

Some cocktails were considered, but didn't make the cut...

Snakebite and Black - a tasty combination of lager, cider and blackcurrant, which allows sixteen-year-olds to pour alcohol down their necks as quickly as possible. But you don't need me to show you how to make one.

Michelada - mixture of beer, lime juice, tabasco and worcester sauce... tomato juice and tequila are also common ingredients. Popular in Mexico, this is one of the most common beer cocktails. Not included here because it sounds absolutely disgusting.

Hangman's Blood  - there are various recipes, but the most common seems to contain no less than five shots - whisky, brandy, gin, rum, and port - topped up with Guiness. I must admit I am curious to try this, but despite having all the ingredients at home, I just couldn't bring myself to do it.

So onto the main event. To assist me with the tasting, I had the help of a special guest, FeedTheTang.

Car Bomb

1 measure Baileys
1 measure Irish whiskey
Half pint of Guinness

Fill a double shot glass with Baileys and Irish whiskey, and drop the whole thing into half a pint of Guinness (in a pint glass). I used Guinness Foreign Extra, just for fun. You have to drink it quickly before it curdles... in just a few seconds, solid lumps of brown crud start to form. Yum!

Tang's Tasting Notes : "There's no way I'm drinking that. No way."

Alcoholic Dr Pepper

measures amaretto
measures cherry beer

Simply put the amaretto and cherry beer into a glass, and top up with equal quantities of lager and coke. It really does taste a lot like Dr Pepper!

Tang's Tasting Notes : "Very sweet. Tastes more like a fizzy drink than a cocktail."

Frozen Beer Margarita

measures tequila
measure Cointreau
4 measures lager
3 measures 7up/sprite
1 lime

Blend the flesh of a lime with the other ingredients except the water. Put in freezer - the alchohol will not freeze solid, so you will be able to easily mash it up with a fork after it comes out. Add a little water, and shake it all up to make a slush.

For that authentic touch of luxury, coat the rim of the glass with lime & salt. Serve with a lime wedge. This recipe makes 2 small glasses of delicious margarita!

Tang's Tasting Notes : "Very nice! Sour. Strong. Not too sweet."

Blood and Sand

1 measure scotch
measure vermouth
1 teaspoon brown sugar
measures blood orange juice
Cherry beer

Shake the scotch, vermouth, sugar, and the blood orange juice, until the sugar is dissolved. I don't have a cocktail shaker, so I used a plastic bottle. Pour into a glass and top up with cherry beer.

Tang's Tasting Notes : "Not bad. Actually quite nice. Tastes very alcoholic."

So, the Margarita was the clear winner. Possibly the only drink here that transcended the novelty of the original premise, and something I know I'll be drinking again!


Sunday, 20 January 2013

Horse Burgers

So the filthy Tesco burgers were found to contain horse meat. Big deal.

OK, of course I realise that ingredients/packaging should be accurate, people should know what they're eating. But I have absolutely no problem with eating horse meat - in fact, if horse meat is more economical then beef, then maybe we SHOULD be eating it. So I wanted to find out how the taste compared.

Horse meat is not illegal in the UK - in fact, I found a source quite easily on the internet. They also had all kinds of other interesting stuff, from zebra to camel, but I stuck with the horse mince for the purposes of this exercise. It was delivered, frozen and packed in dry ice, the very next day. First impressions were that the meat was dark in colour, and very very lean.

I decided to make three types of burger - horse, beef & horse, and plain beef - and judge which tasted best. Some people will tell you that a burger should contain only meat and seasoning, but horse is a lean meat, and it needs a little something to bind it together. So I added a little beaten egg and olive oil to the mixture, a few breadcrumbs, and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper.

I then squeezed, scrunched, and kneaded each batch of mixture, to break the meat down and make it all stick together. After resting in the fridge for an hour, it was time to cook them!

The horse burger had a very good flavour - rich, and slightly gamey with a strong iron flavour - but was a little tough and dry. The beef burger was nice and juicy and fatty, but the flavour wasn't as strong as the horse. The best burger, without doubt, was the combined horse and beef!

So this begs the question - were Tesco simply ahead of their time?

Personally I'd love to see horse meat in the shops - hopefully starting with the (correctly labelled) beef and horse quarter pounder!



Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Chicken Fried Steak

The year was 1999. It was the first time I'd ever been to America, and the destination was Texas.

One of the first things that struck me - other than the heat - was the variety of food I saw on offer. All kinds of things that were alien to me, including various sorts of Mexican food, barbecue, cheesesteak, chicken & biscuits, and something called "chicken fried steak". At which I immediately (and quite involuntarily) shouted "WHATTHEHELLISCHICKENFRIEDSTEAK?!"

So... what the hell is it? First of all, it contains no chicken. Rather, it is a steak fried in a spiced coating, similar in preparation to southern fried chicken. Usually you'd use a cheaper cut of beef like skirt or flank, but I had a piece of sirloin, which did the job just fine. I started by trimming the tough bits of fat and sinew, then bashing it mercilessly with the back of a knife to tenderise it and flatten it out. The dish just wouldn't work properly with a firm piece of meat.

For the coating, I used a mixture of flour, cornflour, salt, pepper, and plenty of cayenne pepper. I dipped the steak into the seasoned flour, then into a mixture of beaten egg and milk. I then dipped it into the flour again.

I then fried it - in quite a lot of oil - over a medium heat for four minutes on each side. The steak has to be cooked through, you really don't want any blood running out of the steak and into the coating. If you will only eat your steak bloody, this dish is basically not for you. The steak should come out with a nice crispy crust. I should point out that in Texas you can see this dish either deep fried or pan fried, but honestly I don't think there's any point deep-frying a flat piece of steak.

Now it was time to make the "gravy" - this is really an integral part of the dish. It's important to keep all the gunk and oil from the pan, as well as any remaining flour, because you need this for the sauce. I removed about half of the oil from the pan, but kept as much of the brown residue in there that I could. I added the seasoned flour left over from the coating, and whisked it in along with some chicken stock and some sour cream

You have to be quick with the gravy, as the steak should be eaten as soon as possible.

You'd usually eat this with mash, but I went for fried potatoes (or "home fries" as they tend to be called in the US of A). Now, tell me this doesn't look good. Go on, I dare you!



Thursday, 10 January 2013

Cheeseburger Pizza

I don't believe in new year's resolutions - if you want to do something, just do it. You don't need the excuse of something as arbitrary as the Earth revolving around the Sun. But if I did believe in new year's resolutions, then mine would be to bring you - the fans - an even more outrageous selection of culinary curiosities than last year.

So, many of you will be aware that last year Pizza Hut launched a cheeseburger pizza in the middle east, receiving worldwide media attention and widespread ridicule. Now, personally I have no problem with cheeseburgers on a pizza, but their creation looks truly hideous. Judge for yourself:

Lettuce on a pizza? Yuck. It doesn't even look like a pizza. And the orange stuff doesn't look like cheese. I just knew that I could do better. So finally I got round to it.

I made a sauce from tomato puree, ketchup, chopped tomatoes, and oregano, and microwaved it to break down the tomatoes. I then spread it onto a pizza bread base, before adding bits of mozarella.

Now it was time to turn my attention to the toppings. I reshaped a quarter pounder burger into 4 smaller patties, and quickly fried them to ensure they'd be cooked through. I placed them onto the pizza, topped with thick slices of cheddar, and added some slices of tomato.

I put it into the oven at full blast for about 12 minutes, adding sliced gherkins about halfway through. After cooking, I added a few blobs of mustard onto the pizza.

Having never tasted the Pizza Hut version, I am unable to give a direct comparison. But I know that my version tasted awesome.



Sunday, 6 January 2013

Breakfast Burritos

The breakfast burrito is a common breakfast dish in filthy takeaways and cafes the US, particularly in the south. Here's my take on it - a great start to the day if you're hungover, or just damn hungry.

Fry onions with a chopped chilli (maybe more... depends how spicy you like your breakfast). Add salt and pepper, chopped mushroom, and some cubed chorizo.

Scramble a couple of eggs. I added sour cream to make them more creamy. And er... sour.

Fill a couple of flour tortillas with the onion & chorizo, scrambled egg, grated cheese, and guacamole. Roll up and stuff into your face.

This is just possibly my new favourite breakfast. Enjoy!



Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Leftover Christmas Cake - three ways

I like Christmas cake. I do. But you can have too much of a good thing. And when my mother presented me with a whole cake on boxing day (complete with 1970s decorations), I knew I would struggle to get through the whole thing.

So here are three ideas for using up all that extra fruit cake.

1. Fridge Cake

This is a simple one. Melt down some leftover Christmas chocolate with some butter, and stir in chopped Christmas cake, and whatever other stuff you have lying around. I threw in some chopped pistachios and hazlenuts, some "Festive Friend" chocolate biscuits, and chocolate covered cherries.

Not forgetting my special ingredient - dried cherries soaked in brandy and sugar.

I poured into a lined tin, and left in the fridge until set.



2. Baked Alaska

I started by soaking some frozen raspberries in brandy (my old friend, Tesco Napoleon Brandy, £10 for 1 litre) and sugar. I stirred the raspberry mixture into some vanilla ice cream, and the returned it to the freezer to set until hard.

Meanwhile, I pressed some slices of cake into a ring, and soaked with some of the remaining alcoholic raspberry juice. I put it in the oven on a fairly high heat, until it became quite hard and biscuity. Once it was cooled, it was the perfect base for the baked alaska.

I put the ice cream - now laced with booze and raspberries - onto the base, and covered with meringue. Then put in the oven on a high heat until brown.



3. Trifle

I lined a bowl with slices of Christmas cake, then poured over the remainer of the juice from the cherries and the raspberries, along with an extra glug of brandy. I added a few spoons of jam, and the rest of the fruit.

I topped with custard and whipped cream. Finally I sprinkled it with some chopped hazlenuts and some grated chocolate.




The chocolate fridge cake was the definite winner. A big lump of chocolate and butter with a hit of brandy was always going to be tough to beat. It also requires the least effort of the three desserts!