Booze-day Tuesday – Cooking With Beer

Earlier this year I went on holiday to the Lake District. We had lovely weather for almost the whole holiday, and stayed in a couple of pretty nice places. The one slight cloud in my otherwise sunshiny sky was that the small independent offies we visited didn’t seem to know which of the bottles were suitable for vegans in their vast arrays of local beers. However, a very helpful man in Booths supermarket was sure they had some, and almost as soon as we started searching I spotted this beauty.

bottle of stout

Lancaster Black stout. Apparently it’s won awards. It’s certainly very pleasant to drink. I had one or two after enjoying views like this –

lake district blue skies

But I also bought a few bottles home with me. Going through my freezer recently led to the discovery of a mystery sausage. Upon defrosting, I remembered it as a take on Vegan Dad’s veggie lunch meat slicing sausage, to which I’d added some dried porcini mushrooms, and thought a beery hotpot might be nice to come home to this evening so between jobs I put some stuff in a pot…

Stout and Sausage Stew

Ingredients

200g seitan sausage

200g cooked chickpeas

90g (Medium) onion – or more to taste. I only had one left.

125g (2-3 smallish) carrots

140g (2 medium) potatoes

1 400g can tomato chunks

150ml (5 fluid oz, or just over half a cup) stout, or a bit more if you like

1/2 teaspoon of salt or more, to taste

1 teaspoon dried oregano or mixed herbs

2 teaspoons cooking oil

Method.

Cut the onion, carrots and potatoes and seitan into chunks. Heat the oil in a large pan and add the onion. Cook it for a few minutes until it starts to brown then add everything else. Continue to cook on a medium-high heat until it starts bubbling, then lower to a simmer until the potatoes are done.

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It was dark when I got home, to explain the particular rubbishness of the last picture, but I was very glad to be able to grab supper almost as soon as I got in. It’s not the most exciting stew in the world, and the beer flavour is not pronounced, but it seems to round out the flavour of the broth and mellow the acidity of the tomato. Over all, this was pleasant to eat following an afternoon’s work and a mile’s walk home. I’d have added some garlic if I’d had some, but then I would always say that!

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Boozeday Tuesday – chestnut rum truffles

I would have preferred these to be brandy truffles, but I only had 3 tablespoons of rum left and less of brandy, so I went with the rum. The following recipe, which I’ve kind of made-up (but based on a plethora of similar ideas for tart fillings and desserts), was a bit of a gamble, since I don’t always get the ratio right in getting enough chocolate to set the truffles without them being bullet-hard. I figured, though, that if it didn’t set it’d be just as good spread on bread, and I’d just try again!

I got one of my tins of chestnut puree ( this stuff ) and weighed out what the scales told me was 200g. The tins are supposedly 415g and I’d definitely taken more than half out, so once again my need for new scales is apparent. I thought I would match the weight with some dark chocolate, so I weighed out the last of my open bag of 72% Plamil chocolate chips in a separate bowl, which came to 155g, and then made up the rest with some of a slightly lower cocoa content, I think 63%. I put the chips to melt in a bain marie, then weighed 50g golden syrup into the chestnut puree and mashed it in with a fork. Could have used a food processor to get it smooth but I didn’t want the extra washing-up and don’t mind a few lumps. I added the last 3 tablespoons of rum in my bottle (that sounds worse than I intended it to! I had eked a 70cl bottle of rum out over at least the last 6 months!), and by now my chocolate chips were melted so I added the chestnut mixture into the melted chocolate, and then poured it into a small Pyrex dish I’d lined with clingfilm.

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If you thought my pictures were bad before, let me tell you that my laptop has just conked out and instead I’m working on a tiny tablet, so I’ve no idea how things are going to look on a larger-than-miniscule screen now, sorry about that!

I  covered the dish and left it to cool for a couple of hours in the fridge. When it was time to get the lump of truffle out for hacking up, it was surprisingly difficult to remove. I guess I should have oiled the dish before lining it, maybe? I did manage in the end though, and cut it into square-ish shapes.

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Although I did intend to temper some chocolate to cover these with, and maybe get fancy with some decorative toppings, these really don’t need anything else. For such a simple and easy recipe, they really are delicious, with a little bit of fudge-like grainyness from the chestnut, just the right hint of rum without being overpowering, and enough chocolate to get a good truffly melt going on. I would think these would be absolutely perfect to end a dinner party with. Or just eat, really! I’m going to have to freeze most of these, otherwise they’ll be gone in no time.
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Thirsty Thursday – Ginger Beer part 2

glass full of yellow ginger beer with slice of lemon on yellow, patterned background.

On Tuesday I posted my whole ginger beer recipe, but in reality I had only got up to the ‘leaving it in a big container for a while’ stage. Yesterday I sieved out all the ginger-chilli-lemon-zest, set the pulp aside, bottled the ginger beer up, and it’s been building up pressure nicely in the bottles.

So I’m going to go back to that bit where you have your drinks bottles and pour them 3/4 full (actually, you might want to make it 2/3 full even, depending how many bottles you have spare). Your squeezed bottles should look like this:

plastic bottle containing yellow ginger beer, that has been squeezed to exclude air.

(only you probably want less blurry bottles!) Leave them for a few hours in a moderately warm place, and you should come back to find them looking something like this:

plastic bottle with yellow ginger beer inside. there is a gap full of air between the beer andthe closed lid at the top of the bottle.

You can now unscrew the cap a little bit, squeeze out all the air and make them look like the first picture again. If you’ve left them for long enough that the yeast has been fermenting wildly, be careful how you open the bottles, as they do tend to fizz up quite a bit!

ginger beer frothing up in bottle.

I generally give them an extra 24 hours to ferment in the bottles before refrigerating and probably relieve the pressure 3-4 times during that period.

(Alternatively, if you want to leave them for a while to ferment out of the fridge and won’t be around to relieve the pressure, you can get a bit of plastic sheet (e.g. a section cut from a zip lock bag, make sure it’s clean), wrap that over the top, and then secure it with a couple of rubber bands (2 in case one breaks). The rubber bands expand to let the gas out, but vinegar flies (which you always want to avoid when you’re making alcohol, unless you want vinegar instead), and mould and other undesirable additions cannot get in.)

A sieving doesn’t get all the bits of ginger and solids from the mix, so a sediment will start to form in the base of the bottles. If this bothers you, you can get some more clean bottles and carefully pour your ginger beer off the sediment or even rack it off if you want to be fancy! http://www.homebrewtalk.com/wiki/index.php/Racking has a good explanation. If you don’t want fuss and don’t mind the possibility of a slightly cloudy drink, just pour it carefully, trying not to disturb it too much, as you would a bottle-conditioned beer. You could also have lined your sieve with cheesecloth to get out more solids, although you’ll still get yeast sinking to the bottom even then.

Ah, solids… remember the ginger-lemon-chilli pulp set aside earlier? Well, you could dispose of this by composting it or something, but there’s still life in the gunk, if you care to use it! After I’d finished bottling yesterday, I decided to make bread. There’s still live yeast in the stuff that’s been set aside that is perfectly adequate to raise a loaf. I also had half a can of chestnut puree left to use up so I got some plain flour (320g, but that was the only thing I weighed, sorry! I only weighed it to get an idea of how much liquid to add, but in the end I didn’t need any because the pulp and puree added enough), added in the pulp, the chestnut puree, a handful of sultanas, a spoonful of blackstrap molasses, a pinch of salt, and some oat flour and rolled oats for texture and heartiness. This combination resulted in a delicious loaf! Not very sweet, but perfect for breakfast toast. Unfortunately the chestnut puree made it a bit on the brown side, so it’s not the most photogenic of loaves, but it really was very pleasant indeed! The white specks are oats, in case you were wondering.

brown coloured bread loaf and two slices on bread board.

two slices of toasted bread with margarine melting into them, on a polka-dot bordered plate.


Boozeday Tuesday – Hot and Spicy Ginger Beer

I’ve been dabbling in homebrew for about 17 years now. It’s not a regular thing, but every so often I get a windfall of produce. I have a great memory from university days of finding a stack of organic blackcurrants in punnets in a supermarket which had been something like £1.50 a go, reduced at the end of the day to 9p each. I piled as many as would fit into my shopping basket and made a gorgeous wine out of them. (Being a broke student at the time, I also tried experimental wine making using fruit squash. I cannot stress enough that this does not work and produces something absolutely revolting!)

Much as the end results of winemaking can be delicious when using the right ingredients, there’s no denying it’s a bit time-consuming. It can also get expensive buying demijohns and airlocks etc., although there are cheap-skate ways around having to fork out too much on equipment. If you don’t want to wait more than a few days for your home-brew or worry about specialist equipment then ginger beer will answer your needs much better.

For this recipe I am (mildly) experimenting by adding green chillies, while I’ve only used smaller red chillies before. I’ve also not tried adding in dried ginger, I thought it would add depth of flavour and also I found a 100g bag best before October so thought I better start using it!

Just a note on measuring – The jug I use measures an imperial pint, i.e. 20 fluid ounces. I sort of gave up on trying to give different measurement options through the recipe, and I hope what I’ve ended up with is understandable, but please leave a comment if it’s not.

Hot and Spicy Ginger Beer

Equipment: Big saucepan with a lid that will hold all liquid in the recipe, measuring jug with pouring spout, sieve, empty clean plastic fizzy drinks bottles.

Ingredients:

8 pints (4.5 litres/19 cups)  cold water, divided – use 1/4 of the water for the first stage where you’re heating ingredients, and add 3/4 later to cool the mix down.

130g  (just over 4 1/2 ounces) root ginger

2 green chillies

450g (16 oz/about 2 cups) granulated sugar

2 unwaxed lemons – zest and juice

2 teaspoons powdered dried ginger

1 teaspoon bread yeast (I use Dove’s Farm quick yeast)

method:

Grate the ginger and chop up the chillies, or, if you are lazy like me, roughly chop the ginger and then stick it and the chillies in a powerful blender with a pint of water and blend them for about 10 seconds.

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If you have used a blender, tip the blended ginger goop into your saucepan, then swill the blender container out with another pint of water and tip that into the saucepan too – basically you’ve added 1/4 of the total water in the recipe to the saucepan at this point, so If you’ve grated the ginger rather than blending, add it, the chillies and 2 pints (1/4 of the water) to the pan.

Turn the heat on high under the pan. While you’re waiting for the mixture to boil, zest the lemons. Add the zest to the pan. Juice the lemons and add that. Add in the powdered ginger too. When the mixture is boiling, add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Turn off heat.

Now add the rest of the cold water. The mix will look bitty, but don’t worry, it gets strained later.

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The final 3/4 of water cools the mixture down enough to add the yeast without killing it. Just get a teaspoon and sprinkle yeast over the top of the pan, stir it in then cover the pan with the lid and leave it somewhere of moderate temperature to ferment for a while. I generally give it about 24 hours. [This is the stage I am up to at the moment. To see pictures of the rest of the process and to find out how this tasted, come back in two days time on Thirsty Thursday!]

To bottle, I use 3 empty 2-litre plastic bottles. To save me having to rinse them I mostly use ones that have held ‘Value’ fizzy water (which I’ve previously enjoyed), but you can also ask around and see if people get through a lot of lemonade or other pop and will save their bottles for you.

Have a clean plate nearby to put the sieve and dipping equipment on while you’re pouring into bottles.

Place your sieve on top of the measuring jug. Use a mug, ladle or other measuring jug if you have one to scoop some ginger beer out of the saucepan, and pour it through the sieve. Pour the strained liquid into one of your plastic bottles (on the draining board or over the sink is the best place to do this). Continue until your bottle is 3/4 full, then squeeze the air out of the bottle and screw on the cap. Fill the other 2 bottles in the same way.

Leave the bottles of ginger beer at moderate room temperature for 12 hours or so and see them fill out as the yeast goes to work. When they have expanded to their original shape again you can either put them in the fridge now to greatly slow down the fermentation, meaning the drink will be fizzy but low alcohol, or you can loosen the cap a little and squeeze the gas out, so the yeast can continue to ferment at room temperature. Don’t continue to do this past 3-4 days though, as it’s not such a pleasant drink at higher alcohol content. The bottles are fairly robust, but avoid letting them build up too much pressure, as I have read of them occasionally not holding out, with predictably messy consequences.


Sociable Saturday – bring a bottle

Happily, I’ve been invited out for dinner this evening at some friends’ house. Since I’m trying to post something every day this month I’m going to play it safe and show you what I’ll be taking with me, as I’m not sure whether I’ll get back before midnight (oooh, I’m such a goer! hehe).

Identifying vegan alcohol has become much easier over the past decade, particularly with the advent of Barnivore. I remember when Co-op started labelling their own brand alcohol, and what a boon it was. They were the trailblazers (although before that there were mail order firms such as Vinceremos that I was aware it was possible to buy vegan booze from).  Since then, Sainsbury’s and Marks and Spencer are the other notable high street stores to follow suit. 

A number of stores also have information available on their websites, which is handy, but means you have to have something with internet access with you while you shop, or do some research beforehand. They may also keep lists of suitable wines instore, although in my experience these aren’t guaranteed to be up-to-date.

The wine I’m taking to tonight’s meal will be something my parents had left over from their ruby wedding anniversary party at the beginning of June and kindly gave two bottles to me:

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Yeah, sorry for the quality of my phone camera, you can’t really see it, but underneath the V it does say ‘vegan’.