Festival Smoked Black IPA (11%) from Brouwerij De Molen

Tuesday, January 31, 2012
I very, very nearly titled this blog post "Can a CAMRA friendly Bottle Conditioned Beer also be a Crafty, and stylistically oxymoronic, Smoked Imperial Black IPA?" but decided it was a bit of a mouthful. (That may, or may not, be a joke)

What matters most is the beer itself. That's what we're all here for isn't it? The beer. So let's talk about that, and put aside all the crap about where this beer falls in terms of style or beery politics.

Despite being somewhat rough around the edges this unashamedly brash beer was a little corker that I really enjoyed. Deep, complex, hugely layered in it's flavour profile and extremely satisfying if drank over a few hours (which at 11% abv and 750ml you don't really have much choice about) it's a proper full on flavour fest, and yet it doesn't smack you about with booze or hops and the flavours do nicely roll together in parts, and knock you sideways in others.

It pours a very dark espresso brown with a light mocha head, spot on (light) carbonation from the bottle conditioning and a head that despite the ABV does stick around and leave a nice bit of thin froth on the top, and laces the glass as you work your way through.

As you would expect, it has a big smokey aroma. Good Cigar Tobacco smoke, bitter orange hops, and a slight ashy background note like a nearly cold BBQ.

The taste is initially very smokey, it dominates the palate in the beginning but even in your initial few sips the finish is really nice bitter with a mix of bitter citrus fruit and more fresh smoke. As your palate adjusts to the smoke there's also a resinous pine flavour and a very slight sweetness with layers of smoke, sugar, malt, orangey hops and resinous pine.

As it warms in the glass a dark chocolate booze flavour comes through as well and despite the fact this isn't a whiskey barrel aged beer (as far as I know) it has a peaty, smokey, whiskey character from the combo of that smoked malt and hint of booze.

It's a big beer and it tastes every bit the part, but the booze isn't overly noticeable, and believe it or not it is actually pretty well balanced for something that sounds so mental, particularly between sweet and bitter.

Basically, it's pretty damn good.

Cooking the Perfect Burger

Wednesday, January 25, 2012
I’ve been making burgers since my University days. They’re simple to put together, really satisfying, and relatively economical. The recipe I continued to use for a long time was from a great book my parents bought me before I headed off to Uni in Leeds (I never came back), it was called something like “500 Recipes and kitchen basics” and was pretty much invaluable for an enthusiastic but slap-dash fledgling gourmet. “How the hell do you cook sweet potato?” Easy, look it up in the book.

Looking back, the burger recipe was massively over the top though. It included: Beef mince, grated onion*, crushed garlic, Dijon mustard, tomato puree, dried herbs, beaten egg, salt, pepper and breadcrumbs (though I never bothered with that last one).

The burger I made last night was the antithesis to the above; just good minced beef and a little seasoning, and yet it turned out be the best I’ve ever made.

It’s not surprising really, as going by what I’ve read on the subject, and from my own experiments in making and cooking them, it seems that when it comes to burgers less really is more.

That said, perhaps the title of this post is a little misleading, as I don’t think I’ve yet cooked (or even tasted) the perfect burger. If I wanted to cook the perfect burger then really I need to get down to the nitty gritty beefy details of is 80% chuck, 20% sirloin the best meat ratio? Or should I use a little skirt steak for flavour? How coarse should the meat be ground? Is it better to grind at home or get the butcher to do it?

It’s a level of food geekery I haven’t yet succumb to (though I fear it’s not far off), so for now let’s just stick to the tips I’ve picked up along the way which can help make a ‘normal’ mince based burger really shine.

I put ‘normal’ in inverted commas because here’s rule number one:

Buy good meat. Freshly ground, proper butchers mince with a little bit of fat in it is what you’re looking for, or at least meat from one of the better supermarkets. Depending on your budget I’d work on a sliding scale from Waitrose > Sainsbury's > Morrison’s. I never shop in ASDA as there isn’t one convenient to me and Tesco’s meat is, as a rule, crap. The whole point of this method is to bring out the flavour of the meat, so the better the beef you start with, the better the bugger will be. I usually allow around 200-250g per person, which makes a pretty hefty burger.

Now that’s out of the way let’s look at the burger itself.

My method for cooking the perfect burger:

  • Bring the meat to room temperature (leave out for half an hour or so) then liberally season the beef with finely ground black pepper ONLY. No salt at this point. Form in to fat patties of about an inch thick, being careful not to overwork the meat.
  • Arrange the burgers separately on baking paper (or lightly oil a plate), and place in the coldest part of the fridge for around 5 minutes (or the freezer for 2), this will help the outside of the burger hold together during cooking but the centre will still be pretty much room temp.
  • For cooking burgers a wood fired BBQ is King, but let’s be honest, how often do we get to fire one of those bad boys up in the UK? Your next best in my opinion is a good quality griddle pan. Get it smoking hot and then place the patties on to the grill and press them down in the centre with your thumb to create an indent (think red blood cell shaped), season well with sea salt, and then don’t touch em for 3 minutes. Don’t be tempted to squash the burger while it’s cooking as you’ll squeeze the juices out and ruin the flavour and texture of the meat. Just leave it alone. You want a griddled crust to form on the base which will help these binderless** burgers hold together and give them an awesome smokey flavour – if you flip ‘em too early they’ll fall apart. Oh and the reason for the indent is that as the burger cooks the centre will balloon out, so by making the indent the burger ends up almost flat on top rather than an awkward cricket ball shape. It’s a clever little trick that always works.
  • After three minutes carefully turn the burgers over and season again, reduce the heat to medium-high and cook for another 2 minutes, before covering the burgers with a pan or large lid. This will hold in all the smoke that should be coming off the cooking burgers, giving an awesome BBQ flavour, as well as permeating the flavour of the evaporating fat back in to the patty. (It also helps to keep burgers that are being cooked “well done” juicy by steaming them a little). Do this last step for 1 minute for medium rare (pink), 2 minutes for medium (slightly pink) or around 4 minutes for well done (cooked right through).
  • After the time is up remove the burgers to a warmed plate to rest for a minute and place your sliced bun face down right where the burgers just were (toast for about a minute, but keep checking em). Then simply assemble the burger with the toppings you prefer and enjoy.

Suggested burger toppings:

There’s no right and wrong when it comes to burger toppings, it’s completely personal preference, but if I had to choose my favourite then there is one which stands head and shoulders above the rest - My perfect burger is a smidge of mayo on the bottom, topped with a big handful of rocket, then the burger (along with resting juices), then a thick slice of Stilton and a top bun that has been liberally spread with sweet, chunky, Mango chutney. I wrote about it briefly when I made sliders a while back.

It shouldn’t work, it should taste weird and muddled, but it doesn’t. It’s awesome.


*I previously used grated onion in my burgers as the pulp spreads better through the meat than chopped onion and cooks quicker, meaning no little chunks of raw onion in the middle of the patty. The problem with this method though is that it releases the acidic juices from the onion which start to slightly cook the burger meat before it even hits the grill. It also seems to pull some moisture out of the meat as when I made a patty and placed it in the fridge to firm up before cooking there would often be some clear juice that had ran off the meat.

**Many recipes use a beaten egg to bind the burger together, but I’ve found this to be pretty counterintuitive to what you’re after: Succulent, juicy, tender meat, that only just holds together when bitten. Providing you don’t flip the burger until that crust has formed and you don’t use ‘lean’ mince then it should hold together just fine without, and the flavour is much better.

Thanks to Leigh of The Good Stuff for the tip on not salting before cooking, it made all the difference.

North Bar, Leeds - The Bloody Mary Challenge

Friday, January 20, 2012
I love a good Bloody Mary. They have a genuine, physical, restorative power to them that can pull you from the depths of a hangover in the time it takes to drain a glass. They're also the perfect cocktail, a balancing act of flavours, textures, salt, sweet, seasoning and spice that comes together to create something greater than the sum of its parts.

You may have guessed that I like Bloody Marys. A lot. Which is why I've embarked on a quest to find the best Bloody Mary in the country, I've called it The Bloody Mary Challenge in a flagrant rip-off of The Scotch Egg Challenge, a great event run by a fellow blogger, Scotch Egg Maestro, and nice bloke, David J Constable.

First up is the Bloody Mary from one of the best beer bars in the country, and a favourite haunt of mine, North Bar in Leeds.

Bloody Mary from North Bar, Leeds

Ingredients: Horseradish steeped Vodka, Port Wine, Tomato Juice, Lemon Juice, Celery Salt, Worcester Sauce, Tabasco, Black Pepper, Ice. Garnished with a celery stick and fresh lemon slices.

Score: 8.5/10

Comments: What a way to start. This is an excellent Bloody Mary. It's got a really nice warmth from that Horseradish Vodka which permeates it's flavour throughout the drink. There's also plenty of heat from the Tabasco, and not too much Worcester. Sweet, salty, peppery, umami laden. It's restoration in a glass.

Matt mentioned that you can adjust it to your own preference, and if I could change it in one way I'd possibly reduce the amount of black pepper ,as its quite roughly ground and catches you off guard every now and again. A minor niggle though, and all in all an excellent version.

So, who's next?

Create, Leeds - getting the details right

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

I was looking forward to visiting Create after reading Jay Rayner's review in the Guardian. The food sounded excellent. Seasonal, unfussy, gutsy, and with a modern flair and artistry that lifts a dish to something much more exciting. I didn't even think about the beer really. I've trained myself not to get my hopes up when it comes to good restaurant's beer menus. If you're lucky you might get a bottle of Sierra Nevada, but something really exciting, or local? Unlikely.

Then I spotted something about a Rhubarb and Ilkley Brewery food and beer event happening at Create and my interest really peaked (a table was already booked at this point). It transpired that rather than a generic lager on draught they've taken the bold step of serving MJ Pale, a local beer from Ilkley Brewery's Artisan keg range, as well as a really good selection of bottled beers from the always dependable Samuel Smiths Brewery.

You have no idea what a nice surprise it was to read that beer menu at Create, finally an upmarket restaurant that is taking beer seriously. A great local beer on draught and a well chosen selection of beers in bottles that would pair well with the food, and even an Imperial Stout to match with the desserts.

While we decided what to order from the food menu, I enjoyed a pint of the lovely MJ Pale, a sort of Amarillo hopped session Kolsch which punches much higher than its 3.7% abv would suggest. Served in an attractive stemmed and lined pint glass it was light and dry with a great aroma and flavour of tangerine and grapefruit. Very approachable yet interesting and tasty, I can see this being popular, particularly in bars and restaurants.

After ordering, the starters arrived swiftly and looked fantastic. My starter of chargrilled mackerel, Yorkshire rhubarb, beetroot and horseradish cream was light and vibrant with a great contrast between smoky skinned succulent mackerel, sweet rhubarb and creamy horseradish. But it was Colette’s starter of moist pork belly layered with black pudding in a crispy coating that was the star dish here. The three succulent squares of piggyness were simply awesome, I could have eaten a dozen.

The mains carried on the theme of simple ingredients cooked skillfully and with flair but not fuss. Colette’s salt beef with mash potatoes and a caper sauce was a huge slab of tender red brisket that needed the citrusy caper sauce to counteract the salty richness of the meat. It was a real comfort food dish this, perfect for a properly cold night.

As good as the salt beef was, my main was even better. The skirt steak was one of the tastiest pieces of meat I’ve had in a very long time, and even better than the Bavette a l'echalotte from La Grillade (also skirt steak, and a big favourite of mine). The thing with skirt steak is it has great flavour but can be a little tough if not handled and cooked correctly. I ordered it rare and it came perfectly cooked, and I mean perfect. The great thing was that it was really nicely charred on the outside and evenly rare throughout the whole steak, well rested, tender and juicy. The accompaniments were excellent, but at this level of cooking I would have liked better chips, something double cooked and handcut. But it’s a minor niggle when your eating a steak that is this good.

Despite the mains being generously sized we decided a dessert would just about fit. One chocolate brownie with white chocolate icecream and one chargrilled rum banana with toasted marshmallow and the same (excellent) icecream. Oh and a bottle of Samuel Smiths Imperial Stout to pair with it.

Both desserts were great with the Imperial Stout, but it was the combination of the banana dessert with the beer that sticks in my mind. The boozy sweetness of it, and the well charred banana and dark chocolate sauce just went so well with the chocolatey, slightly sour notes of the Sam Smiths beer. It’s more of an Export Stout than an Imperial Stout by my tastes, and with this dessert worked perfectly.

So there you have it. Amazing food, well chosen beer, and a little bit of care gone in to everything. Exactly what I’m looking for in a restaurant.


Magic 8 Ball Black IPA from Magic Rock Brewing

Sunday, January 15, 2012
Every now and again you try a beer that genuinely knocks your socks off. It happened with My Antonia by Birra Del Borgo and then again with I Hardcore You, the BrewDog and Mikkeller collaboration beer. Then last night, when I wasn't really expecting it, it happened again.

I thought I had a handle on Black IPA's as a style of beer, that I knew all its tricks and what to expect, and as such when I saw that Magic Rock Brewing had produced a Black IPA I was looking forward to trying it, as they make awesome beers, but I wasn't in any rush and the cynic in me did think "Another brewery, producing another black IPA".

But Magic Rock Brewing Magic 8 Ball isn't a Black IPA, it's THE Black IPA. I can confidently say that this was the best Black IPA I've ever tried, hands down, by a bloody country mile. It is genuinely astounding.

The colour is the first thing you notice; properly, absolutely black, with an off-white, sticky head that clings to the glass and laces the sides with pungent hop oils.

Then you are hit by that aroma. It's a full on tropical fruit punch of mango, passionfruit, orange pith, apricot, a little bit of sweet lemon even. The thing that instantly struck me was the fresh whole hop aroma you get from this beer, like sticking your head in a bag of raw, unboiled whole hops.

The flavour completely lives up to what's promised in that aroma but marries prominent flavours of mango, apricot and passionfruit with a resinous, bittersweet IPA quality wrapped up in a silky medium weight body. It's thick enough to properly coat your mouth and spread around those amazing flavours but not too heavy or cloying, and remains extremely drinkable and moreish.

As your palate adjusts after the initial onslaught of hops you also get a very slight caramelised/burnt sugar flavour with an orangey edge, alongside a bit of liquorice and faint, fruity dark chocolate. You've really got to look for it though, and pushing past those big hops isn't easy. The 7% abv doesn't even get a look in.

In my opinion it's the best beer that Magic Rock Brewing have produced, and it's definitely the best Black IPA I've ever tasted, from any brewery.

St Stefanus (aka Augustijn) Brouwerij Van Steenberge N.V. - Ghent

Saturday, January 14, 2012
Some of you may have tried a Blonde Belgian beer called Augustijn, it's pretty rare over here but a few of the more specialist bars do have it. You may also have heard that SabMiller (booooo hissss) have struck a deal with the brewery behind the beer to launch it proper to the UK market, under the new title of St Stefanus.

Now before you get your knickers in a twist and start having a go at the big bad boys from the Macro make sure you know the details. Because this isn't a buyout. They haven't bought the
brewery in order to acquire the brand and knacker it up. What they've done is struck a distribution deal with Brouwerij Van Steenberge to market their beer to the UK under the new title of St Stefanus (there was some argument with another company using a similar name to the Augustijn brand, so they changed it). Importantly, it is EXACTLY the same beer. Brewed by the same brewery, in the same way as it always was, just with some rather nice branding and a new name.

And what a brand. They've clearly thrown some money at this because the branding (and I'm a geek for this sort of thing) is beautiful. Elegant, clean, original and just well, classy. I mean the video below shows how seriously they're taking this.

The reason I've included the above video as well is because it does a fine job of explaining the history of the beer produced by St Stefanus, although Roger's account is also excellent, so I'd recommend giving that a read a read too.

Essentially though the St Stefanus blonde is as close as possible to the recipe of the original Abbey beer produced by the Augustijn Monks hundreds of years ago. I'm no beer historian, I'm a flavour fiend, so read Rogers article for the nitty gritty historical details.

What I really want to talk about is the beer. In firstly the Blonde, which I loved.

Listening to Jef (pictured), the hugely knowledgable and downright charming brewmaster of this beer, talk about what he aims for when brewing was not only really interesting, but also pretty enlightening. It made me think slightly differently about Belgian beer.

What Jef says is that it's all well and good producing beers that are super hopped, or really dark and boozy, or bowled over by malt, but what's really difficult to do, and what he always tries to do, is to produce a beer which tastes greater than the sum of it's parts. A beer that when you taste it you can't quite put your finger on whether it's the malt, hops, or yeast that are producing those flavours, but that instantly tastes right. As his Grandfather use to say about only the best brews, something that you taste and think "That's good beer", but can't really say why.

In many ways that's the beauty of Belgian beer for me, and it's exactly the reason that I loved the St Stefanus Blonde (and equally why I didn't like the Grand Cru, but more on that later). It tasted just right, with a nice balance of light bitterness, peppery, dry hops, a biscuity pale malt character and a really satisfying balance between citrus fruit and the touch of sour funk and dustyness from the combination of the three different yeasts used, including a wild Brettanomyces culture. The hops used are Saaz and German Hallertau, and the malt bill is Pale, Pilsner and Munich, along with a little brewing sugar.

I also got the chance to try the other beer being released in the UK in the near future, the Grand Cru. It's a 9% version of the Blonde but for me it was too harsh, with a far too prominent Sake Wine quality (we later found out Jef likes to use Rice in this beer to avoid it becoming too 'sticky' at that abv, so I was quite happy with my Sake spot). That said, beer is a question of taste and this is a beer worth trying, it just wasn't my cup of tea.

Oh, and Ghent, where the brewery is based, is BEAUTIFUL. Here are some pics.

A big thanks has to go to the guys handling the St Stefanus account in the UK for inviting us over and spoiling us rotten. It was awesome, and you guys made it even better by not acting like 'PR People' or avoiding our frequent, and often brutally honest, questions about what exactly your intentions were with this lovely little brewery.

If Garrett Oliver's right, then are Fullers a Craft Beer Brewery?

Thursday, January 12, 2012
I read an interesting interview recently with Garrett Oliver, the charismatic brewmaster of Brooklyn Brewery, on the James Clay website. In the interview he talks about British beer and how it inspired him to set up the brewery, and also his love for traditional English Bitters and other British beers including JW Lees Harvest Ale, which in itself is interesting.

But it was his deft handling of the Storm in a Teacup that is “Cask vs Keg” (his answer was essentially that it depends – which it does) andalso his answer to the question of what defines craft beer in the UK which really resonated with me. Here’s what was said:

Another one which is causing a fewraised eyebrows over here in the UK: What would be your definition of ‘Craft Beer’?

To me, craft beer is beer brewed by traditional means, with the goal of creating full, complex flavours. It means that the beer has true provenance - it is made just as it appears to be made, without the use of anything of whichthe brewer would not be proud. Craft beer is never brewed with blandness as agoal. That’s the main thing that separates it from mass-market beer which isn’t supposed to taste great - it is supposed to be sold to the maximum number ofpeople and produced for the lowest possible price. Personally, I’m not surethat the size of the company has anything to do with it.

It’s that last line that got me thinking.

Many of you will know that the problem some people have with the term “Craft Beer” in the UK is that it has no strict rules, whereas across the pond in the US a “Craft Brewery” is defined as one which has a yearly output below a certain threshold. And yet here’s one of the front runners of the American Craft beer World saying that really, size has nothing to do with it.

This is something which I think I agree with. It’s the beer itself, the passion of the brewer, and the ethos of the company which make the beer they produce Craft Beer, not how many barrels of it they brew in a year.

It’s not even about the style of beers being produced in my opinion. You don’t have to continually produce huge, hoppy, US inspired IPA’s to keep your Craft Brewer Gold Star, you just have to be committed to quality and flavour above all else. Look at Ilkley Brewery, they produce predominantly low abv (usually sub 4%) British Pale Ales, no monster imperial stouts, barrel ageing or Belgian Yeasted IPA’s to be seen, and yet I’d argue they are one of the finest Craft breweries in the UK because they focus on flavour, quality and producing amazingly tasty beers.

How far you stretch the term Craft is open to debate though, and the example that always pops in to my head is Fullers.

Would you class Fullers as a Craft Beer Brewery? After all, they produce a range of well crafted, massively tasty beers with a focus on flavour and even some spectacular Limited Edition specials in the form of their awesome Vintage Ale, and recent Past Masters series'. They do this on a much bigger scale than most would consider Craft, but if it's all about flavour and quality then does it matter?

Where does the border line get drawn for Craft Beer in the UK?

Personally I’d place Fullers on the inside of it, but it’s all a matter of taste.

Thai Weeping Tiger Steak with Coconut Jasmine Rice

Sunday, January 08, 2012
This is quickly turning in to a Thai food and beer blog, but please bear with me. This one is something you've got to try, it's super easy, and tastes amazing.

Essentially marinaded steak flash cooked and served with a fiery, peppery, hugely savoury dipping sauce.

It's something I first tried at Thai Sabai in Headingley but this was the first time i've cobbled a recipe together myself and tried cooking it at home. The recipe is a mix of ones i've read online, combined with what I think they use in the versions i've tried. It's an experiment that worked though, which is why I thought i'd share.


This recipe will serve 3-4 people.

3 Large Sirloin Steaks, fat trimmed off (I know, I know, but it's necessary for this dish)

For the marinade:
  • 1 Tbsp Dark Soy Sauce
  • 3 Tbsp Thai Fish Sauce
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 Tsp ground Coriander
  • Good grind of fresh black pepper
  • 2 Tsp white sugar
For the dipping sauce:
  • 1 Tbsp Dark Soy Sauce
  • 5 Tbsp Thai Fish Sauce
  • 2 Tsp Sugar
  • Large handful of fresh coriander stalks and stems chopped (stems finely chopped)
  • 1 Tbsp of fresh green peppercorns (not dried ones. You can get them from Asian supermarkets)
  • 5 Tbsp of fresh lemon juice (about 1-2 lemons)
  • 2 Tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 1 Sliced fresh green chilli (optional)
For the rice:
  • 300ml Thai Jasmine Rice
  • 400ml Coconut Milk
  • 400ml Water

How to make Weeping Tiger
  1. Start by combining all the ingredients for the marinade in a large bowl and adding the trimmed steak.
  2. While the steak is marinading make the dipping sauce by combining all the ingredients and adjusting seasoning to taste (more lemon if too salty, more soy if too sour, more sugar if too acidic etc)
  3. Next combine the rice, coconut milk and water (use the empty tin to measure the water) in a large sauce pan, bring to the boil then cover and simmer on a low heat for around 20mins.
  4. When the rice is almost cooked remove the steak from the marinade and fry on a very high heat, in a none stick pan, for 1-2 mins either side depending whether you want it rare or medium rare. Remove and leave to rest for a few minutes.
To serve:

Slice the steak and serve on top of the coconut rice with any resting juices spooned over and a little of the dipping sauce. I also had some stir fried peppers with mine but pak choi would be even better. There should be plenty of dipping sauce for everybody so stick it in the middle of the table and let people help themselves.

The beer:

I went for a bottle of Schneider Weisse Tap 5, which is a sort of hopfenweisse originally brewed in collaboration with Brooklyn Brewery. It's a stunning beer, a true classic, and it went pretty well with the food but I'm not going to call it 'a match' as such. The savoury meatiness of the meal could probably handle a richer darker beer if I'm honest, maybe something like a Dunkel or a Belgian Bruin.

Why not cook this for yourself and let me know what you had with it? It's a dish you've got to try!

The 5 tastiest things I ate and drank over Christmas

Tuesday, January 03, 2012
Roast Rib of Beef

How have I never had this before!?

We pushed aside the cries for a bird for Christmas Dinner this year and went caveman instead. A massive 3 Rib Roast that looked like something you'd hang off the side of Fred Flinstones motor.

It was charred and caramelised on the outside, with creamy, melting fat marbling and a beautifully pink centre. It was the best roast beef I've ever eaten.

Hands down.

Anchor Christmas 2011 (keg)

Sweet burnt toffee aroma, molasses, a little treacle and gingerbread. Much darker than I was expecting, it's almost black with an off white, foamy head. The flavour is sweet and slightly syrupy, with a big flavour of bonfire toffee and licourice, a smidge of soy sauce, and just a bit of rum tinged booze in the finish (perhaps oweing to the sweetness).

It also has an American nutty brown ale character and a very slight bit of Hazlelnut espresso hiding in the background. Stylistically I haven't got a clue what you'd call this, possibly a dark brown ale? Though it definately has a Christmassy edge. Lovely stuff.

Beef and Mustard Baps with Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast

This was a perfect Boxing Day hangover cure. The kind of thing you can enjoy before sloping off for a nap on the sofa, which is exactly what I did.

Leftover Rib beef on good quality white baps with a smidge of good butter and two types of mustard (English and Wholegrain) and just a touch of salt and pepper, it's about as good as sandwiches get and went amazingly well with the smooth, coffee tinged, lushciousness of the Mikkeller beer. Speaking of which, I really liked this Beer but is it worth the hefty price tag? It's a good stout, it's a very good stout in fact. But it's not a 'wow' beer. Which at this price, I want.

Still, very good and worth a try.

Bristol Beer Factory Southville Hop

This hoppy little number was a recommendation from the ever reliable Rob (HopZine) when I bumped in to him on a that-weird-bit-between-christmas-and-new-year trip to Beer Ritz. It's a really satisfyingly bitter hoppy pale amber ale with plenty of body and a nice underlying sweetness behind bags of tropical fruit scented hops. Despite it's strength (6.5%) I finished a bottle of this in Liver crunchingly quick time because it was so damned tasty.

My first beer from these guys and what a way to start.

Mim's Aubergine fritters

Remember my post about Mauritian Food? Well Colette's Grandma (Mim) whipped us up her own Mauritian speciality this New Years Day - Aubergine fritters.

Very thinly sliced (I don't know how she does it) rounds of Aubergine seasoned with salt and pepper and dunked in a thick milk and flour based batter flavoured with spring onion, shallot, parsley, and plenty of salt and pepper, then shallow fried in hot oil until golden brown and meltingly soft in the middle.

They sound simple, but taste phenomenal, and served alongside some mango and scotch bonnet hot sauce are perfect finger food. You can tell how good they are by the fact I didn't take a photo of therm once they were cooked, they would've all been gone by the time I pressed down on the flash.