Cooking with Beer
Beer has a long history in Britain, and not just as a drink; there is also an established tradition of using it in food. It is perhaps most widely recognised as a presence in beer-battered fish and chips. Here, the beer carbonates the mixture, giving it a light, crisp texture and slightly yeasty flavour that works perfectly with flaky white fish. As well as providing a fine batter, beer can add depth to shellfish dishes, such as a fisherman’s stew, when combined with broth for the base. A useful rule of thumb is to match the shade of the drink to that of the dish. Light-coloured foods tend to work best with lighter beers and darker dishes with darker beers. Pale meats, such as ham, chicken and other fowl, work well when matched with lager or ale. A beer marinade keeps the meat succulent and adds flavour. A simple brine for chicken is made by combining 500ml beer with 500ml water, 60g sea salt and 60g brown sugar. The mixture is whisked until the salt and sugar dissolve, then four bay leaves and 1 tsp black peppercorns are added. The chicken is rested in the brine overnight then removed and patted dry before cooking. Dark meats can also benefit from a beer marinade and tend react well to darker brews. A few generous slugs of dark ale can add body to a beef stew or steak and ale pie. A dark beer also works well in onion soup. It will also bring extra flavour to homemade mustard or chutneys. Another light lunch or supper dish that has beer as a traditional and essential ingredient is Welsh rarebit, a special version of cheese on toast. Beer is also found in recipes for baked goods. It can be substituted for water in breads or included in chocolate cake. Dried fruits soaked in beer overnight may be used in a rich pudding.