Cook­ing with Beer

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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.

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