The perfect dishes to pair with beer, by Claire Bullen and Jen Ferguson
A specific kind of magic happens when good food and good beer get together, says Claire Bullen, who wrote a book with Jen Ferguson in which they invite beer to the dinner table - and also suggest perfect pairings.
Seared duck salad with orange vinaigrette
2 duck breasts (about 170g each)
1½ tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
100g walnut halves
200g cherries, stoned and halved
100g baby-leaf spinach
Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon) and freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, to garnish
For the orange vinaigrette: 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1½ tbsp red wine vinegar
2½ tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp orange juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Zest of 1 orange
Large pinch of flaky sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Remove the duck breasts from the refrigerator about 20-30 minutes before cooking and pat dry with paper towels. Using a very sharp knife, cut a crosshatch pattern through the skin and fat layer on each breast, being careful not to slice into the meat below; this will help the fat render as it cooks. Season both sides generously with sea salt and black pepper. Set aside.
2. Add the olive oil to a large frying pan and place over high heat. Add the onion once the oil is hot, but not smoking, and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently, until it begins to soften. Spread the onion in a thin layer and cook, without disturbing, for a further 2-3 minutes, or until starting to turn golden brown. Flip over and cook on the other side for several more minutes until golden brown on both sides. Remove from the heat and transfer to a bowl.
3. Toast the walnuts in a small frying pan over medium heat for about 5-7 minutes, tossing frequently, until golden brown and fragrant. Set aside.
4. Just before you plan to cook the duck breasts, whisk all the ingredients for the vinaigrette in a bowl until well emulsified, and set aside.
5. Place the large frying pan you used for the onion over high heat. When very hot, add the duck breasts, skin side down, and cook for 6 minutes, or until the skin has crisped and turned golden brown and a great deal of fat has rendered out. As you cook, tilt the frying pan frequently and use a small spoon to collect the rendered fat that pools at the bottom (save the fat in a small bowl, or discard). Press firmly on each breast with the back of a spoon to help render as much fat as possible - this results in a crisper skin.
6. Flip the breasts over and cook for a further 3-4 minutes, depending on how well done you like your duck. Rotate the breasts frequently, so they cook evenly; you may want to use tongs to ensure they're evenly browned on all sides. Remove the skillet from the heat and transfer the breasts to a cutting board. Let rest for 5-10 minutes.
7. Meanwhile, construct the rest of the salad. Add the onion, walnuts, cherries and spinach to a large bowl, pour over the dressing, and toss until everything is evenly coated. Divide the salad between two plates.
8. Slice the duck breasts thinly and arrange across the salads. Garnish with the thyme leaves and serve immediately.
A dark, malty wheat beer. This dish brings a range of deep, rich flavours, from the browned onions and gamy duck to the mouth-staining cherries. Look for a beer with complementary richness and profundity, one that supplies its own decadence: a boozy wheat wine, say.
Three-cheese toasted sandwiches with tomatoe bisque
About 60g unsalted butter
8 thick slices of challah (a traditional Jewish bread)
4 slices of American cheese
8 bocconcini (mini mozzarella balls)
55g herbed goat's cheese
For the tomato bisque:
15g unsalted butter
1 large white onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tbsp tomato purée
800g can chopped tomatoes in juice
1 litre chicken or vegetable stock (or water)
1 tsp red wine vinegar
2-3 tbsp light brown sugar
125ml double cream, plus extra for drizzling
2½ tbsp olive oil
2 tsp cumin seeds
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Small bunch of fresh basil leaves, to garnish
1. To prepare the tomato bisque, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and season lightly with sea salt and black pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for approximately 10 minutes, or until the onion is very soft. Add the garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes, or until it starts turning golden. Add the tomato purée, stir to combine, and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
2. Add the chopped tomatoes and juice to the saucepan and stir before adding the stock or water. Increase the heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil before reducing to a simmer. Add the red wine vinegar and 2 tablespoons of the sugar. Cook for 1-1¼ hours, or until the bisque reduces by nearly half, is very thick and the flavours have deepened. Stir often and taste throughout the cooking process, adjusting the seasoning accordingly. Because the bisque will reduce a good deal, be sure not to salt too heavily at the start.
3. Just before the bisque is ready, taste for sweetness and add the remaining tablespoon of brown sugar if necessary, plus any additional salt to taste. Remove from the heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Use an immersion blender to blend the bisque carefully until it is completely smooth. (Although you can do this in a regular blender, you may have to work in batches and let the bisque cool for longer beforehand.) Return the bisque to the stovetop on the lowest heat. Slowly drizzle in the double cream, stirring to combine, then leave the bisque on the stovetop to keep warm while you make the cheese sandwiches.
4. To make the sandwiches, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large frying pan - preferably one made from cast iron - over medium heat. Place 4 slices of challah in the skillet and toast for 5 minutes, rotating occasionally so they toast evenly, until they are lightly golden on the underside. Transfer the slices to a plate, toasted sides up: you'll be using these to make the first two sandwiches. On two of the pieces, place 1 slice of American cheese (torn into smaller pieces if necessary, to prevent any overhang), plus 2 bocconcini (mini mozzarella balls) sliced in half and a few small blobs of goat's cheese. Seal the sandwiches with the other 2 slices of bread, with the toasted sides on the inside (this will ensure the cheese melts evenly).
5. Melt another tablespoon of butter in the skillet. Return the sandwiches to the frying pan and cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes on each side, rotating frequently and pressing down lightly with a spatula until both sides are crisp and golden brown and the cheese is gooey. Transfer to a plate and tent with foil. Repeat the process for the other two cheese sandwiches, adding more butter if necessary.
6. Before serving, finish the bisque by heating the olive oil in a small frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the cumin seeds and stir frequently for about 2 minutes, or until the seeds are fragrant and darkened. Remove from the heat.
7. To serve, ladle the tomato bisque into four bowls and top with a drizzle of the toasted cumin seeds and their oil, plus an extra drizzle of heavy cream. Garnish with a few torn basil leaves. Slice each sandwich in half and serve alongside the bisque.
A classic helles lager. Like a perfect toasted cheese sandwich, a well-made helles - bright, bready and slightly sweet - is an unimprovable entity. Its satisfying simplicity makes it an ideal pairing partner.
Shrimp and mango coconut curry
Pair with a hazy double IPA. Though double IPAs are a notoriously tricky style to pair, this curry stands up to the task with its own bold flavours and tropical appeal. Serves 4
For the curry paste:
5-6 garlic cloves, chopped
Thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 bird's-eye chili peppers, roughly chopped
Small bunch of fresh coriander stems, roughly chopped
Juice of 1 lime
Large pinch of flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)
For the curry:
2-3 tbsp vegetable oil or ghee
1 onion, thinly sliced
20 curry leaves, divided
1½ tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground turmeric
¼ tsp asafoetida
2-3 tbsp tomato purée
400ml can coconut milk
1 ripe mango, peeled, stoned and cut into matchsticks, divided (reserve a few to garnish)
200g large jumbo prawns, ideally heads-on and unpeeled
Fine sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped, and 1 red chilli, sliced (optional), to garnish
Steamed basmati rice, to serve
1. To prepare the curry paste, blend all the ingredients in a food processor on high speed until well mixed, pausing to scrape down the insides. Set aside.
2. To make the curry, heat the vegetable oil/ghee in a large, heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil/ghee is hot, add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, for 7-8 minutes, or until softened and translucent. Add the curry paste and fry for a further 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add 10 of the curry leaves and fry for a further minute. Add the coriander, turmeric and asafoetida, and fry for a further 30 seconds before adding the tomato purée. Cook for 1-2 minutes more, stirring constantly.
3. Add the coconut milk and water to the skillet and stir to combine. Season generously with sea salt. Add half the mango pieces, reduce the heat to medium-low, then let simmer and gradually reduce for 25-30 minutes. The sauce should thicken and turn a rich, dark orange hue. Season to taste.
4. Shortly before serving, add the remaining curry leaves, mango pieces, and prawns. Depending on the size of the skillet, you may need to cook the prawns in two batches. Press the prawns into the curry until covered by as much liquid as possible and cook for roughly 1½ minutes, or until pink on one side. Flip and let cook for a further 1-1½ minutes.
5. Once the prawns are cooked through, remove the curry from the heat, garnish with the fresh coriander leaves, sliced chilli (optional), and reserved mango matchsticks, then serve with steamed basmati rice.
I prefer to use whole shrimp but you can also use the peeled and deveined variety, if you prefer. If so, cook for a maximum of 45 seconds to 1 minute per side.
Extracted from The Beer Lover's Table by Claire Bullen and Jen Ferguson, published by Dog 'n' Bone Books. Photographs by Stephen Conroy and Matthew Curtis