Food + Beer = Happiness... so says barbecue and beer expert Ross Dobson »
And we won't be disagreeing any time soon
By Kerry Scambler
Food + Beer = Happiness. It’s the first heading in Ross Dobson’s book Food + Beer: great food to eat with beer and I heartily agree with this sentiment. I’m thinking good friends gathered around the table, telling stories with much laughter and sharing home-made pizzas with beers on hand. Happy times.
Research suggests that the taste of beer alone is enough to trigger the release of the pleasure chemical in the brain. This instant feeling has nothing to do with alcohol but is simply the taste of beer alone. Of course, it has to be a good beer and one you like!
We know there are many times when wine makes the meal and the occasion as well, but as Alfred Heineken said “There is always something happening around beer.” and in this particular case, it’s food.
Ross Dobson’s latest book is dedicated to helping us reach that state of happiness that comes from matching flavoursome food with the beer that makes those flavours hum. And he's had plenty of practice with the food, with four books on barbecuing under his belt, plus a successful cafe and catering business.
The introduction includes a brief history of beer and its place in the culinary world, a place that has been increasing with access to the internet and plethora of cooking shows all of which exposes us to more ingredients and cooking styles than ever before. Travel too has become more affordable for us all, literally giving us a taste of, and for, food and beverages beyond our borders.
Over the last decade, beer also has worked its way into restaurants and cafés as more than just a standard pre-dinner drink with good sommeliers now well versed in the characteristics the various styles. The range of craft beer is also growing at an tremendous rate and with it, the interest in how beer and food matches can truly be made in heaven.
What’s inside Food + Beer:
Written in a fun, entertaining yet informative style is the introduction then over 80 recipes of relaxed, authentic international dishes, each with a recommended beer or beer style to bring out the best flavours in the food and the beer itself. This contents list gives you some idea of the style!
- Food + Beer = Happiness
- Kicking off
- Little critters
- Bigger critters
- Lillian Gish
- A beer’s best friend
A little taste from the recipes:
If you're thinking of a cold, crisp lager why not try the Shredded Duck Pancakes or intriguing Chinese dish called Ants Climbing Trees which is best with a cold Tsingtao (or other beer made with rice.)
Lamb Macoui from North Africa or Steamed Whole Fish with Ginger and Spring Onions both go well with wheat beers whilst golden ales call for a Cuban Sandwich or Lamb Kefta Kebabs.
If a thick, chocolaty stout is going to warm you, then the Cowboy Chilli or Hunters Stew will complete the meal. Or perhaps you're into ales from the dark side, try the Duck and Egg Fried Rice or Roast Duck with Veal and Apple Stuffing.
The verdict on Food + Beer
There is much to love about this book and already the recipes for the duck above and beer nuts have been tested and added to our home repertoire, to be further explored with favourite craft beers along with many other tagged recipes.
Which brings me to my only disappointment with the book. I love the style, the food looks fantastic and it will certainly be well used but personally I think many of the beer recommendations are too generic. They are usually more about style of beer which could be daunting for those who haven’t yet delved into the aromatic, flavoursome world of craft beer. Imagine walking into a bottleshop to be confronted by a huge range in each style. And is a “tall dark ale” different to just a “dark ale”?
There can be huge flavour variations in most styles and picking the wrong beer could significantly alter the resulting flavour match. A Guinness versus a Cascade Stout is an example with one having more of a bitter profile and the other a rich, chocolaty taste. (As a sidenote, Cascade Stout and Cascade Export Stout taste quite different to me!)
In 2011 Paul Mercurio published Cooking with Beer: if there’s liquid in a recipe, it might as well be beer, to give it the full title. Aside from beer being part of the recipe, the majority of dishes were accompanied by specific beer recommendations (eg Hoegaarden Seafood Risotto beer notes included Feral White, Wicked Elf Witbier or Bright Brewery’s Razor Witbier). This certainly gives you something specific to ask for in the bottleshop.
But this aside, Food + Beer does dish up a great range of sensational, bold food flavours and it’s up to us to do the hard yards (they’re not really!) and, using Ross’ general recommendations, pick the exact beers to match with the dish.
This book will sit perfectly alongside Paul Mercurio’s book and Chris Badenoch’s The Entire Beast: from ear and beer to ale and tail, plus a few other food and beer books from years past, making this craft beer and food lover’s life complete.
Food + Beer by Ross Dobson is published by Murdoch Books (Sydney, NSW, Sept 2015, HC, 240pp) and will retail in Australia for A$45.00. It will be available from early September 2015 at good bookshops and online directly from the publisher or found via booko »
See links below for recipes from Food + Beer
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