You can add some va va voom by using beer as a cooking ingredient

editorial image

Today is International Beer Day and the perfect time to reflect on how much our brewing industry has evolved here.

Ten years ago there were only a couple of real ale breweries in Northern Ireland but at the last count there are currently twenty three.

They’ve won many awards and like most of our food and drink producers, they don’t rest on the laurels of their success.

Making beer is like cooking and unless you keep on top of trends, you’ll be left behind. It’s not enough to brew beer and lager and sit back. Nowadays a young, discerning beer drinking audience is demanding more.

Sour beers are when the beer is made intentionally sour or acidic.

Historically these were made by the introduction of wild yeast or bacteria as opposed to the sterile environment beers are now produced in. Hillstown Ale in Ahoghill do a blueberry sour beer that’s great to drink on its own or is equally delicious matched with pork or game dishes.

Another trend is Nitro Stout where the usual carbon dioxide gas is replaced with nitrogen giving the beer a smooth creamy finish.

Matching dishes with beers rather than the usual wine is bang on trend at the moment. Using beer as an ingredient is a good way of injecting some va va voom into your cooking. Its slight bitterness lends itself to a myriad of dishes. One of my favourite things to do on the barbecue is beer can chicken.

The cavity of a chicken is placed onto an opened can of beer on the barbecue and allowed to roast. The beer evaporates into the chicken making it moist and tasty. My recipe calls for the chicken to be firstly rubbed with a marinade and left for a few hours. Beer is then added and marinated overnight. The marinade is then poured into the empty can, ready for the barbecue. When it’s ready rip it apart and eat it with crusty bread to soak up all the juices.

When I was at college Iles Flotante, or floating islands, were all the rage – meringue quenelles poached in a stock syrup until set and then placed on a custard (which we pretentiously called Crème Anglaise). Some hearts of raspberry coulis would have been formed on the custard and we thought we were just the best. I hadn’t made them for years but cooked them recently to incorporate beer into dessert recipes. Stout is whipped into the egg whites for the meringue but I bake them in a mould rather than poach them.

My other recipe this week is for this modernized classic, served with chocolate custard and orange shortcake. The baked meringue is dusted with sugar and blowtorched to finish.

Moderate drinking of good beer has the added benefit of being healthy.

According to study by Harvard University drinking one or two beers daily reduced the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 25%.

It contains xanthohumol, an important antioxidant with anti-cancer properties. It can also reduce the risk of strokes and help to reduce cholesterol levels. The emphasis should be on moderate beer consumption though. So cheers to something that tastes great and is good for you to boot.