Beer and food go well together. There is nothing anyone can say to me that will ever convince me otherwise. Because beer is such a diverse and fascinating vehicle for so many flavours and taste sensations, it just works.
I’ve just spent the afternoon cooking. We had a glut of onions in the cupboard and instead of watching them go soft or trying to plant them on the football pitch out of my back door, I decided to transform them. That, and the fact that we really needed to go shopping, had no food and were both hungry as hell!
First up was an onion gratin with loads of quartered red and white onions, leeks, fresh thyme from our windowsill, a delicious French white and instead of Parmesan and Gruyere, I went for double cream mixed in with Wensleydale and a mature cheddar. Needs must… We also had a large head of broccoli, so I slowly melted leeks down in olive oil, added sliced, peeled broccoli stem, a potato cut into cubes, a few cloves of sliced garlic and cook for a few minutes. I then added a litre of chicken stock, boiled till everything was soft and added loads of broccoli florets. I took half, blended it with my smoothie maker and added a good dollop of cream. The other half, I left as it was. Slightly caramelised leeks, broccoli stem and flowers, chunks of potato all bobbing around in a rich chicken and vege stock.
Short straw drawn and the victim chosen, today it was Jaipur, coupled oddly enough with those legends of Industrial Music, Skinny Puppy… great music for an experiment!!! Actually, Jaipur was the obvious beer because my plan was to test the theory that fats can have an effect on perceived bitterness. The Jaipur tasted after some of the un-blended soup should be more bitter than the blended creamy version.
First mouthful of chunky broth… nice caramelised leek, maybe a bit over-caramelised, loads of broccoli and nice salty stock. Yum! Then a sip of the Jaipur. All sweet and perfumed in my nose, full and fruity in my mouth with sneaky whisps of gooseberry and grapefruit that lead into that citrus twist of bitterness, both mellow and feisty at once. The bitterness was there alright and trying it’s hardest to make me have another sip to benefit from that Maris Otter malt sweetness. I succumbed.
Now for the Broccoli and Leek Soups creamy half-brother, a good tablespoon or so of double cream hiding in a jungle of leek grass and great broccoli trees. Well, a forest that had been chopped down and blended into mulch… Intense broccoli and unctuous cream with a background of salt and onion and something that reminds me of mushy peas… maybe the broccoli is displaying some of its sulphury characters just like legumes do. And the Jaipur.
Instant sweetness and a slightly thinner mouthfeel. Then a little fruit and some lemon peel and a slide of bitterness down the sides of my tongue as all of those little iso-alpha-acids perform a flanking manoeuvre on the lazy, fat cream taste-bud guardians. The bitterness is there but it’s completely subdued and it’s a good half minute until the bitterness wins and presents itself right at the back of my throat in some type of post-victory warrior dance. Maybe this is their Haka.
My hypothesis is all good, even in something as simple as this, I’ve proven theories, won battles and saved worlds. Most interesting was the fact that Jaipur worked perfectly with a creamy Broccoli and Leek Soup! Maybe that’s just the beer talking…
The onion gratin has drowned in a sea of oil. Too much cheese. I can’t win every battle.