Showing posts with label cooking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cooking. Show all posts

Monday, December 14, 2015

Doppelbock Fruit Cake

On Saturday morning I got to do one of my favourite things, doing the grocery shopping by myself. This isn't to say that I don't enjoy grocery shopping with Mrs V, but rather that when she goes running of a morning I like to take the opportunity to be in the shop early and alone, to avoid the crowds, to browse to my heart's content, and to avoid running into people with small children. As I wander the aisles I like to plan meals for the coming days, bread experiments to mess with, and beers in the booze realm to try. Thus it was on Saturday morning that I picked up a six pack of Trader Joe's Winter Brew, I won't wax lyrical here about my love for Trader Joe's beer but only because I did so in this post.


Winter Brew is labelled as a 'dark double bock lager', weighs in at 7.5% abv, is a beautiful deep garnet colour, and is rather fine drinking, so be sure to find yourselves some if you can as that is all I am going to tell you about when it comes to the beer. With two thirds of the 6 pack stoking a warming glow in the belly I decided that I needed to make fruit cake as it had been so long. I get why many people on this side of the Pond are not fans of fruit cake, especially when you see the shop bought abominations that get fobbed off on consumers and are, to put it bluntly, shit. One of the benefits of having a mother who is a phenomenal cook with a penchant for traditional cooking is knowing how things should be made (hence Mrs V and I still make our own mincemeat for Christmas, from a 250 year old recipe that includes meat).

Anyway....looking through my cook books for inspiration (there really are no such things as recipes), I pulled out my copy of 'The Complete Irish Pub Cookbook', a well thumbed resource, and decided to make a version of the Porter Cake recipe, but using doppelbock instead of stout, as well as some tweaks for what was in the cupboards, thus my recipe was:
  • 1 cup currants
  • 1 cup sultanas
  • 1 cup raisins
  • handful of dried cranberries that were floating about
  • 1 cup chopped dates
  • 0.75 cup chopped candied mixed peel
  • 12oz bottle of doppelbock
  • 2.75 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 3 eggs lightly beaten
The method to my madness began with putting all the dried fruits in a big ass bowl and pouring the beer into the bowl, having first de-gassed the beer a bit by whisking it in a pint glass, and leaving the mixture to sit for at least 5 hours.


When it is time to actually make the cake pre-heat the oven to 325°F/160°C. Sift the flour, salt, baking powder and allspice in a bowl, then cream together the butter and sugar in another, bigger, bowl until light and fluffy, beat in the eggs a little a time, with a spoon of the flour mix as you go. Once the eggs are nicely incorporated, dump in the rest of the flour mix and beat to smooth paste, so it looks like this.


Now dump all the fruit and remaining liquid into the paste and stir, so it looks like this.


The original recipe called for the use of a 7 inch square cake pan but I don't have one of those, so I used 2 8 inch by 4 inch pans, and played around with the cooking times accordingly. Once you have greased and floured the cake tins, split the mix evenly between the two pans, and put in the oven for an hour, then lick the spoon and bowl clean to your heart's content.


After an hour, turn the oven down to 300°F/150°C and let it bake for another hour or until you can put a toothpick into the centre of the cake and it comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the tins for about half an hour before turning out on to a wire rack to cool completely.


Serve with a nice cup of tea....


So there you have it, a really easy, nice fruit cake recipe for winter. Shame the weather in Virginia isn't cooperating, sod it being 75°F/24°C yesterday.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Cider Pork Roast

It was about this time in 2009 that Mrs Velkyal and I made our first attempt at making cider. I say "first" although in reality to date it is our only attempt at cider making, but it most certainly will not be the last. One thing we will remember to do next time is to prime the cider at bottling. I know there is a school of opinion out there that likes still cider, but I am most assuredly not a member of that particular persuasion. I like a little sparkle, not fizzy, but gently carbonated, the French would call it "pétillant", the Czechs have the wonderful phrase "jemně perlivá". My maple mead is lightly carbonated, and at nearly 10% abv all the better for it, but the cider is flat.


We have toyed with idea of what to do with the remaining couple of gallons of cider and not done anything with it other than leave it in the cellar, a quick note for my American friends and readers, cider with no alcohol is not cider, it is apple juice, thus the term "hard cider" is pointless. Suggestions have included making cider vinegar and then using it in chutneys and the like, Mrs V and I both love to cook, so it would be nice not to have to buy vinegar in chutney making season. It was in one of my cooking moods that I decided to make a stab at using a bottle up, with my Sunday roast.


Growing up, almost every Sunday had as the heart of the day a roast dinner. Most often chicken, but also beef, lamb, pork and occasionally venison or mutton. Whatever we had was served with at least roast potatoes, veggies and onion gravy. Yesterday I cooked a roast pork lunch, served with roast potatoes, braised leeks and onion gravy, and to top it all, it was the first time I had made that most delectable of foods, crackling.


Usually the leeks are braised in white wine, but I ditched that (well alright then I didn't have any white wine) and used cider. The rest of my bottle went into the onion gravy to give it a nice tart apple bite to balance the sweetness of the caramelised onions, I roasted the pork on top of the sliced onions, to the pork fat, as well as keeping the meat moist, also cooked the onions.


To make the gravy, I chucked the onions and juices from the roasting dish into a saucepan, added some flour for thickening and then poured in good half pint of cider with a quarter pint of water from boiling the potatoes and let it boil away to reduce. Eventually Mrs V and I had plates looking like this:


Paired with this delight of pork and veggies was a high ball glass of 7 UP with a liberal dose of brandy in the top - lately I've been on something of a spirits and soft drinks kick, which is most disturbing, though thankfully the sanctity of my single malts is still intact.

A minor diversion from beer, to be sure, but a tasty one I can assure you - and yes, the crackling crackled and was cracking.

Monday, February 28, 2011

What's Cooking?

This weekend was relatively booze free. Sure I polished off my last growler of the Morana Dark Lager on Friday night, whilst watching Hamish MacBeth, and having to explain shinty to Mrs V, and yesterday I met up with a friend for a few pints of (easy drinking and quite nice actually) and a couple of Buffalo Sweat, again a nice beer. Saturday was drier than the Sahara in summer, though I took the time to organise my beer cellar.


Perhaps I am a completely sad wally here, but on the spur of the moment on Saturday morning I grabbed a pen, some paper and got to cataloguing the cellar. It turned out that I had 117 bottles of commercial beer, now 116 as I used a bottle of Dark Starr Stout in my venison goulash last night. Those 116 bottles represented 68 different beer brands, for what of a better term, from 26 beer styles. Unsuprisingly, at least for those who know me well, was that the dominant family of styles was stouts and porters.


Unfortunately quite a few of the bottles have been sitting around for quite some time, in the case of some seasonals, about 18 months. Obviously there are plenty of beers for which that length of time sitting around is not a problem, but I need to use up a load of other odds and sods that might be beyond their peak, so the inevitable cooking projects will be rearing their heads in weeks to come. One such project is another batch of roasted onion and garlic jam (bizarrely one of the most common search terms that leads to this site, according to my Google Analytics). The first time round I used Chodovar Skální le?ák in the recipe, but this time I am considering either Starr Hill Amber Ale or .


One of my favourite culinary projects when I lived in Prague was my doppelbock chilli chutney, based on a Jamie Oliver recipe. For this I am thinking about switching out doppelbock for or Zywiec Porter. Something to balance out the heat of the chillis with some big flavours of its own, I wonder then if a super hoppy beer would do the trick as well, perhaps Sierra Nevada Torpedo?


Cakes are always a good way to use up beer, as is marinading great chunks of meat in it - I still want to try making a beery marinade for jerky. If I ate more ice cream that might be an interesting project, but I need to be in a very specific mood for ice cream. Any ideas or suggestions then people?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Porter Fruit Cake

When Mrs V and I went to Williamsburg back in October, I bought a growler of Williamsburg Alewerks' Washington's Porter. As with the best laid plans of mice and men, my original intention to drink said growler never happened, and so it sat in the fridge for the last few weeks. Wanting to both use the beer, being loathe to waste it, and also because I love cooking with beer as much as drinking it, I decided to use it for a few culinary projects.


Waking up with something of a hangover yesterday morning I decided I would make a fruit cake, which seems to be something of an acquired taste this side of the Pond. Traditional fruit cake from home starts off the night before baking with steeping the dried fruit in tea. My plan however was to ditch the tea and replace it with the porter. The recipe I used came from a small Czech language Irish cookbook I bought several years ago in Prague and I adapted it somewhat.
  • 12 ounces sultanas
  • 1lb dried black currants
  • 8 ounces glace cherries
  • 13.5 fluid ounces porter
  • 1 cup soft brown sugar
  • 3.5 cups plain flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons apple pie spice - cinnamon, nutmeg, clove
Firstly steep the dried fruit, sugar and spice in the porter overnight, or for 8 hours.


When the steeping is done, lightly beat the eggs and add them to the mix. Stir in the flour and baking powder to make a thick batter.


Usually you would just use a single large cake tin, but I used three disposable loaf tins, which I sprayed with oil before filling about half way.


Heat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for about 2 hours, or until you can put a knife in the centre of the cake and it comes out clean.


So there we have it, three fruit cakes for Thanksgiving, moist, dark and spicy......like a good porter!


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Virginia Barleywine is for Beer and Food Lovers

The Starr Hill Brewery currently has three special beers on tap, an 8% ABV saison, a 10.3% tripel and a 10.7% barleywine. I realise I am about to commit yet another beer geek heresy, but quite often the lighter coloured Belgian style beers do nothing for me - although I have found lately that this opinion isn't as rare as I assumed, and I have been told several times in the tasting room at Starr Hill just not to mention it on Ratebeer or BeerAdvocate. Barleywine by contrast is one of my favourite styles.

The first barleywine to pass my lips was last Christmas when I had a bottle of the delightful Benedictus from the Durham Brewery. The style also features in my homebrew calendar as a beer to be brewed in November and then stored for a year in preparation of the next Thanksgiving. I, like many of our regulars coming in for a growler fill at the tasting room, was looking forward to seeing what the brewers would come with for this most venerable of styles.

The weekend when Mrs Velkyal broke her foot, trying to kick some sense into me, I bought a 1 litre bottle of barelywine home with me from work, which we duly polished off over some angel food cake with some friends. So on Saturday I refilled my bottle and decided to do a Cyclops session with the beer, as well as use a little of it in a cooking project I had been ruminating about for a while. First to the Cyclops:
  • Sight - dark copper, foamy ivory head
  • Smell - nutty, earthy, spicy hops, strongly caramel
  • Taste - very malty, toffee, nuts, alcoholic edge
  • Sweet - 4/5
  • Bitter - 3/5

This is fantastic stuff in my book, big, bold and yet so smooth and silky. Yes it is rather sweet, but the spiciness of the hops counteracts that, so it isn't cloying in my experience. There is a very noticeable alcoholic glow that hits you after about half a glass - the one in the picture is a half pint glass. As I was drinking I wanted a nice single malt to go with the beer (I wonder how it would be given the Paradox treatment?). Gorgeous, gorgeous beer.
On then to my cooking project, sticky toffee pudding with barleywine sauce, basically a study in boozy, sweet, powerful desserts. The basic cake part of the dessert was Jamie Oliver's recipe, which you can see here. The sauce though was my own little creation using:
  • a knob of unsalted butter
  • quarter pint of barleywine
  • 1 small can condensed milk
Melt the butter in a small pan, add the barleywine and bring to the boil. Once the beer has reduced by about a quarter, add the condensed milk and then stir, and stir, and stir.


Eventually you end up with a beautifully silky, rich sauce to pour over the cake, or in the case of the picture below, around the case - I was watching while I ate my dessert last night and I could help but
think Gordon Ramsay would have beeping loved it!


How could I stop at a single serving of this delight? So I didn't and had a second!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Caramel 60 and Chocolate Malt Bread

As planned, I spent this morning brewing, making my Gael Scottish ale which I wrote about previously. Well once I was done with the brewing I decided that I would give making bread with the spent grains a bash. Making bread is something I do fairly regularly, and I seem to have a knack for making tasty loaves which are appreciated by more than just Mrs Velkyal and I - last week I traded a cinnamon loaf for 18 free range eggs, and I am looking at doing more such swaps.

If it weren't for my love of brewing, I could quite happily take up being a baker - I don't use a bread machine because I enjoy the process of kneading and proving the bread the old fashioned way. Below are some pictures of the bread in various stages, I am about to enjoy the final stage; butter, a sprinkling of salt and enjoying the latest episode of House!








Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Roast Garlic and Onion Jam, With a Twist.

Whilst on one of my cyber-pottering trips – you know the kind of thing, work is a bit slow so you randomly look for projects for the weekend – I thought it would be interesting to go beyond chutneys and try my hand at jams and marmalades. The recipe which caught my imagination most was from the Ambrosia blog, written by Coco, for roast garlic and onion jam. My first thought was that it sounded fantastic – I love caramelized onions and an a big fan of creamy sweetness of roasted garlic, the idea of marrying those flavours with a nice beer was simply too much to resist.

As I am learning with my beer cooking experiments, finding the right beer to enhance the flavours of a recipe is vitally important, which is why it took me some 2 weeks to decide on the beer for this recipe. My first thought was to go for something big and bold, like an imperial stout or strong English ale – the front runners at the time were either Hobgoblin or again using the Primátor 24°. Eventually though I came to the conclusion that something big and bold would probably be quite overpowering, especially given the rather strong flavours already in the recipe.

I fairly quickly dismissed the idea of using ale and set about finding a lager which would do the trick. The beer I settled upon would have to be sweetish with malty notes that would backup the roasted flavour of the garlic rather than compete with it. So Mrs Velkyal and I eventually agreed that it would have to be a polotmávé, or amber lager, and I decided that I wanted to use a Chodovar product – especially as I had a collection of various bottles to use.

My recipe ended up as follows:



  • 750g roughly chopped onions
  • 2 heads roasted garlic
  • 4 dessertspoons brown sugar
  • 125 ml Chodovar Skální le?ák
  • 125 ml water
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons apple vinegar
  • Olive oil
And here’s what to do with it all


  1. Break up the garlic heads, put in an ovenproof dish, drizzle with olive oil and roast for 90 minutes. When the garlic is roasted, squeeze out the soft insides.
  2. Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a pan, when hot add the onions and cover, stir occasionally until they are softened and translucent – this should take about 20 minutes.
  3. Add the sugar, stir and replace the lid, stir occasionally until onions are golden, this takes about 20 minutes.
  4. Add the beer, stir and cover to cook for about 30 minutes.
  5. When the onions are dark brown add the vinegar, garlic cloves and water.
  6. Cook uncovered until you have a rich sticky mixture.
  7. Let the mixture cool before putting in sterilized jars.
This was remarkably easy to make, and wonderfully tasty. There was only one little problem, from about 750g of onions I got about 300g of jam. So next time I make this, probably the weekend after this, I will double or treble the amounts so that I can make several jars. I would particularly recommend enjoying this with a good welsh rarebit, made with the best cheddar cheese you can get your hands on.
And of course having opened a bottle of beer, you just have to finish it while you cook!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Early Morning Disaster

When I was at secondary school, my favourite subjects were German and Chemistry - which I thought might possibly lead to a life as a mad scientist. However when the time came to choose what to study at college, in my wisdom I chose theology and was fully intent on becoming a minister, or priest, or whatever you want to call them. Most people who discover that I studied for the priesthood are somewhat taken aback and usually reply "you?".

I think that my love of mixing things around is part of the reason why I love cooking and experimenting with using beer in food. As I wrote on Monday, at the weekend I attempted to make beer toffee, I have since learned that I fact succeeded in making a beer caramel sauce, which would be great stirred into cream and frozen to make beer ice cream, or possibly to use it as an alternative sweetener in desserts such as apple crumble - which Mrs Velkyal makes very very well.

The caramel had been sitting in the fridge until last night when I decided to put it in a jar, mainly because it had been in our main roasting tin and I have plans for this weekend - involving ribs hopefully. Over the last few days more and more of the sticky goo had started to crystalize, and on opening the fridge this morning the goo in the jar had set solid, but had a strange head on the top - which looked very much like a normal beer head.

Then disaster struck, I dropped the jar. Rather than smashing and sending a sticky mess all over the kitchen floor, which Mrs Velkyal would have loved at quarter past six in the morning, the jar cracked then shattered but the goo stayed intact. The reason it was solid was not my culinary genius in making toffee but the fact that my fridge is overactive and had almost frozen it solid. I still think that beer toffee is a viable idea, and one I will continue to experiment with, but for the time being it is back to the drawing board and on with other projects.

On a happier note - the chilli doppelbock chutney is fantastic!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Sticky Toffee and Christmas Stout

I decided over the weekend to continue my beer in food experimentation, as well as to jump of the beer hacking bandwagon, as suggested by Evan Rail. Thus it was that on Friday afternoon I decided to make a "Christmas Stout" and even some beer toffee. My original plan involved buying 4 bottles of Kelt, Czech stout made by InBev's subsidiary here, Pra?ské Pivovary - probably better known as the maker of Staropramen - for the beer hacking and a bottle of Hobgoblin for the beer toffee.

My plans were immediately put to the test by the fact that when Mrs Velkyal and I went to the Cider Club to buy the Hobgoblin, I ended up spending all the spare change I had in my pocket on 2 bottles of Hobgoblin, a bottle of Black Wych stout and a bottle of Wych Craft, not to mention Mrs Velkyal's raspberry flavoured cider. At least I had the Hobgoblin, which immediately went into the little cellar in preparation for making toffee. Buying the Kelt was no problem whatsoever as my local Billa sells it.

Saturday morning arrived and I changed my plan - instead of taking up one of my carboys with 2 litres of stout, I decided to use a spare 1 litre bottle I had knocking about and keep two bottles of Kelt for something else, such as drinking them. Here are my ingredients for my Christmas Stout:
  • 2 500ml bottles Kelt stout
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 1 handful of cloves
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar, dissolved in a drop of boiling water

The method is very simple:
  1. Put the sugar, cinnamon and cloves in the bottle
  2. Use a funnel to pour the stout into the bottle
  3. Let the head dissipate before capping and forgetting about it for 2 months.

So yes, there is now a litre of stout infusing with the classic flavours of Christmas and hopefully preparing a lovely treat for December.


The beer toffee however was more problematic. My first problem was when the time came I was loath to use a bottle of Hobgoblin as the liquid for my toffee. Thankfully though I have Mrs Velkyal, who reminded me that in the fridge was an extra bottle of Primator English Pale Ale. The recipe I intended to use was pulled from the Wikihow website, which has loads of interesting projects, and was simplicity itself:

  • 125ml water
  • 400g sugar
  • pinch cream of tartar

So my thinking was to use a 330ml bottle of beer, and increase the sugar accordingly - giving me 1kg of sugar, and a slightly bigger pinch of cream of tartar.

The sugar dissolved nicely into the beer, however I think the pan I was using was too small as I couldn't keep the mixture on a rolling boil for fear of the sticky goo overflowing and making a right mess of the cooker. The original recipe calls for 20 minutes worth of boiling and then putting the mix in a greased tin to set, at the moment I think I have created a beer caramel sauce which will go quite nicely on top of ice cream. If there are any toffee makers out there, I would appreciate some advice on what went wrong - I have a feeling that the size of the pan played a major role, but our big pan was full of a curried cream of roast butternut squash soup I had made on Saturday.

So 1 unknown quantity in the beer hacking, and something of a dismal failure on the beer toffee front, however, I will not be deterred.

Update: As you can see I have added pictures the weekend's fun - couldn't do it yesterday as I forgot the transfer cable at home.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Chilli Doppelbock Chutney

A few weeks ago I made some chilli chutney, using a recipe from a Jamie Oliver book given to me last Christmas. When I do my cooking I like to experiment and play with flavours. For example, the original chutney called for red chillies, so I upgraded those to habeneros which resulted in a very spicy chutney, with a lovely smooth sweetness that rounded it out nicely. Most of the liquid in the original comes from the balsamic vinegar, and it was this I wanted to change, and replace it with some kind of beer.

The decision as to which beer to use was a difficult one, did I want lager or ale, hoppy bitterness or malty sweetness? Then I remembered the night Mrs Velkyal and I had our first, and to date only, bottle of Primator Double 24° - a dark beer of incredible smoothness and sweetness with an alcohol content not far off that of wine, 10.5%. Despite the immense sweetness, it also has a touch of bitterness that I wanted in the final chutney. The night we drank the bottle of Double, both Mrs Velkyal and I passed out about 15 minutes after drinking it – a fact we put down to the beer.

So here is my variation on Jamie Oliver’s “Cheeky Chilli Chutney”:
  • 8 Red Peppers
  • 8 Chillies – 5 red chilli, 2 habanero, 1 jalapeno
  • 3 Red onions – chopped finely
  • 100g Brown sugar
  • 1 bottle Primator Double 24°
  • 5cm stick of cinnamon
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • splash balsamic vinegar
  1. Char peppers and chillies until black and blistered


  2. Put peppers and chillies in a bowl, cover with cling film and let steam for 20 minutes


  3. Fry onions in a large saucepan slowly in olive oil with cinnamon, rosemary, bay leaves until sticky


  4. When peppers and chillies are steamed, skin and de-seed then chop thinly


  5. Add pepper and chilli mix to the onions


  6. Add sugar and beer to the pan, stir and bring to the boil


  7. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar


  8. Lower the heat and simmer until the liquid is reduced and you have a sticky chutney


  9. Remove cinnamon and bay leaves before spooning into sterilized jars


I let the chutney sit for about a week before tasting it properly, however I did have a few tries while it was cooking and it seems to have worked like a dream. Once the week is up and all the flavours have come together in the jars, I hope to have a sweet yet spicy chutney which will go wonderfully with cheddar cheese on rough oatcakes.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Black Beered Pork

On Sunday I bought a joint of pork with the intention of marinading it overnight and roasting it on the Monday, my original intention had been to buy ribs and glaze them with honey, a dark lager and mustard - however, I couldn't find ribs so a roast joint was the replacement. I had already decided on the beer to be used while I was in Pivovarsky Klub on Friday night, having bought a bottle of Chodovar Tmavé Le?ák in anticipation. As a side note I should say that I really like the Chodovar range of beers, and when PK had the Skální Polotmavé on tap a few months ago I was in heaven.


Anyway, back to the cooking. Thus it was that I made my marinade:

Nice and simple:
  1. Mix together honey, mustard, a slug of the beer and chutney
  2. Score the meat and rub in the mixture
  3. Put in a tupperware container, fill with remaining beer
  4. Cover and put in the fridge overnight

Cooking - based on a 1kg piece of meat:




  1. Preheat oven to 220°C or the equivalent.
  2. Place meat and marinade in roasting tray, cover with foil and roast for 1 hour.
  3. Feel free to chuck in a bulb of garlic to roast as well.
  4. After an hour, remove the foil and continue roasting for 30 minutes.

I was hoping for a nice thick sauce to go with the meat, but I had to remove the juices in the pan and reduce them - I think sauce making is something I will have to look into more.


Mrs Velkyal and I had this served with just plain rice and she commented that I need to be more assertive with spices, although she liked the beery flavour of the sauce and the fact it had penetrated the meat. So definitely something I will be trying again, although I am certain it could be much better.



As for the drop of Chodovar I didn't use in the marinade, it tasted lovely and the bottle will be used in upcoming homebrew projects.



Old Friends: Joseph's Brau PLZNR

I have to admit that there really are not that many things that I miss as a result of this pandemic. I am sure that comes as something of a ...

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