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For more than 2 600 years beer has been brewed here at the tip of Africa. While everyone knows that beer goes well with a braai or shisa nyama, not many know that it works well with other foods too.
With the sun-drenched, cheery glitter of South Africa’s summer upon us, South African Breweries Limited (SAB) partnered with local culinary expert, Chef Citrum Khumalo, to share a few local, home-grown recipes and how to pair them with different beers.
Before pairing beer with food, it is important to know that the processes that go into the making of each are, in fact, very similar.
There is a natural tendency for certain types of beer to complement food that has been through similar processes. Much of beer’s flavour is derived from the cooking process during the malting phase, when barley is converted to malt.
Like wine, beer has a number of characteristic tastes that are likened to other tastes with which we are familiar.
Some beers, for example, have a very fruity taste, with overtones of banana or citrus. Others have a malty taste, while some are bitter.
Generally, when matching beer and food, try to pick out the flavours in the beer that match or contrast with those in the dishes.
Also look out for subtle flavours – beer can also be assessed by how complex or “heavy” the flavours are on the palate.
Light beers go well with salads or light fish dishes, while complex beers, go well with heavier, intensely flavoured foods such as hearty stews or sausages.
“There is an Egyptian proverb that has it that the mouth of a perfectly happy man is filled with beer – couple that with mouth-watering South African dishes and you have a winning summer combination,” says Khumalo as he gets to work creating a sizzling chicken sausage stuffed with mogodu and bacon.
According to Kate Jones, SAB Trade Brewer, “there are a few useful ground rules when pairing food with beer and for those bound to the wine-pairing school of thought it is useful to think of ale as red wine and lager as white wine.
“To begin with, seek compatibility: beer and food combinations often work best when they have some flavour or aroma elements in common. The herby bitterness of hops in beer goes well with food that is slightly spiced, like cooked meat or fish.
“Try to match beer strength with food strength.
“Put simply, delicate dishes work best with delicate beers, and it is equally true that strongly flavoured foods demand assertive beers.”
The creation of food and the brewing of beer can be likened to a steamy alchemy of sensations and flavours.
While creating this potent mix it is important to remember that taste is very subjective and what works for one person may not work for another.
Jones continued, “Consider sweetness, bitterness, carbonation, heat and richness. Specific characteristics of food and beer interact with each other in predictable ways. Taking advantage of these interactions ensures the food and beer will balance each other.
“The more hop bitterness the beer has, the heartier or livelier the meal needs to be to hold its own, while foods that are full of flavour can be paired with beers of a slightly higher alcohol content.
“Key to the success of any meal is to experiment with contrasting and complimentary pairings. Match foods with complimentary flavours or contrast them to create a slew of unique results.”
Below, Khumalo shares six uniquely South African dishes:
Baby Braai potato, rocket and Jalapeno salad
1kg new potatoes
2 whole garlic cloves
150ml olive oil
200g jalapeno peppers
A bunch of rocket
Zest of a lemon
Juice of a lemon
3 tomatoes blanched, seeded and cut into wedges
A pinch sugar
30g pink peppercorns crushed
Mix 15g of peppercorns with 50ml olive oil, lemon zest and juice of the lemon. Cut potatoes in half and toss them in the oil mixture. Leave them in the mixture for 30 minutes.
Get your braai to medium-hot. If your braai grid has big gaps, layer foil on top, then throw potatoes and whole garlic cloves on to the foil, turning them all the time to avoid burning, until they are soft. Remove from heat, peel garlic and set aside.
In a mixing bowl, vigorously whisk 30ml vinegar, 90ml olive oil, mustard and a pinch of sugar to make a vinaigrette (salad dressing). Season with salt.
In a big bowl, toss potatoes, half a packet of rocket, jalapeno, garlic and tomato wedges. Moisten with vinaigrette. Arrange on a platter, top with remaining rocket and sprinkle some walnuts on top.
Piquant and pepperoni beer bread
400g all-purpose flour
2¼tsp baking powder
½tsp dried coriander
¼tsp baking soda
¼tsp crushed black pepper
1½ cups grated mozzarella cheese
1 cup diced pepperoni
½ cup piquant peppers diced, with all water drained
¼ cup chopped sundried tomatoes
2 large eggs
¾ cup beer
¼ cup olive oil, plus extra for coating pan
Heat the oven to 180C and place rack in the middle. Generously coat a metal 22.5cm by 12.5cm loaf pan with olive oil. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and coat the paper with oil; set aside. Whisk the flour, baking powder, oregano, salt, baking soda and pepper together in a large bowl until aerated and any large lumps broken up. Add the cheese, pepperoni, piquant peppers and tomatoes, and toss in the flour mixture until the pieces are separated and evenly coated; set aside.
Place the eggs, beer and measured olive oil in a medium bowl and whisk until smooth. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir until the flour is just incorporated, being careful not to over-mix (a few streaks of flour are OK). The batter will be very thick.
Using a rubber spatula, scrape the batter into the prepared pan, pushing it into the corners and smoothing the top. Bake until the bread is golden brown all over and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean (test several spots because you may hit a pocket of cheese), about 40 to 45 minutes.
Place the pan on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the perimeter of the bread and turn it out on to the rack. Remove and discard the parchment paper. Let the bread cool for at least 30 minutes more before slicing.
Chicken sausage with a traditional stuffing
1 whole chicken
200g-lamb mogodu (tripe) cooked to soft and roughly chopped
4 slices of fresh breadcrumbs
2 handfuls of fresh oregano
4 rashers of bacon grilled and cut into small pieces
1 stack of celery
4 cups beer
Kitchen string/ twine
Debone chicken and flatten it. Season with salt, pepper and lemon. In a bowl, mix chopped mogodu, breadcrumbs, bacon and one handful of oregano. Spread mixture over the flattened chicken and roll to a sausage, tie with kitchen twine. Roll chicken in oregano and lemon mixture, and place on medium coals. Cook on coals for about an hour, basting with the oregano mixture. If chicken browns too quickly wrap in foil and continue cooking.
In a pot, roast chicken bones until brown, add vegetables and continue cooking. Add beer and let reduce until it starts to thicken. Strain and put back on to the stove. Season with salt and pepper, and whisk in butter. Serve with dumplings or rice.
Chilli, Skop & Beer terrine
1 whole cow skop (head)
I packet of mild chillies
1 bunch celery
3 cans of Castle Lite
½ bunch parsley
1 cup red wine
3 roasted red peppers, peeled
200g deseeded red chilled
Sponge/bloom 120g gelatine or aspic with 1lt stock from the skop or broth. Warm it up until it dissolves.
Line a terrine mould with plastic.
Cook the skop with celery, whole chillies, parsley, beer and red wine until soft. Take off the heat and cool.
Once cool flake the meat into small pieces. Press meat into terrine mould followed by chillies and red peppers. Pour a ladle full with broth and gelatine.
Refrigerate until almost set, follow with another layer of meat and continue with layers as you desire. Place in the fridge until completely set.
Baked oriental lemon, chive and dill yellow tail with mushrooms
1 whole yellowtail fillet
2 fresh lemons
1 bunch of chives
80ml olive oil
5 parsley springs
2tsp fish sauce
I tsp oyster sauce
Salt and pepper
1kg button mushrooms
Kebab skewers soaked in water for half an hour
Melt together 100g salted butter, 2tbs chives and juice of a lemon. Get braai to medium hot.
Make a paste using wasabi, fish sauce and oyster sauce, season with salt and pepper. Cut lemons in wedges. In a bowl combine wedges of lemons and chives with the paste. Smear it over the fish and let rest for 10 minutes. Wrap fish with foil and cook over medium coals for about 12 minutes.
Season mushrooms with lemon salt and pepper, and push mushrooms on to the skewers. Grill them on high-heat coals.
Remove fish from the foil and cut to desired portions. Remove mushrooms from the skewers and serve drizzled with lemon and chive butter.
Striped chocolate cheesecake
20 pieces crackers or any type of biscuits
1/3 cup melted butter
¼ cup caster sugar
125g butter softened
4 cups yoghurt hanged for two hours in a cheese cloth
11/2 cup caster sugar
2tsp lemon juice
60g dark chocolate
Crush crackers or biscuits into crumbs, then mix in butter and sugar with your fingertips. Press into base of 20cm loose-bottom cake tin. Bake in a preheated oven for eight to 10 minutes. Beat butter until smooth and add hanged yoghurt and sugar. Beat well. Sponge gelatine in a ¼ cup of water and 2tsp of lemon juice and let it sit for about 10 minutes. Dissolve this in the microwave. Add 5tbs yoghurt mix to the gelatine, then slowly add the gelatine to the remaining yoghurt mix. Mix well.
Divide mixture into two parts. Cut the chocolate into small pieces. Add a cup of water and keep it in a heavy pan over a very low heat. Stir until melted properly and then add half of the melted chocolate to half the mixture. Pour the chocolate curd mixture on the cracker base in the tin. Chill in the freezer for half an hour. Pour the remaining mixture on top of the chocolate and chill in the fridge. When chilled properly, pour the remaining chocolate and chill until it is time to serve. - The Mercury