beer and food Snacks to beer

Snacks to beer: Doner Kebab

Doner kebab sign, London
From Flickr Creative Commons, taken by Renaissancechambara.

We usually leave recipes to the experts but make the occasional exception when it comes to foods which are an inextricable part of our beer culture.

In Britain, after several beers, when everything else is closed, you can always rely on the kebab shop and everyone’s favourite guilty pleasure: lamb doner kebab. No-one would dream of eating one while sober. The great round of meat is often referred to as an “elephant leg” because it is so heavily processed that it’s hard to be sure exactly what it is composed of. Meat, fat and salt are the three main ingredients but beyond that… Asbestos? Industrial grease? Who knows.

Nonetheless, they are delicious, and we decided to make one at home so that we could feel a bit less grotty eating it.

We were inspired partly by Kenny McGovern’s The Take Away Secret although we ended up adapting his recipe substantially for our own. The main tip we picked up from McGovern is the importance of garlic powder. It’s the magic ingredient in most fast food.

beer and food

Spent-grain bread

Bread and chocolate stout
Bread and chocolate stout

Thanks to Bionic Laura at Aran Brew for this one. She’s just started all-grain brewing, and wanted to find something to do with all that spent brew, so she made soda bread with it.

We had to give it a go after our brew day (a nice light English ale, since you ask).  I kept back enough grain to do two batches.  This was a good job, as my first batch wasn’t that great – I think our grain was pretty moist, and so I shouldn’t have added so much milk.  It turned out very dough-like, even after 50 minutes of cooking.

I only added a cup of milk to the second batch, and this worked much better, although it was still quite moist.  Still, what I like about this recipe is it’s pretty good the next day, unlike most soda bread which has to be eaten fresh.  We’ll definitely be making it again.


beer and food

Things to do with crap beer (2) – beer-rye bread

I stumbled across this beer recipe when I was looking to replicate some of the lighter German rye breads we’d eaten on holiday. It’s now my favourite bread recipe. Even if it wasn’t handy for using surplus beer, it’s really easy, and makes fluffy yet strong tasting bread. I’m not a talented baker – I have a tendency to end up with bricks, but this one works for me every time, and it also stays fresh for at least three days.

The original recipe can be found here. It’s pretty simple, and you’ll get great results first time. However, having made it a few times now, I’d make the following notes / amendments.

1. Choice of beer.

The various comments on the recipe describe different beers used. I think you want to use a brown(ish) ale, but it doesn’t need to be a good one. I’ve had great results with a tin of John Smiths, a tired bottle of Spitfire, and also with one of our drinkable-but-dull homebrews. I don’t think it would work so well with lager. Stout would probably be great, but I rarely have any stout in the stash that I don’t want to drink.

2. Changes and substitutions for other ingredients

I’ve found that you need to add a bit more flour for the main bit of the bread than the recipe suggests – around 480g as opposed to 410g. Also, you can substitute some of the white flour with a bit more rye, or wholemeal, if that’s your thing. Up to a 100g substituted still makes a very fluffy bread. The dough is also pretty sticky, so make sure you have plenty of flour to keep the surfaces and your hands dough free.

20g of salt seems excessive – 10g is fine. Butter substitutes for shortening, whatever that is.

Finally, seeds work well in this – add around 20g of sunflower or pumpkin seeds after you’ve knocked the bread back.

3. Overnight preparation

It’s always a pain when a recipe calls for overnight prep – it usually means you need to be organised for two days. Fortunately, this recipe is very forgiving; a five hour prep is fine. Equally, on a couple of occasions I’ve forgotten about the bread and left the rye and beer mix to mature for over 48 hours. It’s still fine.

The overnight prep is actually pretty good from the perspective of using up crap beer though – if you’ve just opened a beer, and a few sips has convinced you that you don’t want to drink it, you’ll probably have enough left (355ml) for the recipe. Just bung some flour and yeast in, and leave…

4. Rising & cooking time

The risings given in the recipe seem a bit optimistic, although that could be because I’m using old yeast. I’ve needed from 3-4 hours for the first rise, and around 2 hours to raise the loaves once you’ve knocked them back. This can be a bit difficult to fit into an evening, so there’s nothing wrong with letting it rise slowly overnight, or doing two rises.

With a fan assisted oven, you only need to cook it for about 20 minutes at 180degC. And don’t forget to slash the loaf before you put it in the oven!

5. Quantities

The original recipe suggests this makes two loaves, but if you’re using a standard oblong loaf tin, the recipe will make one loaf and 2-3 rolls. I would use an oblong tin in future as it looks neater and prettier – the picture above is of a free-form version, which tends to expand sideways rather than upwards…


Snacks to beer

Snacks to Beer: the kebab!

Yes, this is the big one.

Kebabs are intrinsically associated with beer in many European countries. We don’t know about Germany where the vertically-grilled doner originated, but in Britain, they’re more-or-less only eaten by drunk people.

They’re different all over the continent, of course. In Germany, they favour a fluffier, lighter ‘fladenbrot’. In Britain, it’s usually a boring old pitta bread. Our local is run by Mauritians, though, who (weirdly) do the best naan breads in London, which is what they use as the base for their kebabs. That’s covered in grilled meat, stacks of veg, yoghurt and lethal chilli sauce.

When it’s done, you’re left with a polystyrene box full of bright red grease.

We know kebabs are bad for us, but that doesn’t stop us craving them from time to time. For the sake of our hearts, though, we’ve learned to make a slightly healthier version at home.

Here’s the recipe.

Snacks to beer

Pretzels — the definitive recipe

I’ve been trying to work out how to make proper German-style pretzels for a couple of years now. They’re just perfect with a pint — filling, salty and, well, German.

Today, I finally nailed it.

There are lots of recipes around and I tried most of them, but none quite seemed to do the trick. The texture was never quite right – it should be chewy on the outside and fluffy in the middle. Our recent trip to Germany only made me more determined to crack the problem — I couldn’t bear the thought of waiting until our next holiday to have another pretzel!

Boak did manage to find authentic pretzels in a German bakery on the Brompton Road and it was inspecting one of those that helped me perfect my recipe.

Almost any fluffy white dough will do. The tricks are all in the finishing. Specifically, the shape you roll the dough into before you make the famous pretzel shape; the fact that you boil it before baking; coating it with a solution of bicarbonate of soda [UPDATE: use about one level teaspoon of bicarb]; and slashing the top with a knife.

Recipe after the jump.