Big-dog chef Andrew Clarke schools you in the dark, light, pale and hoppy art of cooking with brewskis. Photography: Scott Grummett
Andrew Clarke is a guy you should really, really listen to when it comes to food. It could be the dinner knife inked into his right hand, and the fork into his left. It could be the word ‘kohlrabi’ – a Sputnik-esque vegetable – scribed across his knuckles. It could even be the fact that he looks like he’s just exploded out of Heavy Metal Valhalla on the back of a Harley-Davidson, all fists pumping and plaited beard a-swinging. But above all that, it should be because of the culinary legacy of sh*t-hot in-demand eating outposts that lie in his wake, including Vauxhall’s lauded Brunswick House, and his new one, Jim’s Café – an all-day Clapton diner that looks as if it’s been plucked from the Twin Peaks universe, and that you’re already struggling to get into.
It’s this reputation for absolutely killing it in the kitchen – and, sure, OK, maybe a little bit of the Heavy Metal Valhalla thing – that should assure you that this is a chef you can let rewrite everything you thought you knew about beer, too. To shake up your sweet, sweet suds. Your sacred sauce. Your faithful medicine. Your liquid lover. To take beer, flip it on its head and make it… edible.
We’re not talking madcap Heston Blumenthal witchcraft with smoke and mirrors here, or month-long quests to distant lands to find mythical ingredients with unpronounceable names. That, Clarke says, isn’t what cooking with beer should be about. We’re talking outrageously easy-to-make comfort food, almost exclusively made up of foodstuffs you’ve likely left hanging in your fridge and cupboards. So damn easy to make, in fact, that two of these recipes came to our Norse warrior of a chef as random brainwaves during our day in the kitchen with him (we’ll leave it to you to decide which two they are).
“Cooking with beer has to be easy,” says Clarke, proving his point by coolly slamming a pair of Camden Town Pale Ales into his bratwurst masterpiece in front of us. “It should be a case of throwing things together without needing to over-think it.”
The following five recipes will more than prove it to you, too. We’re talking sausages worthy of the holy scriptures, the ultimate molten cheese session snack and a dessert so head-slappingly simple that you’ll never finish a dinner without one again. And they are all taken to the next level with a drop of the good stuff to bitter-up, lighten-up or just generally booze-up the end product. So tonight, crack open a few cold ones, take a sip and prepare to sink your teeth into some hoppy greatness…
Drunken pale ale bratwursts
You’re only ever 30 minutes away from a beer-drenched, german-inspired dinner that looks this good
• 2 cans Camden Town Pale Ale
• 2 onions, sliced
• 2 celery sticks, sliced
• 1 carrot, sliced
• 4 bay leaves
• 2tsp olive oil
• 500g sauerkraut
• 4-8 bratwurst sausages
1. Add the oil to a large pan on a medium heat, then add the veg and bay leaves.
2. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until soft (you don’t want them to colour).
3. Add the cooked veg mix to a large, deep tray. Stir in the sauerkraut, drop in the sausages and pour over the beer.
4. Place the lot into an oven for 15 minutes at 160C. Cook, but do not allow the sausage skins to split.
5. Remove from the oven, take out the bay leaves and palm it into your face with lashings of mustard, with or without a bread roll involved.
“This is beer cooking in its purest form. Look at it – drop some ingredients into a pot, pour in a couple of pale ales that you already have in the fridge, whack it in the oven, stick it in the centre of your dinner table with a stack of sliced hot dog rolls and a mountain of Dijon mustard, and you get stuck right in there. Let the bratwursts snap between your teeth as you chew, the pork juices ooze into the boozy sauerkraut juice and the bread mops up all that greatness. It shouldn’t be delicate, and it should never, ever be stressful.”
Drowning lager cheese dip
Bar snacks don’t come any better, boozier or gooier
• 2 bottles Brooklyn Lager (room temperature)
• 95g butter
• 1tbsp onion powder
• 1tbsp smoked paprika
• 85g plain flour
• 900g strong cheddar cheese, grated
• 1tbsp Dijon mustard
1. Melt the butter in a large pan, then add the onion powder and paprika and cook out.
2. Add the flour and cook for two minutes, making sure it doesn’t colour.
3. Slowly pour in the beer, whisking it until it forms a thick sauce.
4. Cook for 20 minutes on a low heat, stirring regularly and ensuring it doesn’t burn on the bottom.
5. Remove the sauce from the heat, and stir in the cheese until it’s all incorporated. Finish by stirring in the mustard. Add to a bowl, top with finely chopped red onion and chives, and serve with a fistful of pretzels to dip’n’scoop your heaven-sent golden goo with.
“This is a customer favourite at Jim’s Café. It’s the perfect drinking food. You have to cook with a strong, pungent lager though, and Brooklyn is ideal. Even after it’s cooked down and battled a strong aged cheddar, its flavour still has the cajones to show itself in the dish.”
Porter pickled onions with steak
Update your barbecue goals with the ultimate veg out
• 2 cans Beavertown Smog Rocket Smoked Porter
• 400ml malt vinegar
• 200g black treacle
• 100g malt extract
• 3 onions, quartered (skin on)
• 1 large onglet steak
1. To make the pickling liquor, heat the porter, vinegar, treacle and malt extract in a pan until the syrups are dissolved.
2. Add the quartered onions to your grill. Cook hard and fast, until black on the outside and around the edges, but slightly raw in the centre.
3. Remove the onions and discard the burnt skin. Separate the layers and add to the liquor. Leave to marinade.
4. Next cook your steak over a hot heat, until rare/medium rare. Leave to rest.
5. Slice the steak and season with salt, then engineer a giant heap of sweet, smoky and salty meat and onions.
“This proves that vegetables can be showstoppers too – it’s such a powerhouse that it manages to push a steak out of the spotlight.”
Stout-spiked turbo affogato
A bitter-sweet, malt-powered mealtime-finishing move to leave your guests stunned
• 1 bottle Redchurch Hoxton Stout
• 2 scoops of malt ice cream (or vanilla)
• 2 malted milk biscuits
1. Add two huge scoops of ice cream to a bowl or glass.
2. Garnish with the biscuits.
3. Slowly pour over the stout, ensuring you get a deep, dark pool of booze sitting at the bottom of your serving vessel. Eat by digging deep and ensuring you get a heady, heavy portion of ice cream and stout on your spoon. No messing about here, son.
“There’s a spectacular clash between the stout’s bitterness and the ice cream’s sweetness that’ll make you think about those insanely thick malted shakes in the States. And as a bastardised affogato, it’s outrageous. Who’s going to expect you to drench ice cream with dark beer after your main course? It’s a bit of fun, a bit show-offy and a big statement.”
IPA veggie pakora pile-up
Happiness is a dish best served in beer batter
• 1 can Northern Monk New World IPA
• Vegetable oil
• 1 handful curry leaves
• 200g gram flour
• 1 aubergine, sliced 2mm thick
• 1 courgette, sliced 2mm thick
• 1 handful of okra, sliced lengthways
• 1 red onion, quartered with layers separated
• 1 pepper, cut into thumb-sized pieces
• 1 parsnip, sliced 2mm thick
• 2 handfuls of Bombay mix
1. Heat the oil to 180C. Fry the curry leaves until crispy, then remove.
2. Create your pakora batter by working a small amount of IPA into the flour and making a paste, before slowly adding the rest of the IPA while stirring to stop lumps forming.
3. Drop the vegetables into the batter, then sink them in the hot oil. Cook for 20 seconds, or until golden. Remove and rest on kitchen paper.
4. Stack the vegetables on top of each other on a plate, season with sea salt, top with the curry leaves and throw on the Bombay mix.
“I go to a beach in Goa every couple of years with a stack of books, and eat food like this. It’s my good mood food. And with a batter lightened up with IPA? It’s Indian food with beer. This dish isn’t ever not going to work.”