Considering I spent all weekend, every weekend for four years working at the amazing Feral Brewing Company in my native Swan Valley, my exhaustion is really quite pathetic. That being said, I loved every second of the feet-blistering toil, as not only was the festival a great event for California Wine Imports to be involved in, but it was a great opportunity for the lads to see the enthusiasm of the public for the products they import.
The Taste festivals have been much maligned this year and it is not difficult to see why. At €28.50 in Dublin, the entry fee for many is prohibitively expensive for one of the two daily four hour sessions. Much has been posted elsewhere criticising the portion sizes, the variety and the quality of this year’s food so I am not going to labour the point. The event this year, how ever brutal on the wallet benefited from the amazing weather, and had a wonderful festive vibe. It has seemed to develop into somewhat of an open-air picnic rather than a structured sampling fair, which for the style of our stall worked perfectly, being that we tried to approach beer and wine tasting in a unpretentious and relaxed way.
On Sunday afternoon I took a break from beer tastings at the stand to attend the Ballymaloe cooking school. The featured recipe was a warm salad of poached egg and gubeen bacon, essentially a Caesar Salad. The whole experience was very enjoyable and a great opportunity to practice my dressing making skills, which I put to use the next day to make a bacon and beetroot salad with leaves from our garden.
Beetroot and bacon salad with anchovy aioli
1 large free range egg yolk from a happy chook
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 medium garlic clove, crushed or grated
1 pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3 flat anchovies, mashed
1 teaspoon mustard powder
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
In a bowl, mix the Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, garlic, salt & pepper, anchovy and mustard powder. It is helpful to put a folded teatowel under the bowl to stop it jiggling around.
Add egg yolk and whisk vigorously until smooth, or as smooth as mooshed anchovies get!
Slowly add the oil down the side of the bowl in a steady stream, constantly whisking until smooth. Do not add the oil too quickly. (A great tip from the cookery school is to add using a jug, wrapping your hand firmly around the base to control the flow.)
The dressing should be thick, slightly yellow and glossy. It will keep for a week in the fridge. You could of course use a food processor but the hand whisking is great for the biceps!
Beer and food matching at the Beer Naturally Academy
I also attended the Beer Naturally academy with Beer Sommelier Marc Stroobandt. Although sponsored by the big beer companies, Marc did not dwell on the brands as such, rather really drove home the message of food and beer matching, a topic dear to my heart! I was fortunate to share a bottle of Big DIPA with him and others later and pick his brain about the evolution of the beer drinker and what he enthusiastically described as the 'beer revolution'. His view, which I disagree with to some extent is that it is better to let the big guys blaze the trail, and for craft brewers and importers to come in on their coattails. It is hard to reconcile this theory with the realities of the Irish beer market, in which the macro-brews have a stranglehold on much of the bar and off sale trade. The niche that micro- and craft brews occupies in Ireland is because these beers are special, unique and are set apart both in terms of quality and taste from the mass produced staples of taps and fridges all over the country. That being said, the campaign purports to be targeting the non-beer drinker and does have some great recommendations for beer and food matching, even if some of the styles referenced are not produced by the corporations sponsoring the campaign. It will be interesting to see whether the campaign evangelises many beer converts over the coming months.
One of the cutest (and admittedly most gimmicky) things about the Beer Academy was the tiny Guinness pint, served with a moist chocolate tart. Chocolate and Stout...two of my favourite things.
Chocolate tart served with the tiny Guinness below
Double Chocolate Tart
200g Green and Blacks 72% chocolate
50g plain flour
500g chocolate pastry (I make this the day before)
75g butter, softened or melted
100g golden caster sugar
cocoa for dusting
Heat the oven to 180c.Melt the chocolate over a double boiler, or a bowl suspended over a simmering saucepan of water.
Bake the pastry blind for 12 minutes. Do not, as I have done previously use rice for this. Even if protected with a baking sheet it will find some way of embedding itself in the crust, causing panic when eaten and mistaken for a broken tooth!
Hand mix 3/4 of the melted chocolate with the eggs, butter, sugar and flour. I often only soften the butter, and allow the heat from the melted chocolate to do the rest of the work.
Pour into the pastry case. Bake for 10-12 minutes until barely set. The tart should have a tiny wobble when shook side to side in the oven.
Decorate with the remaining chocolate and dust with cocoa. Serve with raspberries and double cream, but only a little bit as it is so rich!