Add New Tastes to your Cooking with the Addition of a Dash of Beer

Beer is not just the working man's drink. Beer has a great many uses not the least of which is cooking. All Belgiums are familiar with Carbonnade à la Flamande, a thick stew of which beer is an ingredient. Beer makes an excellent addition to marinades and when used in baking, the result is a more moist texture and a longer lasting product.

Different beers give different flavours, different strengths of flavour and different aromas. Non-alcoholic and light beers will not normally give such a good flavour or as much body to a dish but with a little experimentation, you will be bound to find a suitable beer for your recipe.

Firstly, a recipe for soup. You need to soak raisins in beer for this recipe so plan on doing that well ahead of completing the soup – at least half an hour but preferably overnight.

Apple potato soup

For 6-8 servings, you'll need:

¼ cup raisins
12 oz bottle of light pilsner beer
¼ lb butter
1 onion
2 cooking apples
2 medium sweet potatoes
1 tablespoon curry powder
2 teaspoons fresh ginger root, finely minced
1 inch cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
3-4 cups stock
1/3 cup apple juice concentrate
salt, white pepper and cayenne pepper to taste

  • Soak raisins in the beer overnight.
  • Dice the onion, core and dice the apple but leave it unpeeled. Peel and finely dice sweet potatoes.
  • Melt butter in a frypan. Add the onion and sauté for about four minutes. Add the diced apple and sauté another 3 to 4 minutes. Add the curry powder and cook, stirring, for 8 minutes then add the ginger and cook another minute or two.
  • Drain and raisins. Sprinkle flour over the apple mix and cook over low heat for a minute then gradually add the drained beer. Cook until hot and smooth. Taste at this point to ensure there is no floury taste. Cook al ittle longer if need be. Add raisins, place in a food processor and process till smooth.
  • Spray a heavy soup pot with cooking spray. Mix stock, apple juice concentrate, soy sauce and cinnamon stick. Bring to the boil, add sweet potato. Reduce to a simmer and cook about half an hour by which time the potatoes should be tender.
  • Remove the cinnamon stick and stir in the puree. Taste for spiciness and adjust seasonings if necessary. When serving, top with a dollop of yoghurt.
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Yummy Lamb Shanks

For 2 servings:

2 lamb shanks
2 tablespoons cooking oil
¾ teaspoon salt
½ cup beer
bouquet garni
½ cup sour cream
2 tablespoons capers

  • Brown lamb shanks well. Pour off the residue then add all ingredients bar the cream and capers. Cover and simmer on the stove top for about 1 ½ hours or until shanks are tender.
  • Alternatively they can be baked, covered for about the same time at 325oF.
  • Transfer the shanks to a deep plate. Skim fat from the broth and add sour cream and capers to make the sauce.

And finally a great cake to finish with.

Bundt PanCredit: Wikimedia - Author David Benbennick

Cherry Upside-Down Cake

This beautifully light and delicious cake is made in a Bundt pan. Maraschino cherries are placed on the bottom and the batter poured on top.

The beer gives an added richness to the cake.

You will need:

¾ cup maraschino cherries
2 cups self-raising flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
good pinch salt
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 cup cherry wheat beer, or cherry lambic or a light, sweet porter
1 cup icing sugar

  • Take the eggs out of the fridge for a few hours before starting on the cake. You will get a better result if the eggs are at room temperature.
  • Preheat oven to 375oF. Grease and flour a Bundt cake pan. Cut about 18 of the cherries in half. Place them in the bottom and up the sides of the small channels of the pan. Chop the rest of the cherries, dry between paper towels and set aside.
  • Beat the eggs on high speed until thick and light (about 4 to 5 minutes). Gradually add the sugar until combined then add the vanilla. Fold the sifted flour, baking powder and salt into the mixture with a large spatula.
  • Heat the beer until bubbles form around the edge of the pan. Add the warm beer and melted butter to the cake mix, stirring gently. Carefully pour the batter onto the cherries then sprinkle the chopped cherries over the top. (They will sink but that's okay.)
  • Bake for 30 minutes and allow to cool on a rack for another 10 minutes. Loosen the edges with a thin spatula, turn onto a plate and allow to cool. To make the icing, whisk icing sugar and 2 tablespoons of beer until smooth. Drizzle the icing in between the rows of cherries.

Next time you're buying beer, include a can or extra for the kitchen larder.