Travelling across the UK and Europe recently, my man was in his element tasting a new beer with food at every opportunity. While he normally wouldn't imbibe, he did enjoy washing down his meals with local beers. So when Ross Dobson's latest book, Food + Beer, arrived on the doorstep, he quickly dived into it and nodded in agreement with the author's summary "Food + Beer = Happiness".
'Beer is one of life's pleasures and the idea of enjoying food and booze together is by no means novel,' writes Dobson, the Sydney restaurateur and author of numerous books, in his introductory pages. Research suggests that the taste of beer alone is enough to trigger the release of a pleasure chemical in the brain, he says, explaining that this instant good feeling has nothing to do with the intoxicating effects of beer, rather it is the taste of beer alone that triggers activity in the brain's reward centres. 'Put food and beer together in one room and you have a pleasurable combo indeed'.
Beer + Food provides information on the history of beer and food matching, as well as suggestions for perfect pairings and features on Dobson's favourite beers from around the globe. In terms of recipes, there's food to help kick off social occasions: beer nuts, onion bhaji, pakoras, shredded duck pancakes, tapas wings and a fab Tex Mex salad - which is now a favourite at our place. Then we move on to little critters - chicken, duck, quail and rabbit - fried, curried, stewed and baked. Dobson's Thai barbecued chicken salad is a standard on the menu now, along with his lemongrass and turmeric grilled chicken.
In his chapter on bigger critters, the chef covers beef, pork and lamb, and several of these recipes are fortuitously gluten free. There's Irish stew, lamb shawarma, cowboy chilli, cuban sandwich, goulash, stroganoff, char sui pork, and lamb kefta kebabs - which proved to be hugely popular at a recent dinner party.
The quirkily titled chapter, Lillian Gish, is, of course, about fish and seafood. Dobson reckons beer and seafood is like peaches and cream. There's sambal prawns, Brazilian fish stew, fish curry and black pepper crab, to name just a few of the mouth watering offerings.
The final chapter covers beer's best friend. Carrier foods, such as noodles, rice, pasta and bread. Here we have dishes such as 'ants climbing trees', a Chinese stir fry comprising minced pork and bean thread noodles. Then there's Singapore noodles, dirty rice, char kway teow, and Thai fried rice.
Beer + Food is a cracker of a cookbook. One for the bookshelf as well as the Christmas gift list.
Food + Beer by Ross Dobson, $45.00, Murdoch Books. Thank you kindly to Ross Dobson and the publicity team at Murdoch Books for giving me the opportunity to review and road test this title.
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