From New York bagels to char-dappled Neapolitan pizzas to, duh, beer, my relationship with bread and grain-based products remains one of the longest and happiest of my life. You can trust me, then, when I say that you don’t have to be gluten-free to appreciate Burnt Mill’s Steel Cut Oat Pale Ale.
Made with oats, buckwheat, maize and sorghum, and then dry-hopped, this beer is an astonishingly good gluten-free rendition - so good, in fact, that I’d bet many blind tasters wouldn’t notice the difference. Given that Burnt Mill’s talented Head Brewer Sophie de Ronde is herself gluten-intolerant, you can understand the brewery’s motivation to pull off this feat. Bright with hop aromatics and laced with bitterness, Steel Cut is refreshing, food-friendly and - all things considered - remarkably complex.
A plateful of gluten-free comfort food is a fitting accompaniment to this beer. I love polenta for its optics - it looks like spilled sunshine on the plate - its ease and its sheer versatility. Top it with browned mushrooms (which pick up on the Steel Cut’s subtle, savoury edge), curls of Beaufort (an Alpine cheese that should appeal to fans of Gruyère), a sprinkling of thyme and a soft-boiled duck egg, its yolk like molten copper.
You don’t have to be a coeliac to appreciate a dish like this - but if you are, it’s hard to find more satisfying stuff to help ward off the winter blues.
Mushroom Polenta with Beaufort and Duck Eggs
Loosely adapted from a recipe by Ottolenghi
550ml chicken or vegetable broth
80g instant polenta (check packaging to ensure it’s been processed at a gluten-free facility)
90g unsalted butter, divided
40g shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
500g mixed mushrooms (chanterelles, chestnuts, shitakes, etc)
2 small cloves garlic, lightly crushed
1 tsp roughly chopped thyme leaves, plus additional for garnishing
40g Beaufort, thinly sliced
3-4 duck eggs (depending on number of servings; allocate one per person)
First, prep the polenta. Heat the broth in a medium saucepan until just boiling. Add the polenta in a steady stream, whisking continuously, to prevent it from clumping. Stir frequently until the mixture thickens, roughly 3-5 minutes. I prefer a more porridgey consistency; if you do too, add several more tablespoons of broth until the mixture is slightly looser. Add 30g of the butter and the Parmigiano, stirring well to combine, and season to taste with sea salt. Cover and set aside.
Next, prepare the mushrooms. Take a cast-iron or other heavy bottomed pan and heat on high until very hot. Add 30g of the butter and, as soon as it melts, add half of the mushrooms and the garlic. Try not to agitate them too much, as you want them to get golden and caramelised. Cook for several minutes, tossing occasionally; remove from heat and scatter over the thyme leaves. Season with sea salt and black pepper to taste. Repeat with the second batch of mushrooms and the remaining butter.
Finally, prepare the duck eggs. Bring a small pot of water to the boil and cook the duck eggs for six and a half minutes, or until perfectly soft-boiled. Remove from the pot and place in a bowl full of ice water for 30 seconds. Carefully peel and slice in half.
Ladle the polenta onto each plate and top with the mushrooms. Garnish with the slices of Beaufort, extra thyme leaves, and the duck eggs. Serve immediately.
Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen, and pick up a can of Burnt Mill Gluten Free Pale Ale while you still can.