Pale ale

The Beer Lover's Table: Persimmon, Prosciutto & Burrata Toast with Track Brewing Sonoma Pale Ale

We tend to think of citrus - palm-sized clementines, sweet tangerines, piquant blood oranges - as winter's bounty. But too often we overlook the persimmon. Similar in size and hue to an orange, persimmons are honeyed and decadent, jammy with sugar when at their peak stage of ripeness. The ancient Greeks thought of them as the food of the gods,
and little wonder why.

I came up with this recipe when seeking a use for almost-but-not-quite-ripe persimmons (when fully ready, they redden, turn heavy with juice, and look almost bruised). I used hachiya persimmons, which are tall and heart-shaped, where fuyu persimmons are squatter and more tomato-like; hachiyas also happen to be astringently tannic when unripe. To guarantee their sweetness, I sliced the fruit thinly and fried it lightly in butter, until the former caramelised and the latter browned.

Though this dish feints towards warmer weather, with its caprese-esque pairing of basil and burrata, the brown-butter fried persimmon, Prosciutto and brown sugar-candied walnuts confirm its wintry origins. I love it for its ease, for its quick dose of February sun, and for the fact that it can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Just as this toast is an anytime dish, so Track's Sonoma Pale Ale is an anytime beer. At just 3.8% ABV, it's sessionable and refreshing, though its hop bill makes for an herbaceous, grassy complexity, with a bit of citrus on the nose. It's one guaranteed food-friendly beer, and pairs seamlessly here.

Persimmon, Prosciutto & Burrata Toast
Serves 2

100g walnuts, roughly chopped
50g unsalted butter, divided
30g light brown sugar
1 almost-ripe hachiya persimmon
1 small lobe of burrata
2 large slices good sourdough bread
4 slices Prosciutto di Parma
Basil, to garnish
Freshly ground black pepper, to garnish

First, make your candied walnuts. Heat a small frying pan over medium-high heat and add the walnuts, 20g of butter, and the sugar all at once. Stir constantly with a spatula; the sugar and butter will soon melt. Cook for five minutes, stirring continuously, until the nuts have turned golden, the mixture has darkened,and it smells like toasty toffee. Take off the heat and pour the nuts onto a pan lined with parchment paper. Spread evenly in a single layer so they don't harden into big clumps. (Note: You'll likely have some leftover walnuts, which is a very good thing - they are an excellent snack.)

Next, use a paring knife to remove the top of the persimmon. Slice the fruit thinly, into roughly quarter-inch slices. Heat the remaining 30g of butter in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. As soon as the butter has melted, add the persimmon slices in a single layer. Cook approximately 2-3 minutes per side. When finished, they should be softened, lightly caramelised, and the butter should have turned nut-brown. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Slice two thick pieces of sourdough, and toast until golden. Top each piece with a generous glop of burrata, spreading it to the edges. Sprinkle the candied walnuts across both pieces, and top with the persimmon slices. Arrange the prosciutto around the fruit, and drizzle extra brown butter from the pan across both slices. Finish with a few bright basil leaves and a twist or two of black pepper.

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 bottle of Track Sonoma in store or online. This Saturday 24 Feb, come meet the Track team in store from 2-4pm.

The Beer Lover’s Table: Mushroom Polenta And Burnt Mill Steel Cut Gluten Free Oat Pale Ale

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
Serves 3-4

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.

#HBBAdvent Beer 17: Redchurch Bethnal Pale Ale (London)

Redchurch says: Big bold and surprising This is our interpretation of the classic pale ale. You’ll sense fresh fruit flavours with a rich caramel smoothness and a lasting bitterness on the finish. Brewed using the very best Maris Otter pale malt and an adventurous blend of American and New Zealand sourced hops. 

We say: Bethnal Pale is a wonderful well rounded London pale ale with soft fruity notes. A true pleasure to return to again and again. Sometimes the best beer is right under your nose. - Glenn

Each night, we'll reveal the day's hand-picked beer from our Big Beery Advent Calendar. Feel free to comment below or have your say on Twitter or Instagram (#HBBAdvent). Find Redchurch Bethnal Pale Ale in store or via our online shop.

#HBBAdvent Beer 8: Brew By Numbers 21|03 Pale Ale Citra Amarillo Mosaic (Bermondsey)

Brew By Numbers says: 21|03 is vibrantly juicy, thanks to being hopped with Citra, Amarillo and Mosaic, but it’s more than its hop bill that sets this pale ale apart. It’s noticeably hazier than our previous two pales. Its natural fruit-juice-haze confirms its unapologetically single-minded flavour profile.

We say: Earlier this year, some of the folk from BBNo brought us a flagon of their new, not-yet-for-sale Pale Ale to try. That first brew was a juicy banger, but 21|03 has been our favourite iteration so far. This is how you do a tropical fruit beer. It’s murky, but get over it and enjoy. - Catherine

Each night, we'll reveal the day's hand-picked beer from our Big Beery Advent Calendar. Feel free to comment below or have your say on Twitter or Instagram (#HBBAdvent). Find BBNo Pale Ale Citra Amarillo Mosaic in store or via our online shop.

No More Heroes XXV – Tuatara Sauvinova

The memory of my first experience drinking Tuatara beer is crystal clear. It was early 2014 and I was staying with family in the town of Whangamata, near the Coromandel, on New Zealand’s North Island. I’d been without a gloriously hoppy beer for several days, having only had ubiquitous “NZ Draught” beers such as Lion Red and Double Brown available to me where we were originally staying. There’s nothing inherently wrong with these beers, other than they taste of very little, and by this point I was desperate for something more.

I headed into Whangamata Town to find something more interesting, and picked up a 12-pack of Tuatara’s Aotearoa Pale Ale, as it was the most interesting thing I could find in the bottle shop. New Zealand takes cold beer seriously - the liquor store I made my purchase from had a walk-in cold room where it stored its beer - so when I got back to our apartment the beer was already nicely chilled. I opened the box to find 12 shining lizard eyes printed on the bottle caps staring up at me. I pulled a bottle out, with ridges that model those of New Zealand's native Tuatara lizard, and cracked the top.

Few breweries have the time or resources to invest in custom bottles like these and I feared that this beer might be all style over substance. I was wrong. Aotearoa was singing with the gooseberry and passion fruit flavours of New Zealand hops. At the time it felt like the beer I had been searching for my entire life.

Today’s beer, the single-hopped Sauvinova, focuses the intense flavours of the Nelson Sauvin hop into a vibrant pale ale. The tropical and gooseberry flavours are defined in a manner that makes it easy to see why this hop took its name from the Sauvignon grapes that made New Zealand wines famous. This beer is definitely one to try, whether you're just a fan of your hop-forward pale ales, or if you’re a wine lover that’s looking for a little more complexity in your beer.

Music Pairing – Oasis: Champagne Supernova
If you weren’t at Hop Burns & Black for the latest installment of our No More Heroes live events, Manchester, So Much To Answer For, then you missed a treat. Not only did we taste through six excellent beers selected by Marble’s Head Brewer James Kemp, but we also played some of our favourite tracks by Manchester bands.

Today sees the start of IndyManBeerCon, one of my absolute favourite beer festivals. As you read this I’ll be on the train to Manchester to get involved. As a young music lover, I played a lot of Oasis, but the older I got the more I fell out with their seemingly Beatles obsessed shtick. I recently returned to their first two albums and wondered why it took me so long to listen to them again. This track, from 1995’s What’s The Story (Morning Glory) is an anthem that sits neatly alongside the euphoric New Zealand hop aromas in this week's beer.

You can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis at the excellent beer blog, Total Ales, and Good Beer Hunting, and on Twitter @totalcurtis. Pick up a bottle (or more) of Tuatara Sauvinova Single-Hopped Pale Ale via our online shop and get it delivered to your door.

Big Beery Advent Calendar - Beer 19: One Mile End Salvation Pale Ale, 4.4% (London)

Each night at 8pm, we'll post a blog about the day's hand-picked beer in our Big Beery Advent Calendar - why we love the brewery, why we've chosen the beer, why we think you'll love it too. Feel free to comment below or have your say on Twitter.

One Mile End says: "Brewed with malted Maris Otter barley, a small amount of wheat and lots of US hops. This beer has an aroma of grapefruit and orange, mixed with a balanced bitterness and a slightly sweet finish."

We say: Our one complaint with One Mile End - the tiny microbrewery that lives under the White Hart Pub in Whitechapel - is that they never brew enough of the beer we love. All this is set to change, however, as the brewery is on the move to new, bigger premises, which is great news as it means MOAR BEER. Bad news in the short term is that you won't find this luscious pale ale in store while they make the move. Stand by for more One Mile End action in 2016.