Sussex

The Beer Lover’s Table: Chinese-Spiced Lamb Burgers and Burning Sky Petite Saison

When I lived in New York, I used to go to a local restaurant chain called Xi’an Famous Foods. And when I went to Xi’an Famous Foods, I always ordered the Spicy Cumin Lamb Burger.

Lamb burgers may sound most reminiscent of the Mediterranean, but they’ve long been a staple of central and western Chinese cooking. Typically, when making roujiamo, the lamb (or, frequently, pork) meat is marinated and slow cooked with a range of spices and aromatics before being roughly chopped (instead of minced) and served inside a flatbread called baijimo.

In adapting this recipe, I sought a way to preserve the dish’s flavours and sensibility, but to simplify its preparation. I used lamb mince, for starters, which makes preparing the patties a simple, 15-minute affair. And because baijimo aren’t readily available in London, pita works as an easily sourced alternative.

Unlike many burgers, this one isn’t a hulking behemoth. It’s slender, easily handheld, compact and enjoyable without weighing like a ton of bricks in your belly. It also doesn’t come slathered in various sweet or acidic sauces. Instead, that’s where the beer comes in.

Burning Sky’s fantastic Petite Saison – which, at just 3.5%, is a perfectly sessionable summertime quencher – almost acts like a final, finishing component to this dish. It’s bright and citrusy, just a little bit tart, and spiced with coriander and peppercorns. This mixed-fermentation saison also features a whisper of Brettanomyces (which should become more pronounced over time; this one was only bottled at the end of July) and was aged in white-wine barrels, which gives it enough complexity to match the lamb’s richness and gamey intensity. Together, the two offer an alternative – but no less delicious – way to enjoy a timeless, summertime burger-and-beer combo.

Chinese-Spiced Lamb Burgers
Serves 2

For the patties:
1 ½ teaspoons cumin seeds
1 ½ teaspoons Sichuan peppercorns
1 ½ teaspoons white peppercorns
250g (½ lb) lamb mince
3–4 garlic cloves, minced
4 spring onions, thinly sliced (white and dark green parts separated)
Small handful coriander, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil

To serve:
2 medium pitas
Small handful coriander, roughly chopped

1. Prepare the patties. Add the cumin seeds, Sichuan peppercorns and white peppercorns to a small, dry frying pan. Place over medium high-heat and toast, tossing frequently, for 2–3 minutes, or until fragrant. Remove from the heat and transfer to a spice grinder. Grind finely.

2. Add the ground spices, lamb, garlic, all of the white parts and half of the dark-green parts of the spring onions, the coriander, soy sauce, rice wine, and sea salt to a large bowl. Mix using your hands until evenly combined. Divide into two patties and pat into shape.

3. Place a large frying pan over medium-high heat and add both oils. Once hot but not smoking, add both lamb patties. Cook for approximately 4–5 minutes on the first side, or until golden-brown; flip and cook for 4–5 minutes on the reverse. Once cooked, remove from the heat and leave to cool for a few minutes.

4. Meanwhile, toast the pitas in a toaster until warmed but not brittle. Using a knife (or a pair of kitchen shears), gently cut halfway along the edge of the pita. Open the pocket gently; place one patty in each pita. Top with additional chopped coriander and divide the remaining dark-green spring onions between both. Serve immediately.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Our first book with Claire, The Beer Lover’s Table: Seasonal Recipes and Modern Beer Pairings, is out now and available in all good book stores (and at HB&B). Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen.

Fundamentals #29 — Beak Brewery Citra | Verbena | Nelson Sauvin IPA

A heap of breweries are boarding the haze train at the moment – next stop Juiceville USA.

Fascination with modern, aromatic US hop varieties, such as Citra or Mosaic is turning into obsession for some brewers. In fact, in terms of acreage, Citra recently overtook the original pioneer of American hops, Cascade. And there’s a whole host of new and interesting varieties coming such as Cashmere and Pekko now being made available to brewers, giving them the opportunity to push the flavour and aroma of their beer even further.

The problem with so many breweries investing heavily in the zeitgeist that is New England IPA, is that it can, on occasion, be difficult to tell one outfit's offer from another. Even worse, some great beer from lesser known producers can be overlooked. This is a travesty.

So the next time you’re desperate to fill you bag cans from Cloudwater, Verdant, Deya et al, save a little room in there for something new. A recent favourite of mine has been from Beak Brewery, a one man “cuckoo” brewing operation masterminded by brewer Daniel Tapper. Not being in possession of a brewery of his own, Tapper travels to other breweries – such as Missing Link Brewery in Sussex – in order to produce his beers.

One that recently found its way into my refrigerator was a New England IPA featuring Citra, Nelson Sauvin and, somewhat curiously, Verbena. I was interested to see how the herb would affect the flavour of this beer – and that was before I’d even taken the time to appreciate the delightful artwork on the label.

This IPA pours with that typically golden, opaque hue that has become such a welcome and familiar sight these days. The aroma is sweet, with hints of barley sugar clouding a little candied orange peel. As with the best New England IPAs, the beer’s body is far lighter than its appearance would suggest.

There are some fun flavours here – a little smoosh of orange, a prickle of gooseberry and an almost woody, herbal note from the Verbena near the dry finish. It’s just a hint of woodiness though, acting in a complementary way to the dry herbal prickle I typically find Nelson Sauvin adds to a beer, along with more obviously tropical notes like passion fruit and lychee.

If you’re looking to broaden your NEIPA perspective with something just a little bit different, this banger from Beak is a great way to do so.

You can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis as UK editor of Good Beer Hunting and on Twitter @totalcurtis. Pick up a can of Beak's Citra Verbena Nelson Sauvin IPA in store or online.

The Beer Lover’s Table: Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with Fried Sage and Hazelnut Relish and Burning Sky Saison L'Automne

From chestnuts to squash, autumn calls forth a bounty of seasonal ingredients that are all the more enticing for their ephemerality. But beyond all the pumpkins, the season’s arrival also heralds a slew of autumnal beers worth seeking out for the few short months that they can be found on the shelves.

Case in point: Burning Sky's elegant Saison L'Automne. Made with late-summer blackberries plucked from the wild brambles that surround the brewery, as well as pink peppercorns and grains of paradise, it pours the subtlest shade of blush in the glass. In the mouth, its fruit is subtle, too: a tart blackberry essence is just detectable, while a whisper of pepper rounds out each gulp.

Brewed with Burning Sky's house saison yeast, as well as brettanomyces and lactobacillus, the beer has a beautiful complexity now; leave it longer and it’ll only continue to evolve and incline further towards funkiness.

I like my saisons paired with cheese, whose richness they're adept at tempering, and what better way to turn cheese into a complete meal than a grilled cheese sandwich (or, for my British brethren, a toastie)?

Whatever you prefer to call it, this sandwich is made with two positively unctuous characters—Taleggio and Délice de Bourgogne, an exquisite triple crème cheese—as well as fried sage leaves (an excellent foil to blackberry) and a crunchy hazelnut relish.

Fancy enough to impress, but simple enough to make for yourself in 20 short minutes, it offers just the right amount of autumnal decadence—especially with this beer on the side.

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with Hazelnut Relish and Fried Sage Leaves
Serves 2

For the hazelnut relish:
50g blanched hazelnuts, toasted
3 1/2 tbs olive oil
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Generous pinch Maldon sea salt

In a food processor, pulse together all of the ingredients until the hazelnut is finely chopped and the mixture is well combined. Set aside.

For the fried sage leaves:
20g salted butter
20 fresh sage leaves

In a small frying pan, heat the butter over medium-high heat. As soon as it has melted, add the sage leaves in a single layer, making sure they aren't overlapping. Fry for approximately two minutes, or until the leaves have darkened in colour and have crisped.

Gently remove from the pan with a fork or slotted spoon, and allow to drain and cool on a paper towel for five minutes.

For the sandwiches:
4 large slices of bread, preferably a rustic sourdough
Salted butter, softened
100g Taleggio, rind removed
100g Délice de Bourgogne, rind removed (or substitute another triple crème cheese)

To assemble your sandwiches, first generously butter both sides of each piece of bread with salted butter. On one piece of bread (setting a second aside for the time being), build your sandwich fillings by layering half of the Taleggio and Délice de Bourgogne, topping off with a generous amount of relish and 10 fried sage leaves. Repeat with the second sandwich.

Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the two cheese-topped slices, bread-side down, pressing the second pieces of bread onto the top of each once in the pan. Cook on one side for approximately 3-4 minutes, or until the cheese is starting to get gooey and the bottom bread has gone a toasty golden brown; flip your sandwiches carefully and continue to cook on the opposite side for 2-3 more minutes.

When done, remove from the pan and let sit for a minute before slicing in half and serving.

Fundamentals #5 - Burning Sky Gaston Belgian-Style Pale Ale

When I started this column I figured it would be pretty easy to pick out an ingredient to write about in each beer I reviewed. Most modern beers I drink tend to focus on showcasing a single ingredient, be it the yeast in a Saison, hops in an IPA or malt in a Stout or Porter. Then along comes Burning Sky’s Gaston, the Sussex brewery’s take on a modern, Belgian-style pale ale. If you’re a fan of Brasserie de la Senne’s Taras Boulba, then trust me when I say that this is a beer for you.

I often hear people talk about how balance is the most important characteristic in any beer when judging its quality. For the most part I agree with this statement and the balance of malt, hop, yeast and water in Gaston is the kind of balance I seek in the beer I drink. The hops and the yeast are, in particular, vying for my attention in this beer. Both are flavourful to the point of being intense but at the same time show an elegant restraint, a characteristic that’s present in all of Burning Sky’s beers and puts them among some of the best in the country.

In the end, I couldn’t decide which to focus on, so instead I asked Burning Sky’s founder and head brewer Mark Tranter why the blend of hop and yeast in this beer works so well.

“The yeast and hops are equally powerful in this beer and the interaction between the two is really interesting,” Tranter says. “At a time when everyone’s getting their knickers in a twist over NEIPAs and Vermont yeast, we like to show our continued love for Belgian styles and hybrids.”

He continues, “The fruity, slightly sweet and phenolic Ardennes yeast, is a perfect platform for many types of pales, through to witbiers. For Gaston we chose to marry it with a blend of old and new world hops with a slight spicing in the kettle to accentuate the yeasts characteristics. For the dry hop, we chose varieties that would compliment and enhance the yeasts character; Saaz for an earthy/grassy note, Centennial for a more punchy lemon pith and finally Amarillo for a soft fruit like character. Drinkability is, as with all our beers, key - drinking a beer should be a joy, not an endurance test.”

I couldn’t have put it better myself. The soft fruity characteristics of the yeast work so well with a blend of earthy, spicy European and bright, citrus forward North American hops. The only bad news is that its only available during the Spring and Summer months, so enjoy it now while you can.

The fundamentals of beer are anything that makes up the sum of a beer’s parts. Water, barley, wheat, oats, sugars, yeast, bacteria and even adjuncts such as fruit or maize are all fundamental parts of what make up our favourite beers. You can find more from beer writer Matthew Curtis at his excellent beer blog Total AlesGood Beer Hunting and on Twitter @totalcurtis. Pick up a bottle of Burning Sky Gaston in store or online now.

#HBBAdvent Beer 15: Burning Sky Saison L'Automne (Sussex)

Burning Sky says: This worker's strength saison is our seasonal beer. The base recipe remains the same and uses the same strains of yeast as our Provision Saison but changes to reflect the seasons in the inspirational countryside that surrounds Burning Sky Brewery. The autumn hedgerows have been laden with rosehips this year and we have blended a large portion in to give a subtle perfume and enticing colour to the beer.

We say: We couldn't do an advent calendar without including Burning Sky. Hell, we'd buy an entire advent calendar consisting only of Burning Sky. We love this brewery. Burning Sky does everything well but saisons are a particular speciality - no one gets the funk like Mark Tranter and his team. This autumnal saison is especially well suited to drinking with food - we reckon it'd be a great match for our food writer Claire Bullen's column this week - or just enjoy on its own with your feet up. -Jen

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 Burning Sky Saison L'Automne in store or via our online shop.