In many ways, this month’s pairing is a neat bookend. This column began, five years ago today, with a pairing I still love: Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen and carne adovada, a Mexican pork stew that’s almost as potent and smoky as the beer itself.
Now, as the crew at Hop Burns & Black prepares to celebrate the shop’s sixth birthday – a rare feat in the fickle world of beer retail – it felt like a fitting time to make a return to those beginnings.
Yes, this is another meaty, spicy stew paired with a smoke-perfumed Rauchbier – though unlike the Schlenkerla, this particular beer was, for me, a pleasant new discovery. Klosterbräu Bamberg is a peer of Schlenkerla’s – both are based in Bamberg, brew according to tradition and have centuries of history to their names – but it’s much smaller, which means its beers are harder to get hold of. [Ed - so hard to get hold of, in fact, that we've actually now sold out of this beer - try a Schlenkerla or Spezial instead.]
And so, when I popped open this swing-top bottle, I did so for the first time. I was enamoured immediately. I often find smoky flavours can be heavy and blanketing, and they can snuff out any complexities underneath, but not here: when you sip, you can almost follow the trail of the smoke as it twines its way around the room and reaches for the wooden ceiling beams. In its wake, notes of chocolate, aniseedy liquorice and a savoury meatiness follow. Rauchbier is perhaps not a style that many drinkers think of as “subtle”, but this one wears its barbecue profile lightly and is impressively nuanced.
I don’t need to tell you that we’re now in the heart of soup season – it’s grey outside, raining more days than not and besides, it’s not like we’ve got anywhere to go. This month is the time for slowly simmering big pots of stew on the hob, and I’d like to nominate this spiced sausage, kale, and bean soup as your next comfort-food recipe.
This soup is an adaptation of New Yorker food writer Helen Rosner’s now-infamous "Roberto”. After Rosner published the recipe in January, it was suddenly all over my Instagram feed. The popularity was understandable. For one, it’s a tremendously versatile recipe, and Rosner’s style of food writing leaves plenty of room for each cook’s own adaptations. For another, it’s unfussy and satisfying on a soul-deep level with its juicy chunks of sausage, its pleasing textural contrast (those creamy beans, that toothsome kale) and its brick-red, fragrant broth.
It’s no surprise that Roberto and Klosterbräu Bamberg Rauchbier are such good friends. I’m thankful to the two of them for providing some much-needed comfort and assurance this November – and for picking up the threads of a five-year-long conversation.
Spiced Sausage, Kale and Bean Soup
Adapted from Helen Rosner
700g spiced pork (or vegetarian) sausage
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
Fine sea salt, to taste
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2–3 tablespoons tomato purée (tomato paste)
2 400g tins chopped tomatoes
1 400g tin butter or cannellini beans, drained
2 litres chicken (or vegetable) stock
1 large bunch cavolo nero or curly kale
1 tablespoon balsamic or red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
100g Parmigiano Reggiano, plus extra, to serve
Fresh parsley, roughly chopped, to garnish
- Remove the sausages from their casings: slice with a sharp knife, peel the casing away from the filling and discard. Using your hands or a knife, break the sausage filling into small, bite-sized pieces. Set aside.
- Place a Dutch oven or other large, lidded pan over medium heat. Add the olive oil. Once hot, add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, for 5–7 minutes, or until softened and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1–2 minutes more. Season with a generous pinch of salt and pepper.
- Next, turn the heat to medium-high and add the sausage pieces. Cook for
7-10 minutes, stirring semi-frequently, or until the sausages are completely cooked through and starting to darken and brown in places. Add the cayenne pepper and tomato purée, and mix to combine. Cook for 1-2 minutes more.
- Next, add the tins of chopped tomatoes, the drained tin of beans and the stock. Turn the heat to high and cook, stirring occasionally, until the soup begins to boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer.
- Meanwhile, prep the kale: slice or tear the leafy portions away from the tough stems, and discard the stems. Roughly chop the leaves into bite-sized pieces. Add to the soup and then place a lid on the pot. Leave to steam for 5 minutes; this will help the kale tenderise.
- Remove the lid and stir the kale through. Add the vinegar and Worcestershire sauce; grate over the Parmigiano Reggiano. Let the soup simmer for 20-30 minutes or until somewhat thickened and reduced, to allow the flavours to concentrate. If you like your soup a little thicker, continue to cook it down until it reaches your desired consistency.
- Taste the soup and add salt and pepper as needed. Divide between bowls and squeeze over the lemon, and grate over additional Parmigiano Reggiano. Garnish with the parsley and serve.
Claire M Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Our award-winning 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, and for more beers like this one, sign up for our All Killer No Filler subscription box here.