Thursday, 26 November 2015

Recipe: Brewer's Banana Bread - with Spent Grain

I'm a bit of a hoarder.

Our shed and both attics are chock-full of all kinds of books, electronics and other items from our past because I hate the idea of throwing out anything just in case I might need it. This affliction has also had an affect on the food, drink and leftovers in the house too, as we try as much as possible to use, re-use, freeze or pickle anything that's hanging around in the darker recesses of the various food compartments.

This reached a new disturbing level a few months back when I started drying vacuum and packing some of the spent grains left over from my homebrew mash.

But what to do with them? My previous attempt at flapjacks turned out pretty good so I decided to press on to something more akin to proper baking, which I'm normally not too good at to be honest, but after a bit of trial and error (Mostly error to be honest!) I ended up with this recipe.

I'm pretty happy with it in general but feel free to tweak it to suit your taste. I used a porter grain that had a chocolatey character but you could add chocolate chips instead of the sultanas ... or perhaps some nuts either.




150g Softened Butter
75g Soft Dark Brown Sugar
75g White Sugar
175g Self-Raising Flour
100g Spent Grain
2 Eggs
2 Ripe Bananas
40g Sultanas

  • Preheat the oven to 175C
  • Butter the base and sides of a 22cm x 11cm x 6cm loaf tin
  • Beat the butter and sugars in a large bowl until well mixed
  • Blend in the flour, spent grain and eggs
  • Mash the bananas, add to the bowl and mix well
  • Finally fold in the sultanas
  • Bake for an hour or so but I'd advise checking after 50 mins by inserting  a skewer to see if it's baked - if it comes out clean the bread is done!
  • Leave to rest and cool before slicing. It can be served as is or sliced, toasted and buttered if you're up to it! (By the way, the texture is quite light and loose so take care when cutting it.)

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Savour Kilkenny 2015 (Part 2): Beer vs Wine II - Decanted Banter

As we sat watching Caroline, Colm and Pascal set up for their showdown, I wondered whether we were appearing too eager, like giddy kids fidgeting in the front row of a pop concert. No one else was seated even though the entertainment was due to start in fifteen minutes, which surprised me somewhat as I assumed the event would be well attended. I was also a little surprised that Savour didn't put an 'Up Next ...' chalkboard or poster on the stage to let those wandering through the large marquee - where it was being held - know what was about to happen.

But perhaps they were right, as with the stage literally set, the seats around us started to fill up and pretty soon it was standing room only as the latecomers squeezed in at the back of the seating area. Sláinte author (along with Kristin Jensen) Caroline Hennessy and sommelier Colm McCan took to the stage, with the  Pascal Rossignol of Le Caveau acting as an over qualified bottle opener and glass dispenser at the start. Caroline began proceedings by handing out malted barley for the audience to try, insisting that we all have a little taste. I presume that this was a clever ploy to attune people's palates to the beery side of the battle which she was of course pushing. Colm then started pushing for the grapes' side and soon the playful banter was in full flow as each extolled the virtues of their particular tipple, with Pascal giving his somewhat partisan opinions from the wings too when he could get a word in edgeways.

The basic idea of this 'discussion' was to pit beer or cider against wine to find out which was the best accompaniment for the samples of food provided by local producers. Caroline and Colm would tell us why their choice of drink went better with the food and at the end of the 'talk' we would all vote to see which was the best choice. Having attended the event the previous year I knew what to expect but I had enjoyed it so much last time I had decided to drag my mate Nige along and experience the fun again. It helped that Nige was a bit of a wine buff so it was something I thought he'd enjoy.

Obviously I was on the beer and cider side.

First up was Trout Pâté from Goatsbridge in Kilkenny on spelt bread from the also local Speltbaker, glorious in its own right but Caroline had paired it with Irish Cockagee Keeved Cider, while Colm had gone for a Spanish Bodegas Menade Rueda Verdejo. The wine - I must admit - had a lovely citrus-gooseberry, dry taste that went really well with the creamy pâté, cutting through its mild fishy flavour and cleansing the palate. The cider was a low carbonated medium style with a gorgeous sweet, golden raisin flavour. Both were excellent in their own way but I did feel that the wine had the edge in this pairing to my admittedly odd palate. Nige liked both of the drinks but did not commit one way or another as to which he preferred. Perhaps I forgot to ask ... or I wasn't paying attention!

Next up was Knockanore Oakwood Smoked Cheese from Waterford and Colm had chosen a French Santa Duc Côtes du Rhône Vieilles Vignes made with grenache and syrah. He sold it to us on its merits obviously but then added a spiel about a local large singing owl that gave its name to the wine - he was obviously going for the novelty value! Caroline had chosen the very local Costellos Red Ale and talked us through the subtle malt flavours we were tasting as we sampled it with the cheese. The cheese itself was mouth-melting and lightly smoked without being harsh, a tricky thing to achieve with such subtle base flavours. For me there was no contest, as although the wine was superb in its own right, with lovely big, bold berry flavours and an earthiness that I liked, it couldn't compete in a pairing with the smoked cheese. The perfect balance of the malt with the cheese won this one for me.

Nige disagreed.

Pascal was talking more now, explaining with the passion and panache that only those with Gallic blood can truly ooze about the origins of the wines, the people behind them and the ethos that drives their production. But Caroline wasn't letting Colm or Pascal schmooze the audience too much as she emphasised the localness of irish beer and cider, and how these products are more relevant and important to this country than imported wine. As our three hosts bantered back and forth I was struck by how much they love what they do. You could hear it in their voices, inflections and tone as well as their facial expressions and hand movements - and by their stances both literal and figurative. I was a little jealous to be honest that they were immersed in work that let them express themselves in such a passionate way about produce they clearly loved.

Anyhow, last up was the dessert round. I'm not really a dessert person and don't consider myself having a sweet tooth but as Caroline stretched for a tin on the couch behind her my interest piqued as I guessed what it contained. Caroline's brownies are talked about in not-so-hushed tones within the beer-food circles I occupy from time to time. I dare say that if Caroline and Kristin's book fell off of a bookshelf in many a kitchen it would land with this recipe facing up! This time, as well as stout and chocolate, she had added whole Oreo cookies to the tray - she wasn't pulling any punches during this battle! She paired the brownies with the 8 Degrees Knockmealdown Stout she had added to the cookies, while Colm had plumped for a sweet malbec from Cahors in France - Chateau du Cedre Malbec Vintage. This had a boozy sweet cherry quality - a 'Wow!' wine to say the least - which made it a fantastic dessert wine in its own right but again for me it was no contest as far as the pairing was concerned, the stout just complemented the uber chocolate brownies perfectly.

Again Nige disagreed.

And so it was time for the public vote:

Cider won the first round, then wine won the second (People fixating on the singing owl name - Pah!), and seemingly it was a draw for dessert (Harumph!) - a result that was designed to keep everyone happy perhaps. And so for the second year running the public vote was a draw.

But to my mind people weren't actually treating the contest as a proper pairing, they were just judging which drink they liked. Maybe that's just sour grapes (Hah!) from me but I did feel that once again beer and cider were jipped.

So after being truly and uniquely entertained by our hosts, who we thanked and chatted to at the end - Nige bending Pascal's ear about obscure regional French wines while I was my usual socially awkward, foot shuffling self, we set off in search of more than just small samples of beer.

Luckily we didn't have far to go ...


24th October 2015

(Savour Kilkenny 2015 (Part 1) is here btw.)

Friday, 13 November 2015

Savour Kilkenny 2015 (Part 1): Fermenting Facts in The Little Green Grocer

I felt a little nervous for Hayley as she perched herself on a set of steps, and looked down on the sea of expectant faces that gazed up at her. One of the store owners, Eleanor, stood beside her to give her moral, and I presume physical support if need be as the steps looked a little shaky! The shop was packed and I don't think she was expecting such a turnout for her talk on fermented foods, and her business - The Cultured Food Company.

Let's back up a little ...

We - myself and Nige, my long suffering vegetarian sidekick - had taken a break from the Savour Festival proper and made the journey up Parliament Street in Kilkenny to firstly visit one of my favourite bars in Kilkenny - Brewery Corner - and secondly to catch a talk on the fermentation of food stuffs such as sauerkraut and kimchi at The Little Green Grocer.

I must admit to knowing very little about fermented foods, although I did make my own sauerkraut a few years back. I had forgotten about it until I saw the line-up of talks for Savour and this one struck a cord, as it also jogged my memory to a podcast I had listened to about Sandor Katz, a fermentation guru from the US who gave a fascinating talk about fermented food on The Brewing Network.

Brewery Corner was a little quiet, which wasn't surprising given that the food festival was on and buzzing. They slyly tried to tempt me with chalkboard marketed scotch eggs (They must know my weaknesses!) but I resisted and went instead for just a glass of Rascal's Wunderbar, a German hopped IPA with an almost Märzen-like quality that could have been my imagination playing tricks on my palate based on the name. The hops were subtle-ish but gave the beer a certain tropical fruitiness combined with an almost white pepper spiciness that complemented the malt biscuit, er, malt taste. What a beautiful, balanced beer.

We chatted a little with the barman, talking whisky and whiskey among other topics. I was fascinated by a The Peat Monster, a blended malt Scotch from Compass Box. I was drawn by the graphics on the bottle (Forgot to take a photo!) but felt it a little early in the day to be trying anything more than a peaty sniff. Maybe next time ...

It was soon heading towards the time for the talk so we finished our drinks and scarpered up the street to TLGG. We were concerned about space, as it's a smallish narrow shop and wouldn't fit in too many food fermentation fans if the interest in the subject was as strong as I suspected it to be.

The Little Green Grocer is a perfect-looking, pretty shop painted in subtle, suitably greenish-blue colour that gives off an air of understated elegance. Their ethos seems to rotate around the words 'organic', 'artisan' and 'natural', and whatever your feelings about any of those words there is no doubt that from wine to cheese to their deli range, they are standing by their beliefs and succeeding in driving their business based on those concepts, which can only be admired and applauded in my opinion. A look at their Facebook page shows gorgeous, tasty-looking, mouth-watering food that underlines to me the above commitment and passion in what they buy, and then sell.

The shop was pretty packed when we arrived but we squeezed in the back, which turned out to be where Hayley would be giving her talk from anyhow, so our just-in-time arrival had paid off. And so with Hayley perched on her steps, inches away from hair-frizzling spotlights she began her talk.

I needn't have worried about Hayley by the way, as she spoke confidently and knowledgeably, and although I can't repeat all she said verbatim, her belief and passion in her products and in their health benefits shone through in her talk. She went through the probiotic benefits of fermented food, how to make your own, told us how ketchup started as a fermented food, how fermented food like sauerkraut kept scurvy at bay on Captain Cook's ships, how sauerkraut juice has been touted as a hangover cure and what exactly kimchi is, amongst other things. She has loads of information and links on her Facebook page that will give you a much better understanding and appreciation of this enigmatic food group than I could ever give here.

She finished up by offering a tasting of some of her products. The red sauerkraut was sour (Duh!) with an almost bitter-fruit quality that appealed to my not-so-sweet-tooth. But it was the kimchi that was a revelation, as it first seared one side of my mouth and then proceeded to stomp across my tongue leaving traces of chili spiciness and plethora of strong vegetal flavours in its wake. Wow it was hot, but once I was over the original palate jarring sour/heat, the flavours calmed a little and left a wonderful warming bitterness that had me hooked. This was something I needed to try to make myself.

Time was marching on and we had more to see and do at the festival, so buoyed by the excellent talk, great food-infused surrounding - and for once a positive sour taste in my mouth - we said our good byes and thanked Hayley before heading back to the festival.

(24th October 2015)

Addendum ...

Back at home I've attempted my own sauerkraut with red cabbage, mustard seed, juniper berry and caraway seed. I'll let you in on the method and recipe when I see how it turns out!

I might try the kimchi next ...

Liam K.

(Part 2 is here.)