À la bière!?

Years back we put up our tent on a camp site in Brittany, France. And, as long as you keep French dining times) you end up doing this dishes with the French, chatting about, obviously, food. We had just thrown away the mussel shells in the bin, so their conclusion was easy; 'Des moules?' Yes. "Ah, magnifique. À la crème? Au vin blanc? A l'Italienne? Marinière?" "Non, à la bière". A plastic coffee cup hit the floor, and all present went silent.  "À quoi!?".

Mussels and Geuze
We spent some time convincing all present how delicious beer can make mussels. And not only mussels, but most shellfish - clams, cockles, razor clams, winkles - it all works. A bit of leek, carrot, onion, garlic and a beer. The type of beer isn't even that important - although I di prefer blonds (for this anyway), but a stout also works fine for the more robust mussels. Basically, everything but sweet or caramel flavours are fine. Sour beers are an obvious choice, although the acidity disappears. This used to surprise me, until somebody reminded me what the shells are made of - right, calcium.

Right, so, mussels and beer. Or rather - shellfish and beer. The base recipe is the same for all.

For two:

  • 2kg of mussels (or 750g of clams, cockles, razor clams, winkles - use half the of the quantities below)
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 large leek, sliced, washed
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • some chili flakes 
  • a big bunch of washed, cut parsley
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 bottle of beer (my preference: Orval, Oude Geuze Boon, Weizen, pilsner, lager)
Check and clean the shellfish (are the shells broken or open and do they not close, even after some tapping or some time in cold water? Discard them).

Orval and clams

Fry the onion, carrot, leek and garlic with the chili flakes in some oil or butter until translucent. Add the beer and bring to boil. Add salt and pepper and cook until the veggies soften. Add the shellfish and stir well. Put the lid on and cook for a minute or too before stirring well. Repeat this until all shells are opened and the shellfish is cooked to your liking - this won't take long, I usually need 5-8 minutes. Add the parsley and, if you want (you do), add a nob of butter. Stir again and serve with bread and/or fries - and the beer you made it with of course.

As for the French - they came by a day or two later. They had tried our suggestion using beer and - "incroyable" - it was great! They were still a bit shaken about the whole thing. "À la bière..." I heard one of the muttering, walking away.


Gamy Hot Dog

What do you do when you're bored? Why, you watch yourself some YouTube of course. Doing so I found myself at BuzzFeed channel watching the "Worth it" series, featuring a somewhat annoying Asian American, a supposedly reluctant sidekick and an audio guy trying food in three price ranges - the cheap, the regular and the very, very expensive.

After watching a few of these video's I concluded the average American way-too-expensive restaurants aren't too imaginative, since the the most expensive option always seems to feature foie gras, truffles, caviar or Wagyu beef (usually all of these), be it a pizza, sushi, burger or hot dog.

The middle option usually looks pretty appetizing though, and after finishing the hot dog video I was inspired to make my own over-the-top hot dog. Not with duck liver, oysters, gold leaf or truffles, but with a lot of tasty ingredients.

As luck would have it I could lay my hands on some wild boar/venison hot dog sausages, which was a good start already. I decided to add sliced pork liver (no geese  harmed for this sandwich) and fried bacon for good measure. This season simply cries out for sauerkraut, so that was a given - and some fried red onions to add some sweetness. Finally some sharp French mustard and barbecue sauce on top - and we have winner.

I served this with Brewdog Pumpkin King, spicy and hoppy yet utterly drinkable, making it the perfect combination with this flavorful hot dog.

(Oh, and if you happen to watch the hot dog episode - what's up with the Belgian Sour? Who serves that with a hot dog?)

Dutch version of this post on Mout&Peper


Earily good pasta.

We used to own a pasta machine, but frankly the fresh spaghetti and tagliatelle that it produced were not worth the effort for me - exit pasta machina and no more home made fresh pasta for us. A few months ago however we had excellent, freshly made orechiette ("ears") at local restaurant Sapori e recordi. Simple but amazingly good, and no pasta machine required.

It took a few months but yesterday we finally came around to trying this ourselves. Not at the kind of finger-breaking speeds Italian nonna's seem to manage on all the YouTube video's I watched, but at a nice meditative pace.

The real secret of this pasta is rolling the 'ears' - apparently possible in one swift move, but also in a few steps. First you form the dough into 2cm rolls. Then you cut of a 2cm piece and, holding a blunt knife at a 45 degree edge, spread the pasta onto a wooden board with a little pressure. This way a curved slice of dough is produced. Turn it inside out and clean it up if needed and voilà - an ear-shaped piece pasta.

The sauce, like most Italian food, isn't too complicated but needs good ingredients. Choose flavorful,  ripe and firm tomatoes (preferably the coeur de boeuf variety), good wine and nice ground beef, preferably a piece of stewing meat your have coarsely ground or chopped yourself.


Sauce (too much for one dinner, but it freezes very well)
  • 2kg firm tomatoes, cut in pieces
  • 800g minced beef
  • generous amount of olive oil
  • 5 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 200ml red wine
  • 3 tbsp oregano
  • 4 large onions, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp chili flakes
  • salt (see recipe)
  • pepper
Pour a generous layer of olive oil in a casserole, heat it up and color the meat. Add the onions wait for some colour on these as well before adding the garlic. Then add the wine, allowing to evaporate some of the alcohol before adding the other ingredients. Add some salt at this point, but keep in mind this sauce will reduce in volume by about half.

Leave the sauce to stew for as long as you can stand to wait - it has to reduce by half, creating a nice thick sauce with nice strong, stewy flavors. This will take at least an hour and a half, but more is better in this case. Don't forget to stir every once in a while, and add some water if the sauce gets too thick. Finally add salt to taste.

Pasta (serves 4 )
  • 200 gram flour tipo 00
  • 100 gram semolina
  • 3 gram salt
  • ca 200 ml tepid water
Mix the dry ingredients with half of the water, gradually adding more water until you can knead it into a firm, supple and elastic dough. Keep kneading for a while before rolling it out into long strips of about 2cm diameter. Use the description above to create the orechiette, placing them next to each other on a floured surface.

Cook the pasta in a large amount of salted boiling water until just done, which takes only a few minutes. Meanwhile heat up some olive oil in a skillet. Drain the pasta and add to the skillet, tossing it in the hot oil. Add sauce to taste, and some pasta water if the sauce is to thick. Mix it well, heat through for a moment and serve with freshly grated parmezan and a bold red wine.

This post is available in Dutch on Mout&Peper


La Douce Blonde

Foody francophiles and beer geeks usually don't mix - and unfortunately I'm both.This results in slightly schizophrenic holidays, since Germany and England may provide excellent beers, subtle cuisine and decent weather are hard to find. And when you try to recover on a meteorological and culinary escape to Provence it's best to forego the barley for a short while and make do with some excellent rosé wines.

The traditional French beer landscape can be divided into three regions that don't really consider themselves French. The first of these is Normandy/Brittany, where a handful of Anglosaxons create some decent real ales. A little further to the North, on the Belgian border, we find the bières de garde  and saison beers. Finally there is the Alsace region, also known as 'France's little Germany', where you find some small breweries between the vineyards, not to mention the giant breweries producing Kro' and 33 Export for the less discerning customer.

This summer the weather convinced us to drive directly south, to the Lubéron to be exact. A wonderful region with great wine, nice weather and mouth-watering food. And, lo and behold, with an actual little 'micro brasserie', and organic at that. The somewhat off-putting name "BAL" was easily explained and forgiven since it was the acronym for Brasserie Artisanale du Lubéron.

On a tiny marché artisanale in between the goat's cheeses and rosé farmers we had a bottle of brune and the inevitable blonde, the latter a bland tasting product. The brune however actually tasted of roasted malts - one might even be reminded of a stout or porter. A bit too sweet for my taste, but still, did I mention the actual roasted barley? A couple of days later we even found. from the same brewery, an IPA! A real one. With houblon. Not a lot, and nothing too bitter, but still, without a doubt, hops.

Unfortunately that about wraps it up for the beer highlights of this summer. The brune and IPA were nice, but the actual year-round range (a slightly sweet blonde featuring clove, a nondescript ambree and a boring blanche) left a lot to be desired. And even though we didn't really look for it this year, and even though I'm sure there are some wonderful little breweries to be found, when encountering a small, artisanal brewery in France you can expect the following;
  • A blonde, a bit too sweet, no hops to speak of and 6-7% alcohol
  •  A régionale featuring a regional ingredient. Often the only evidence of this ingredient is on the label, but choices may be brave; lentils from Puy, Camarque rice or Bourgogne berries. So far I have not yet encountered a Bresse chicken or Bayonne ham version, but I'm not sure they're not out there...
  • A couple of non-offensive, unimpressive rousse, ambrée or blanche beers.
Having tried a geuze (overly sweet with a hint of sour), a faro (mostly sweet) and some more failures from the Hyper market I was done for the summer and stuck to pastis and rosé, happy to be one of those beer geeks that fortunately also enjoys wine...

This post originally appeared in Dutch on Mout&Peper


Russian pork cheeks

Or rather, pork cheeks in Russian beer. Or to be precise, in English ale meant for the Russians. More precise still - in American beer based on an English style ale, meant for the Russians. Okay, if I'm totally honest, in Dutch home-brewed beer inspired by an American beer in the style of an English beer meant for Russia.

Still with me? So, pork cheeks. You can get them at a quality butcher or, better yet, a pig farm with own butchery. For pork cheeks in particular you need happy pigs, after all, the cheeks do all smiling. Ask the butcher to remove the membranes or do it yourself.

Pigs cheeks are quite fat, but also gelatinous, making them even more succulent whilst remaining in one piece. After a long period of simmering they are soft and tender. The simmering can be done in any liquid, wine or stock, but beer is especially good. Don't use overly bitter beers (a risk when using this beer style). Heavy, sweet Belgian style Double, Triple and Quadruple beers are a safe bet, and so is a milder porter or stout. Sour ales with or without fruit also work very well. A Russian Imperial Stout adds a more robust flavour and some bitterness, which turned out great.

Pigs Cheeks with stoemp

  • 8 pigs cheeks (they shrink significantly)
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, sliced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 branch of rosemary
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • pepper
  • salt
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seed
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • butter or lard
  • 250ml beer (heavy, dark beer; a Russian Imperial Stout, for example)
  • beef stock

Fry the pork cheeks in a little butter (as I was also crisping up some bacon I used lard) until nicely browned. Put all the vegetables and fry until the onions are translucent and begin to color. Deglaze with the beer and add the remaining ingredients. Add as much beef stock as needed to almost cover the cheeks. Let the cheeks simmer for as long as you have patience for it, but at least for two  hours.  

Gently take out the cheeks out and herbs. If you like you can blend the sauce, but don't overdo this. Thicken the sauce with a little cornstarch dissolved in cold water and put the cheeks back in. Serve with a hearty potato and vegetable mash (Belgian "Stoemp" for example) and a good beer, like the beer that you used when cooking.

This post orginally appeared in Dutch on Mout en Peper


Ham hock in black beer.

Ah, the Germans. Pork and beer.  Honestly, I tried to find more sophisticated food, but by far the best things to enjoy in Germany are found in either or these food groups. A nice, clean Lagerbier, Weizen or Altbier with a (decent) Bratwurst, Weisswurst of extra chrunchy bun with cold Schnitzel. Or this dish - Eisbein with Schwartzbier (ham hock in black beer).

  • 2 ham hocks
  • 1L Schwartzbier (Köstritzer)
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 leek
  • 2 onions
  • garlic
  • 4 stock cubes (without flavor enhancers)
  • chili powder
  • laurel leafs
  • 1 red chili
  • black pepper.
Cut the vegetables in big pieces and fry them lightly in some oil. Add the eisbein and add all the other ingredients. Simmer for 90-120 minutes.

Take out the meat and strain the cooking liquid. If you prefer, remove the skin of the eisbein. Put the eisbein in a tray, or, even better, on a rack with a baking tray beneath it. Heat up the oven to 220 and insert the tray. Wait for the eisbein to get  nice brown colour (you can pour over some cooking liquid every few minutes) and carefully turn the eisbein over once when the top has reached a nice brown crust. When the eisbein is nicely coloured all over it is done, ready to be served with mashed potato, sauerkraut and, what else, black beer.

This post originally appeared in Dutch on Mout&Peper


Farmers Omelette

It seems most countries have their very own national fried egg dish - Spanish tortilla, Italian fritata, English scrambled eggs, Mexican huevos rancheros, even the Japanese put a somewhat sweet egg-roll on suhsi. The Dutch have their own: the boerenomelet - a 'farmers omelet' . It basically is a standard omelet folded over a bacon, onion and mixed vegetable stir-fry avant-la-lettre. It's hard to really mess up, but a few hints can make it pretty impressive.

First of all, good products. Fresh, organic eggs, bacon and veggies. Cheese if you want, but then go for the real deal: Farmhouse Gouda. You will need some slices of excellent bread as well. Then there's the filling. Don't over-fry the bacon, it should still be a little soft. The onions and other vegetables will re-soften them a little too. The filling should contain at least bacon (or maybe ham), onion and carrots. You can then add peas, mushrooms, leek, even cooked potato or butter beans.Make sure you have the filling cooked and keep it warm before you make the omelet itself. For a six egg omelet you need about 150g of bacon, 1 diced onion, 1 diced carrot and about 150-200 grams of the other (diced) vegetables.

Finally, the omelet itself. This too isn't that complicated, but do it wrong and it won't be half as nice. Heat up a frying pan, for a six egg (2 person) omelet a 24cm version will do. Add a splash of vegetable oil and then a little butter. When the fat is hot (but not burning), add a little salt to the whisked eggs and pour the mixture into the pan. Now comes the important part: using a wooden spatula, gently stir the mixture towards the center of the pan, scraping along the bottom. Make sure the liquid mixture fills up all open spots. Keep gently stirring until at least half of the egg has solidified in rough patches. Then shake the pan to evenly distribute the remaining liquid egg, lower the heat and allow the egg to almost cook trough. All this will ensure a fluffy and interesting texture.

Chef Jaques Pepin demonstrates how to make both the "Country omelet" we use here and a classic French version in this video:
When only the top part is still a bit liquid and shiny, pour the bacon/vegetable mix on one half and carefully fold over the other half of the omelet. Congratulations, you're done!

Serve with ketchup (yes, yes, we use ketchup too) and a nice slice of bread.

This dish can be paired with almost any beer, as long as it isn't sour or to sweet. I personally had it with a Stades Leicht Light beer, which i find pretty good.

This article oringally appeared in Dutch on Mout&Peper