Mashtun and Meow: Sheffield Beer Blog: November 2013

Monday, 25 November 2013

The Old House, Sheffield

With an ever-excellent, seasonally changing food menu, and an always stellar (never Stella) beer selection, including local and guest ales and an array of continental lagers, The Old House, on Division Street in Sheffield, is one of the great bars run by the mini-chain of gastro pubs, Forum Cafe Bars, and our favourite of the group.

With its walls adorned with music and alcohol memorabilia - from Johnny Cash to Havana Club, from Leo Sayer to Timmermans (plus a massive Hogarth print and some Prohibition propaganda), this is a place that oozes nostalgic cool.

We've eaten here a number of times, and 9 times out of 10 we choose the pie. The pie menu changes daily, and there are always four homemade varieties on offer, including a veggie option. Unusually, tonight we both went for the same - the intriguing sounding chicken, chocolate and orange. Weird it was indeed but in a very good way - tasty, meaty, and just the right combination of bitter and sweet. Pie-lights of the past have included beef stroganoff (with tiny little pickled onions!), ham hock and cranberry, and harissa beef and kidney. The pies are excellent value at £7.95 which includes mushy peas and handmade chips.

The rest of the food menu is also worth a mention, with locally sourced produce and good old-fashioned English recipes.

Whilst the puddings looked yummy, neither of us could quite fit one in after our hearty main meal, so went instead for a beverage-based treat. Jim went for a tasty dram - the Macallan Gold - and I selected a speciality cocktail, the Whiskey and Stout Flip. Containing bourbon, dark ale, caramel and A WHOLE EGG it is smooth, sweet and utterly delicious.

As well as being a great place just to relax over a post-work drink or meal, The Old House also hosts a variety of special events, including themed evenings and gin tasting nights, which we would also highly recommend. The staff are without exception friendly and always willing to offer suggestions from the extensive menus.

The only downside on this occasion was that we didn't manage to drink enough beer to get the "Coming Soon" ale, my favourite Titanic Plum Porter, onto the bar!



Sunday, 24 November 2013

Christmas Salt Beef Test Run

So it is coming round to that time of year, where the season of bitter cynicism meets the festive marketing of toys and other crap we don't need wrapped under the guise of joy and giving. A time of year where shops and radio stations feel it is their duty to play the turgid 'Christmas hit' loop with an air of enforced regimented happiness that always makes the yuletide gay. (Note from the wife: these are the opinions of Jim and are not representative of the household as a whole!) With this enforced frivolity comes a time where being drunk at 10 in the morning can be excused with words like "I'm just taking in the christmas spirit". The Coca-Cola red frivolity train does on the other hand bring with it a cargo of encouraged overconsumption, punctuated with plausible table conversation:
"I could not possibly eat one more iota, for I am replete." 
"Another mince pie, good sir? 
"Oh yes please, fine fellow".  
This gluttony of food brings also a liquid excess, happily for me this is what makes the season genuinely jolly.

Some recipes can be ready and delicious in 15minutes, for others a little more time is needed for the complexities of the recipe as a whole. Then there are some that takes over a week to make some of the most exquisite food imaginable. Salt beef is one of those - while it is always possible to buy the beef ready cured from some butchers and supermarkets, it never has the class of producing your own brine and curing what eventually becomes a delicious piece of meat.

This was a pre-christmas test run, so I used a smaller piece of meat and a smaller amount of brine, but this is a recipe that cries out to be mass-catered.

Beef brisket
For the brine:
300g Salt
200g Sugar
Orange rind
1tbsp Black pepper
1 stick Cinnamon
2 Star anise
1 tsp Cloves
2 garlic Garlic
1 tsp Cardamom pods
20 grams Prague Powder #1 (optional)

For Poaching:
1 Carrot
1 Onion
2 sticks of celery
half a head of garlic
Bunch of herbs (Thyme Rosemary, Oregano, Bay Leaves)

Bring together all of the brining ingredients in a pan with plenty of water about 1.5l. Bring to the boil in order to dissolve the salt and sugars. Add the Prague Powder now, this will help the meat to keep its colour. Allow to cool, and then pop the meat into a freezer bag and ladle the brine over the meat until completely submerged. Seal the bag, taking care to remove any air that may still be in the bag, and cover well - we used silver foil, and an extra bag for safety! When this is done place in the cellar or a cool place for 5-7 days, turning the bag over daily.

After the meat is ready, give it a light rinse to remove any excess brine. The next step is to poach the meat until it becomes tender, taking care not to boil it as the meat will toughen. Poach with a roughly chopped carrot, onions and celery, as well as a half a head of garlic and a bunch of fresh herbs.

Serve on bagels with plenty of pickles.

Ho ho ho!



This recipe has been featured on the Love Salt Beef website here.

Love Salt Beef is the perfect place for those of you who are into making, buying and more importantly eating salt beef.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

The Whisky Collection pt. Islay

Islay is one of our favourite places on the planet. Situated about 70miles from Glasgow as the crow flies and 150miles as the car drives, through undulating hills to the picturesque Loch roads, towards a 2 hour crossing past the Paps of the surrogate sister island to Islay, Jura.
The Old Schoolroom
It is a place that breathes pleasantness in such spades that when we pointed out that the front door to the Old Schoolroom (our home for our honeymoon week) did not lock, the owners confided that they left the car keys in the ignition overnight. This revelation sat strangely with us townies, but on such a secluded yet welcoming island the only option was to embrace the situation.

With 8 active distilleries and two more opening shortly, the island is a worthy pilgrimage for any whisky fanatic. Ranging in size from the massive annual production of 3.5 million litres of Caol Ila, to the smallest distillery, Kilchoman, that struggles to produce per year what Caol Ila makes in a day.

The whiskies themselves, whilst generally peaty, are always interesting and different, and for this post i am going to focus on a few of my favourites.

Kilchoman warehouse
Kilchoman is a farm distillery that at the time of visiting made the only 100% Islay whisky, with most distilleries importing the malt from the mainland. The 5 Year 2006 tastes like a young whisky, in that it is not as refined or smooth as a longer aged whisky. That being said it is by no means bad, more I feel it the opposite, something unique and to be treasured, with a light pear smell that gives way to a gingery peat on the tongue and ends in a woody finish. 

The bay of Laphroaig
Laphroaig is arguably the most famous distillery on the Island and is often seen in pubs and supermarkets around the country. The 10 year old, which is provided as the 'Drivers Dram' from the distillery for those partaking on the tour, is the most often seen. It is a heavily peated whisky that seems to float the head in a soft smoke on the nose, with sweet hints of oak across the palate with vanilla and spice that end with an iodiney finish

I will stray slightly from the isle for the penultimate dram, to the incredible island of Jura, a land of stags and stills, described by George Orwell as 'extremely ungetatable'. The distillery itself has an great range of excellent whiskies demonstrating a spectrum of peatiness and sweetness. The 'Duirachs Own' is one of the free drams you can get from the hotel across from the distillery if you are part of the members club. This 16 year old whisky is aged for the final 2 years in sherry casks, giving it sweet vanillas on the nose and across the palate with additional layers of honey and slight apples, reminiscent of crumble and custard. 

And finally... I am leaving these whiskies till last not only because they are some of my favourites but because the distillery is one of the most interesting. Bruichladdich is run with an air of experimentation; a flair seldom seen in whisky production. It showcases the ambition to try new things, new woods, greater peat content and even a gin. They have a series of whiskies named Port Charlotte (also one of the towns on the island), one of which, entitled Peat Project, is a heady mix of spice and smoke, that engulfs the skull with the caressing warmth of pepper and a smooth creaminess that brushes the palate. It provides a taste which is well rounded and whole.

I recently had a dram of a release of a Octomore: one of the most heavily peated whiskies ever made. This limited release has steadily increased in its peat levels since the first batch, starting at 131ppm and with a level around 167ppm for its newer releases (up to version 6.2). For those who aren't aware, ppm stands for the Phenol content in Parts Per Million, in reference to peat levels in the whisky as a whole, which is added when drying malt in peat smoke. As a guide, Laphroaig 10 year is around 40ppm and Springbank being 7ppm. While this whisky is probably the most heavily peated you will ever try, it does not feel that way, being surprisingly smooth and quaffable. On the nose it smells sweet and grapey due to its ageing in Bordeaux barrels, which adds a sincere refinement throughout the mouth as a whole. The sweetness continues to tickle across the tongue as the smoke fills the back of the throat. Having had a dram in the distillery I have been on the look out for it ever since. Buying a bottle of this whisky can set you back up to £200, but as a single measure in the pub it is closer to £7 and worth every penny. 


Saturday, 9 November 2013