Beer and Food Pairing: Spontanbasil and Lasagne | Mashtun and Meow: Sheffield Beer Blog

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Beer and Food Pairing: Spontanbasil and Lasagne

First up, let's talk about THE BEER. Spontanbasil, crafted by the legendary combination of Mikkeller and Lindemans, is a spontaneously fermented wild beer that just completely sings of basil all the way through the drink, not just at the initial tasting (which is so often the case with this ilk of almost novelty additions into beers). The tartness of the wild yeast works incredibly well with the freshness of the herb and adds layers and layers of depth. It's the sort of beer that isn't just a flavour on the palate, it's an entire sensory experience, with a heady aroma that floods through the mind and makes it the type of drink that you won't forget in a hurry.

A beer this phenomenal needed a meal worthy of it to pair with. Having sampled a small amount before, we felt that a herb-ridden pasta sauce would be a winning flavour combination. So we decided to set ourselves a bit of a challenge and make a lasagne entirely from scratch. 


The key component to a cracking lasagne is surely a top quality tomato sauce. We cooked down 8 cans of plum tomatoes with two onions, a chilli and six cloves of garlic for a total of around 12 hours at 120°C... this made far too much for a family-sized lasagne, but we've got a bit of a sauce solera system situation going on in the freezer, which the remnants topped up perfectly. Whilst this might seem a ridiculously long amount of time, caring for a sauce in this way allows all of the sugars in the tomatoes and onions to break down and start to caramelise, leaving a wonderfully indulgent, almost "meaty" rich sauce. To give the sauce a fresher nature too, we added another tin of tomatoes just before assembling the lasagne.

We decided on ox cheek for the meat, but really anything that can be slow cooked will do, such as brisket or pork shoulder, something cheap and cheerful. The meat was browned a piece at a time (we used three cheeks in total) on all sides. To this a quartered onion and a stick or two of celery were added, along with a bottle of beer (Poacher's Choice in this instance, but really you could use whatever you have lying around in the cupboard). This was cooked on the hob at the lowest setting to blip away for 4-6 hours, meaning the meat was super tender and just pulled apart once cooked. Just before assembling the lasagne, the cheeks were pulled and added to the tomatoes to warm through and let the flavours mingle. We found we also needed a little extra water to keep the sauce easily workable when layering up.


Admittedly, making pasta from scratch is a bit of a faff, but totally worth it. For a large lasagne, we made about 500g of pasta, which is 450g of '00 flour' and the equivalent of 6 free range eggs. This can come in the form of 12 yolks or 6 full eggs - the yolks give the pasta a great texture and a more "full" flavour of pasta that you simply can't get in dried. If you fancy having a go yourself, here’s a quick little tutorial:
Bring the eggs and flour together in a bowl. Once they have roughly conglomerated, tip out onto a clean worktop (you can do the whole mixing process on the work top, but it makes a tremendous mess unless you have a decent space to do it on, which we do not). Knead into a dough and really work it hard to allow the gluten to become stretchy. At this point you can set aside in the fridge for at least half an hour until its ready to roll and assemble. It also freezes perfectly well, should you want to double the quantities – just be sure to defrost thoroughly overnight in the fridge.

Back to our meal. The final thing to prepare was the white sauce. A roux of 80g of melted butter and 65g of flour formed the base, combined with a litre of hot/almost boiling milk gradually incorporated in a ladle full at a time, with the aromatic additions of parsley, basil and a grating of nutmeg. Finally a good handful of parmesan was added before removing from the heat.


Assembly time! The pasta was rolled out into thin sheets and blanched for a couple of minutes (we’d recommend doing this in more water than looks necessary, one or two sheets at a time). To layer up the dish, we started with pasta, then meaty tomatoes, then white sauce and topped with a layer of fresh basil leaves. We repeated this three times, then topped the final layer of pasta with the last of the white sauce and a good sprinkling of parmesan and mozzarella. 

45 minutes in the oven later... ta-dah!


The meal as a whole worked superbly together. The richness of the dish brought out the tartness in the beer, which in turn cut through the lasagne and freshened up the palate beautifully. Adding plenty of basil to the lasagne provided a bonus complement to the beer and allowed all the flavours to absolutely sing. A triumph!

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