Mashtun and Meow: Sheffield Beer Blog

Monday, 21 July 2014

A taste of Japan

We both happened to have a day off today, and weren't quite sure what to do with it. We then discovered that today is Sea Day, a national holiday in Japan to give thanks to the ocean - and so what better occasion than to use that sushi kit we got for Christmas!

We used two cups of sushi rice to two cups of water, which was massively overcatering for two people - this would have fed four for lunch or 6-8 as a starter. Carefully rinsing the rice before cooking is really important, as is leaving the rice to steam with the heat turned off for at least ten minutes after 10-15 minutes cooking over a low flame.

We chose to use Earl Grey smoked sea trout for the fish option, and bought ourselves a great piece of rump steak from the lovely folks at Mr Pickles, which was seared for 7 seconds on each side before being left to cool in the freezer for one hour, which allowed it to be sliced perfectly thinly. We went for cucumber, red pepper, courgette and spring onions too, which were all carefully cut to a uniform size.

We made maki (traditional rolls where the filling and rice is wrapped in seaweed) in veggie, fish and meat options, as well as temaki (the cone-shaped pieces), nigiri (sliced meat or fish on a bed of seasoned rice) and California rolls (where the rice forms the outside of the sushi).

As total novices who had never made sushi before, and having read a number of instructions implying it's pretty tricky, we did not have high hopes for how our little rolls would turn out. Imagine our surprise when they looked more than passable!
Garnishes and seasoning were wasabi paste, a dressing made from soy and garlic sriracha hot sauce, and home-pickled ginger.

Alongside a dram of Nikka from the Barrel, I feel we successfully paid homage to a little slice of Japanese culture.


Monday, 14 July 2014

World Cup Extravaganza

Never a pair to pass up an excuse to host a party, this weekend we thought we'd celebrate the World Cup through food and drink. We'd decided right at the beginning of the tournament that the menu would be focused around traditional dishes from the top four countries left to battle it out, so leaving it quite a lot to chance whilst still hoping for some international variety!

In the end, we got a real mixed bag, which somehow worked out coming together brilliantly - here's what we came up with...

Top of the menu was a big batch of empanadas, with a chicken, chorizo and apricot filling, stuffed into shortcrust pastry. The mini versions we made were perfect buffet food and went down a storm. Jim also had a go at pao de queijo, a Brazilian bread made with cheese. Despite the dough looking a bit like houmous before it was baked, these turned out having a lovely light texture and were a good addition to the feast. As a dessert offering, we made Brigadeiros - like a Brazilian chocolate truffle, these were made using really simple ingredients (just cocoa powder, butter, and condensed milk) but were surprisingly difficult to form into balls due to their sticky texture. They tasted good, but I'm not sure I'd make these again - cake pops behave much better! Brazilian-themed cocktails also featured, with caipirinhas made with the addition of Passoa passion fruit liqueur. Tropical!

World-renowned for their top quality barbecued meat, we decided we couldn't go wrong with a bit of a classic - steak and chimichurri sauce. The chimichurri was homemade using a blend of herbs including mint, parsley and dill, added to chilli and cider vinegar. Malbec was our Argentinian drink of choice - Otra Vida to be precise - which was an ideal accompaniment to the meat.

Another classic - frankfurters and sauerkraut! With all the food that our guests brought along too, we didn't make these with the rest of the buffet. However, they made an excellent 3am feast! To add to this, Laura made her first ever cream cake for the event in the form of a Black Forest gateau (or a schwarzw√§lderkirschtorte if we're being authentic) and despite a few initial issues regarding presentation, it turned out really well! Drinks-wise, we took the easy option and bought a crate of Becks.

This was possibly the trickiest country to find something interesting and traditional whilst still being easy enough to mass cater. In the end we went for herrings and a cheeseboard of Dutch delights! For drinks we went for gin (of course) and made Dutch Mule cocktails, adding the gin to ginger beer and limes. We also dug a bottle of Advocaat out of the back of the cupboard, although I can't say this was a popular choice on the night!

For a bit more variety we invited our guests to bring along nibbles from an eliminated country. The result was a veritable feast of international cuisine, including deep-fried arancini, tiramisu, hot chicken wings, chorizo and bean stew and homemade lemon and chilli houmous with veggies!

The spread, before the additions from our guests arrived!
The match itself turned out to be a bit on the dull side, but much merriment was had none-the-less and it was a brilliant evening all round.



Sunday, 6 July 2014

US Craft Beer Night at BrewDog Sheffield

In celebration of Independence Day, I headed down to shiny new Sheffield BrewDog last week. The brewing techniques and styles of beers created by BrewDog are clearly heavily influenced by our pals across the pond and so it was a great setting in which to sample some American delights from a variety of craft brewers.

We were warmly greeted by the staff and seated at a table covered in little nibbles and a giant American flag. Cool. Without further ado the first beer was presented to us: Stateside Saison from Stillwater Artisanal ales. Going straight in with an ABV of 6.8%, this was surprisingly easy to drink, perhaps on account of having the lowest bitterness rating of the evening (20-35 IBUs). It was plain to see that this evening was going to be all about the hops! This beer had a lovely fruity and slightly floral aroma, with tropical fruit sweetness on the palate.

The second offering of the night was Hop Devil, an American IPA from Victory Brewing Co. I'd actually sampled this on keg the week before, but the effect from the bottle was somewhat punchier, and also had a more reddish hue than the pale ale I'm sure I drank last time! The bitterness of the hops was the overwhelming flavour, but this was coupled with a spiciness that lingered on the tongue for ages. Not quite my thing, but none-the-less a good beer that's a great example of the style.

Next we moved on to Oskar Blues Deviant Dale's IPA - an American Double IPA, making this a "souped up" version of their Dale's Pale Ale. Oskar Blues is one of a growing number of breweries choosing to can their beers rather than bottle them, to avoid any "skunking" (spoiling of the beer caused by the infiltration of UV light). I really enjoyed this beer - it had enough hoppiness to make me suck my cheeks in but this was still nicely balanced with a malty sweetness. With an IBU rating of 85 and at 8% ABV, it was a signal that this was time to move on to the big guys!
After a quick break and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or two, we returned to our tasting with a bottled version of another drink that I've previously sampled on tap: the excellent Shipwrecker Circus, an American style barley wine which is a collaboration between Oskar Blues and Brewdog itself. I loved this beer from the keg and from the bottle it was just as good. Barley wine is perhaps my favourite style of beer and the characteristically high ABV (the Shipwrecker Circus comes in at 10.5%) makes it a perfect sort of beverage to finish off an evening (although on this occasion we had two more to go!). Almost syrupy in consistency with a beautiful rich sweetness reminiscent of liquorice and caramel, with a raisin-like fruitiness that lifts the flavour above being sickly. I loved this beer - my favourite of the night.

What we thought was to be the last beer was Clown Shoes - Chocolate Sombrero, a 9% imperial stout brewed in Massachusetts. My aversion to all things clown-based means that this isn't a brewery I've typically gone for, but this was probably a lesson in how not to judge a beer by the label. Another very enjoyable drink with huge notes of roasted cocoa on the nose with a tiny suggestion of chilli. On the taste this was deliciously chocolatey and full bodied, alongside a maple syrup sweetness. The little hit of chilli came through at the end but was delicate enough not to overwhelm the palate.
An observation from the lovely Claire that the Chocolate Sombrero had a hint of banana to the flavour and the guys at BrewDog just couldn't resist giving us a taster of their Abstrakt 14 - "the closest to banoffee pie you'll get in a beer". This was a dream of a beer, definitely tasting like a good pud and an ideal finisher to the evening alongside a Reese's peanut butter cup (the only downside to this being that I now have a slight addiction to them...)

The evening was a great introduction to a variety of big, brash and bold American craft beers, and the knowledge and passion of the team at BrewDog was refreshing. An entertaining and informative night all round!

Stay classy, America.

Laura x

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Meet the Brewer: Ilkley Brewery

A couple of weeks ago, we headed down to the Sheffield Tap for their Meet the Brewer event with Ilkley Brewery. We're both big fans of Ilkley beers so it was great to have the chance to sample ales from across their range, as well as being able to chat to the team about their work.

The night began with Ilkley Gold, one of the regularly brewed core range beers with a strength of 3.9%. This beer is designed to be an easy drinker, with a great subtlety coming from the US and Slovenian hops. Like all their ingredients, specialist hops are something that Ilkely strive to source from the best producers and suppliers.

Lotus IPA had a little step up in alcohol content at 5.6%. Lotus is a similar colour to the previous beer but by no means the same. The summit hops sing through in the distinctive way that comes with an IPA. Produced in a traditional way, the beer is not dry hopped which produces a more rounded beer. Ilkley produce their beers in a variation of styles across their 50,000 pints a week. With the craft beer movement gathering speed and introducing all sorts of wacky brewing methods to the UK, it's great to see a brewery doing such innovative things using traditional techniques.

The third beer of the evening, Siberia, was a rhubarb saison, named after the location of the fruit's original place of cultivation. A nice little fact that we discovered at the event is that all the rhubarb is chopped by hand, in the various kitchens of the brewery's employees... just showing the level of care and personality that goes into Ilkley's beers and also why it isn't brewed as often as you might wish.

De Passie was sampled next - a White IPA flavoured with passionfruit, which is a collaborative brew with Dutch breweries Rooie Dop and Oersoep. A stunning beer that really delivers on its fruity promise, made with 3 different hops that are added to bring out the best flavour of the passion fruit juice. A real hit on the night and a perfect drink for a balmy summer's evening.

We then moved on to the wildcard beer: Derby Day - a 7% mint stout. Other stouts using mint that we've tried before have tended to couple the flavour with chocolate, producing a sweet and sticky beer that seems to provoke a strong reaction in the drinker. The Ilkley take on a mint beer by contrast is much more savoury and arguably more palatable to the masses despite the high ABV.

The final beer of the night just so happened to be possibly our all-time favourite beer and an absolutely mighty drink - The Mayan. This is a chilli chocolate stout that doesn't aim to punch too high with either flavour, although both are very much apparent. The result is a balanced beer tingles subtly on the tongue with a flavour that lingers for around 15 seconds... just divine.

From being able to see first hand the passion and attention to detail that goes into the Ilkley range, it's clear to see where their almost exponential growth has come from. With exciting times and further expansion to come (plans are in the pipeline for a bigger brewery and a visitor's centre), we can't wait to see what they'll think up next.



Tuesday, 17 June 2014

The Milestone

At the Sheffield Food Festival, we had our first taste of cuisine from The Milestone, with their "Piggy" dish. This was a delightful selection of pork, including braised head fritter, blood sauce with black pudding, and an array of miniature salads and shoots. After trying this, we couldn't quite work out why we hadn't been to the restaurant before, particularly as it seems a sort of rite of passage in the Sheffield foodie scene!

We wasted no time in booking ourselves on to the Early Bird menu, which offers a smaller but still very varied selection of dishes and even includes a pint or glass of house wine.

Whilst we perused the menu we went for some homemade bread and dripping, recommended by our waiter for the evening (and it's worth mentioning that the service throughout was exceptional, although a little more formal than we're used to!). Can't go wrong there really, can you?!

Second up on our meal, we went for a celebration of the humble chicken, with chicken ham, chicken liver parfait, and chicken thigh served with crispy skin. Very nice (although the liver was just a tad too rich for Laura). We also shared the pig's head terrine, which was served with a delicious selection of pickled veg, crackling and a wonderfully tangy apple sauce. We'd expected this to be quite similar to the Piggy dish from the Food Festival, but it was a totally different twist on the ingredients, which demonstrates the flair and originality shown by the chefs on a day-to-day basis.

Onwards to the main courses! Laura chose the coley, accompanied by buttery-soft new potatoes and sea vegetables. Gherkins and anchovies were also used in the dish which worked really well as seasoning and were a lovely touch. Jim decided upon a classic: sausages served with mustard mash, plus side dishes of quite dense but still delicious Yorkshire puddings, and fresh asparagus. The mash sang with a lovely kick and tang of mustard and worked really well with an excellent pair of sausages. The spring asparagus was sweet and fresh with a lovely crunch and nicely seasoned with Parmesan.

Having partaken in two sides, Jim decided on a calvados rather than a dessert, which turned out to be a very good idea when Laura's sticky toffee pudding arrived. As such emphasis is placed on presentation here (and everything arrived looking outstanding), we were expecting a dainty little pud. What was put in front of us was a veritable wedge of gooey, rich and utterly scrumptious toffee pudding, served with salted caramel sauce and really tasty droplets of date puree, which brought the whole dish together perfectly. Jim's assistance was required.

The Milestone have a great ethos, having an end goal of being self sufficient. Already having a pig farm and a lovely little rooftop garden, they are well on their way to achieving this. The garden provides the restaurant with many of the shoots and herbs used in the dishes and cocktails, meaning they are as fresh as you can possibly get.

The "From Garden to Glass" cocktail menu itself looked superb, and boasted some completely original cocktails that I've never seen anything like in Sheffield before, including the Walk in the Weeds (comprising gin, celery, cucumber, mint, and borage - or whatever else they can forage from the rooftop garden!). Whilst we had over-indulged quite enough for one night we will definitely be back to try some of these out.


Laura & Jim

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Bamboo Door: Rum Club launch night

Bamboo Door is a brand new bar located in the trendy Leopold Square in Sheffield centre, and is the city's first tiki bar. All about a laid back atmosphere and good vibes, it's helping to bring a much needed indie injection to the area. Earlier this week, I was lucky enough to attend the taster edition of their upcoming rum sessions, and find out about their new Rum Club, a loyalty scheme with loads of benefits such as permanent happy hour*!
The bar - just look at that rum selection!
Our host for the evening, Tom, was enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and wearing a fetching Hawaiian shirt - what more could you wish for?! I started the night with Tom's recommendation, the Pisco Flower Sour. Made with top quality ingredients (Capel Pisco, elderflower liqueur, Aperol, pink grapefruit juice, lemon, sugar syrup, an egg white, and a dash of Amargo Chunco bitters), it was sharp, refreshing and original. It was also almost too pretty to drink!
We then settled down to our session. Beginning with a brief overview of the history of rum and how it's made, we moved on to look at the chosen range - Ron Zacapa. This wasn't a rum I was previously familiar with, and I was impressed that something a little out of the ordinary was chosen for this event.

We sipped on a delicious Spiced Daiquiri, made from Zacapa 23, Green Chartreuse and sugar syrup, whilst Tom explained the ageing process of the rum (at 2,300 feet above sea level!) including the complicated but traditional "solera" system used, whereby bottles are filled from the bottom barrel of a pyramid, with the empty space filled from the cask above, and so on, all the way to the top.

Then on to the rum itself! A signature Ron Zacapa 23 was first. Made only with first press sugar cane honey, it could be said to be the extra virgin olive oil of the rum world! A long fermentation with pineapple yeast produces a wonderful tropical fruit feel. There's also tons of vanilla in the nose, and a smooth woodiness on the palate. The rum was served with a little cube of organic dark chocolate, which really brought out the cocoa elements in the drink. I really enjoyed this - a brilliant summery alternative to my usual whisky-based choices.

We were also treated to a taster of the Zacapa XO. This rum spends the first 23 years of its life in the exact same way as the previous rum sampled, but is then finished in cognac casks for a further two years, which gives it a much richer, deeper flavour. The aroma was full of demerara sugar, with a hint of leather and tobacco underneath. The flavour was full of fruit again, but more reminiscent of dark fruits such as cherries alongside just a hint of pineapple. A very long, tinglingly sweet finish became gradually spicier as I sipped away.
The tasting event as a whole was really enjoyable, and was entertainingly informative. Being an independent bar, there's a relatively small number of people working at Bamboo Door, which means the bar retains much more personality and it's clear that the staff are passionate about what they do. The Sunday Rum Sessions will run on the first Sunday of each month, and cost £25 (£15 for Rum Club members) which will include at least two rums and a cocktail, plus food pairings. Each month will focus on a different brand of rum, ensuring that the bar is able to showcase everything it has to offer (and there's a lot of it!). Anybody who thinks that rum is just Bacardi or Sailor Jerry's, you'd be in for a real surprise - and a massive treat!



*Happy hour runs all the time for Rum Club members, excluding Saturday nights

Thursday, 5 June 2014

American Whiskey Tasting at the Broadfield

Well, well, well... here we are again. We originally hadn't thought to book onto the American night at the Broadfield, not thinking it was quite our tipple. However, after only a little bit of liquid persuasion (the Japanese whisky night!) and talk of classic American cocktails with a twist as the pairings for this night, we had our spaces reserved and our Boardwalk Empire DVD on repeat.

The evening opened with Old Fitzgerald: an 8 year old Kentucky Straight Bourbon. This was a good entry level whiskey, if you are after a typical bourbon. Vanilla on the nose and sticky sweet across the palate, this whiskey is bottled at 45% but is much smoother than it's Scotch counterpart. Available at around £20 per bottle, it's a dram which is completely accessible and really quite delicious.

This was accompanied by an Old Fashioned cocktail, with sugar syrup, orange peel and a dash of bitters added to the Old Fitzgerald. This was then transformed into a smoked Old Fashioned, using applewood chips and a smoke generator. The cocktail was fantastically orangey and a great twist on a classic, as well as the slightly bonkers methodology being a sign of the magic to come!
Whisky Curator at work!
We moved on to a Woodford Reserve, a bourbon with a high rye content and a heady nose full of honey, vanilla and woodiness. This literally tasted as American as apple pie - fruity, with hints of cinnamon and cereal sweetness. The toasted wood notes returned in the lingering finish.

With this was served a Manhattan, but not just any Manhattan: this one was barrel aged in a mini Kentucky toasted oak cask. For two weeks, the barrel held a Spanish sweet vermouth, before the Woodford Reserve and dry vermouth were aged in the same barrel for a further 6 weeks. The drink was completed with a splash of cognac added to the aged ingredients along with Benedictine and homemade orange bitters. Pure class. The barrel aged cocktail isn't something we've seen very often, but after sampling this one we're thinking Ed could be quite the trendsetter.

The third dram of the night was the Blanton's Special Reserve. This caught Laura's eye due to having possibly the best bottle stopper ever - it has a racehorse on it, in honour of the Kentucky Derby. Bottled at 40%, this smelled more like a Scotch than the previous two offerings of the night, with prominent spiced notes. It had a nutty flavour with a bit of a bite from citrus peel flavours and more spiciness.

Our next cocktail was a hot variation on the Mint Julep, which came poured from a proper antique teapot into a little china teacup. Just darling. Peppermint tea was delicately brewed before adding brown sugar syrup, fresh mint and bitters, along with the Blanton's. It's fair to say that this was not a favourite in the room, having a somewhat medicinal quality, but Laura loved it, and the Prohibition-style presentation was a great touch.

Up next was FEW distillery (ironically named after initials of Frances Elizabeth Willard, one of the leading figures of the temperance movement in the distillery's home city of Evanston) with their Rye Whiskey, bottled at 46.5%. The rye was prominent on the nose, along with aromas of lemongrass, ginger nuts and a hint of lavender. On the palate, you can taste that it's a young whiskey, but this is no detriment - it's a very nice tipple with a lightly herbal note. 

The cocktail pairing this time was an original take on a whiskey sour, which began simply with FEW rye whiskey, fresh lemon and sugar syrup. All straightforward so far. It was then shaken (with added flair from Ed). A honey, rosemary and elderflower foam was added to the glass before the cocktail was poured through, to produce a delicate and sweet-yet-sour delight.

Finally, we were treated to the High West Campfire. This had a more familiar seaweedy nose, with inspiration coming from a master distiller who fell in love with Islay, and so decided to create a whiskey which paid homage to the beautiful island. The whiskey is formed of 70% bourbon, 20% rye, and 10% Islay whisky, and it was an outstanding drink. Sticky sweetness and dried fruits provided the undertones to the palate, with heat and spice playing a part too. The peated whisky element made itself apparent in the finish.

A Rob Roy cocktail completed the line-up for the evening. High West was stirred down with barrel aged vermouth sugar syrup and bitters. Added to this were Martini Rosso sweet vermouth caviar pearls (yes, really!). These little jewels were created with a sweet vermouth sodium alginate, which was painstakingly dripped into a calcium bath (ooo technical).
 A vacuum and an Aerolatte were also used in there somewhere. We lost track a tad, but trust us when we say there was real chemistry in the room! 

The night as a whole was probably our favourite tasting so far. Whilst the whiskeys weren't quite as much to our taste as usual (we've not been converted away from our Scotch!), they were none-the-less great easy-drinking drams and very enjoyable. However, the highlight of the evening was undoubtedly the cocktails - all five were absolutely spectacular and totally unique.


Laura & Jim

You can find out more about the cocktails at Thanks to Ed for another great evening!