Book Review: Food + Beer by Ross Dobson

The only equation you’ll ever need: Food + Beer = Happiness.

“In recent times, some scientific anthropological-type folks have suggested that man/woman actually cultivated the first barley crops not to make bread, but to make beer,” Ross Dobson, p.6. 

Ross Dobson clearly sets the scene of his latest addition to his already impressive repertoire of cook books, that bread was simply an afterthought to beer. Let that sink in for just a moment, priorities of our ancestors are suddenly a lot clearer and Ross has now dedicated over 80 delicious recipes specifically to beer matching – we know beer is palatable with nearly everything, but what beer really makes a dish such as Black Pepper Crab sing? Well it’d be a lager, of course!

Split into six sections, with an introduction by Ross describing his love and knowledge on beer before moving to finger food, little critters (chicken and quail), bigger critters (cow and sheep), Lillian Gish (you have to read the book for this story, trust us) and finally ‘a beer’s best friend,’ Food + Beer will certainly make an impression on anyone that loves to dabble in tasting a variety of beers as well as finger-licking good recipes. 

Martabak - an Indonesian dish with fragrant spices that come from the influence of Dutch colonisation, p.40. 

Wholesome and authentic international dishes are what you will find along with classic wry commentary from Ross, so sit back and be entertained at every turn with teachings not only about beer and food but also on cooking styles and cultural intricacies from around the world. Think Bintang - did you know that Bintang isn’t just a beer brand, it’s also the name of the local supermarkets in Indonesia? Bintang is a crisp and refreshing beer (certainly perfect for places with humid heat) and is lightly carbonated for those that like to drink quickly and the supermarkets serve everything you could ever possibly want under one roof (market style). For those that have travelled and indulged in places like Bali, India, China, Mexico and Morocco, Ross’ recipes will transport you from your kitchen straight back to your favourite holiday finds.

Kick off your next party with Ross’ Martabak, an Indonesian inspired recipe that incorporates flavours that are rarely overdone – think spring rolls but in a crispy golden parcel with a side of Lebanese cucumbers and of course a pale lager. For a main dish, Ross shares some of his favourite flavours in his recipe for Stir-Fried Duck with pepper and Thai basil, enjoy the heat of peppercorns and red chilli while washing it down with a golden ale in hand. 

Food + Beer is the perfect gift for anyone that wants wholesome, delicious food suitable for family dinners to adult luncheons on the weekend – oh and don’t forget about Father’s Day! 

Purchase your copy of Ross’s new book Food + Beer from here! 

Recipes and Images from Food + Beer by Ross Dobson, published by Murdoch Books. 

Interview: Ross Dobson on Food + Beer

Food + Beer = Happiness

“In wine there is wisdom. In beer there is freedom. In water there is bacteria,” – p.7 under ‘proverb.’

It’s been a long time coming; finally Ross Dobson releases a Food and Beer matching cookbook just in time for Father’s Day. As an author of now 14 cookbooks (including Chinatown, Grill House and King of the Grill), Dobson has outdone himself with a book clearly written to make food and beer lovers the happiest of kitchen whizzes. 

 Ross Dobson. Food + Beer = Happiness.

AGFG was able to chat with Ross just in time for Father’s Day and as his new book, Food + Beer hits shelves as the ultimate gift for Dad this Father’s Day.

Most surprising to us, Ross said that he hadn’t been planning this book - it just came out of a desire to work on a project a bit removed from the typical Aussie lifestyle. Well, we certainly think it diversifies the typical “Aussie BBQ” with dishes such as Stir Fried Duck and Martabak as just a couple of examples.

AGFG: There are a lot of books on the market this year that specifically centre on food and beer, how do you think Food + Beer stands out?

Dobson: Really? I am not aware of the other books. Is that cheeky? [AGFG: Yes that is cheeky Ross!] There are titles that incorporate beer in the recipes. I wanted to avoid that. I think I have only one, maybe two recipes, using beer as an ingredient. For me, the beer supplements the food and vice versa. What came first, the food or the beer? Well, recent discoveries will have us conclude that we wanted to make a good brew to drink before growing something to eat. This does amuse me.

AGFG: What’s your favourite Food + Beer combination?

Dobson: Curry and beer, or anything with chilli in it and beer, as in the UK, having a curry with a few beers is the norm and when I am in Asia, there really are just too many good beers to choose from! The local flavour really leans towards needing a cold lager and the food is that delicious that you want a beverage that will enhance the next mouthful; this is where beer comes in. Beer with curry, beer with sambal and beer with a chilli spiked stir fry.

 

Mussels cooked with tomatoes, parsley, coriander, beer and fries. Pair it with a bottle-fermented Belgian blonde-style beer for a delicious meal. See p. 206 of Food + Beer.  

AGFG: Father’s day is just around the corner and we think Food + Beer is the perfect gift, what recipes would you suggest for this father’s day?

Dobson: Make dad a Thai BBQ chicken salad. A good shop bought barbecued chicken is the core of this delicious recipe. While the other ingredients seem exotic, they can be easily picked up at a good supermarket. You also must make dad Chinese BBQ pork, or char sui, popular as a yum cha item. All the ingredients are so easily sources to create a truly authentic tasting delight. These will keep dad happy and make it easy on you too! (Check out page 74 and 160 of Food + Beer for these delicious recipes!)

AGFG: When you have time to yourself, what are your favourite things to do?

Dobson: I really love to find new food destinations. They don't have to be star studded or fancy as I look for the authentic and the far flung. In Sydney we have this really amazing Asian influence, so much so it is hard to go past. Middle Eastern eateries are next on my list though as it's fresh and tantalising. I like to explore the authentic flavours that Sydney’s diverse community has to offer.

AGFG: What’s your favourite “critter” to cook with?

Dobson: This is tricky to answer. It shouldn't be! I cook large critters on special occasions, like Easter and Christmas, but on a regular basis I am more of a small critter guy. I cook chicken at home several times a week. Duck is delicious, but I also see this as a special thing to cook. I love chicken. Although I don’t have any recipes for canned fish in the book, I have to confess I am a fan of canned tuna. 

Purchase your copy of Ross’s new book Food + Beer from here! 

Recipes and Images from Food + Beer by Ross Dobson, published by Murdoch Books. 

Book Review: Tooheys Cooking Handbook

Step aside basic pub food, the Tooheys Cooking Handbook is here, designed for real Aussie blokes that want to give cooking a go, and for women wanting a cheeky way to get their partner into the kitchen. Just in time for Father’s Day, this cookbook is the perfect gift for any man in your life that loves his beer and may need just a little nudge to get the oven or barbecue fired up. 

This rustic, down-to-earth style cookbook comes from a collaboration between Australia’s iconic beer brand Tooheys and publishing company, Penguin Random House Australia to provide a collection of up to 80 delicious recipes. Simplifying cooking has never tasted so good and some recipes don’t even require you to put your icy beer down.

Modern Australian flavours burst through every page in a sequence that is easy to follow, with Tooheys Tips giving guidance along the way. The Tooheys Brothers’ have-a-go spirit is ever-present, encouraging the beginner chef to get stuck in with the fundamentals, and first explaining how hands are the ultimate utensils. When you feel confident in the kitchen, splash out with Asian influences, Italian inspired classics and even a few Mexican favourites. The kick of spices will surprise and wow those lucky enough to enjoy these sumptuous meals. 

Beer Can Chicken p. 131.  

When the family is hungry and everyone is hesitant to make a move in preparing tonight’s dinner, flip to the midweek meals section and make a quick choice for food that is fast to create rather than trying the usuals that can leave you slaving away for hours in the kitchen. Save the day with Tooheys Cooking Handbook recipes; the family will love it and so will you.

Weekend feasts aren’t forgotten with a whole section dedicated to all of your favourite flavours that everyone is sure to enjoy it. Think the Crunchiest Crackling Pork Belly, or perhaps the Beer Can Chicken –the hardest part is picking your favourite Tooheys beer before throwing a whole chook on the barbecue. Heed our warning though; you may be left fighting for space at the table between Uncle Jim, all of the littlies and the delicious plates of food laid out down the middle.  

There are also a couple of really great footy food recipes with a twist so mouth-watering you and your mates may even forget the game. Think barbecue pulled pork buns and superior sausage rolls, gourmet steak sangas and scrolls made with everyone’s favourite beer brewing excess, vegemite. The hands on cooking techniques are open to creativity; if you think your way will work better, who’s to say you can’t give it a try? Every meal doesn’t have to be perfect all the time, just roll up your sleeves and give it your best shot and remember that home-cooked meals always taste better. 

With the time in between cooking and serving, learn to perfect the art of pouring your favourite beer for yourself and your friends and be sure to press your Tooheys vintage coasters out of the pages. There’s no fussing about, just pure delicious meals that will have you wanting to cook for friends and family every night of the week.  

By Julie Johnson.  

Images and Recipes from the Tooheys Cooking Handbook RRP $39.99. Available now from booksellers and online retailers. 

Recipes for Dad

Thick meats with bold flavours and classic, decadent desserts are sure to keep dad happy on Father’s Day. Whether you jump in the kitchen and cook side-by-side or surprise him by cooking his favourite meals, he’s likely to value any time you can spare to spend with him or preparing a delicious meal for him on this special day. Check out our suggestions below:

1) Barbecue Prawns

Who doesn’t love a good barbecue?  Dazzle up dad’s barbecued prawns with this recipe that incorporates an Asian twist of fish sauce, lime and a sprinkling of fresh herbs.

2) Chocolate Lasagne

Most dads love lasagne and most dads love dessert; put the two together and you have a decadent layered chocolate lasagne. The best part is that he probably won’t notice if a slice or two goes missing.

3) Baked Vanilla Doughnuts

Don’t leave dad sneaking down to the local bakery to get his favourite treat on Father’s Day. Spoil him instead by baking a batch of mouth-watering donuts and take the time to decorate them with his favourite coloured icing and plenty of sprinkles. 

4) Braised Chicken Drumsticks

Chicken drumsticks are total comfort food and this recipe goes one step further by adding a spicy kick of chilli. Go for free-range drumsticks and be sure to toss them in flour which will result in sauce that thickens to a delectably sticky consistency and let dad know that in this instance, its okay to eat with his hands.

5) Chicken Pizza

Not much beats the mesmerising stretch of gooey mozzarella! When was the last time the whole family made good quality gourmet pizzas together? This recipe is simple and easy to follow, just be sure to make more than you think you’ll need, because if it isn’t all eaten now, it is fated to become dad’s mid-morning snack the next day.

6) Traditional Pork Pie 

If your dad loves his pies, make a couple of these for him to sink his teeth into, or if he enjoys spending time in the kitchen, hand over the recipe for him to create a few himself.

Compiled by Julie Johnson. 

Father's Day 2015

Celebrate Dad on Sunday September 6.

Coinciding with the first Sunday of Spring is Father’s Day, celebrated annually. This day has not merely been created to complement Mother’s Day, nor is it simply a conspiracy to send kids running into local shopping centres, frantically searching for a couple of pairs of socks that look different to the ones from last year for an ever-growing collection; instead, it’s a time to truly honour and celebrate the fathers, grandfathers and paternal figureheads in our lives.

They say that a way to win a man’s heart is through his stomach, so take Father’s Day as a perfect time to treat your dad to a well-deserved feast of flavours. Sydneysiders may want to take that special man to Hurricane’s Grill in Bondi and dig in to a plate of Hurricane’s famous sticky ribs and steaks or if he likes an adventure, try out Braza Churrascaria in Leichhardt for a Brazilian barbeque fiesta, featuring slow roasted and charcoal grilled skewers of rump caps, sausages and chicken thighs among other meaty delights.

For Melburnians taking their dads to the footy on Sunday afternoon, perhaps shout him a post-match feed of mouth-watering burgers and pints of his favourite brew at The Beer and Burger Bar on Swan Street. Don’t worry about having to be the day’s designated driver, this eatery is located within walking distance from the MCG so you can both have a great day without the worry. For more dining ideas, check out our What’s On for Father’s Day weekend specials and make the most of foodie delights near you.

For those feeling a little creative and know their father would much prefer the thought and effort of a handmade gift, give some of our tantalising recipes a crack in the kitchen. Perhaps Louis Tikram’s Thai-inspired chargrilled beef ribs, or for a man who loves a rich. bitter bite, perhaps a tender, coffee crusted lamb. If he loves his fishing and has a soft spot for seafood, ask if he’d like to spend a day out fishing and foraging for crustaceans together before creating a meal of beer-simmered crabs. A mouth-watering dish crafted by you is sure to keep you in his good books, at least for the rest of the year. Visit our Father’s Day recipes section for more ideas. 

If your dad isn’t much of a foodie, then our list of attractions may be of inspiration. Take to Bundaberg Barrel for an interactive tour on ginger beer production or visit The Grog Shed, an orchard and winery in the Southern Highlands so the whole family can spend a gorgeous day out together, exploring and creating lasting memories. For dads who love anything fitness or simply being outdoors, why not trek to the summit of the World Heritage-listed Mt Warning or go rock climbing in the picturesque Grampians National Park? Let him lead the way and be sure to bring some snacks to enjoy at the top. 

Enjoy Food Friendly Watervale Riesling

By David Ellis from Vintnews.  

 

Although they’ve been making wines in South Australia’s Clare Valley since the 1850s, one little village that’s particularly renowned for its Rieslings is Watervale – which all these years on, still has a population of under 250. 

 

Jim Barry Wines is virtually synonymous with Watervale and premium Rieslings, and their now-released 2015 Watervale Riesling is another example of why the team there has such a well-deserved reputation, albeit 2015 wasn’t exactly kind to them in many respects weather-wise.

 

We’re talking about rain – firstly a lack of it and then absolutely plenty of it, combined with unwanted extreme heat. In five months from early August 2014 to early January 2015, the Clare Valley got a mere 67mm, just enough as Peter Barry put it, “to wash the dust off the vines.”  Then in three weeks of January down it came… 100mm of it, combined with that extreme heat in February.

 

Remarkably the vines came through well, and the 2015 Jim Barry Watervale is a great Riesling, with mouth-filling ginger and lime fruit flavours, crispy apple-like acidity and a nice varietal creaminess. Pay $18 and with Riesling being one of the most food-friendly of wines, match this one with anything from seafood to Asian, chicken, pork or vegetarian dishes. 

 

One to note: Voyager Estate in Western Australia’s Margaret River in 2012 had one of its warmest summers, earliest vintages, and highest fruit yields ever, and despite some challenges these threw at winemakers, it’s released an exceptionally smooth and more-ish 2012 Girt by Sea label Cabernet Merlot.

 

Something of an unexpected attention-grabber, this most pleasant drop has layers of dark cherry and blackcurrant fruit flavours, hints of vanilla, spice and nougat, fine-grained tannins and nicely integrated French and American oak. At $28, a great match with barbecued steak, or lamb shanks cooked in a red wine sauce. 

 

Book Review: My Street Food Kitchen

Travel feeds the soul but more importantly, it satisfies curious and voracious appetites - Jennifer Joyce.

  

Open the colourful cardboard cover of My Street Food Kitchen by Jennifer Joyce and discover a world of exciting spices, exotic flavours and tangy treats collated from bountiful regions all over the globe.

Decades of travel, a passion for flavoursome food and a knack for writing have resulted in Jennifer’s street food bible; a compilation of over 150 global recipes that place a passport to enjoying the world’s delights in the palm of your hand.

The world is now not only your oyster, but your taco, your pulled pork sandwich, your Bao bun and your crispy spring roll. Just the mention of a dish, say Peruvian Anticuchos tasted long ago, in some far-away place, can stir memories of adventure, discovery and a thrilling hint of the unknown. It is from this idea – a whispering of memories - that Jennifer takes her inspiration, ready to help you to re-create an experience and inspire you to discover more as she too has done for herself with the help of this cookbook. 

Chermoula, Tomato and Fish Tagine p.126. 

Begin a culinary journey with family and friends by delighting in dishes designed to share, exploring foreign flavours together from sections; New American Food, Mexico and South America, Flavours of the Mediterranean, Middle Eastern Cuisine, The Best of China and Taiwan, Japan and Korea, South-East Asia and a Passage to India.

Guiding the way at the start of each recipe, Jennifer gives a description of where the dish is found, transporting you to a place full of bright colour and unfamiliar sound until you are smelling the dish for yourself before you’ve even begun to cook. Picture yourself surrounded by the aromas of spices like cinnamon as they permeate the streets of Morocco, wafting from market stalls to footpaths and swirling around a buzz of people before donning an apron and preparing a tangy Chermoula, Tomato and Fish Tagine.

These meals need not be an arduous process. Simply scan over a quick Tricks of the Trade section towards the end of the book for tips on how to cook like a pro at home. Take time to browse over a few pages dedicated to extras and simple sides at the end of each chapter to help you complete a destination dinner with all the authentic accompaniments, from a Brazilian churrasco with three sauces right down to baked tortilla chips with escabeche, guacamole and grilled corn on the cob.   

Surprise yourself with the vibrancy of authentic style dishes, easy enough for relaxed weekday meals, yet exotic enough for a special night with international flair. Simply grab a copy of My Street Food Kitchen and start exploring.

By Julie Johnson.

Recipes and images from My Street Food Kitchen by Jennifer Joyce, Published by Murdoch Books. Can be purchased here for $39.99

No Pho Zone

Five of our favourite Vietnamese soups - that AREN'T pho. 

Did you know Vietnam has an almost endless list of soups that are loved just as much as the well-known pho? These broth based soups are light to eat, yet still satisfy, and for the most part are usually quite healthy. Filled with fresh herbs and quality meat, these dishes can be enjoyed more often than not. Check out just a few of our favourites below. 

1) Bun Rieu

Although there are several takes on a classic Bun Rieu, this dish has a tantalising combination of delicate crab meat and a tangy, tomato based broth with the ever-present vermicelli rice noodles - perfect to slurp til your heart’s content.

2) Canh Chua          

A colourful soup, Canh Chua is hot and sour in taste and typically made with seafood. Try prawns or go for fish fillets and re-create the dish indigenous to the Mekong Delta region in South Vietnam. 

3) Bun Bo Hue

Hue is a city associated with a royal cooking style, reflected in the cooking of a traditional Bun Bo Hue soup. Red meat is usually used and plenty of lemongrass as flavour and if you can find them, use banana blossoms too.  

4) Mi Quang

Artistically arranged with delicate crackers at the back of the bowl and layers of noodles and meat, Mi Quang is based on a pork and shrimp broth for a full bodied flavour. Enjoy a mix of textures as you slurp noodles, sip broth and crunch down on crackers.

5)  Banh Canh Gio Heo 

Pork takes the spotlight in this soup with noodles entering side stage for a simple, crowd pleaser the whole family is sure to enjoy. Sweet and salty flavours rise to the top, backed by a hearty meat base below.  

Compiled by Julie Johnson. 

Six Vietnamese Desserts You Never Knew About

There are many types of Vietnamese desserts, most of which incorporate fruit. We’ve strayed from fresh fruits to give you quick and simple recipes for classic sweet Vietnamese treats you probably never knew about.  

1) Vietnamese Egg Coffee

Served in cafes throughout Hanoi, egg coffee has been popular since the 1950s. The cup of coffee mixture sits inside an extra bowl of hot water to help keep it heated for longer. Add a tantalisingly creamy texture to your coffee today and try out a rich coffee in Vietnamese style. 

2) Che Vai Hat Sen - Vietnamese Lotus Seed Sweet Soup with Lychee

Che refers to any sweet drink, dessert soup or pudding made from particular ingredients; this particular recipe uses lychees, palm sugar, lotus and pandan. Try this dessert as a jelly substitute on hot days. 

3) Pandan Banh Bo Nuong – Vietnamese Honeycomb Cake

Don’t be disheartened if the texture doesn’t turn out right the first time. A little bit of practise and your honeycomb cakes will boast delicate, thin lines through the middle that are sure to impress. The vibrant green colour is eye-catching, making it great for serving at parties and celebrations.

4) Vietnamese Cat Tongue Cookies

Sweet and delicate with a satisfying crunch, make hundreds of cat tongue cookies at a time and store them in a sealed jar to serve to unexpected guests with an egg coffee or pot of tea. Head off on a picnic with a stash of these as a sweet way to end a lovely day.

5) Sticky Rice Balls

Mix up these sticky rice balls however you like – fill with red bean paste, sesame paste, peanuts or simply enjoy them plain. Colour them with dyes for themed occasions, roll them in coconut or sprinkle with sesame seeds. These little rice balls are easy to make and easy to transform to suit your tastes.  

6) Sweet Agar Agar with Coconut and Pandan

Appealing to look at with layers of white and green, the agar helps this dessert to solidify at room temperature. The white layer of coconut feels rich and creamy on the palate while the pandan provides an earthy, almost nutty flavour. Test out this recipe, then go one step further with a coffee flavoured layer. 

Compiled by Julie Johnson.

Colour Your World in Vietnamese Fare

We’re celebrating Vietnam’s National day this week with a culinary journey that’s full of flavour, colour and flair.

Drawing on its surrounds, Vietnam’s culinary history is varied and seductive, from the Chinese and Khmer dynasties and the Indian empire as well as the short lived Japanese occupation to the French colonisation of which Vietnam celebrates its independence on September 2.

Boats in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam. 

Although Vietnam is made up of 50 provinces, in terms of food, Vietnam is split into the North and the South – each have their own climate, culture and food traditions.

The Break Down:

North Vietnam is influenced by neighbouring China and is ruled by a cooler climate.

South Vietnam experiences a hot climate and draws its culinary influence from Khmer and Thailand.

Both styles of the North and South centre around mildly spicy dishes with a lighter, fragrant and fresher approach than those that influence them as most meals are meant to be shared and are an array of dishes such as soup, rice, grilled or steamed meats, vegetables, fresh fruit and salad. Heavy stews with braised beef and red wine don’t have any place within the Vietnamese culture– however, the influence of the French can be seen in the ever-popular bánh mì - a crusty baguette filled with pickled carrots, daikon, cucumbers, cilantro, chillies, pate, mayonnaise and mixed meat fillings as well as the ever-classic pho (a mixture of Chinese and French influence).

  Bánh Canh Giò Heo - delicious!

If you’re looking to enjoy a traditional Vietnamese soup that isn’t the ever-prevalent pho (which, unless made authentically from a Vietnamese recipe, is bastardised) than may we suggest these 5 soups that AREN’T pho?

The western notion of something sweet covering the palate after a main meal (ie dessert), isn’t too common in the Vietnamese culture, unless it is a fresh piece of fruit or a sweet coconut custard (following a celebration), however we do have 6 Vietnamese desserts that you’ve probably never heard of just for you to whet your appetite with! 

If you’re not up to the challenge of cooking Vietnamese but you want to enjoy what Vietnamese culture has to offer, the AGFG Restaurant Guide will help you locate the perfect Vietnamese restaurant for you across Australia.

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