“And the bar tender says to Renee Descartes, “Another beer?” And Descartes says, “I think not” and disappears.”
Winter bared it’s teeth just a little up here on the weekend and on a chilly, grey Sunday afternoon the idea of a hearty lunch in front of a roaring fire held significant appeal – especially if I didn’t have to provide the hearty lunch. There is a very popular boutique brewhouse just up the valley from our town, which serves good hearty fare and, with the two older teenagers refusing to be seen in public with their parents, that left only the youngest to be lured out with promises of dessert.
Sitting in front of the requisite roaring fire, awaiting our meals and admiring the big, shiny beer vats gave me time to think about the role of ales – because beer is, in fact, one of the oldest known beverages with a documented history that can be traced back to 6000 BC. It became popular in the areas of Europe where it was not really possible to grow wine, but was considered barbaric by the Byzantines. Beer was consumed on a daily basis from ancient times in many cultures and often made up a substantial amount of the daily calorific intake of the poorer proportion of the population. While starting the day with a cleansing ale is somewhat frowned upon these days, in Medieval Europe, breakfast for the upper classes was often a long affair of several courses with ale and wine as the beverage, while the first meal of the day for labourers and peasants often consisted of simply bread and ale. With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, beer was more readily able to be mass produced, signaling the move away from artisanal manufacture and the beginnings of the giant multinational brewers common now. However, artisanal brewing is not quite dead, as the popularity of our local brewery can attest – there is obviously an interest in tasting and drinking beers of more complex flavours, especially on a lazy Sunday afternoon!.
From what I have heard about his mis-spent youth, The Husband was fairly preoccupied with beer – particularly in his football playing days, but time moves on, waistlines move out and hair vanishes. These days Himself is a pillar of virtue whose occasional tipple is more likely to be a sophisticated red wine and beer is seen mostly in food dishes around here.
Beer, ales and stout give a wonderful richness of flavour to many casseroles and stews and can also be used to make fantastic quick breads. These quick breads don’t use yeast as a raising agent and so are great for a quick loaf. They tend to have a consistency more similar to scones and go brilliantly with any warming winter soup. I used dried tomatoes and cheese in this one, but next time I might try finely chopped rosemary and some pine nuts. You can use cheddar or substitute some parmesan to get the cheesy flavour with less fat. It is important to remove the bread from the pan as soon as you take it out of the oven – otherwise it will get soggy as it cools.
Oh – and I lied about the skittles!
- 500 gms SR flour
- pinch of salt
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 can of beer
- 1/3 cup sundried tomatoes in oil, chopped
- 1 cup grated tasty cheddar (I used about 2/3 cup cheddar and 1/3 grated parmesan)
- Preheat oven to 180C and grease a loaf pan.
- Sift dry ingredients together, add chopped tomatoes and cheese, then stir in liquid ingredients and mix.
- The dough will be sticky, but that’s ok as you don’t have to knead it.
- Tip into pan and bake for approx. 40 minutes.
- Remove from pan immediately and cool on a rack.