With the exception of such staples as curry, steak and ale pie or, god forbid, the doner kebab, beer and fine cuisine have tended to have a difficult relationship. Despite the arrival of microbrews and fruit beers, grain remains very much grape's poor relation, with few top restaurants boasting of their beer list.
Now, however, grain has found its champion in Maxim 'Beer Chef' Richard Fox. The Food and Beer Cook Book is an unashamedly unpretentious collection of recipes and informative titbits designed to convince us that beer deserves a place in every kitchen, above and beyond that of chef's lubricant.
Fox's love of beer emerges from the start, guiding us energetically through the various types, matching beers to meals and even giving a quick rundown on beer tasting. Throughout, it's clear that his recipes are as much about celebrating the beverage in all its forms as they are about the food itself.
As Fox himself says, 'cooking at home is more about the event...than about fancy food', and that's reflected in his choice of dishes. Many are established favourites such as the club sandwich, Welsh rarebit and eggs Benedict, while every recipe uses beer either for flavour or to simplify preparation.
Fox assumes that his reader will have all the culinary aptitude of the stereotypical male, keeping recipes simple to the point of brutality and focusing on ingredients and flavours rather than technique. The club sandwich is made with pigeon and caramelised onions -- 'top tasting, beer soaking, footie friendly fodder of the highest order' -- while canapés include mini Yorkshire puddings with venison and raspberry beer sauce, with a side order of idiot-proof instructions.
The Food and Beer Cook Book includes suggestions for both formal and informal occasions, ranging from a romantic dinner à deux to supplies for TV marathons. Ladies horrified by the idea of confronting one of Fox's creations at their next candlelit rendezvous can take comfort in dishes such as fruit salad with strawberry beer crème fraiche, and inside-out hot dogs with BBQ sauce look likely to keep plainer appetites topped up.
As you've probably guessed, this isn't a book for the aspiring Gordon Ramsay. For those more Can't Cook, Won't Cook than Masterchef, however, it may prove just the thing to remove that kitchen phobia. Cheers!
**The Food and Beer Cook Book is published by Sentinel Press**