For years, the only food that most people would associate with beer was either a curry or a packet of crisps in the pub. Unfortunately, both of these were merely a sales ploy to dehydrate customers and get them to drink more (awful) beer. However, as the focus on beer has moved from quantity to quality, there has been more interest in beer and food matching. And the Edinburgh New Town Cookery School (ENTCS) offers a great introduction to what can prove a gastronomical delight.
The school was set up in late 2009 to offer a range of classes, courses and sessions, from full diploma courses to short evening and weekend workshops. My fellow beer lovers and I were fortune enough to have our class led by the Principal of ENTCS, Fiona Burrell – otherwise known as a walking food encyclopaedia. Before we started, Fiona gave us a fascinating overview of Edinburgh’s long and distinguished beer history, which led to Scotland’s capital being nicknamed The City of Beer and Bibles.
To add some variety to the evening and allow us to compare the affect different beers had on the food, each course was matched with two beers. We started with Stewart Brewing’s Hefe and Innis and Gunn’s Original oak aged beer, which was served with Loch Duart Oak Roasted Flaky Salmon. Both beers are very light, but the Hefe is a traditional German style wheat beer, whereas the latter had the sweet, sticky flavour Innis & Gunn has become famous for. Each was able to stand up to the strong flavour of the salmon, without overpowering the beautiful flavours the smokers have given the fish.
The main was probably my favourite course of the entire night. Our posh bangers and mash comprised venison sausages from Joe Findlay of Portobello, served with crushed new potatoes and a moreish carbonnade sauce, which was made using both wine and ale. This was accompanied by William Bros. Honey Thief – a warm, golden ale brewed with honey – and Traquair’s Jacobite Ale; a dark ale spiced with coriander. These beers might just sound downright weird, but the peculiar flavours actually brought a different dimension to the dish, without ruining its already fantastic taste.
Four beers in – four to go. Next up was one of my favourite beers, Stewart Brewing’s Radical Road, along with Traquair’s House Ale, served with a small taster of something completely different – Asian haggis. Another quality product from Joe Findlay’s, this was first created for the wedding of an Edinburgh businessman for his traditional Sikh wedding. Big flavours all round from both the haggis and the two beers, but they came together beautifully – the perfect marriage!
And finally, onto our two part dessert – a cheese board comprised of Isle of Mull Cheddar and Strathdon Blue, followed by a chocolate and stout cake. These were matched with Innis and Gunn’s Rum Cask beer and William Bros Profanity Stout. The Innis and Gunn seemed to suit the cheese board, giving the beautifully creamy cheese a sweet edge, whereas the stout gave the cake that extra boozy hit.
A beer and food pairing session at ENTCS would make the perfect present for the beer lover in your life or even a treat for yourself. I flew solo at this event but the company on the evening was great, and we traded stories whilst enjoying some of the best food and drink Scotland has to offer.
Edinburgh New Town Cookery School’s Beer and Food Pairing sessions take a break over the summer but keep an eye on its website for updates.
[Disclaimer: my consultancy works for ENTCS but as is the case with all of my blog posts, if it’s not good enough, then it doesn’t get in.]