A is For Autumn, B is for Beer

Autumn has certainly arrived in my part of the world, along with seemingly non-stop rain. But it does make it very cosy for cooking or as the Danes say, "hygge", which basically means the candles are lit, there is plenty of wood for the fire, we have chunky cream sweaters to wear, and the air is softly scented with cinnamon, marzipan and lashings of liquorice. So let's enjoy it cos it ain't going away any time soon.....

It's been soaking wet outside but I have been practically Prohibition personified this past month. A couple of pints of London Meantime lager  on a sunny day in Notting Hill and a bottle or two of the delicious lager from the equally delicious guys at the Camden Town Brewery has been about my lot.The resurgence of micro breweries and micro stills over the last few years has lead to an amazing range of beers and booze; Hoxton Gin, Sipsmiths et al, if you fancy having a crack at it yourself this might be of interest, The Great British Home Brew Challenge , a partnership with Thornbridge and the biggie, Nicholson's.

I actually came to beer drinking quite late in life but my dad has been making his own home-brew for over 40 years and an excellent drop it is too. As a kid, I used to help him brew-up, it involved spooning sugar into bottles and squeezing hop juice through mum's American tan pantyhose. He has now gone very modern and if anyone chanced to peep into his shed these days they would be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled onto the Breaking Bad meth lab, bless him.

The positives of my semi-sobriety have been losing a few pounds, sleeping better and discovering new things to drink. My latest crush- Horcharta, pronounced or-CHAH-tah.
Originating in Spain where it is made from the chufa nut or earth almond, something I've never seen in the UK but I'm sure you could substitute cobb nuts which are in season now.
I make mine with almond milk. Heat a cup of almond milk (Alpro make it) with a cinnamon stick, 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract, a spoonful of honey or agave syrup. Delicious on a frosty day...with a glug of Frangelico, it makes a lovely nightcap too, so I've heard...

One beverage I managed to avoid for ages was the chai latte, the idea of weak, milky spiced tea was less than appealing. Curry-flavoured dishwater sprang to mind when Starbucks brought it to the fore quite a few years ago but after trying some from Jing Tea I am a blown away convert. A heady mix of spice, quality black tea with a splosh of milk and a spoonful of honey, there are loads of different chai tea products available but if you fancy making your own try to use really fresh spices. You'll need a teapot and a strainer or use a coffee press.

Chai Tea Mix
100 grams of Assam or my favourite, Gunpowder tea
6 cardamom pods
3 star anise
3 whole black peppercorns
2 sticks of cinnamon
1 vanilla pod
A lot of chai is ground to a coarse powder so that you can use it in an espresso maker but I prefer mine chunky and just give them a good bash with a rolling pin in a metal wine cooler. You could use a coffee grinder or a food processor. A couple of tablespoons in a teapot with boiling water and leave to steep for at least 5 minutes. With milk or without, but honey, even a little, works magically with the spices.
As regular readers will know, I'm a big soup fan and have been making copious quantities of "brown" chicken stock recently. Roast a kilo of chicken wings at 180c until nice and golden,about 40 minutes, put the wings into a large saucepan and deglaze the roasting tin with a litre of cold water, scritchin' off all the brown bits. Add to the saucepan with another litre of cold water, one onion, cut in half but not peeled, same with one carrot. Gently simmer for an hour, never letting it boil. Strain it all through a fine sieve, chill and skim off any solidified fat.You should end up with a lovely clear golden stock. You can then add whatever you fancy. A few drops of sesame oil, a slice of ginger, a pinch of chinese five spice and couple of prawns; chinesezy. Porcini, truffle oil and a few basil leaves, go Italian.
It's the polar opposite of the way you make stock for the soup-noodle dish, Ramen, where you boil the bejeezes out of it to make a super fatty cloudy stock.Ramen, " The only thing between 500,000 Americans and utter starvation".The ubiquitous student food, comes in a brick with a "tasty" sachet of flavouring, so cheap, so filling, and has really kept the wolf from the door for millions of people all over the world.
If you live in London, you are about to be introduced to the real thing. Fellow Queenslander and chef extraordinaire, Ross Shonhan is opening Bone Daddies in Soho early next month.
That man knows his noodles, ex-Nobu and ex-Zuma , he knows his bones too, having grown up on a cattle farm in an area of Queensland not well known for it's haute cuisine. He is knowledgeable, passionate and believes in the power of stock! Can't wait to try it.
Love Food X