I was invited to join the worldwide celebration of a man named Arthur and a beer named Guinness just before St Patrick’s day a few weeks ago.
Even as an intermittent food blogger, I regularly receive emails from PR companies asking me to post their latest press releases or promote the newest kitchen gadgets on my blog. Unfortunately for them, my blog is a very personal space that I keep deliberately free from paid advertising and ‘freebie’ giveaways. I dislike reading the same official spiel repeated across countless food blogs and find boredom setting in very quickly when I find yet another incredulously rave declaration of the generosity of such-and-such a brand in providing the free samples that inevitably form the basis of an ensuing favourable blog review (the ubiquity of posts on a certain pomegranate juice comes to mind …).
Additionally, I often find that the emails I receive from PRs are impersonal and demanding – “Write this text, post this image, post by this deadline!” – as well as poorly matched to my interests in food blogging. I know that it’s all part of wider, on-going relationship misunderstandings between PRs and food bloggers, as each are confronted by the hitherto unknown workings of the other, so I don’t take offense. I just don’t usually find much to inspire me in these PR emails, that’s all.
However, I try to keep an open mind on these things and I’ve never yet deleted a PR email without having read it through first. So when I received an email from Stephanie about an official Guinness cookbook, I was genuinely interested.
I already have several treasured recipes that include Guinness among their list of ingredients. There’s a sticky gingerbread cake, Rose’s beer bread, a beef stew … Would I like to learn more about the cookbook, Guinness ®: An Official Celebration of 250 Remarkable Years? Well, yes actually – I would!
Stephanie forwarded two recipes from the book for me to try at home – Steak and Guinness Burgers and an Iced Chocolate, Guinness and Orange Cake (recipes below) – and explained that the book had been published to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the founding of Arthur Guinness’ brewery in Dublin. I also contacted Paul Hartley, the author of the recipes in the book, and he kindly agreed to answer a few of my questions about their development.
This post was supposed to happen on St Patrick’s day (or at least in the week following March 17th), but it obviously didn’t. I was planning to bake the cake on the same day that I made the burgers to enjoy the recipes as a two-course Guinness extravaganza, but the slight issue of 173 cupcakes got in the way (more about that story another day). I therefore had to wait until Easter Sunday before finally being able to complete my plans.
Everybody loved the cake at dinnertime on Easter Sunday. In fact, it was even a real success with O, who my regular reader [sic] will know generally dislikes anything sweeter than a pint of beer. I have to confess that I sandwiched the cake layers together with a white chocolate buttercream rather than whipped cream, but that was purely because the major cake-eaters in my family dislike cream with a vengeance. I’m sure any cream lovers out there would find it beautiful with lashings of whipped cream, too.
The burgers had a smaller audience than the cake but were also unanimously declared to be tasty. We found that we needed to cook them for longer than stated in the recipe, but I usually cook meat slightly on the longer side when I’m serving it to kids anyway. Or perhaps our burgers were over-generously sized …
Here’s my conversation with Paul Hartley about the book and his recipes in general …
First of all, how many of your recipes are included in this book?
18 different recipes – some sweet, some savoury.
Are the recipes traditionally Irish in any way (apart from the inclusion of Guinness, that is!)?
Yes, Galway Oyster Bisque. Have you ever been to the Galway oyster festival? I haven’t but am planning to go. Sausages with Guinness gravy and colcannon (which is traditional Irish potato cakes). Beef and Guinness pie is a very traditional Irish dish.
Did you use Guinness in any of your cooking before you developed these recipes?
I’ve cooked with Guinness for years – whenever a recipe called for stout I would reach for the Guinness. Having already been a great fan of cooking with Guinness made this book a real treat for me.
What aspects of Guinness did you have in mind when you set out to develop these recipes?
Cooking savoury dishes was always my favourite so this was a chance to develop sweet Guinness creations in our kitchen.
How does Guinness work in the recipes to create something that is more than just a plain old chocolate cake, for example – does it truly make a difference or is it just there as a gimmick for the anniversary?
Certainly no gimmick – these dishes are definitely taste enhanced by adding Guinness. For as long as recipes were written, Guinness has been used to add depth of flavour to rich fruitcakes, and a heartiness to rich meat stews. Guinness added to batter produces a light and crisp result.
Which do you believe is the most successful recipe?
Steak & Guinness burgers with rosemary & garlic butter.
Did you try anything that really didn’t work out at all?
Whenever you are pushing the culinary boundaries there will always be dishes that just don’t work. Luckily these were few.
How many pints of Guinness did you get through while you were working on these recipes for the book?
Lots, just didn’t keep count…
And finally, do you now cook any of these recipes regularly at home?
I am a partner in Hartleys Café Bistro in Somerset and we regularly include one of the Guinness book recipes on our menu. As for cooking at home, yes sometimes but I’m currently writing the Horlicks cookbook so that’s the cut and thrust of most home cooking right now.
Thank you, Paul :-)
Steak & Guinness burgers with rosemary & garlic butter (reprinted from Guinness ®: An Official Celebration of 250 Remarkable Years with permission from the publishers)
Minced beef is marinated overnight in Guinness, then mixed with roasted red onions, griddled and served topped with rosemary and garlic butter to make a memorable burger.
Preparation time 20 minutes, plus marinating, chilling & freezing
Cooking time 10 minutes
Makes 6 burgers
500 g (1 lb) top-quality lean minced beef, ideally from grass-fed Irish beef
150 ml (¼ pint) draught Guinness
1 large red onion, finely diced
olive oil, for drizzling and oiling
3 smoked streaky bacon rashers, finely diced
1 teaspoon creamed horseradish
1 free-range egg, beaten
½ teaspoon paprika
2 heaped tablespoons plain flour
1 rosemary sprig
75 g (3 oz) butter, softened
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
salt and pepper
step 1 Lay the minced beef out in a shallow dish and cover with the Guinness. Using your hands, massage the Guinness into the meat, cover with clingfilm and leave to marinate in the bottom of the refrigerator for at least 12 hours.
step 2 When ready to make the burgers, spread the onion out in a baking dish, sprinkle lightly with salt and drizzle with oil. Scatter the bacon on top. Roast in a preheated oven, 150°C (300°F), Gas Mark 2, for 15 minutes. Leave to cool.
step 3 Lift the beef out of its marinade, gently squeeze out any excess liquid and put the beef in a large bowl. Add the roasted onion and bacon, the horseradish, egg and paprika, season with pepper and sprinkle the flour over. Using your hands, mix together well. Divide the mixture into 6 equal portions and form into round patties about 2.5 cm (1 inch) thick. Carefully lay the patties on a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper, cover with a second sheet of greaseproof paper and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to 6 hours to firm up.
step 4 Meanwhile, pluck the rosemary leaves from the stem and plunge into boiling water for 30 seconds. Drain, then chop as finely as possible. Add to the softened butter and garlic in a small bowl and beat together well. Lay a piece of clingfilm on a flat surface, form the butter into a sausage about 3.5 cm (1½ inches) in diameter and roll up in the clingfilm. Freeze for 20 minutes until set.
step 5 Lightly oil a griddle pan. Heat until just beginning to smoke, add the burgers and cook over a high heat for about 5 minutes on each side, or until well browned on the outside and just pink inside. Serve immediately, each burger topped with a slice of the rosemary and garlic butter.
Iced chocolate, Guinness and orange cake (reprinted from Guinness ®: An Official Celebration of 250 Remarkable Years with permission from the publishers)
This sumptuous cake is perfect for a special occasion. The recipe may seem a little involved, but it’s easy to accomplish if tackled stage by stage.
Preparation time 45 minutes
Cooking time 1 hour
2 large oranges
250 g (8 oz) caster sugar
175 g (6 oz) unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
150 g (5 oz) self-raising flour
25 g (1 oz) cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 free-range eggs, beaten
25 g (1 oz) ground almonds
5 tablespoons draught Guinness
150 ml (¼ pint) double cream
20 g (¾ oz) unsalted butter
50 g (2 oz) caster sugar
3 tablespoons draught Guinness
100 g (3½ oz) plain dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), finely chopped
step 1 Peel one orange. Finely grate the zest of the other orange and set aside. Using a sharp knife, pare away the pith from both oranges. Cut the oranges into 5 mm (¼ inch) slices. Put them in a small saucepan and just cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add 50 g (2 oz) of the sugar and continue to simmer until all the liquid has boiled away, watching carefully to ensure that the oranges don’t burn. Leave to cool.
step 2 Beat together the butter and the remaining sugar for the cake in a large bowl until very pale and fluffy. Sift together the flour, cocoa and baking powder, then beat into the butter mixture alternately with the eggs. Add the ground almonds, reserved grated orange zest and Guinness and beat for 3–4 minutes until you have a soft dropping consistency.
step 3 Grease and line the base and sides of 2 x 20 cm (8 inch) round cake tins, then divide the cake mixture equally between the tins, smoothing the surface. Bake the cakes in a preheated oven, 190°C (375°F), Gas Mark 5, for 25 minutes until risen and firm to the touch. Leave to cool in the tins for 5 minutes before carefully turning out on to a wire rack to cool completely.
step 4 Whip the cream in a bowl until soft peaks form, then spread over one of the cakes. Arrange the cooled orange pieces over the cream and carefully place the other cake on top.
step 5 To make the icing, put the butter, sugar and Guinness in a small saucepan. Stir over a gentle heat until the sugar has dissolved, then bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate. Leave to soften, then beat gently with a wooden spoon. Leave to cool and thicken. While still warm but not too runny, pour the icing over the cake and use the back of a spoon or a palette knife to spread it evenly.