I chose to create an Indian inspired menu to compliment an oak barrel aged beer. The reason I chose this combination is that I knew the oak would lend an earthy-sour flavor to the beer, a characteristic flavor of wild fermented foods. Since I knew that any Indian inspired menu of mine would include samosas, I thought that earthy-sour flavor would pair well with the crispy spicy samosas.
Both the meal and the beer were good, but I feel they would both be better suited to other pairings. The beer, Jolly Pumpkin’s La Roja, is very complex. It ranges from a bright and citrus flavor at first, to a deep, sour raisin flavor in the middle. There are roasty overtones throughout, as well as an underlying pleasant sour flavor. The first two flavors were very prominent, however, at the end there was nothing but the sour aftertaste. I did not realize that the La Roja would have very little hop flavor, which made me feel it was lacking something. The oak certainly influenced the flavors, which was wonderful, but I feel the beer needed a final flavor to finish off, and it didn’t have that. It was more like red wine than any beer I have ever tasted. I also would have enjoyed a bit more carbonation.
As for the meal, as Sam put it, “This beer goes well with the samosas and chutney, and the eggplant, but doesn’t bring them together.” That pretty much sums it up. I feel the meal I prepared would go well with a beer full of hops, such as an IPA, and the la Roja would go well with a meal very similar in its components but without the complex spices, such as a mushroom ragu or a vegetable stew with a crisp, hearty bread. This exercise made me realize that these pairings are all trials, and that the art of pairing will emerge when I am a more seasoned beer drinker.
Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, “La Roja” Artisan Amber Ale Aged in Oak Barrels (2008)
$13 for a 1 pt. 9.4 oz. bottle
Sweet Potato and Broccoli Samosas with Tamarind Chutney
Curried Eggplant with Roasted Tomatoes
Saffron Rice (I cook basmati rice with a bit of oil and a pinch of saffron threads.)
The following recipes will feed at least four people. If you are feeding only two (as I did) you will end up with more samosa leftovers than anything else. They can be reheated in the oven, or simply eaten cold.
When I make an Indian inspired meal (I use this phrase because I can’t even pretend to know how to make any type of authentic Indian fare), I usually put a bunch of garlic and ginger in the food processor, and use the mixture in everything. I also grind whole coriander, cumin seeds, ajwan seeds and salt with a mortar and pestle and use the spice mixture as a base. As always, yo may use more spices if you like, just take care not to over spice so the flavor of the food have a chance to emerge as well.
I grew and preserved all the vegetables in this meal. The broccoli was lightly blanched and frozen in quart size bags, the eggplant was roasted peeled, chopped, and frozen, 2 per bag, and the tomatoes were roasted and frozen as well. The sweet potatoes, garlic and onions are all storing quite nicely in our coat closet/pantry. We have The quality of these ingredients is the best I could ever imagine. I say this not to brag, but to emphasize the possibilities of home food preservation. All these vegetables were ripe and in season when they were frozen, lending to their superior taste and quality.
Samosas (Makes 24 small or 16 medium)
Samosas are traditionally fried. I bake them. I have found that they are delicious baked, and it is easier to throw a sheet of samosas in the over than it is to fry them in 3 inches of oil.
You can easily make samosas with a traditional potato filing by following every step and substituting potatoes and peas for the sweet potatoes and broccoli.
For the dough:
1 1/2 cups spelt flour (I use a local flour, Wild Hive)
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup coconut oil, room temperature
6-7 TBS cold water
For the filling
1-1 1/2 pound sweet potato, cooked “al dente”
1-2 cups broccoli florets, lightly steamed and chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2-inch piece ginger, minced
1 TBS fresh ground coriander
1 TBS fresh ground cumin
1/4 tsp fresh ground ajwan seeds
Salt, to taste
Coconut oil, for cooking
Mix flour and salt together. Cut coconut oil into the flour, just as you would when making pie crust. The end result should be more like sand. You want the coconut to blend completely with the flour. You can also use a food processor for this step. Add the cold water. Start by adding 4 TBS, then gradually add the remaining water 1 TBS at a time. Do not add too much water. The flour I use takes about 6 TBS. It should not stick to your fingers. Knead the dough for 10 minutes by hand. You want the dough to be elastic, glossy, pliable and smooth. Let dough rest in a small bowl under a damp towel while you prepare the rest of the meal.
Peel and dice the cooked sweet potato. The cubes should be about 1/4 inch.
Saute onions, garlic and ginger over low heat in coconut oil until fragrant and translucent. Add spices. Cook until the spices are very fragrant and some areas are toasted.
Add the sweet potato and cook until the some of the sweet potato becomes mashed, and some stays in its cubed state. Add the chopped broccoli and stir until completely distributed. Turn off heat and let cool before continuing.
Once the filling has cooled, begin assembling the samosas.
Divide the dough in half, divide each half into three pieces. Start with one sixth at a time. Divide in half and roll out on a lightly floured surface into a 3-inch diameter circle. Cut into semicircles. Fold over and seal the cut side. Place the newly formed cone in your hand (I place it in my left hand because I am right-handed) and open it, much like you would a pastry bag. Fill with about 1 TBS of filling. Stuff the filling in so you have a nice clean edge. Seal the open end and place on a parchment-lined sheet pan.
NOTE: In order to make 16 medium sized samosas, divide dough into four pieces, then work with those. You will need more filling.
Once the sheet pan is full, place in an oven preheated to 400 degrees. Bake for about 10 minutes and flip the samosas over, then bake for about 5 minute more.
4-5 whole tamarinds
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup honey
scant 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
generous pinch of the following, all ground together: minced ginger, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, salt
1/4 cup unsweetened flaked cocnut
Simmer the tamarind in the water until tender. Pass pulp and simmer water through a sieve to separate the seeds and fibers. Return pulp to sauce pan. Add honey ans simmer until thick. Add vinegar, spices and coconut. Simmer for a few minutes to soften the coconut and the vinegar flavor. Let cool. Serve with samosas.
Curried Eggplant and Tomato
I am sure that the best curry spice blend is one made at home, from freshly roasted and ground spices. I recommend that everyone try this, however, I tend to doctor a reliable store bought curry blend.
2 smallish eggplants, roasted, peeled and diced
3 cups roasted whole tomatoes
2 small onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 inch piece of ginger, minced
2 TBS tamari
2 TBS curry powder (I use hot)
2 TBS coconut oil (or more)
OPTIONAL: 1 tsp cumin seeds, 1 tsp coriander, 2 hot chilies, 1/4 tsp ajwan seeds, freshly ground
Cook onions, garlic and ginger over medium low heat until tender. Add the spices and cook until the mixture is paste like, about 1 minute. Add the eggplant, tomatoes and tamari. Cook over a medium-low heat for about 30 minutes.This dish gets better the longer it simmers. Keep tasting it to make sure the flavors are balanced to your liking. Serve warm.