A weekly beer + food column to support the launch of CAMRA’s new podcast, Pubs. Pints. People. You can tune in each week on Apple Podcast or Spotify or simply visit https://shows.acast.com/5ed0cbc8e3ae160820cc9477/
I’VE been self-distancing from you, my virtual CAMRA supper guests, for the past few weeks. Apologies. No, I wasn’t struck down by the virus but by Real Life in the shape of a visit from my granddaughters plus a trip to an actual pub, the Rose & Crown, just up the road at Yealmpton. It’s a St Austell brewery house, and what a joy to get real ale pulled by handpump after all these weeks – Proper Job, Tribute and Hicks; now I know why blokes who scale Everest say the first thing they’re looking forward to is a pint of English bitter! Currently the pub is serving a shortened menu of six main dishes that included Tribute battered fish, gammon with duck eggs and really crisp chunky chips, West Country T-bone steak, wild mushroom risotto, sarnies and desserts. It was fresh and tasty and, while choice was limited, let’s face it – when you’re eating the first meal you haven’t cooked yourself for over four months it felt like the Ritz. Speaking of which, back in the Red (On)Lion you might recall I was into Belgian beers (mussels in Hoegaarden if I remember rightly) before my absence so would like to dally there by pairing duck breasts with cherry beer. I used traditional lambic Kriek Boon, fermented with real cherries at Boon brewery in Lembeek; to be perfectly honest, this is more a dessert beer, quite sweet with an intriguing hint of almond. However, it was the only cherry beer I had in the house and it did reduce to a rich red sauce. For this dish, if you’ve got a bottle of Lindeman’s corked Kriek with its slightly sour note, that might be preferable. But in these troubled times, dear reader, one does what one can.
Duck breasts with cherry beer sauce (serves two)
Two duck breasts; small red onion, peeled and finely chopped; 100 ml chicken or vegetable stock; 200ml cherry beer; several oyster mushrooms (halve any larger ones);4 links of fresh cherries (if available); red and green salad leaves to garnish
Heat a dry frying pan until hot then add duck breasts skin side down, cook for a few minutes until the fat runs out and the skin is crisp; turn over and cook for another few minutes until the meat is tender but still pink. Remove from pan and leave to rest somewhere warm. Sweat the red onion in the duck fat until soft then add the stock and simmer to reduce; add the cherry beer and again reduce, stirring, until the sauce is syrupy. Sauté the oyster mushrooms in butter until just cooked – around half a minute.
To serve: pour a pool of cherry beer sauce onto each plate, carve the duck breasts into slices and arrange on top, decorating them with linked fresh cherries (I hadn’t got any). Arrange the oyster mushrooms alongside, then the salad leaves. Cheers – and bon appétit.
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