Andy Clarke Winter 2021
We like to plan the food for the barbecue and select our favourite meats from the local butcher. But don’t forget the drinks – made for pairing and sharing – says ANDY CLARKE
Half the fun of eating flame-kissed food is the drinks that go with it. But all too often we get stumped unnecessarily at the refreshment hurdle.
My advice is – don’t get stressed out by it. A barbecue or pizza oven-fuelled bonanza is a reason for celebration and this means that drinks should flow without anxiety. So, here’s a guide to what goes with some of my favourite barbecue dishes:
Before your guests arrive, I think it’s essential to start your barbecue preparation with
a drink in hand, and a gin and tonic is a deliciously light way to start proceedings. Perhaps it’s the result of watching too many Keith Floyd programmes when I was younger, but I like to prepare food with a drink in my hand. I find fizzy drinks with a little zing accompany this culinary journey rather well. It’s great to start the pre-party proceedings with the sound of ice clinking around your glass. To be perfectly honest, these sorts of drinks don’t tend to match with the robust flavour of flame-grilled food but they’re a great way to enliven the palate while getting the salads and marinades started. Whitley Neill Original London Dry Gin is a classic that will slip down easily. It’s full of juniper and citrus notes and has a soft texture and smooth finish.
There’s something about the bubbles in sparkling wine that is exciting and celebratory. For many years Britain has produced some fantastic examples of fizz and, year-on-year, they just seem to get even more impressive. As a rule, dry sparkling wine pairs beautifully with the delicate sweetness of barbecued seafood like scallops and prawns, as well as the salty charms of halloumi cheese. It’s also a total winner with barbecued sweetcorn. But if you’d like a real treat, why not treat yourself to a sparkling rosé. One of my favourites at the moment is the award-winning Ridgeview Rosé de Noirs 2016 from Sussex, which is made with Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes. I’m a big fan of creating prawn and chorizo skewers, which is where this deliciously berry-driven sparkler comes into its own. The combination of shellfish and paprika-rich sausage is a winner.
White wine can be a real treat when flame-cooking white fish. The refreshing nature of white wine complements delicate seafood nicely. If the fish is an oily variety like salmon, sea bream or mackerel, it can cut through the texture of the fish in the same way that a squeeze of lemon juice works over smoked salmon. But something that is really underrated is the way that white wine can work with vegetables – the chargrilled veg that go over the coals as well as the salads that accompany barbecues. I love an oaked Chardonnay from Chile with flame-cooked veg because of its fruity character, but I also enjoy a Sauvignon Blanc too. Leyda Single Vineyard Garuma Sauvignon Blanc is a real winner with green vegetables and salads. The grassy notes of this Sauvignon Blanc along with hints of gooseberry and grapefruit marry perfectly with chargrilled leeks and asparagus. It’s also great with poultry that has been basted in garlic or herb butters, not to mention sweetcorn that’s been basted in chilli butter.
Red wine isn’t the first thing you think
about drinking when the sun is hot and the barbecue is even hotter, but if you’re eating red meat, it’s totally the drink to be sipping. There’s huge diversity in the red wines that are out there, but for chargrilled steak, you want something pretty juicy and robust. While Rioja is a great go-to wine for butterflied lamb, Malbec from Argentina is a classic wine for steak and, in my opinion, it’s the perfect one-stop wine to accompany a barbecue. The Argentinians love their beef and they really know what they’re doing when it comes to making good Malbec.
The spicy notes in fruity Beefsteak Club Malbec work wonderfully with steak, but
this Mendoza wine also pairs nicely with the rich fleshy nature of aubergine once it has been flame-blistered. Aubergine is unique and robust, so it can stand up to red wine. The tannins and underlying peppery finish of Malbec coat your teeth and fill your mouth in a way that is really nice with red meat and richer vegetables.
Lager, ale and beer are often thought to be the perfect partner for the person in charge of the barbecue – can in one hand, tongs in the other. This may be true for many barbecue head chefs, but I believe that there are some great examples of lager, ale and beer that pair nicely with barbecued food. I love spatchcocking a chicken and letting it char over coals, so a drop like Hempathy is a winner with this. This ale is a collaboration between Stroud Brewery in Gloucestershire and well-known chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Hemp is closely related to the hop so Hugh saw how the seeds would make a great ingredient here. The malty, nutty tones of this drink are just fabulous with poultry as well as meatier, robust fish like monkfish. The creamy texture is incredibly food friendly and is also a great match with pork sausages and butter-basted sweetcorn too. But, for me, an absolute stonker of a beer is BBQ magazine’s very own BBQ Rye IPA. Made by Powder Monkey Brewing in Gosport, Hampshire, this delicious sip is made specifically to accompany barbecued food. The spicy caramel-kissed amber charms of this ale is a lovely change to some of the usual suspects you see in cans. If you’re having lamb chops or a really good juicy burger, there’s nothing better than this to sip alongside. And if you’re doing something a little different, like chicken livers on skewers or duck, this Rye IPA will slip down a treat.
Cider is probably my favourite BBQ accompaniment. The apple freshness of a sparkling cider is so versatile. It can transcend the whole event from start to finish and stands up to so many different dishes. The crisp apple flavours of a good cider work so well with fire-cooked food. The sweetness of corn is fabulous with sparkling cider, as is the robust flavour of chargrilled red peppers. Apple drinks like cider work a treat with meats like chunky pork chops as it cuts through that deliciously rich caramelised fat perfectly. Chicken is also a good friend of cider, especially when brushed with herb butter. And if you’re cooking scallops, the sweet nature of the scallop meat is perfect with cider. And let’s not forget the sensational flavour of homemade flame-cooked pizzas. The tang of a tomato-based, cheese-topped pizza is just fabulous with a glass of orchard happiness. Dry cider can be delicious, but when it comes to food and drink matching, I believe that a medium cider can be wonderful, especially if you’re eating spicy sauces, dressings and marinades. The herbaceous heat of chimichurri loves fruity medium cider. A great example of this is Sandford Orchards Devon Red Cider, which is a tangy and refreshing medium cider, named after the rich red soil of the orchards, or a Sandford Orchards Devon Mist.
Let’s not leave spirits off of the guest
list. They’re a great sip when you fancy something a bit different. I love spiced rum; it has so much character and flavour. There are many different types and flavours out there and Dead Man’s Fingers Rum, distilled in Bristol, and Lost Years Arribada Cask Aged Rum and Four Island Rum, is sourced from artisan distillers across the Caribbean and Latin America, are really great examples. I love a little neat rum on the rocks, but it’s also great in a Dark n Stormy cocktail or just with coke and a lime wedge. The warming, spicy vanilla notes complement loads of different barbecue food. Burgers and sausages are great with rum, as is marinated red meat. Why not brush rum on your meat for an extra kick? Matching drinks to sweet dishes can be tricky. As soon as you taste sweet food, your drink will become more bitter, so always make sure that your drink is as sweet or actually sweeter than your dessert. The sweet notes in rum go with all kinds of desserts.
People often think about rich white wines when matching drinks with fish and chicken, but if you’d like something completely different, Bourbon can be a real treat. With fish like salmon, Bourbon can be a great match. Essentially you need something to cut through the rich texture of the fish. The toasty and slightly sweet flavours of Bourbon complement the pink flesh beautifully. Also, try it in a cocktail like a Whisky Sour (which is traditionally made with Bourbon) or as a long drink with sparkling water.
Eagle Rare Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is a fabulous one to whet your whistle.
The drinks featured were used in the BBQ magazine filming at Lainston House, Hampshire. Watch out for social media announcements on the release of our exclusive drinks pairing film with Andy Clarke, produced by Hungry Gap Productions.
Images: Hungry Gap
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