What is it?
Cooking food in beer. Beer-steaming probably dates back to the 10th or 11th century when the clean, low-alcohol beer produced in monasteries was a safer alternative to the local water supply. Today, it's back on the agenda due to our overwhelming thirst for all things craft-brewed. Every beer, from the cider-like Belgian lambics to lightly bitter pale ales, gives its own particular flavour to mussels, clams, prawns, crabs, and even hot dogs.
Where is it?
Melbourne is frothing with new beer-halls and tap-houses, including the new German-inspired Hophaus at Southbank. Head chef Anthony Caruso piles Portarlington mussels into a lidded clay pot with dark, malty, dunkel beer (a dark, German lager), celery, herbs, a nob or two of butter and a touch of garlic oil, steaming the lot in a high-powered charcoal grill for four minutes. "The clean, toasted-malt flavours of the beer give the dish a creamy bitterness that's knocked back by the butter," says Caruso.
For QT Hotel's glam Gowings Bar & Grill in Sydney and the Capitol Bar & Grill in QT Hotel Canberra, Creative Food Director Robert Marchetti has devised a high-end, beer-steamed prawn cocktail. Mooloolabah prawns are first steamed, then, surprisingly, doused in ice-cold beer, spectacularly presented with shaved iceberg lettuce and horseradish dressing in one shimmering glass bowl set over ice within another.
"The inspiration came from fishing trips, when we used to boil prawns in seawater on the boat, then blast-chill them in cold beer," explains Marchetti. "It keeps the sweeter notes of the beer intact, and makes it more Australian."
Why do I care?
It's more fun than cooking with water.
Can I do it at home?
Only if you're happy to sacrifice a decent ale to the cause.
BEER-STEAMED MUSSELS WITH CHORIZO
Terrific live, pot-ready mussels such as South Australia's Kinkawooka are already de-bearded and scrubbed. Just give them a rinse and discard any broken shells.
375ml of your preferred beer
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1kg live, pot-ready mussels
1 tbsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp cream
2 tbsp flat parsley leaves, picked
2 tbsp dill, roughly chopped
freshly ground black pepper
2 chorizo sausages, sliced on diagonal
1. Bring the beer and the garlic to the boil in a large, lidded pot, and simmer for 30 seconds. Add the mussels, cover tightly and simmer for one minute over high heat.
2. Give the pan a big shake. Using tongs, remove any mussels that have opened, replace the lid and simmer for another minute, taking out the mussels as they open.
3. Whisk the mustard and cream into the mussel broth, and add the parsley, dill and pepper.
4. Quickly sear the chorizo for two minutes in a frypan until browned.
5. Ladle the broth over the mussels in four warm bowls, top with the chorizo and its pan juices and serve.
Hophaus Bier Bar & Grill, Mid-level, Southgate precinct, Southbank, 03 9682 5900, hophaus.com.au
Gowings Bar & Grill, QT Hotel, 49 Market Street, Sydney, 02 8262 0062, qtsydney.com.au
The Capitol, QT Hotel, 1 London Circuit, Canberra, 02 6247 1488, qtcanberra.com.au