Lamb Shanks

 

Ingredients: For 4-6 people

 

2 small, or 1-2 large lamb shanks per person.

 

Shallots 5-6 per person, or very small brown onions (not salad onions or Cairns “shallots”) Peeled and slit about one third through with sharp knife (don’t let Mo do this bit) keeping shallots whole

 

3 large bulbs of garlic, crushed (or paste/jar etc.)

 

Large can of butter beans – discard water

 

Litre carton of Chicken Stock  (more than enough, may be too much)

 

Fresh chopped Rosemary and Thyme (or  herb paste)

 

 

Method:

 

Brown lamb shanks, 2 to 3 at a time in very hot frying pan.  Add a tiny bit of oil to start it off.  Turn the meat a few times over 3-4 minutes to ‘sear’ the surfaces brown.  Remove and mop off excess fat with kitchen paper.

 

Place lamb shanks in large casserole or roasting pan with lid.

Add shallots, herbs, garlic and butter beans

Add chicken stock to almost cover meat

 

Put in oven with lid on at 200 degrees c (?gas)  moderately hot to get it all cooking

After about 30 minutes turn heat down to 160 – 170 and cook for further 1 and a half to two hours, at least, although can take much longer cooking on low heat  Low, slow cooking is best and I usually cook it between 3-4 hours. On about 160.

 

Stir around a couple times during cooking – or move meat from bottom of pan to top to brown more.  If too much liquid near end of cooking time, remove or partially remove lid to reduce liquid.

 

30 mins before ready to serve, add chopped fresh green beans to dish.

NB  Butter beans could be also added at this point – they can go mega mushy if in for whole cooking time.

 

Serve with garlic mash.  I add  a knob of butter,  milk  – amount to preference, salt and white pepper,  about 2 cloves of garlic and some cream or sour cream to mash for special occasions.

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My Advent Calendar with Beer!

 

pouring

An Advent calendar is a special calendar used to count down the days of Advent leading up to Christmas. Some calendars are strictly religious, but today most advent calendars are made for children. They often take the form of a large rectangular card with many “windows”, one of which is opened every day during Advent revealing a small gift such as a toy or a chocolate item.

advent-calendar

In 2008 I came up with an idea; to drink a different beer each day of Advent (December 1st to 24th). It was fun and I discovered several thirst quenching ales I had never tried. I kept a list with comments on each beer which has been very handy.

I discovered in 2009  that I wasn’t the only one to come up with this great idea – here’s someone else’s version –

beer_box416_416x300

I like my ale to be properly chilled, so I’m skipping this visually great concept and keeping my Advent beers in the fridge.

 

My Advent Beer Calendar report for 2009, here in the shed.

 

December 1stBitburger Premium Bier – ‘Germanys No1 draught beer’

 

Bitburger

 

I’ve tried it before and found it very bitter, but this one was much better than expected, perhaps it was the company and the curry.

 

December 2ndCorona Extra – Mexico

 

corona_extra

 

I enjoyed this beer though it tasted bland. No wonder they stick fruit into it!

 

December 3rdBecks Bier – Germany

 

becks3

 

This had an interesting floral taste on the first sip, but soon the typical strong bitterness of German beer took over.

 

December 4thSpitfire – UK

spitfire_premium_kentish_ale

 

I admit I have a strong leaning to good English Ale -this brew is excellent and a decent drink with a large 500ml bottle. Taken from a professional review -” It is a classic Pale Ale and now brewed by Britain’s oldest brewery, Shephard Neame. The beer has a deep amber colour with lots of bold and traditional pale malt flavours. Clean and hoppy with high carbonation and honey-flavours combined with a woody malt. Long, bitter finish.”

 

December 5thHahn  Super Dry 3.5 – Australia

Hahn

 

Bob shed mate recommended this Hahn beer and I was pleased to discover it was as good as he said.  I usually find after 2 or 3  light beers I loose interest in drinking any more.  There’s only one midstrength beer I have found enjoyable (Coopers Mild) & so I’ll need to try a few more Hahns to know how good this one is.

The first swallow had a typical hoppy taste of  ‘low carb’ beers, I thought I would be disappointed, but deeper into the glass the inital impression faded and it was quite drinkable, as all the advent beers have been so far.

 

6th DecemberPlatinum Blond – Australia

 

PB

 

This beer came in a ten pack called ‘World Classic Collection’. I’ve tried it once before and unfortunatly it was no better this time.  There is a strong hoppy taste and hidden bitterness. I’d hardly got any on my tongue before my face screwed up like Granny from the Beverly Hillbillys: the bitterness was so intense. I think the makers, “Six Star Brewery’ have used hops to hide the mid strength alcohol and low carbohydrates. I know PB is a popular brew- just not for me.

 

December 7thChang  – Thailand

 

Chang

 

This was a good beer, very drinkable. The Chang brewery is a joint venture with Carlsberg so no surprise that it has a light taste of Dutch hops. The only disappointing thing, as with most of these beers, is the small 330ml bottle.

 

December 8thGuinness – Ireland

 

Guinness

 

I have drunk Guinness in Ireland, Australia and the UK, I’ve even had a few pints at the factory in Dublin. I couldn’t tell the difference betwen the Irish & UK brews, though some people say they can. The Aussie draught formula for Guinness was changed during the 1990’s and it became more bitter, I preferred the original formula.  My advent Guinness came from a can, brewed in Dublin, with a widget that helps give it the famous head. One of my favourite beers, always enjoyable.

 

December 9thSol – Mexico

 

Sol

 

First taste displayed the slight aromatic signature of Sol, then the beer disappeared too fast to notice anything else: It was a hot day ! Quite drinkable beer, perhaps a bit bland – another one that many drinkers stick fruit into. Not my usual taste but a pleasant change.

 

December 10thHoegaarden – Belgium

 

hoegaarden330ml

 

WOW !  I don’t remember this taste before – an unusual beer & I liked it. Belgium has a reputation for fine beers, this one is a Witbier or White Beer: The colour in the glass was similar to ginger beer and it was cloudy, with a little sediment left at the end. It was highly carbonated and the hop taste very different. Once again, the small 330ml bottle was the only disappointment. I’d like to try some more of this one.

 

December 11th – Sapporo Premium – Japan/Canada

 

Sapporo

 

 

A clean refreshing beer on what had been a hot day. A clear light yellow colour very similar to the mexican beers, but with more taste behind it. I first had a Sapporo beer a few years ago, on a JAL flight between Narita and Cairns. I enjoyed it then and this one was as good, despite being brewed in Canada!

Earlier this year, together with Bruce shed mate, who also remembered enjoying Sapporo, we decided to try a couple and were disappointed. Maybe they were old and past their best? This bottle came from the 10 pack  ‘World Class Collection’. Most drinkable.

 

December 12th – Lowenbrau – Germany

 

lowenbrau

 

I checked out a few reviews and this is apparently a very popular beer, but not with me. I found one review that describes the taste as ‘skunky’- yes thats what I think too!!  I’ve had this beer before and it always tastes sour to me. It’s good that we all have different tastes, but for me this is one beer I don’t mind finding in those small 330ml bottles.

 

OK- Halfway through Advent. I’m having fun trying these beers and there’s heaps more out there, so I’m already planning next years ‘Advent Beer Calendar’.

 

December 13th – Stella Artois – Belgium

 

stella1

 

I like this beer, though some say it’s full of preservatives and bland compared with less famous Belgian beers. It poured into the glass with a large head which quickly condensed to the normal height. Pale and clear, the taste is of aromatic floral hops followed by the right amount of bitterness. Very drinkable.

 

December 14th – Tiger – Singapore

 

tiger-2007

 

 

Poured with a good head, a clear yellow liquid with aromatic hops and some bitterness. Brewed in 7 countries, with the main brewery in Singapore and with some input from Heineken, which is recognisable in the aroma. I was expecting it to be thin but it had a nice mouthfeel – there was something a little more robust in the brew compared to the Mexican beers. I liked it, very drinkable.

 

December 15th – Steinlager – New Zealand

 

Steinlager

 

This beer has a strong smell and strong flavour that stays to the last drop. The hop flavour is described as herbaceous and the style is very German in bitterness and taste. I don’t think I would want to drink too many of these, but one or two are enjoyable.

 

December 16th – Grolsch – Holland

 

grolsch

 

Golden liquid, familiar dutch aromatic hops with surprising German style bitterness. This beer tasted very much like last nights Steinlager and it was a relief to have a trusty VB to cleanse my palate afterwards.

 

December 17th – Asahi – Japan/Thailand

 

Asahi CU

 

Disappointment !! This beer was off. I checked the label (pictured) and it looks like it was brewed in July 08, with an end use of  June 09. I felt like a kid that had found a dud choclate in his Advent Calendar.

 

December 18th – Kingfisher– India

 

kingfisher

 

Disappointed again! I first had Kingfisher a year ago and then again 3 months ago and liked it. I was looking forward to this beer, but it was past it’s best and not enjoyable.  On the bottom of the bottle is stamped 01 08 161 12:02  I can’t decipher that but I would guess it was 12 months old.

This is a warning to check the date when buying any beer that is not mainstream. Having the second ‘off’ bottle in a row made me doubt my palate, but the VB I had afterwards was clean and crisp. I’ve checked the rest of my Advent Beers in the fridge and there are no date stamps on them, lets hope I’m lucky.

 

December 19th – Oranjeboom– Holland

 

Oranjeboom_Large

 

First tried earlier this year from a special offer as a ‘BWS Mate’, I liked it so much I went back for a carton. The colour is light golden, the Dutch hops taste is there but not overpowering.  Light bitterness and very drinkable.

Note: BWS is an Australian Liquor Chain. You can sign up to become a ‘BWS MATE’ and receive monthly emails  of special deals and usually there is a voucher to try a 6 pack of their  Beer of the Month for $10.

 

December 10th – Budweiser – USA

 

Budweiser_2

 

This beer was a welcome change after several days of European style hops and bitterness. The light yellow liquid was highly carbonated and the pale colour matched the subtle aroma and taste. I couldn’t detect any hops, the mild taste was all malt.  I marked it down as quite drinkable though a bit watery.

 

December 21st – Carlsberg – Denmark

 

carlsberg-021

 

A clear golden yellow beer with European hops taste and not too bitter. I always enjoy this beer, very drinkable. Not over carbonated with a nice mouthfeel and further into the bottle it has a great taste.

 

December 22nd – Erdinger ‘Oktoberfest’ Weissbrau – Germany

 

Erdinger Oktoberfest

 

This beer is brewed in the bottle and was more cloudy than shown in the photo.  A most drinkable beer. This review from  http://haveabeer.couchand.com/tag/erdinger-oktoberfest-weizen/ says it all –

“A creamy but not overpowering body and clean mild flavor make this a very drinkable beer. Rich dry maltiness comes through as toast. Pepper and a bit of herbal hops accompany, and there is the slightest hop bitterness.

If the goal of a festbier is to be drinkable for ten hours a day, the Erdinger undoubtedly passes. If the goal is an interesting beer highlighting the best Bavarian grains and hops, Erdinger has produced a triumph.

 

December 23rd – Coopers Mild – Australia

 

Coopers

 

This is the only mid strength beer I enjoy drinking. I was put onto Coopers Beer by El Rasheed shed mate who grew up in South Australia, where Coopers is brewed. The beer is brewed in the bottle and there is some sediment which, when I first began drinking Coopers beers, I tried not to disturb. That meant keeping the bottles still, not always possible and eventually I gave up and now give the bottle several swirls as I pour, preferring to mix the sediment up.

The taste is partially like the very best home brewed beer, but also of pale malts and some bitterness. It’s real honest ale and is an easy beer to guzzle.

 

December 24th – VB – Australia

 

VB

 

For my last Advent Beer I choose my preferred daily brew- VB ‘Victoria Bitter’. It’s not actually a bitter, it’s a Lager and often said to be Australia’s most popular beer, claiming 25% of the market. The beer pours golden with a white head. The first taste can display a very faint taste of wood which disappears and you’re left with…..the taste of VB !!

It has a stronger taste than American beers but softer than the strong European Lagers. Best serve well chilled, it’s an easy drinking beer.

 

Conclusion –

I’ve really enjoyed trying all these beers and having sampled a large selection of mainstream beers, I have plans next year to try all the ’boutique’ beers on offer.  The local Dan Murphey’s replaced the two beers that were off and also made a gift of some  Spitfire Beer, which I drank on Christmas Day.

My Top Six of 2009 –

1 Guinness- still the best brew for me

2 Erdinger ‘Oktoberfest’ Weissbrau- I might be wrong but the one bottle I had seemed so drinkable. Must try more!

3 Spitfire – my favourite beer is still a pint of Uk bitter, the Spitfire is the closest I’ve come to that in this list here.

4 VB – A beer I drink almost daily. The closest beer to the old Cairns Draught, which was my favourite until they closed the brewery down many years ago.

5 Coopers Mild – Great tasting mid strength beer

6 Stella Artois – not too bitter not to hoppy, very drinkable. NOTE: the only 33oml bottle in the top five, all others 375mls or more.

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