Bar Food – Biting off more than you can chew

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Complied by Edward Washington & Simon McGoram
Photography by Steve Brown

We’re conscious of an increased effort by Aussie ‘tenders to offer an array of tasty snacks and treats (sometimes complimentary) for their tippling guests. You don’t necessarily need an industrial kitchen to turn out interesting and flavoursome ‘bar-bites’ either, although a good relationship with a chef might be advantageous. Bar-bites can be as simple as a ‘toastie’, hot-dogs, oysters, nuts, popcorn, pickles or house marinated olives. They can also be more substantial and labour intensive, like the rustic ploughman’s plate and pork pies that are offered up at the Lord Nelson Hotel (Sydney), or in Melbourne where The Waiting Room‘s serves up their Classic Cheeseburger and the Kodiak Club offers its face melting Buffalo Wings.

With consumers demanding a little bit more with their drinks these days it can be very handy to have a few, simple recipes up your sleeve to keep them coming back to the bar – so we’ve put some starters together to get you in the groove.

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Rockpool Bar & Grill’s Salted Butter Caramels

Featured here are the totally delectable salted butter caramels that Rockpool Bar & Grill has made famous. An excellent accompaniment to a peated Scotch whisky – think a generous dram of Islay and you’re on the money. Neat.

  • 500g caster sugar
  • 250g liquid glucose
  • 4365g pouring cream
  • 125g butter with sea salt flakes such as Lescure, cubed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla paste
  • 1 ½  teaspoons sea salt flakes such as Murray River pink sea slat flakes

*Lightly grease and 22cm square cake tin and line with aluminium foil or baking paper. Spray again. Combine sugar, glucose and cream in a heavy based sauce pan over a medium to – low heat and cook, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, then increase the heat to medium to bring to the boil slowly. Cook gently until the mixture reaches 113°on a candy thermometer, then whisk in butter a cube at a time. Continue to boil, without stirring, until the mixture reaches 119°. Immediately remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla paste. Pour into the prepared tin and sprinkle with the salt. Set aside in a cool dry place for at least 3 hours or until completely cooled.

Remove block of caramel from the tin and place on a chopping board. Using a serrated knife, cut into 1.5cm wide strips, then cut each strip into 2cm pieces. Wrap in cellophane and store in an airtight container in a cool dry place for up to 5 days.

Smoked Almonds

Smoking some bar treats is simple stuff and the result will be a raft of happy bar flies munching away in flavour utopia. Smoked almonds are the perfect accompaniment to dry Sherries or cocktails like the Adonis (pictured), but choose any nut that suits.

  • 500g Almonds
  • Murray River pink sea salt flakes
  • Quality extra virgin olive oil
  • Hot smoked paprika (optional)

*Place your almonds in a stainless steel gastro tray large enough so that you can spread the nuts out to one layer thick. Place in your smoker and smoke with hickory chips for 30 minutes to one hour. Once smoked roast the nuts (without oil) in an oven on 180° for about 10 minutes or until they are golden brown and fragrant. Note that because of their high oil content, the almonds will continue to roast after you remove them from the oven. Once cooled taste test to ensure that have the proper crunch and that they taste toasted, not bitter or burnt. To serve drizzle just a little quality olive oil over the nuts and sprinkle with sea salt.

**If you lack a smoker simply roast the nuts and season with a mixture of smoked paprika and salt.

Adonis recipe

  • 60ml dry Sherry (like La Goya Manzanilla)
  • 30ml Martini Rosso vermouth
  • 2 dashes The Bitter Truth orange bitters

*Stir down and serve up with a lemon twist.

Beef Jerky

Jerky is an ideal bar-bite to serve along side your favourite brew or boilermaker and we’ve paired this recipe from (RPB&G) with the 2011 vintage Endeavour Amber Ale for the ultimate ‘dude-food’ offering. If you’re a small bar without the time or expertise, find yourself a premium butcher because they should have something similar on hand.

  • 2 kg Beef – Rangers Valley Rib Cap
  • 200ml Soy sauce
  • 100ml Worcesteshire Sauce
  • 15g Ground Cumin Seed
  • 10g Smoked Sweet Paprika
  • 5g Medium Chilli Powder
  • 20g Murray River Pink Salt
  • Trim excess fat and skin off

*Prick with butchers tenderizer about 15 times per cap Mix ingredients and marinate for 8-12 hours Slice beef against the grain into 3mm wide strips Mix beef strips in leftover marinade and place in dehydrator, making sure not to overlap. Keep in dehydrator for 5 hours at 65 degrees. Portioned out in 25 gram portions and cryovacced.

The ‘art’ of pickling

Pickling has been around since, well, that’s anyone’s guess; it even rates a mention in the Bible (apparently – we haven’t read the while thing yet!). Salting meats was a common practise in the Navy to draw the moisture out of perishables to enhance preservation, and these days bars and bartenders are offering up some great treats from their very own pickle jars to stem your hunger. The ‘art’ of pickling is something in itself and perhaps, save from curious barkeeps, might be on the way out as a regular food offering. Just about anything is up for a picklin’; chillies, garlic, eggs, onions and vegetables all come up a treat and could just be the thing to keep your bar stools full. In honour of an old trend, now ‘new’ again, we’ve got a pair of pickling recipes for you to enjoy.

Pickled Onion

“Choose small uniform onions; make a brine that will hold up an egg, and pour over the onions boiling hot. Let them lie for 24 hours, drain and wipe dry. Put in bottles and pour a cold cider vinegar over them. Season with sliced horse radish, whole pepper…Put in bottles and seal.”

Vaughan’s Vegetable Cook Book (1919)

A Basic Pickling Recipe

The great thing about making pickles is that it’s a high acid process – with enough vinegar added to your mix it’s hard to get wrong. Here’s a basic pickling recipe to get you started you can adjust spices to your taste.

This recipe will pickle about 500g of peppers.

  • 500grams fresh jalapeno or other green peppers washed and stabbed three times with a small paring knife
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 2 1/2 cups vinegar (white or cider works best)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons coarse salt (non-iodised is best for this recipe to avoid the pickle brine going cloudy)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons black peppercorns

1. Stab each pepper three times with a sharp paring knife and place them in a sterilised large glass preserving jar.

2. In a non-reactive saucepan, bring the other ingredients to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes.

3. Remove from heat and pour the brine over the peppers. Place the lid on the jar and let cool. Once cool allow to mature in the cupboard for at least a week. Refrigerate once opened.

*Pickled peppers make a fantastic looking and tasty garnish for your Bloody Marys.

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