Clams and doughnuts: Ravinder Bhogal’s recipes for cooking with beer

In honour of Oktoberfest, I am cracking open some beer – but not just to sip on. The merits of beer extend well beyond just something to drink. Like wine, it is deeply flavourful, and the recent explosion of the beer market means there are some really exciting craft brews to try. While it pairs well with meat, beer can also be used in a more unexpected but wholly delicious way with fish and shellfish, to add funky acidity, or with sweet things such as chocolate and custard, to add deep, complex, malty notes.

Clams with wild mushrooms and beer (pictured top)
Like wine, beer has deep, complex flavours. To make the best of these clams, I like using a sour beer, such as Wild Beer Co’s Sleeping Lemons, which has a yeast strain with the funky flavour of preserved lemons.

Prep 15 min
Cook 30 min
Serves 4

4 slices pancetta
100ml olive oil
200g assorted wild mushrooms
3 fat garlic cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 pinch chilli flakes
250ml beer
800g clams, soaked in cold water to remove grit, then drained
1 handful finely chopped parsley
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Zest of 1 lemon
Crusty bread, to serve

Fry the pancetta in a hot frying pan until crisp and golden brown, then remove and drain on kitchen paper. Heat the olive oil in the same pan over a high heat, add the mushrooms and saute until golden and crusty. Add the garlic and chilli flakes, and saute until fragrant.

Meanwhile, bring the beer to a boil in a covered saucepan. Add the clams, cover again and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, for about four minutes, or until the clams open (discard any that do not).

Transfer the clams and 60ml of their cooking liquid to the mushroom pan, return the bacon to the pan, and toss to combine. Scatter over the parsley, season to taste with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and lemon zest, then tip into a serving bowl and serve with crusty bread.

Doughnuts with chocolate stout creme patissiere

These wonderful over-inflated orbs are nothing like commercial doughnuts. The sugar is restrained and they are filled with a rich, dark chocolate creme patissiere enhanced by the bitter notes of stout. A very grownup bite.

Prep 30 min
Prove 1 hr 45 min
Cook 45 min
Makes 12

7g dried yeast
60g caster sugar
300ml lukewarm milk
70g unsalted butter
500g plain flour
Oil, for deep frying

For the filling
3 egg yolks
50g caster sugar
25g plain flour
25g cornflour
350ml stout beer
100g good-quality dark chocolate, chopped into pieces

For the glaze
30g butter
100g honey
100g good-quality dark chocolate, chopped into pieces
3 tbsp stout

To garnish
1 handful cacao nibs

Start by making the dough. Stir the yeast, one tablespoon sugar and the milk in a jug until the yeast dissolves, then set aside for 15 minutes, until frothy.

Combine the butter, remaining sugar and flour in a large bowl and roughly rub in the butter. Pour in the yeast mixture and mix until you have a shaggy dough. Knead on a surface dusted with flour until smooth, then put in a clean bowl, cover with a damp cloth and leave in a warm place for one hour, or until doubled in size.

Knock back the dough, then divide into 12 equal parts. Roll into balls, flatten slightly, then divide between two baking sheets lined with greaseproof paper. Cover again with a damp cloth and leave to rise for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the creme patissiere. Whisk the eggs and sugar in a medium bowl, then sift in the flour and cornflour and mix to a smooth paste. Heat the stout to a simmer, then add a little at a time to the egg mixture, whisking as you go.

Pour the custard back into a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Whisk for a minute and, once thickened, take off the heat, stir in the chocolate and leave it to melt. Once cooled, transfer to a piping bag with a metal nozzle.

Heat the oil to 180C, then fry the doughnuts in batches, turning regularly, for about five minutes, until golden all over and cooked through. Lift out, drain on absorbent paper and keep warm while you cook the rest.

Pierce the doughnuts with a skewer and push around the crumb on the inside to make room for the filling. Insert the nozzle and pipe in as much creme patissiere as you can, or until it oozes out.

To make the glaze, melt the butter, honey and chocolate in a small saucepan over a low heat, then add the beer and cook for two to three minutes, until smooth and glossy. Dip the top of each doughnut in the glaze, sprinkle over the cacao nibs and serve warm.