One Man’s Quest to make 20-Year-Old Rum in just only Six Days

From the outside, the Lost Spirits Distillery is just another boxy, early-20th-century building along the frayed edge of downtown Los Angeles. At first the inside appears similarly uninspired: deep and unfinished, littered with cardboard boxes, plumbing fittings, spools of wire, inscrutable items made of copper, a forklift. The usual crap.

But what’s this then? A heavy black curtain bisects the industrial space from floor to ceiling, nearly from the front door to the back. Bryan Davis, the distillery’s founder and co-owner, pulls aside some folds and beckons me in.

It’s dark; my eyes adjust slowly. I’ve stumbled into a nighttime clearing deep in a tropical jungle—lush foliage and flowering vines lit by dozens of flickering candle lanterns. Are those crickets and cicadas and an occasional Jurassic Park bellow I hear? Yes. Yes, they are.

Davis imports young whisky from Scotland but makes his own Lost Spirits Navy rum from molasses.

Joe Pugliese

$7 cheap white from West Australia wins top wine award out of 2,500 entries

Wines made from the big supermarket chains dominate retail shelves across the country and now seem set to control Australia’s wine show circuit.

The Coles-owned 2017 Story Bay Semillon Sauvignon Blanc was named best Australian wine under $20 at the Winestate Magazine Wine of the Year awards in Adelaide.

Alana Langworthy’s Story Bay wine was chosen from a huge field of more than 2500 wines.

The WA-made wine from Margaret River is sold exclusively at the retailer’s liquor arms Liquorland, Vintage Cellars and First Choice for just $7.


20 Foods We Eat Everyday That Are Now said to be Bad For You.??

Cancer is a disease that affects millions of people every year. Since 2012, the disease has taken the lives of more than 8 million people. Although several types of cancers are just ticking time bombs waiting for their moment, most types can be avoided by living a healthy lifestyle. Although there are treatments, prevention is the only truly effective way of living a cancer-free life. Consider living healthily as an investment for a brighter future, and it all begins with what we put in our bodies.

You may not be aware, but the foods we can pick off of the shelves or from counters can actually contain carcinogens packaged in confusing or misleading names. This list contains the 20 most consumed foods with known carcinogens that you should avoid starting right now.>>>>>>



In the United States, 90 percent of all shrimp eaten is imported. However, only a fraction of those imports is inspected for harmful additives. Overlooking an unsafe shipment can have serious health consequences. Many shrimp farms use antibiotics to keep their shrimp alive, and harmful residues can end up in the mouths of consumers. In this episode of Techknow, Shini Somara meets with US Food and Drug Administration inspectors at a port in southern California to learn more about how shrimp is federally tested. FDA inspectors select a sample for inspection based on a calculated risk score.


Farmed Norwegian Salmon is the World’s Most Toxic Food

Farmed Norwegian Salmon World’s Most Toxic Food Chef Marcus Guiliano is an award-winning chef, green restaurateur, author, healthy food activist, professional speaker, restaurant consultant & ultra-marathoner. In addition to successfully owning and operating the first Green Certified restaurant in the Hudson Valley, Aroma Thyme Bistro, Chef Marcus has started to devote his time consulting and trouble shooting for other food outlets.

Henry Sapiecha

Jamie Oliver’s food empire falling apart big-time

WORLD renowned chef Jamie Oliver’s company has cooked up more than $125 million in debt, with his Italian restaurant chain forced to shut down a number of their eateries.

The TV star begged landlords to cut his rent at a number of his underperforming restaurants to avoid his business going bust.




There is an interesting dynamic at play in the modern world, where some countries waste more food than they consume, while others are left to starve. In the US alone nearly 30 percent of available food supply went un-eaten in 2010, and the number keeps on rising. The problem doesn’t just stop at the grocery or retail store; food waste continues to be a problem at home, too. Sometimes you buy more produce than your family can consume, but chances are, MOST of the time you could be storing your food better–over 95% of food thrown away ends up in landfills. Of course, you can’t save every morsel of food; but you can eliminate the excess waste production, and if you’re already aware of the food situation at home you can donate any extra food before it spoils–everyone wins.


7 Most Contaminated Fish You Should Avoid Eating

It is said that fish and seafood are a very good source of protein, minerals, vitamins and other nutrients. Fatty fish is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids that maintain good health. These facts are established and impossible to deny.

However, nowadays the environmental pollution makes our food contaminated. In a polluted river or sea fish is contaminated, and polluted soil cannot provide healthy grains, fruits or vegetables. Many fish are currently packed with mercury and radioactive elements. Actually, all fish contains some level of mercury. Your mission is to avoid the following top 7 contaminated fish that should not be eaten:


Give This MIT Algorithm an Image of Food and It’ll Give You the Recipe

New software from MIT uses image recognition and a giant recipe database to tell you how to make the food in your food pics.

Have you ever seen (or eaten) a delicious meal and wished you had the recipe to make it? Now all you have to do is take a picture and give it to an algorithm developed by MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). Their algorithm can find a recipe for you based on nothing more than a single picture of the finished product.

The researchers built their algorithm by combing through over a million different recipes collected from various recipe websites. They combined this recipe encyclopedia with image recognition software to identify the type of food in a photo and match it with its corresponding recipe

In tests, the algorithm could identify the correct recipe 65 percent of the time. It was most successful with pastries and other baked goods because those were the majority of the recipes in the database and the ingredients were easiest to identify. The algorithm struggled with complex dishes like sushi rolls or dishes with ambiguous ingredients like smoothies.

Still, a 65 percent success rate isn’t bad for a prototype, and the team believes that further refinement will improve the accuracy even further. In the near future, you could use the algorithm, dubbed “Pic2Recipe,” to find recipes for all your meals.

The team is also considering next steps for the software, such as providing the option for users to specify some of the ingredients included in the recipe. The software could then return the precise amounts of each ingredient.

“If you know what ingredients went into a dish but not the amount, you can take a photo, enter the ingredients, and run the model to find a similar recipe with known quantities, and then use that information to approximate your own meal,” says lead study author Nick Hynes in a press release.

If you’re interested in trying out Pic2Recipe for yourself, MIT built a demo webpage where you can upload your own photos for review.

Henry Sapiecha

A New Beer that boosts immunity and improves gut health

Beer lovers may soon have a gut-friendly drink to raise a toast to, thanks to the creation of a novel probiotic sour beer by a team of researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS). This new specialty beer incorporates the probiotic strain Lactobacillus paracasei L26, which was first isolated from human intestines and has the ability to neutralise toxins and viruses, as well as regulate the immune system.

The idea of producing a probiotic beer was first mooted by Miss Chan Mei Zhi Alcine, a fourth-year student from the Food Science and Technology Programme under the NUS Faculty of Science, who consumes dairy-based probiotic beverages daily.

“The health benefits of probiotics are well known. While good bacteria are often present in food that have been fermented, there are currently no beers in the market that contain probiotics. Developing sufficient counts of live probiotics in beer is a challenging feat as beers contain hop acids that prevent the growth and survival of probiotics. As a believer of achieving a healthy diet through consuming probiotics, this is a natural choice for me when I picked a topic for my final-year project,” said Miss Chan, who will be graduating with a Bachelor of Applied Science with Honours (Highest Distinction) from NUS in July 2017.

Infusing beer with health benefits

Studies have shown that consuming food and beverages with live counts of probiotics are more effective in delivering health effects than eating those with inactive probiotics. Currently, the recommendation by the International Scientific Association for Probiotics and Prebiotics is to have a minimum of 1 billion probiotics per serving in order to attain the maximum health benefits.

Under the supervision of Associate Professor Liu Shao Quan from the NUS Food Science and Technology Programme, Miss Chan took about nine months to come up with an ideal recipe that achieves the optimal count of live probiotics in the beer.

By propagating the probiotic and yeast in pure cultures, and modifying conventional brewing and fermentation processes, Miss Chan managed to increase and maintain the live counts of the strain of probiotic. “For this beer, we used a lactic acid bacterium as a probiotic micro-organism. It will utilise sugars present in the wort to produce sour-tasting lactic acid, resulting in a beer with sharp and tart flavours. The final product, which takes around a month to brew, has an alcohol content of about 3.5 per cent,” explained Miss Chan. The NUS research team has filed a patent to protect the recipe for brewing the probiotic sour beer.

Assoc Prof Liu said, “The general health benefits associated with consuming food and beverages with probiotic strains have driven demand dramatically. In recent years, consumption of craft or specialty beers has gained popularity too. Alcine’s invention is placed in a unique position that caters to these two trends. I am confident that the probiotic gut-friendly beer will be well-received by beer drinkers, as they can now enjoy their beers and be healthy.”

Looking ahead, Assoc Prof Liu and Miss Chan are keen to collaborate with industry partners to introduce the beer to consumers.

Henry Sapiecha

These beans with a delicious flavour have a toxic secret

Tonka beans have an intense flavour that chefs and food manufacturers have enthusiastically embraced. There’s just one problem – it contains a chemical that could, in large enough doses, kill you.

It’s led to raids by law enforcement agencies and mass deaths in animals; in the United States, chefs have ‘dealers’ who smuggle it into the country.

Given these facts, I’m unwrapping my online delivery with a level of suspicion usually reserved for bomb disposal. Inside is a jar of wrinkled black beans, each resembling an elongated raisin. These are ‘tonka beans’ – the aromatic seed of a giant tree from deep in the Amazon rainforest.

When grated into desserts or infused into syrups, they impart a flavour so transcendent, tonka has been dubbed the most delicious ingredient you’ve never heard of.

Notes of freshly cut grass mingle with vanilla, liquorice, caramel and clove, topped off with a suggestion of warmth and a hint of magnolia – that is, according to the internet. I unscrew the lid and take a whiff. They smell faintly like furniture polish.

Chefs in the US are banned from using tonka beans in their gourmet desserts

“As long as you don’t use a copious amount of it – obviously a copious amount could cause death – it really is delicious,” says Thomas Raquel, head pastry chef at the Michelin-starred Le Bernardin in New York, not particularly reassuringly.

Selling tonka beans to eat has been illegal in the US since 1954. Foods containing tonka are considered to be ‘adulterated’, though that hasn’t stopped them appearing on the menus of Michelin-starred restaurants, from New York to California. In fact, the United States is the biggest importer of tonka on the planet.

Tonka beans contain unusually high levels of the chemical coumarin, which gives them their flavour and is found naturally in hundreds of plants, including grass, lavender and cherries. Even if you’ve never seen a tonka bean in your life, there’s a good chance you know what they smell like without realising it.

It was widely used in place of natural vanilla, added to chocolate, sweets and cocktail bitters, vanilla essence and even soft drinks

Coumarin was first isolated from tonka beans in 1820 – the name comes from the Caribbean term for the tonka tree, ‘coumarou’ – shortly afterwards, an English chemist better known for inventing the first synthetic dye worked out how to make it in the lab.

By the 1940s, artificial coumarin was really taking off. As one of the first synthetic additives, it was dirt cheap. It was widely used in place of natural vanilla, added to chocolate, sweets and cocktail bitters, vanilla essence and even soft drinks. It swiftly became a staple ingredient in tobacco and lent its complex aroma to the perfume industry.

But there was a problem. Studies in dogs and rats had revealed it to be toxic, with relatively low levels causing considerable damage to the liver in just a few weeks. In sheep, just 5g (around two teaspoons) is fatal. Both tonka and coumarin were outlawed.

Fast-forward to 2017 and they’ve never quite disappeared. “Let’s just say I know where to get em’, it’s not a problem to get them,” says Paul Liebrandt, the former co-owner of the Corton in New York.

This is despite a government crackdown nearly a decade ago, including raids on several gourmet restaurants. Grant Achatz, who is head chef at Chicago restaurant Alinea, later told The Atlantic “They [the supplier] said, ‘Don’t be surprised if the FDA shows up soon’…. Two days later, they walked in: ‘Can we look at your spice cabinet?’”.

Cinnamon rolls were nearly banned in Denmark because nearly half those tested were found to contain high levels of coumarin

Tonka and coumarin both still regularly turn up in Mexican vanilla flavouring, where they’re used to mask a low quality product. “I was talking to a vanilla purveyor recently and he offered me tonka bean paste,” says Raquel. “I was like ‘If I want to use tonka bean, I’ll use tonka bean.’”

Even if fancy restaurants aren’t your scene, there’s a good chance you’re being exposed from other sources. It’s still perfectly legal to add coumarin to tobacco and cosmetics, though it’s easily absorbed through the skin and the fragile lining of the lungs. The chemical is used copiously in detergents, shower gels, hand soaps and deodorants and blockbuster scents such as Coco Mademoiselle (Chanel) and Joop! Homme. It’s even found its way into e-cigarettes.

In fact, there’s a good chance you’ve got some coumarin lurking in your kitchen cupboards. True cinnamon is made from the bark of the plant Cinnamomum Zeylanicum and is native to Sri Lanka. This type naturally has extremely low levels of coumarin and proven medicinal properties, but that’s probably not what you’ve got in your spice rack. That’s because what we think of as cinnamon isn’t really cinnamon at all, but a Southeast Asian imposter made from the bark of the cassia tree.

Coumarin is mostly toxic to the liver, which plays a central role in mopping up poisons and clearing them from the body

Not only is this plant completely unrelated, but it contains around 25,000 times more coumarin. The US doesn’t regulate the amount of coumarin in cinnamon, though the European Union has set safe daily limits – and just one teaspoon of cassia cinnamon could send you over.

In 2013 Denmark’s beloved kanelsnegle, or cinnamon rolls, narrowly escaped being banned after a study found that nearly half of the products tested exceeded the maximum coumarin content allowed in food. “Only very rarely do we find an exceedance of a toxic compound in such a high percentage of foods,” says Nicolai Ballin, a food chemist from the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration who authored the study. “The worry is that many of these products are aimed at children.”.

So how dangerous is coumarin really? On paper at least, the forbidden flavour has never caused a single human death and there have been calls to lift the ban. But that’s not quite the full story.

Cattle have died after eating coumarin-rich clover that had been infected with fungus

Coumarin is mostly toxic to the liver, which plays a central role in mopping up poisons and clearing them from the body. As the front-line defence, the organ is extraordinarily resilient, able to regenerate from just a quarter of its original size. Just like alcohol, coumarin is thought to be toxic over the long term, with repeated bouts of damage.

“The problem is it’s not like you’re going to realise when you’ve got to the level where you’re eating too much – the effects build up over years,” says Dirk Lachenmeier from the Chemical and Veterinary Investigation Laboratory (CVUA) of Karlsruhe, Germany, who has developed a new way of detecting coumarin in foods.

The easy way to find out is obvious; alas, it turns out feeding people toxic chemicals isn’t allowed. Instead, the safe limits in humans are based on studies in animals, from baboons to dogs. To account for an any differences in our biology, the highest amount which hasn’t caused any harm in animals is multiplied by 100.

For most people, the current limit is probably ultra conservative

For an average-sized person, this works out at a measly one quarter of a tonka bean or a quarter of a cinnamon bun per day – though if you remove the safety factor, your allowance shoots up to more like 25 tonka beans or 20 cinnamon buns (5680 calories, a challenge for even the most hardened binge eaters).

For most people, the current limit is probably ultra conservative. Many animals, including rats and dogs, remove coumarin from the body in a completely different way, breaking it down into highly potent chemicals which are toxic in their own right. Instead, we have enzymes which subtly tweak coumarin’s structure to render it safe. But not all people can do this.

Back in the 90s, a woman arrived at Frankfurt University Hospital with severe liver disease. She was promptly diagnosed with “coumarin-induced hepatitis”, but in fact she hadn’t overdosed on tonka beans. She had been taking the drug warfarin.

What was going on?

Chefs around the world have used tonka beans to flavour their desserts

It all began in 1921. Hundreds of cattle across North America and Canada had been struck down by a mysterious illness, which meant that operations usually considered routine – such as surgery to remove their horns – would cause them to bleed to death. Farmers would find their animals slumped on the ground, surrounded by pools of blood.

The cattle had been eating sweet clover, a bitter and especially resilient herb which was imported from Europe, where it grew abundantly. In the unusually wet weather at the time, the clover had gone off and farmers could not afford to buy new feed.

The crisis dragged on for years, until eventually a farmer, desperate for help, showed up at the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (Warf) with a dead cow and a bucket of uncoagulated blood. There biochemist Karl-Paul Link set to work uncovering what had happened.

Sweet clover contains high levels of coumarin, which a fungus had converted into the potent anticoagulant dicoumarol. The discovery inspired the development of warfarin, which today is both a particularly gruesome form of pest control and one of the most widely prescribed drugs on the planet. Coumarin itself is not an anticoagulant, but the two chemicals are extremely closely related.

Armed with the knowledge that tonka may or may not kill me, it’s time to put my baking skills to the test

Which brings us back to the patient with liver disease. For people with a different version of the enzyme which deactivates coumarin, both warfarin and coumarin are thought to be particularly toxic. There’s no way of knowing which camp you fall in, short of a trip to the emergency room or a genetic test.

“It has an effect on the liver and all kinds of other compounds have an effect on the liver, like alcohol especially. And so you never know if you get liver disease from coumarin or something else,” says Lachenmeier.

Globally, there were around a million deaths from liver disease in 2010 – that’s around 2% of all deaths. We may never know if coumarin was involved, but a recent report concluded that for those with the highest intakes, health risks cannot be ruled out.

Armed with the knowledge that tonka may or may not kill me, it’s time to put my baking skills to the test. Raquel recommends grating some tonka bean into macaron batter, then coating the finished shells in chocolate ganache and serving them with a sour cherry in the middle. Alas, my cooking skills are usually limited to microwave mug desserts, so I opt to bake some into cupcakes instead.

Half an hour later, I’m standing over a batch of slightly sad-looking cakes, which smell faintly of almonds. It’s only polite to share your toxic snacks with your friends, so I test one on my flatmate. She takes a bite and chews thoughtfully. “It tastes like feet.”

Henry Sapiecha

China Was Growing Domestic Rice 9,500 Years Ago

A new report shows evidence that prehistoric hamlets in the area around Shangshan of southern China were growing half-domesticated rice

Terrace rice fields in the Yunnan Province of China.

For many years, archaeologists and researchers have been trying to figure out where and when rice was first cultivated. There’s evidence that rice first came from perhaps Japan, Korea, China, even Australia. Now, reveals Sarah Zhang at The Atlantic, a new study suggests the process to domesticate rice from its wild form probably began in southern China.

In the early 2000s, Stephen Chen at the South China Morning Post reports, archaeologists first discovered 18 prehistoric villages in the area of Shangshan along the Yangtze river with some evidence that the people were eating and maybe cultivating rice. Rice hulls (hard protecting coverings of grains of rice) were used to strengthen their clay pottery and researchers also discovered early agricultural tools and large mortars and pestles used to de-hull rice. But it was not clear whether these early settlers were collecting wild rice or had started to domesticate and cultivate rice.

That’s what the current report investigates. While acidic soils decompose and destroy the organic matter from rice, including its grains and stems, rice plants produces microscopic bits of silica called phytoliths that form in distinctive patterns in rice leaves. Compared to wild rice varieties, domesticated rice has distinctive phytolith patterns. By noting the “fish scales” in these patterns, researchers can tell the difference between cultivated and wild rice since cultivated rice has more than nine scales, Chen reports.

According to a press release, the researchers examined the phytoliths in each layer of three of the village sites, finding that over time the percentage of rice with more than nine fish scales gradually increased, indicating that the villagers were producing a larger and larger percentage of cultivated rice versus the wild stock. They also sifted sufficient numbers of the tiny particles to test them using carbon-14 dating, finding that the oldest rice phytoliths in Shangshan date to 9,400 years.

“We have a high confidence it is not wild rice,” Lu Houyuan, professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and lead author of the study in The Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, tells Chen. “It is not the same as rice today, either. It’s a half-domestic species.”

Jiang Leping from Zhejiang’s Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, tells Chen that he believes the Shangshan village sites were surrounded by rice paddies and that the team hopes to continue excavations in the area to find evidence of that.

But not everyone is convinced that these villages along the Yangtze are the epicenter of Chinese rice. Wang Zixuan, also a professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, tells Chen that a large scale genetic study of rice published in the journal Nature in 2012 suggested that it emerged in a single location along the Pearl River valley, not on the banks of the Yangtze. “They could spread,” Wang tells Chen. “It is likely that the early farmers along the Pearl River took the rice seeds up north to the Yangtze during migration.”

While Chinese rice may be the earliest found so far, it doesn’t mean it’s the only place rice was developed. While researchers agree the rice variety known as japonica first appeared in China, some argue that another strain, known as indica was domesticated in locations between India and Indochina. Genetic studies show a third major variety, a drought-tolerant variety known as aus rice, was likely developed in the area of India and Bangladesh from wild rice strains.

Henry Sapiecha


About Polish food

Traditional Polish fare is a blend of Slavic influences, while it also shares roots with French and Italian cuisines. At the turn of the second millennium, root vegetables, wild mushrooms and coarse breads formed Poland’s basic food staples, but, over time, a variety of European influences began to appear.

When Italian Princess Bona Sforza became the Queen of Poland in 1518, she brought along her Italian court staff, who soon introduced ingredients previously unknown to the Polish, including tomatoes, lettuce, leeks, cauliflower and chives. Today, the Polish word (wloszczyna) for standard soup greens, including parsley root, celeriac, cabbage and leek, translates to “Italian stuff”.

Poland’s relentless cold climate means soups play a key role in Polish meals. Barszcz, a bright red fermented beetroot soup, is often served with beans for festive occasions, as is Żurek, a soup made of sour rye flour and boiled meat. A hearty hunter’s stew, bigos is the national dish of Poland, made from a combination of cabbage, mushrooms and various meats. Traditionally, the rich and dense stew is made from pork or Polish sausage, cooked over several days to intensify, but it can also contain venison or duck.

Polish cuisine is also renowned for its distinctive dumplings, especially pierogi, dough filled with minced meat, brined cabbage, mushrooms, potatoes, onions or cottage cheese. Meanwhile, popular desserts include pastries and cakes, commonly made from yeast dough; including Polish doughnuts, paczki, stuffed with jam, chocolate or even liqueur.

But one of Poland’s most famous specialties is clear vodka, traditionally enjoyed neat, without ice or mixers. One of the most distinctive varieties is Żubrowka, known as bison grass vodka, where each bottle contains a blade of grass from Poland’s Białowieża Forest.  << GREAT STUFF ABOUT POLAND HERE

1…Krakow-style cheesecake (sernik Krakowski)

This Polish cheesecake is recognisable by the lattice pattern layered over the sweet cheese and sultana filling, which is created using a reserved portion of the pastry base.



  • 400 g soft unsalted butter
  • 200 g caster sugar (see note)
  • 600 g plain flour
  • 1 egg, plus 1 extra, beaten, for brushing


  • 1.5 kg Polish-style cottage cheese
  • 300 g caster sugar
  • 150 g sour cream
  • 1 orange, rind finely grated
  • 150 g sultanas
  • 5 eggs, plus 5 egg yolks
  • 100 g plain flour

Cook’s notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Chilling time: 1 hour

To make the pastry, using an electric mixer or wooden spoon, cream together the butter and sugar. Sift in the flour and combine until a dough forms. Remove two-thirds of dough from bowl and roll out on a lightly floured work surface until 7 mm thick. Use to line base of a 30 cm round springform tin (or 2 x 22 cm round springform tins). Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, to make dough for lattice, add the egg to remaining dough in bowl. Combine well and shape into a disc. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Use a fork to prick pastry base all over. Bake for 12–15 minutes, or until light golden. Remove from oven and cool.

Roll out the lattice pastry on a lightly floured work surface until about 5mm thick. Cut into strips, carefully place on a tray and refrigerate until needed.

To make the filling, combine the cheese and half the sugar in a bowl. Add the sour cream, orange rind and sultanas and combine well. Beat together the eggs, egg yolks and remaining sugar and fold into the mixture. Fold in the flour. Spoon into prepared pastry case and arrange lattice strips over the top. Brush pastry with the beaten egg and bake for 30–40 minutes, or until golden and set.


• To make the pastry, you could use half caster and half vanilla sugar, if you like.

2…Potato pancakes with mushroom sauce (placki ziemniaczane z sosem grzybowym)

Mushroom picking is a popular Polish activity, and there are places across Australia where you can go to harvest your own fresh mushrooms. Autumn is the best time to pick mushrooms and to cook this recipe.


  • 500 g large kipfler potatoes
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • salt and pepper, to season
  • olive oil and butter, for pan-frying
  • sour cream and chopped parsley, to serve

Mushroom sauce

  • 25 g butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped (optional)
  • 500 g slippery jack or pine mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tsp plain flour
  • 125 ml (½ cup) chicken or vegetable stock (see Note)
  • 125 ml (½ cup) thickened cream

Cook’s notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Peel the potatoes and onion. Using medium–size holes, grate into a bowl. Add the egg and flour, season with salt and pepper and combine well.

Heat a little oil and butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. When bubbling, cook large spoonfuls of potato mixture for 2–3 minutes on each side, or until golden and crisp. Drain on paper towel and keep warm in oven.

To make the mushroom sauce, heat the butter and olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 6–8 minutes, or until soft and light golden. Add the mushroom and cook for about 2–3 minutes. Scatter over the flour and stir for a few seconds before stirring in the stock. Season to taste, then simmer for 2 minutes. Add the cream and stir until heated through. Serve the hot potato pancakes topped with mushroom sauce, sour cream and parsley.

• Homemade stock is best for this recipe.

3…Duck with apples and cranberries (kaczka z jablkami i borowkami)

Duck is a favourite meat in Polish cuisine, and serving it with apple and cranberries is a traditional combination. If you have time and want to ensure you get the skin as crisp as possible, season the duck inside and out with salt, pepper and dried marjoram and leave uncovered in the refrigerator overnight before roasting.


  • 1 young duck about 1.8 kg)
  • salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2–3 tsp dried marjoram
  • 3 granny smith apples (see Note)
  • 1 small orange, rind grated
  • 2 tbsp light olive oil
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp white sugar
  • 3 tsp butter
  • 100 g fresh, frozen or dried cranberries (see Note)
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped dried apricots
  • 1 tbsp chopped toasted walnuts, briefly soaked in 2 tsp Krupnik (Polish honey vodka)
  • 1 tbsp Krupnik (see Note) (optional)
  • 2 tsp fresh marjoram leaves

Cook’s notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Rinse the duck with water and pat dry. Make a small slit at base of each breast and push drumsticks into slits.

Lightly prick duck all over to help release some of the fat. Remove the parson’s nose, since this contains oil glands that can affect the taste of the dish. Season duck inside and out with the salt, pepper and a little of the dried marjoram (see note).

Slice 1 apple and place in a bowl. Add salt, pepper, orange rind and 1 tsp dried of marjoram, and toss to combine. Stuff into duck cavity. Tie legs together to seal opening, then place on a rack set in a roasting pan. Combine the olive oil and honey and brush all over duck skin.

Preheat the oven to 220°C. Remove duck from refrigerator 30 minutes before baking.

Bake the duck for 20–25 minutes, or until skin is starting to brown. Reduce temperature to 180°C and bake for another 1½ hours. Every 20–30 minutes, baste duck with juices from base of pan.

Remove duck from oven, cover loosely with foil and rest in a warm place for 10–15 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel and core the remaining 2 apples and cut into wedges. Heat a large frying pan over medium- high heat. Add apples and toss for 1–2 minutes, then add the sugar. Season to taste. Toss for 5–6 minutes, or until golden and caramelised. Add remaining dried marjoram and the butter and toss well. Add the cranberries, dried apricots, walnuts, Krupnik, if using, and fresh marjoram. Toss to combine.

Cut the duck into pieces and serve with caramelised apples and cranberries.

• You could also use half red apples and half green apples, if you like.
• If you use dried cranberries, be sure to soak them first.
• If you can’t find Krupnik, use any vodka.

4…Cold beetroot soup (chlodnik)

Vibrantly coloured chlodnik is a popular summer dish in Poland. The warm version of beetroot soup is called barszcz.


  • 300 g (3 medium) beetroot, trimmed
  • 100 g (1 medium) brushed potato
  • 500 ml (2 cups) vegetable stock
  • 1 small Lebanese cucumber, coarsely chopped
  • 2 small French shallots, coarsely chopped
  • 250 g natural yoghurt
  • ½ lemon, juiced, or to taste
  • salt and white pepper, to season
  • 60 g crème fraîche
  • 1½ tbsp very finely chopped chives
  • 1–2 cm piece fresh horseradish (see Note)

Cook’s notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Using gloves, peel and chop the beetroot and place in a saucepan. Peel and chop the potatoes and add to pan. Add the stock. Bring to the boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 20–25 minutes, or until tender. Remove from the heat, cool, then refrigerate until chilled.

Place the beetroot mixture in a blender. Add the cucumber, French shallot and yoghurt. Puree until smooth. Season to taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Ladle into bowls, top with a dollop of crème frâiche and chives, then finely grate over a little fresh horseradish.

• If you can’t find fresh horseradish, use Eksal or Krakus brands of preserved horseradish, which are available in the international or kosher section of your supermarket, or at any Polish or Russian deli. Blend the preserved horseradish with the beetroot and potato.

5…Warm sauerkraut with sausage and bacon (bigos)

Traditionally, Polish bigos is served with rye bread and Zubrowka (bison grass vodka). This warm dish can also be served with young mashed or steamed potatoes.


  • 4 cups sauerkraut, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ cup pork or duck fat
  • 250 g pork neck, cubed
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 200 g sausage ends, chopped
  • 60 g smoked bacon, chopped
  • 1 cup button mushrooms, halved and sliced
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • salt and pepper, to season
  • 100 g tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 250–500 ml (1–2 cups) beef stock
  • 60 ml red wine
  • ½ savoy cabbage, shredded
  • 2 dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in water for 30 minutes, drained and rinsed
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 250 ml (1 cup) water
  • 8 prunes, pitted and chopped
  • chopped parsley, to serve

Cook’s notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Place the sauerkraut in a large saucepan and add enough water to cover. Simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes, then drain.

Heat a little of the pork fat in a large saucepan over high heat. Cook the pork neck and onion, seasoning, until browned. Add the bay leaves, sausage, bacon, mushroom, allspice, salt and a good amount of black pepper, and combine well. Add the sauerkraut and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, for 30 minutes.

Melt the remaining pork fat in a saucepan, add the tomato paste and stir for 1 minute. Add the flour and cook for 1–2 minutes, to cook the flour. Add a little bit of the beef stock and stir until smooth, then add the remaining stock and combine well. Pass through a fine mesh strainer into the sauerkraut mixture. Add the wine and simmer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the savoy cabbage in another saucepan. Add the porcini, garlic and water. Cook over medium–low heat for 15 minutes, or until wilted. Remove from the heat.

When the sauerkraut mixture has been cooking for 30 minutes, add the wilted savoy cabbage and prunes, cover with the lid slightly open, reduce heat to as low as possible, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 hours. Top with chopped parsley and eat immediately, or cool to room temperature and refrigerate overnight. Bigos gets better as it is reheated, so on the third day it should be at its best.

6…Polish pate (pasztet)

Pasztet is a festive Polish dish often served at special occasions like Christmas. Unlike other spreadable pates, this full flavoured and sophisticated pasztet resembles a terrine and should be served in slices.


  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 500 g gravy beef, cut into 3 cm pieces
  • 500 g pork shoulder, trimmed, cut into 3 cm pieces
  • 300 g boneless pork belly, rind removed, cut into 3 cm pieces
  • 2 onions, quartered
  • 2 celery stalks, roughly chopped
  • 20 g dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes, drained
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4–5 whole allspice
  • 200 g chicken livers, cleaned
  • 1 white bread roll
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 tsp dried marjoram, or to taste
  • Maggie soup seasoning, to taste
  • 2–3 tsp sea salt
  • ¼­ tsp ground white pepper
  • 1 pinch freshly ground nutmeg
  • bread, gherkins and horseradish sauce, to serve

Cook’s notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Soaking time 20 minutes
Resting time 1 hour
Chilling time overnight

Place a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil and the beef and cook for 3–4 minutes until evenly browned. Remove the beef and set aside.

Add the remaining tablespoon oil and the pork shoulder and cook for 3–4 minutes until evenly browned. Return the browned beef to the stockpot with the pork belly, onions, celery, mushrooms, bay leaf and allspice.

Add 1.75 litres (7 cups) cold water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for
1 ½–­2 hours or until the pork and beef are almost falling apart. Remove the stockpot from the heat.

In a separate saucepan, blanch the chicken livers in boiling water for 30 seconds, then drain. Add the livers and bread roll to the braised meat mixture. Allow to cool at room temperature for 1 hour, then drain (discard liquid). Using a mincer, pass the mixture through the finest setting twice.

Preheat the oven to 170°C. Lightly grease two 21 cm x 9 cm loaf tins.

In a bowl, combine the braised meat mixture with the eggs, marjoram, Maggie soup seasoning, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Mix well to combine. Spoon into the greased loaf tins and bake for 45 minutes until firm and the top is golden. Allow to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate overnight.

To serve, cut into slices and serve with bread, gherkins and horseradish sauce.

Photography by Alan Benson

7…Young spring cabbage with dill and bacon

As spring progresses and the earth blooms, fresher tastes start coming into play in Polish cooking. Side dishes begin to require young vegetables – this is especially true of the cabbage, which has a completely different flavour later on in the year. Young cabbage has a sweet taste that can be replicated through the use of another sweet cabbage such as the oblong Napa cabbage at other times of the year.


  • 4 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 200 g (7 oz) streaky (lean) bacon, cut into fine strips
  • 2 large onions, finely chopped
  • 2 leafy young cabbages or Napa cabbages, shredded
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 bunches dill, finely chopped
  • 3–4 tbsp tomato paste (purée)
  • 1 tsp caster (superfine) sugar
  • salt and white pepper, to taste

Cook’s notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Heat the oil in a large frying pan (skillet) and fry the bacon strips over a medium heat until crispy. Add the onions and continue to fry for a further 4–5 minutes.

Add the shredded cabbage and water and stir together. Season and cover with a lid, reduce the heat to low and cook for 10 minutes.

Stir in the lemon juice, three-quarters of the chopped dill, tomato paste and the sugar. Continue to fry, stirring every couple of minutes, for a further 10 minutes with the lid removed. Try a bit and season again to taste.

Just before serving add the reserved dill. This dish works well as an accompaniment to chicken, or can be eaten on its own with crusty bread

Recipes and images from Polska: New Polish Cooking by Zuza Zak (Hardie Grant Books, $45, hbk).

8…Crispy-baked pierogi stuffed with pork and pine nuts

Crispy pierogi are not a common dumpling, but they are a great alternative to uszka with clear red borscht and also work well with zurek. You should eat these on the side of soups, so that they retain their crunchy consistency. Baked pierogi require a slightly different dough, similar to that of the famous Russian kulebiak, which is just one massive ornately decorated dumpling


For the dough

  • 350 g (12 oz/scant 3 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 150 g (5 oz/1⅔ sticks) salted butter, softened
  • 2 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 100 ml (3½ fl oz/scant ½ cup) ice-cold water
  • beaten egg yolk, to glaze

For the filling

  • 200 g (7 oz) minced (ground) pork
  • 50 g (1¾ oz/½ cup) pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 egg
  • salt and white pepper, to taste

Cook’s notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Resting time 30 minutes

Tip the flour into a bowl and add the butter and oil. Work into the flour using your hands for a few minutes, then add the ice-cold water, a little at a time. Start kneading until it comes together into a smooth ball. Knead for a further 3–4 minutes then place in a plastic food bag in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F/gas 6) and lightly grease a baking tray.

To make the filling, combine the pork mince, pine nuts, egg and seasoning together in a bowl, using your hands.

Roll out your dough as thinly as possible on a floured surface.

Use the pierogi method below, filling them with the pork and pine nut mixture.

Place the pierogi on the baking tray and brush with a beaten egg yolk to glaze. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.

How to
Folding Polish dumplings
Dumplings are incredibly simple to make and very much part of Polish heritage, all you need is a little confidence in the art of folding and preparing the dough, to make these little wonders. Once mastered, dumplings can be made in minimal time and truly are little flavour bombs you can fill with whatever mixture your heart desires!

Recipes and images from Polska: New Polish Cooking by Zuza Zak (Hardie Grant Books, $45, hbk).

9…Polish onion-filled ‘bagels’ (bialy)

Created in the Polish city of Bialystock (hence the name), this small, chewy round roll is often compared to a bagel. Rather than a hole in the centre, an indent is made and filled with cooked onions and poppyseeds, and the dough is baked rather than boiled.


  • ½ x 7 g yeast sachet
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 400 g (2⅔ cups) bread flour (’00’) or strong plain flour, plus extra, to dust
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra, to brush
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp poppyseeds

Cook’s notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Cooling time 15 minutes
Resting time 3 hours 5 minutes

Dissolve yeast in 60 ml warm water in a bowl. Stir in sugar and set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 5 minutes or until mixture bubbles. Combine flour and 2 tsp salt in a large bowl. Make a well in centre, add yeast mixture and 185 ml water, then stir to form a dough.

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 8 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Place in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 2 hours or until dough doubles in size.

Punch down dough on a lightly floured work surface, divide into 8 equal portions and shape into 10 cm rounds. Transfer to 2 oven trays lined with baking paper. Cover with tea towels and set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 1 hour or until dough doubles in size.

Preheat oven to 220°C. Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat and cook onions, stirring, for 8 minutes or until golden. Season with salt and stir through poppyseeds.

Using your thumb, make a deep indent in centre of each dough round and fill with onion mixture. Brush with extra oil, sprinkle with salt and bake for 12 minutes or until golden. Cool for 15 minutes. Serve warm.

Photography Chris Chen

As seen in Feast magazine, March 2014, Issue 29.

10…Rice cakes with pickled beetroot

While this combination of shredded celeriac, prosciutto and fresh herbs is a more refined take on the traditional version of Polish rice cakes – typically paired with grated or mashed potato – the resulting rendition is every bit as satisfying. Pickled beetroot is also popular in Poland and is characteristically served alongside heavier fare to provide taste and textural contrast, as well as a flush of colour.


  • 2 eggs
  • 125 ml (½ cup) milk
  • 75 g (½ cup) plain flour
  • 200 g (3 cups) cooked white rice (made from 1½ cups uncooked rice), cooled
  • vegetable oil, to shallow-fry
  • 300 g (about ½) celeriac, peeled, thinly shredded
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 120 g (½ cup) sour cream
  • 2 tbsp chopped dill leaves
  • 12 slices (180 g) prosciutto

Pickled baby beetroot

  • 250 ml (1 cup) white wine vinegar
  • 55 g (⅓ cup) caster sugar
  • 1 tsp whole mixed peppercorns
  • 6 juniper berries
  • 2 bunches (1 kg) baby beetroot, trimmed, peeled

Cook’s notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


DRINK Franziskaner Hefe Weissbier, Bavaria, Germany (500 ml, $5)

To make pickled baby beetroot, place vinegar, 125 ml water, sugar, peppercorns, juniper berries and ½ tsp salt in a saucepan over low heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add beetroot, increase heat to high and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low, cover surface with a cartouche (see Note) and simmer for 45 minutes or until beetroot is tender. Cool beetroot in cooking liquid.

Place eggs and milk in a bowl, season with salt and pepper, and whisk to combine. Sift in flour, whisking to combine, then add rice, mixing until well combined.

Fill a large, non-stick frying pan with 3 cm oil and place over medium heat. Working in batches, add ¼-cup portions of batter to pan and cook for 2 minutes each side or until golden. Drain on paper towel. Repeat with remaining batter to make 12 rice cakes.

Combine celeriac, lemon juice and parsley in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside. Combine sour cream and dill in another bowl and set aside. Top rice cakes with sour cream mixture, celeriac mixture and prosciutto slices. Serve with pickled baby beetroot.

• This is a paper lid that is placed directly on the surface of food during cooking to slow down the reduction of moisture. To make your own, take a square sheet of baking paper slightly larger than the pan you intend to use. Fold in half on the diagonal, then repeat to make a small triangle. Unfold paper and gently place over pan, with centre crease marking lined up over the centre of your pan. Using scissors, trim overlapping edges of paper to create a circle that fits snugly into your pan.

Photography by Chris Chen. Drinks suggestions by Dan Coward.  <<< Videos on Poland here

Henry Sapiecha




internal-liver-sketch image


berry_nut_oatmeal-bowl image

Food with lots of fibre can help your liver work at its best. Want one that’s a great way to start your day? Try oatmeal. Research shows it can help you shed some extra pounds and belly fat, which is good at keeping away liver disease.

2…Stay Away From Fatty Foods

neon-drive_thru_sign image

Fried chips and burgers are a poor choice to keep your liver healthy. Eat too many foods that are high in saturated fat and it can make it harder for your liver to do its job. Over time it may lead to inflammation, which in turn could cause the liver to be scarred that’s known as cirrhosis. So next time you’re in the takeaway food line, think about ordering a healthier option.

3…Broccoli… >>> MORE HERE


Henry Sapiecha

This is Why Stouts Are Much More Than Just a St. Patrick’s Day Tradition

As a beer most associated with the Emerald Isle and its most iconic brewery, stouts are much, so much more than a St. Patrick’s Day drinking tradition.

nitro-irish-stout-gif image

Between the death rattle of winter and St. Patrick’s Day, March is the month for stouts. Rich imperial stouts sooth away those final snow storms, and Guinness practically runs in the streets of any town feeling the teeniest bit Irish. While it’s an ideal cold-weather companion, the darkest of dark beer shouldn’t be doomed to languish exclusively during the dreariest time of year.

“Stouts should be enjoyed summer, winter, spring, and fall,” says Bells Brewery director of operations John Mallett. His Michigan brewery turns out roughly 15 stouts annually, including the coffee-infused Java Stout, the sweet Double Cream Stout, and the bourbon-barrel-aged Black Note Stout.

guinness-stout-bottles image

“Stout” Only In Name

The obsidian ale might appear out of place when the weather warms, but the beer’s color is a product of the barley used and bears no actual indication of strength or thickness, says Mallett. The world’s most popular stout, Guinness Draught, is a reasonable 4.2 percent alcohol and 125 calories for a bottle, making it lighter in body than almost all pilsners and pale ales.

Few (if any) beers survived from what was the stouts’ Stone Age.

The “stout” name did originally mark it as a stronger brew. But this was back in the early 18th century, when it was the headier substyle of the English porter—a beer that was wildly popular at the time in London. These stout ancestors relied on brown malt for their color and flavor, but the result would likely resemble a very dark brown ale by taste today. The roasted flavor we associate with stouts was developed in 1817 (per the patent date) when a technique similar to roasting coffee beans in a drum over heat created what was call black patent malt. This grain offered brewers a more cost efficient ingredient for making dark beer, while also infusing the style with deeper, darker flavors.

Few (if any) beers survived from what was the stouts’ Stone Age, but you can see a shadow of it in Guinness. An 1821 recipe from the Dublin brewery for “Extra Superior Porter” evolved into today’s Guinness Extra Stout and Guinness Draught, says Guinness archivist Eibhlin Colgan. The creamy nitrogenation we know the Draught for, however, came later in 1959, created mathematician-turned-brewer Michael Ash.

Pints of Guinness at the St. James Gate Brewery, home of the Guinness stout.image

Pints of Guinness at the St. James Gate Brewery, home of the Guinness stout.

Today’s Dark Brew

Along the way to our modern beer aisle, the dark styles diverged as stouts became increasingly popular. Today’s stouts, also spurred by craft beer’s boom, bring a sharper, deeper roast to your pint glass than a porter. And yes, most are indeed thicker than a Guinness, but Mallett says that’s because the style offers a canvas for the fullest expression of malted barley you can get in a beer. “You can develop a rich, nuanced roasted and caramel character with coffee and chocolate.”

Those flavors largely come from a brewer’s mix of dark roasted barleys, and if they taste similar to coffee and chocolate, it’s because the grains are similarly roasted in high-temperature drums, says Mallett.

Great Divide Brewing's Yeti stout.image www.foodpassions.netooo

The majority of the barley used in a stout, however, is the same pale malt used in blonde ales and IPAs. Commonly called base malt, it provides easy-to-ferment sugars that heavily roasted barley lacks. It’s also unnecessary to pack a stout recipe with more than 15 percent of the barley as a dark roast, says Brandon Jacobs, brewery manager at Great Divide Brewing, known for its line of Yeti imperial stouts.

“A very small percentage can have a big impact on the color of the beer, and the flavor of these malts is pretty intense, too,” adds Jeremy Kosmicki, brewmaster at Founders Brewing. “Using too much dark malt can result in a bitter, astringent character that isn’t always that pleasant to drink.”

There’s also an unseen element of caramel malt used to round out a stout’s flavor, says Jacobs. Like the name implies, the starch of the barley has been converted to sugar and then caramelized. “This leaves more sugar in a beer. Without it, you’d have a thin mouthfeel and more tar or ashtray flavors.”

Beyond the Barley

Many brewers, including Jacobs and Kosmicki, like to add a similarly small portion of oats to their stouts. “Oats are more noticeable in the mouthfeel than it is in the flavor,” Kosmicki says. “They thicken up the body and add a nice silky or oily texture.” It’s the main reason why so many brewers have Oatmeal stouts.

And Kosmicki would know best. His brewery’s Kentucky Breakfast Stout, and it’s more obtainable sibling Breakfast Stout, both use oats—as does Founders’ excellent but underrated 4.5 percent alcohol Nitro Oatmeal Stout.

Founders-KBS stout.image

Founders’ KBS stout.

Guinness has had a monopoly on nitrogenated stouts for decades, with craft brewers like Founders only adding the smaller, softer bubbles in recent years. The appeal of the creamy feel is obvious, but it works especially well because of the dark grains, says Mallett.

Heavily roasted barley brings acidity to the beer, which piles onto the acidity of CO2 and can overpower a beer, he explains. “But when you have great rich creamy smooth mouthfeel from a nitro product, then that really plays nicely with chocolate essence.”

Some mistake the flatter, smoother feel of nitrogen for strength and weight, says Todd Usry, president and brewmaster of Breckenridge Brewery. His Colorado operation produced a nitro Irish stout in collaboration with Belfast’s Boundary Brewing.

“You remove the bloat from CO2 and replace it with smaller nitrogen bubbles, then it’s a beer built surprisingly for speed,” says Breckenridge sales director George O’Neill.

That’s a far cry from the big, heavy stouts most associate with the style, but it speaks to the stouts versatility. It is, after all, a beer defined by its color, says Mallett. “You can make stout with a fairly low dark grain flavor contribution, but get it dark visually. Or you can go for a completely rich, sweet malty bomb.”

It’s along that spectrum that you can find a stout for any season. From a fast-draining beer to enjoy in your backyard (or during a marathon St. Patrick’s Day celebration), to a bourbon-barrel-aged imperial coffee stout when weathering a blizzard, there’s a stout for every occasion.

What Makes a Lager?
What to Expect From Guinness’s New U.S. Brewery
Drink Nitro Stouts Straight From Oak Barrels


Henry Sapiecha