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After last week’s blog on whiskey, I thought I’d continue on theme with the one drink that I am truly addicted to, coffee. Coffee has a powerful and complex taste which acts as a great enricher to food and is amazing when paired with strong flavours, similar to the way in which whiskey and wine act as an enhancer like salt. My fellow country man and chef Carminantonio Lannaccone from Treveso in Northern Italy was the first wise man to re-discover this, when he had the bright idea of combining creamy mascarpone, eggs, Marsala and ladyfingers.  What did he get? Tiramisu of course, or “pick me up” in English.

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That was back in the 60’s, these days coffee isn’t just limited to desserts. A strong brew goes well with hearty, rich dishes such as beef and brings an earthiness when combined with baked beans, barbecue sauce and crepes. Scottish Chef and owner of The Kitchin, Tom Kitchin, has recently waxed lyrical about the advantages to using coffee in recipes, creating a beetroot and Dharkan coffee sauce, to accompany his roast mallard with endive tatin.

What mustn’t be overlooked is the complexity of using coffee as an ingredient. I know only too well how the production conditions and processes of coffee can affect the final outcome when drinking. I find it almost impossible to get the perfect espresso in the UK akin to that in Italy, where the beans are kept in dry conditions and treated in the traditional way.  This same principle applies when using it as a recipe ingredient, wonderfully versatile but at the same time temperamental and complex. The length of roasting and brewing will ultimately affect the overall flavour.

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It’s vital to get the process and choice of bean right. Coffee tends to turn bitter after 15 minutes of brewing so must be added to recipes such as marinades, soups and glazes before then. Similarly with the type of bean, dark roasted beans are great for complementing heavy rich dishes, whereas light roasted beans are paired best with seafood and poultry.

The best thing is to experiment in the kitchen and see what works best for you. To start you off, I’ve included a little inspiration:

Rubs – Ground coffee works as an excellent spice on meat and seafood, especially on grilled produce for added deep smokey flavours. Remember to add sugar for caramelisation and to cancel out any bitterness

Sauces – When brewed and added to cream, it makes an amazing white sauce to accompany pasta or fish

Stews – Add it brewed to chicken broth for excellent results and to complement the flavours of each ingredient

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