One recent fan is Paul Mercurio who discovered the new Malthouse during last year’s Brew NZ when he hosted the New Zealand Beer Awards. Many people know Paul as a long-standing judge on the inexplicably popular Dancing with the Stars, others remember him as the twinkle-toed star of the 1992 hit movie Strictly Ballroom.
Although he has appeared in seven movies and numerous television shows, I must confess to having seen only one of his performances before meeting him at Brew NZ – “The First Nine and a Half Weeks”, an ill-fated sequel to the racy “Nine and a Half Weeks” minus all the original stars. I watched this at age 17 and now have the unshakeable feeling that I have seen Paul with no pants on.
These days, he is the fully clothed host of “Mercurio’s Menu”, a food show where he demonstrates his cooking skills and showcases his love of beer. It has attracted up to a million viewers on a Saturday afternoon. The show is into its second season in Australia and is likely to be on New Zealand screens later in the year.
The “Mercuiro’s Menu” website notes that “Paul’s other great love is beer, in particular home brewing, undoubtedly a feature within his new show. Whereas most foodie shows may have a leaning towards wine, Paul is more inclined to favour beer as a food accompaniment and also as an ingredient with some of his recipes.”
Over a pint Paul put more succinctly “using beer in cooking is my thing.” His home brewing is, in his own words, “terribly neglected” at the moment but at full production he has up to eight kegs of full-grain home brew in his fridge. Clearly he has a much larger fridge than I do.
The recipes from series one are available on the website and many of them use beer as an ingredient. In addition to the standard beer battered fish there are more exotic uses of beer including Aussie Beer Bush Damper, Beer Braised Spatchcock and Beer Marinated Prawns.
I was also intrigued by non-beer related dishes such as Salt and Pepperleaf Crocodile or Prawns or Snail and Yabbie Pie. My attempts to make these were thwarted by my supermarket which gave me a most peculiar look when I tried to order the star ingredients. They only had the salt.
Within hours of meeting, Paul had mentioned a recipe which had me rushing for Google. He claimed to have developed a recipe for scrambled eggs (one of my favourite dishes) made with Epic Pale Ale (one of my favourite beers). He has and here it is:
Beer scrambled eggs with smoked fish and goats cheese toast
4 Free range eggs
2 Epic Pale Ale
Vine-ripened cherry tomatoes
Salt and cracked pepper
New Zealand Smoked Trout, in strips
Sourdough bread, good quality to slice thinly
New Zealand Goats Cheese, good quality spreadable
Beat the eggs in a bowl, add one part cream to two parts beer – a slurp of cream and a splash of beer. Mix in the cracked pepper, salt and fresh dill and taste for seasoning. Heat butter in frypan, when butter starts to foam tip in egg mixture. Fold eggs as cooking – don’t overmix. When eggs are about three quarters cooked mix through finely flaked smoked fish. Remove from heat just before the eggs are cooked as they will continue to cook. Leaving cherry tomatoes on the vine, coat with olive oil and cook in a hot oven for 10 minutes until broken down. Thinly slice sourdough and lightly toast. Spread with goat’s cheese and cut into wedges. Serve.
This is truly a breakfast of champions though it does appear very, very similar to the Little Creatures Scrambled Eggs he developed for Mercurio’s Menu. In the second season Paul is going to make Saison Chicken which should be a simply stunning dish.
To celebrate Paul’s regular visits, Malthouse fridges now stock a fresh supply of Coopers Sparkling Ale (5.8%). For many years Paul was an ambassador for the marvellous Cooper’s Brewery in Adelaide and this is undoubtedly their flagship brew. It was first made in the 1850s by Thomas Cooper, a Methodist Preacher from Yorkshire. Based on an old family recipe, it was originally brewed to cure his wife’s illness but proved so popular he ended up establishing a brewery. Today, Cooper’s is the largest family owned brewery in Australasia.
The Sparkling Ale is said to have hardly changed since the first batch over a 150 years ago. A cloudy golden beer with a full nose of apples and bananas, this ale has a robust body chased by a quenching dry finish. Perhaps only the Australians could brew a bottle-conditioned ale and call it “sparkling”. Just lucky for them it is so good.
Over a beer or two it is worth reflecting on the fact that Paul Joseph Mercurio doesn’t actually like ballroom dancing and the only time he has ever done it was for the movie. He is a strictly beer and ballet man.
Real Beer New Zealand
Beer and Brewer Magazine
First Nine and a Half Weeks – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0164026/
Mercurio’s Menu – http://www.mercuriosmenu.com/index.php
Epic Scrambled Eggs Recipe – http://tvnz.co.nz/view/page/410965/1650242
Epic Brewing Company – http://www.epicbeer.com/
Cooper’s Brewery – http://www.coopers.com.au/home.php
Real Beer – http://www.realbeer.co.nz/blog/blog.html
Beer and Brewer Magazine – http://www.beerandbrewer.com/